Beyond Sunday

Understanding the Seven Churches in Revelation with Dr. Mark Brighton

November 20, 2023 King of Kings Church
Understanding the Seven Churches in Revelation with Dr. Mark Brighton
Beyond Sunday
More Info
Beyond Sunday
Understanding the Seven Churches in Revelation with Dr. Mark Brighton
Nov 20, 2023
King of Kings Church

Listen as Pastor Greg and Dr. Mark Brighton dives into the significance of the number seven, unraveling why these pivotal letters in Revelation were specifically addressed to the messengers of these seven churches. Dr. Mark Brighton is Professor of Biblical Languages/Theology at Concordia University Irvine. 

Stay up to date by following us on your favorite social networks.

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Have questions or comments? Email us at contact@kingofkings.org.

Thanks for listening!

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Listen as Pastor Greg and Dr. Mark Brighton dives into the significance of the number seven, unraveling why these pivotal letters in Revelation were specifically addressed to the messengers of these seven churches. Dr. Mark Brighton is Professor of Biblical Languages/Theology at Concordia University Irvine. 

Stay up to date by following us on your favorite social networks.

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Have questions or comments? Email us at contact@kingofkings.org.

Thanks for listening!

Speaker 1:

Well, hello, king of Kings, it is so good to be back with you again. I am joined once again with the good, good friend and scholar, dr Mark Brighton from Concordia University, irvine, and he's just sharing with us deeper into Revelation and it has been just a great learning experience. If you have not listened to week one, I want to invite and encourage you go back, listen to week one, learn about the purpose of Revelation and the connection of Revelation and then dive into week two here as well, and week two we're going to just start to get into some of the great imagery, also some of the great just things of Jesus for us as the church, the whole church, and so that's where we're going to begin today. So once again, dr Brighton, thank you for joining us.

Speaker 2:

My pleasure.

Speaker 1:

And here's my question. So in the letter to the seven churches, like can you describe what's this all about? Seven churches, why seven? What's what? What is the purpose of us hearing and reading about these seven churches?

Speaker 2:

Okay, great question.

Speaker 2:

Part of the answer comes clearer when we realize the entire outline of the book, and I'm sure your people will have an outline in front of them. The seven churches are letters sent to various congregations in Asia Minor and it's words that Christ would bring to these churches before they are ready to see how the exalted Son of man will bring to completion his work of salvation, culminating in the new creation. Because the the visions of the end times and how the exalted Son of man exerts his authority actually begins with chapter six. So what are the seven churches all about? First of all, the number seven. Most scholars would say Well, we know there are more congregations in Asia Minor. For example, colossae was there, but Colossae is not addressed. Some of these churches we would know nothing about. Most people think that the number seven it's it's chosen. As with many numbers in Revelation, the number is chosen to point beyond itself. So seven is a number that you would associate with God, and so the seven churches. It's just a subtle reminder to John's readers that it's God's people, god's church. You'll see that with other numbers in the book of Revelation. The number 12 is a number that you would associate with the people of God. This is why Jesus had 12 disciples. It's not that 13 was unmanageable, it's just that he was saying, by choosing 12, I've come to teach all of God's people and called them into discipleship, and so that helps you unravel some of the numbers that we will see later.

Speaker 2:

Now, why these seven? Each one begins to the angel of the church at Ephesus, or to the angel of the church at Theotera. I think it might be better translated to the messenger. For those of you who are listening, pastor Greg can tell you that the word on Gulos can be translated as angel, but it can also be translated as messenger. Now, why would I prefer messenger? Primarily for this reason. I don't think that God would be writing letters to angelic beings and calling them to repentance. We just don't read that anywhere else in the Bible. Angelic beings are never called to repentance, but human beings are.

Speaker 2:

Just as John the Baptist was the messenger sent by God to prepare God's people for the first coming of Christ, and he did, and this is how Jesus explained John the Baptist's ministry. Now the exalted Son of man has sent messengers among God's people to prepare them for his second coming, and that's what these letters are all about you, and I can read these letters, and we can hear things that are written here which would bring us to repentance, or where the exalted Son of man will give us encouragement or hope. Now, in the church today, we don't call them messengers. In the New Testament, they call them overseers. That's what Paul calls them. You and I would, today, call them pastors. And so there are messengers here, though, because they are sent to prepare all of us for Christ's second coming, and so that's what the letters are all about.

Speaker 2:

And so, if you follow the letters, it's to the messenger of the church at Ephesus, starting at chapter 2. These are the words of him who holds the seven stars, and then Christ will say things about the church. Very often, he will say some things that are good. I know you're endurance, I know that you expose false teachers. In essence, that's what Christ says here, but then, very often, the exalted Son of man will say but this is an issue that you have. And to the church of Ephesus, it's you've lost your first love, and so you need to repent, or else I will take the lamp stand from its place, that is, you will cease to be a congregation. So what does that mean for us as we live in the end times.

Speaker 2:

From the church of Ephesus, we hear we must stand in the truth, we must always evaluate everything by the truth of God's Word, but at the same time, we must also not lose the fact that we are to give our lives in love for other people. As we bring the truth, our job is not to build walls to keep everybody out. Our job is to go out into the world and extend the love of the exalted Son of man for people, no love of Christ for all the lost. And that's something that you and I need to remember, because sometimes the church will compromise the truth. At other times, the church might say we're going to build a wall and the mission of the church is to go ye, therefore, and show everyone else how wrong they are, which is not exactly what Jesus said.

Speaker 2:

And that's just one letter. If you look at all the other letters, you see these sorts of things that are expressed, and it'd be fun to dig into all of them. We just don't have time. I do want to make one comment, however. Each letter ends with a statement like this let him who has a ear listen to the one who conquers, and then there's some promise To Ephesus he will eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God. That goes back to the Old Testament.

Speaker 2:

But how do you conquer? To the one who conquers you? And I might think, well, we got to try harder, let's try harder, let's do better. But you know the way you conquer in Revelation. It's expressly unpacked in Revelation, chapter 12, in the middle of the book, at verse 11, we read these have conquered him, they have overcome the adversary, and they did that not by trying harder. They did that by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their witness, for they did not love their lives, even unto death. You're always victorious if you stand in the victory of Christ. You're always victorious if you stand in his forgiveness and in his love, and so that's how you win. Yeah, anyway, that's a long explanation, I'm sorry. You can tell I love this book. That's so good, that's so good.

Speaker 1:

That's so helpful. Let me ask this question just from your perspective. Why do you think? I think it's easy for us to understand, like, why maybe each church was pointed out for some good things, but even there's a question that you know two churches were not. Why was there the pointing out of? But here's where you are sin or here's where you're failing, and again two churches were not. So, like, what's the purpose of that? Why do you think? That was a part of this letter.

Speaker 2:

Yeah and two others. He has nothing bad to say about. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Two nothing good, two nothing bad.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and then the rest are in the middle, with some good and some bad, you know, yeah, I don't know if I have a good answer for that, because as you look at, as we look at our lives, we see our own sinful nature. We always do.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So I don't know if there's anything necessarily better about one church, that they have nothing bad said about them, or something worse about one church may have something good said about them, because I guess I don't necessarily think of the letters in that one. Those ways I just say, okay, this congregation, this is good and this is bad. And how does that maybe describe God's people today? So I guess I don't have a good answer why some have no good and some have no bad, except that it would be probably a difficult thing for the Son of man to say nothing good about you.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I think this is a reminder for me, for everyone maybe listening. There are some things of great curiosity that we may have but, if it's in the minors, we don't need to spend time majoring in what are the minors?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, if there's question about this congregation, there's something I know about this congregation which means there's nothing good or bad about them, I can't answer that there are no details from what we know about Theotera, sardis or Pergamum or anything like that.

Speaker 1:

When you read through kind of this early section of Revelation, chapters two, three, maybe even four, what are some key takeaways that you see that bring comfort and hope throughout these spots Like what's one thing that you go here? Hold on to this. These are the handles I would grab on to in these chapters.

Speaker 2:

Jesus loves us enough to address us personally. Jesus loves us enough to send messengers to prepare us for his coming. We all know he's coming and Jesus wants us to stand ready, always in grace. Jesus wants us to share his victory. Each one of these things ends with a promise. If you have an ear, just listen, and to the one who comes, you won't be hurt by the second death. You will eat of the tree of life. You will have some of the hidden Nana. All these promises.

Speaker 2:

You don't get a grim, cynical view from any of these letters. They are all addressed to God's people, his children. He knows us intimately. I know each one begins. I know I know where you dwell, I know your works, I know who you are, and so Jesus knows me better than I know myself. And so it's good for me to sit at the knees or before the one who gave his life for me when he says I know about you, because the one who gave his life for me is going to Always have my salvation in mind. So those are some of the things I think about.

Speaker 1:

That's good. And then last thing, last question you, we didn't talk about this last week and I think it's important. I might have missed that last week. You mentioned here the end times. Would you say we are in the end time?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, pastor Greg those who are listening has a document where the biblical view of the end times. According to the Apostles, the end times began on the day of Pentecost. Now that might seems bizarre to you and for me, because that means we've been in the end times for over two millennia, and so how close to the end can we be when it's been going on to millennia's? But you see, they weren't thinking about the end times chronologically. They were thinking of the end times as the outworking of Christ's victory, because with Christ's death and resurrection game over, he's won. The victory has been won. Now what is left is the proclamation of the victory. It's all over but the shouting, and so we are in the end game. That's what they meant by the end times, and we've been in this end game for two millennia's where the victory of Christ is being proclaimed. How long will these end times go?

Speaker 2:

The favorite patches I like to point to is Matthew, chapter 24, verse 14, where Jesus, in the only place in the Bible when we learn when the end will come, jesus says the gospel will be proclaimed everywhere and then the end will come. Jesus did not say it will come on June 31st 2045, he did not pin it to a calendar day, because that's not the point. He pinned it to the completion of God's Gospel work. So you can put it this way as long as people are coming to faith, the end won't come. But as soon as the banqueting table is full, as soon as God knows that no one else are gonna come into the family, jesus says, then the end will come. So instead of looking around and thinking how bad things are, gosh, we have to be in the end times. Well, yeah, we were in the end times. Jesus described all that. Let's look at how many people are being saved. There's a lot to work, to be done yet.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah yeah yeah, I was just studying for Cecilines 5 and I was struck by the description of Christ returning the day of the Lord coming, you know, as a thief by the night. And I I just had this thought of saying you know, I think we, we so often look and think the world's so bad. Christ has to come and I wonder, I wonder, in the first Cecilines 5 and and just the thought of that is, will Christ come when it almost feels like the word world's at perfect peace and there's no need for the Savior to enter.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Because, yeah, jesus does speak on those terms, right when they say peace, peace, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, and it's so. When we look around us and we see how bad things are, it's not a bad thing for us to think, gee, it can't go on, something's gonna blow somewhere. But a set of wondering how long it could go on. Maybe we should say time, we should be really urgent, to try to tell others the end of the story doesn't have to be the blow up. Christ can write the end of your story. He's got the victory and so trust in that you can have a different end of the story. Look at the world around you. Yeah, it's gonna blow up sooner or later, but that doesn't have to be the end of your story. That's the proclamation of the victory.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh, that's good. Well, this was rich I. We could go on and on and on. But yeah the good news is we're going to get to go on.

Speaker 2:

Okay.

Speaker 1:

Next week, join us again. We're going to come back and we're going to look at some of the visions. And we're going to look at at the visions and some of the just the imagery we see. But again, like we talked about in week one which please listen to week one if you have not yet done that this book, Revelation, is so deeply connected to the Old Testament.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah.

Speaker 1:

These visions are not new. They are not anything that would have shocked the reader that John would have been writing towards and to in that time, because they would have said we've heard these things and so we're going to dive even deeper into that and then dive to John writes a personal invitation, or John has a personal invitation to come up, and what does that mean? So next week it's going to be going to be really great. You're going to want to make sure you hear session three, and I would invite you to like share and send this to someone else as well.

Speaker 2:

So, dr Brighton, thanks again for this week and we're going to talk next week. Yes,

Understanding Purpose of Seven Churches in Revelation
Jesus' Victory and the End Times

Podcasts we love