Who are the seven assemblies in Asia?

Posted: Wed. May, 3 2017

In the first part of this two part series, we established that the assemblies of Revelation 2 and 3 are fundamentally different from the churches to whom Paul wrote.

Now that we know who these assemblies are NOT (Pauline churches), it’s time to find out who they ARE.

Starting this week, we are going to look at several features of the seven assemblies that reveal a great deal about who these assemblies are.

 

Five major features

We are now entering into our work to understand the nature and identity of the seven assemblies of Revelation 1-3.

We will investigate five major features:

  1. The descriptions of our Lord Jesus Christ that are given to the seven assemblies in Revelation chapter 1 (and are repeated in chapters 2 and 3 for the assemblies individually).
  2. The eschatology (future things)  of Revelation 1-3.
  3. The Jewish nature of Revelation 2 & 3.
  4. The other sections of the Bible where things mentioned in Revelation 2 & 3 are also found (or not found).
  5. The other people in the Bible with whom these seven assemblies have the most in common.

 

Descriptions of our Lord

We begin this week by examining how our Lord Jesus Christ is described in Revelation 1.

REV 1:1-7
1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it  by His angel to His bond-servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3  Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

4  John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood —  6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father —  to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.

The entire book…

Notice first of all that the entire book of Revelation is addressed to the seven assemblies in Asia.

We are told this in the first chapter of Revelation, in verses 1-4, and in the last chapter, chapter 22.

REV 22:16
16 " I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."

The entire book reveals the things which must soon take place, according to verse 1.

And so, according to verse 3, the entire book is prophecy - it speaks of future things. That includes chapters 2 and 3.

REV 1:3  Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

 

The Witness

The descriptions of Jesus Christ commence in verse 5.

REV 1:5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood

The first reference, to Jesus Christ as the faithful witness, would carry great meaning for the people of Israel.  The Lord is identified as the witness by the Hebrew prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Zephaniah, and Malachi.

MIC 1:2-5
2 Hear, O peoples, all of you;
Listen, O earth and all it contains,
And let the Lord God be a witness against you,
The Lord from His holy temple.
3 For behold, the Lord is coming forth from His place.
He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth.
4  The mountains will melt under Him
And the valleys will be split,
Like wax before the fire,
Like water poured down a steep place.

5 All this is for the rebellion of Jacob
And for the sins of the house of Israel.

MAL 3:5-6
5 "Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me," says the Lord of hosts. 6 "For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

On the other hand, the Lord Jesus Christ is never referred to as the witness in any other  New Testament book besides Revelation.

 

The kings of the earth

The second and third descriptions of our Lord in REV 1:5 are found together  in Psalm 89:

PSA 89:27
"I also shall make him My  firstborn,

The highest of the kings of the earth.

God the Father is speaking, and He is talking about what He will do for His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, when He establishes His reign on earth.

The expression “kings of the earth” occurs most often in Revelation and in Psalms.

And in both Psalms and Revelation, the  passages are always speaking about  the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Typical is Psalm 2:

Psa 2

1 Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

3 "Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!"
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
5 Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
6 "But as for Me, I have installed My King

Upon Zion, My holy mountain."
7 "I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, 'You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
8 'Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very  ends of the earth as Your possession.
9 'You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.'"
10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
11  Worship the Lord with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
12  Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

The phrase “kings of the earth” also appears in Isaiah, and again it is with reference to the day of the Lord - the Tribulation followed by the Second Coming of Christ.

ISA 24:20-23
20 The earth reels to and fro like a drunkard
And it totters like a shack,
For its transgression is heavy upon it,
And it will fall, never to rise again.

21 So it will happen in that day,
That the Lord will punish the host of heaven on high,
And the kings of the earth on earth.

22 They will be gathered together
Like  prisoners in the dungeon,
And will be confined in prison;
And after many days they will be punished.

23 Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed,
For the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
And His glory will be before His elders.

The kings of the earth appear seven more times in Revelation itself: five times during the Tribulation period, once at the Second Coming, and once in the eternal state.

Revelation 6:15 is typical:

REV 6:12-17
12 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14  The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"

The Tribulation Period and the Second Coming of Christ are future events that pertain to the nation of Israel (and the Gentile nations)  rather than the Church (which will have already been raptured).

So far here in chapter 1 of Revelation, our Lord Jesus Christ is described with terms and imagery that speak to the future of Israel.

 

Kingdom of priests

Let’s continue now with verses 6-7.

—  6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father —  to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.

The people who are the kingdom of priests to God are the sons of Israel when they keep the covenant of the Lord.

In other words, the kingdom of priests is the believing remnant of Israel.

EXO 19:3-6
3 Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: 4 ' You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself. 5 'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."

Paul never refers to the church as priests.

Peter does, but keep in mind that  Peter was the apostle to the Jews :

GAL 2:7-9
But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been  to the circumcised 8 (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his  apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

And don’t miss the fact that John, the writer of Revelation, was also sent to the circumcised -to  the Jews.

 

He is coming with the clouds

REV 1:7 BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.

Continuing with REV 1:7, the statement “Behold, He is coming with the clouds” is a quotation from Daniel 7:13.

DAN 7:13-14
13 "I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.

14 "And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every  language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.

This is a prophecy by Daniel of the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, when God the Father gives Him the kingdom.

And Daniel speaks of the Second Coming using the words “dominion”, “glory”, and “kingdom”.  These are the very same words that John uses in REV 1:6!

The second half of REV 1:7 comes from the prophet Zechariah:

ZEC 12:10
10 "I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.

And when our Lord, in Matthew 24, presents His prophecy of His Second Coming that follows  the Tribulation Period,  He also speaks of  His coming on the clouds where all the tribes of the earth will mourn and will see Him.

MAT 24:29-30
29 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  30 "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. 

 

Takeaways

Here are the key takeaways from Revelation 1:1-7:

  1. The entire book of Revelation is addressed to the seven assemblies of Asia, and the entire book is prophecy.
  2. The descriptions of our Lord Jesus Christ come from the Old Testament Psalms and Prophets, and were given to the house of Israel.
  3. Our Lord is described using terms and images that speak to the future of Israel.
  4. Our Lord is presented as the Jewish Messiah when He comes to Mount Zion (Jerusalem) to reign as King over all the nations of the earth, after He has wiped out all His enemies.
  5. The descriptions of our Lord, therefore, all point to the future Tribulation Period and Second Coming of Christ.

Next time, we will continue with chapter 1 verses 8-20, where we will examine additional descriptions of our Lord Jesus Christ that are given to the seven assemblies.

 

Until the next time, we’re all ….

In His grip,

Pastor John

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