Have you ever read Second Ephesians? or First Laodica?
Most of us are familiar with Paul’s letters, or John’s Epistles, but we often don’t stop to consider, and seldom do we read, the 7 letters that Jesus sent to 7 Pastors of churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), yet these are full of instruction for any that have ears to hear.
The letters are full of encouragement for the weary, but also correction for those who have allowed their walk to become compromised, or simply for those have inadvertently allowed other things to creep in to our lives that have caused us to abandon – of forget – the most important thing of all – our relationship with Jesus!
Over the next few weeks we will be studying these letters and seeing what the Holy Spirit has to say to us today.
Each letter opens with the phrase “unto the angel of the church”. The word translated ‘angel’ is the Greek word ‘Angelos’ which simply means ‘Messenger’. As we begin to study the letters it becomes clear that the recipient is an ‘angelic being’. It seems highly improbable that Jesus would pass a letter to John for him to then deliver it to an angelic being – and quite how you deliver a letter to an angel is unknown! Also, the encouragements and rebukes within these letters, the fact that the recipients need correcting at all, doesn’t make sense if being sent to an angelic being.
Back in chapter 1 the ‘angel’ mentioned in verse 1 is later in Revelation shown to be ‘of thy brethren the prophets’ and not an angelic being (see Rev 19:10 / Rev 22:9).
We saw in the previous chapter that these messengers/pastor’s were represented by seven stars that Jesus held in His hand. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:11 that the role of a pastor is not one that someone simply decides to do, nor is it a position that can be given by man, ‘ordination’ can only come from God. Paul is clear, the role of Pastor (‘Poimen’ in the Greek – which means shepherd), is given by God for the church “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). It is no surprise therefore that we see Jesus holding these pastors in His hand, and writing these letters of encouragement and correction to them.
However, the messages were not just intended for the Pastors, they were to be given to the whole congregation, for the Pastor is not above the congregation, he is just one part of the body, equal in rank and authority with all other believers. There is no hierarchy in the Kingdom of God, we are all to ‘d
o our share’ as part of the body with Christ as our head (Ephesians 4:16 / 1 Corinthians 12).
So we see in each of the letters that they were for the churches that existed at that time, but also for anyone who has ears to hear. So we can all learn and benefit from this instruction given by Jesus to His Church.
However, we were told in chapter 1 that this is a book of prophecy, so it should come as no surprise that these letters also have a prophetic message that reveals in advance the history of the Church from the time of its inception at Pentecost to the Rapture – the ‘blessed hope’ and ‘upward calling’ we are eagerly awaiting! The scope however goes even beyond the Rapture to revel the apostate church that will exist in the last days, that will go into tribulation and ultimately be destroyed (this is detailed in Revelation 17 & 18).
What may come as a surprise is that this ‘prophetic history’ of the church is revealed at least twice more in scripture. Once in the 7 parables given by Jesus in Matthew 13, and then dramatically seen in the history of the Nation of Israel. As we consider the 7 distinct ages of Israel’s history, and then when overlaid with the history of the Christian Church, we see that as Solomon said “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
To find out more, see the PDF slides for the study below that show God’s foreknowledge and plan through the ages.