Surprise again! I am experimenting with my schedule, with Wednesday kept as a book review day, Isaiah Monday and Tuesday, Revelation Thursday and Friday.
The first two verses of Revelation introduce all three aspects of the nature of the book, beginning with three Greek words that translated mean, Apocalypse [of] Jesus Christ. More than anything else, the Book of Revelation is an uncovering of invisible truths, of spiritual reality hidden within the world of physical reality.
John’s preamble to his letter, which is to say, before his official greeting, explains why this letter will read differently than his usual correspondence. It is because this letter contains oracles given to him directly by Jesus, accompanied (as the prophets of old had been) by an angel guide.
“An Apocalypse given by and about Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His enslaved ones the things which must take place quickly, and He indicated with signs, having sent forth through His angel to His enslaved one, John, who testified the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all that he saw.”Revelation 1:1-2
Blessed is the one publicly reading this aloud, and the ones hearing the words of this prophecy and keeping the things having been written in it,
for the time is at hand.Revelation 1:3
Remember how important the number seven is to John? There are seven blessings in the Book of Revelation and this is the first one. The blessing comes not so much in reading this word aloud to others, or in being the ones who hear it. The blessing comes in the keeping of the things John wrote down in this document.
Primarily, then, everything that comes after is less about knowing the future and much more about keeping faith in the present.
Knowing the future and understanding the past will ground us in our present vision of God and God’s guidance. This is what John wants us to have in mind as he opens his letter.
From John and Jesus
John: to the seven assemblies that are in Asia, grace to you and peace from the one who is and the one who was and the one who is coming, and from the seven spirits that are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful and trustworthy witness, the First-Born out of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of earth.
To the one loving us and having released us from our sins by His blood—and He made us a kingdom, priests to God and His Father—to him the glory and the power into the eons of the eons, amen.
Behold! He comes with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him, and they will beat their breasts with grief over Him, all the peoples of the earth. Yes! Amen!
“I AM the Alpha and the Omega,” the Lord is saying, “The God Who is, and Who was and Who is now coming, the Omnipotent.”Revelation 1:4-8
Seven Assemblies, Seven Spirits
It is of course probable there were more than seven assemblies in Asia, but because seven is important, these seven churches were selected for their strategic locations and for the specific messages Jesus had for them—and really for all who would hear the letter and recognize themselves.
Seven represents all that is—the sum of the physical cosmos (the number four) and the spiritual realm (the number three). This was not unique to Judaism, but was also well-established in the Greco-Roman world. A quick perusal of literature on this phenomenon discloses the important “sevens” in classical antiquity.
- Seven planets, and seven heavens
- Seven wonders of the ancient world
- The ancients recognized seven metals (mercury, tin, lead, silver, gold, copper, and iron)
- Seven days of the week
- Seven seas
- Seven sages
- Seven champions who fought at Thebes
- Seven hills of Rome, and the seven kings of Rome (they do not include the emperors who came later)
- Atlas had seven daughters, known as the Pleiades, who were called the Seven Sisters
But the importance of seven does not end with the Greco-Roman culture and philosophers.
The number seven is even more deeply embedded in the Hebrew scriptures! The following list is taken from Wikipedia, you can easily find it for yourself.
- Seven days of Creation, leading to the seventh day or Sabbath (Genesis 1)
- Seven-fold vengeance visited on upon Cain for the killing of Abel (Genesis 4:15)
- Seven pairs of every clean animal loaded onto the ark by Noah (Genesis 7:2)
- Seven years of plenty and seven years of famine in Pharaoh’s dream (Genesis 41)
- Seventh son of Jacob, Gad, whose name means good luck (Genesis 46:16)
- Seven times bullock’s blood is sprinkled before God (Leviticus 4:6)
- Seven nations God told the Israelites they would displace when they entered the land of Israel (Deuteronomy 7:1)
- Seven days of the Passover feast (Exodus 13:3–10)
- Seven-branched candelabrum or Menorah (Exodus 25)
- Seven trumpets played by seven priests for seven days to bring down the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:8)
- Seven things that are detestable to God (Proverbs 6:16–19)
- Seven Pillars of the House of Wisdom (Proverbs 9:1)
- Seven archangels in the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit (12:15)
- References to the number seven in Jewish knowledge and practice include:
- Seven divisions of the weekly readings or aliyah of the Torah
- Seven Jewish men (over the age of 13) called to read aliyahs in Shabbat morning services
- Seven blessings recited under the chuppah during a Jewish wedding ceremony
- Seven days of festive meals for a Jewish bride and groom after their wedding, known as Sheva Berachot or Seven Blessings
- Seven Ushpizzin prayers to the Jewish patriarchs at during the holiday of Sukkot
It is almost overwhelming, is it not!
And the importance of the number seven continues from the Hebrew scriptures into the Greek scriptures.
Seven Fish, Seven Baskets
“Feeding of the Five Thousand” is one of the rare accounts that shows up in all four Gospels, when five loaves and two fish blessed by Jesus fed the entire crowd and twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered. But there is a second account that remembers a similar miracle, only this time there were four thousand and seven loaves of bread along with a few fish blessed by Jesus fed the entire crowd. On that occasion, seven baskets were gathered.
Arguably the most famous of all Jesus’ women disciples was Mary of Magdala, who was released of seven demons by the divine healing power of Jesus.
Seven Sayings on the cross
When read together, the four Gospels remember Jesus delivering seven sayings.
- Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.
- Amen, I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise.
- Mistress, behold your son, (and to the Beloved Disciple) behold your mother.
- My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? (quoting Psalm 22).
- I thirst.
- It is finished.
- Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.
Seven Witnesses to Christ
All from the Gospel of John.
- John’s eye-witness testimony
- John the Baptist
- Woman at the Well
Seven I AM Statements
All from the Gospel of John.
- I AM the Bread of Life
- I AM the Light of the World
- Before Abraham was, I AM
- I AM the Good Shepherd
- I AM The Resurrection and the Life
- I AM The Way, the Truth, the Life
- I AM the True Vine
Seven Signs Jesus is Messiah
All from the Gospel of John
- Changing water to wine
- Healing of an official’s son
- Healing of a man lame for thirty-eight years
- Feeding five thousand
- Walking on the water
- Healing a man born blind
- Raising Lazarus from the dead
During the first few months after the Day of Pentecost, the original close band of one hundred and twenty women and men had quickly ballooned to nearly ten thousand followers. The Twelve apostles were overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of pastoring and caring for so many, all the while trying to teach the people about Jesus. Eventually, seven Spirit-filled men were selected to help in the care of those in need who were from the Diaspora, but now located in Jerusalem.
Now that we have a secure grasp on the importance of seven, let us see in the next posts what John is revealing.