The following letter was sent to her parents by a college student.
"Dear Mom and Dad, I'm sorry that it has been so long since I last wrote you,
but all my writing paper was lost in the dorm a couple of months ago
when it was burned down by demonstrators.
I'm out of the hospital now, and the doctor says that my eyesight should be back to normal sooner or later.
A wonderful boy, Bill, who rescued me from the fire has kindly offered to share his little apartment with me
until the dorm is built.
He comes from a good family, so you won't be too surprised when I tell you that we are getting married.
If fact, you always said you wanted grandchildren, so you will be glad to know that you will be grandparents in a few months!
Now, you can disregard all the above information.
There was no fire, I haven't been in the hospital, and I'm not blind.
I'm not pregnant, and I don't even have a boyfriend,
I did get a "D" in French and a "F" in Chemistry,
and I wanted to be sure that you received this news in proper perspective.
That letter got their attention!
The letter to to the churches in Revelation should get our attention!
The churches in Revelation located in Asia Minor received some letters that Jesus gave the Apostle, John for them.
I believe that the writer of the book of Revelation was the apostle John.
Four times the writer identifies himself as John.
And from Justin Martyr in the 2nd century AD, John an apostle of Jesus, the son of Zebedee was considered to be the author.
The book was written at a time when Christians were suffering persecution.
The two periods most often mentioned are the latter part of Nero's reign (AD 54-68),
and the latter part of Domitian's reign (AD 81-96).
Most scholars date the book around 95 AD.
Christians proclaim that Jesus Christ was their Lord.
They refused Caesar as Lord, and suffered persecution from the Romans.
The Romans were enforcing emperor worship.
John had been exiled to the island of Patmos because of his Christian activities.
Some in the churches were compromising their Christian faith, so Jesus sent them a message through John
to stand strong in their faith.
The book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature.
The word that is translated "revelation" is the Greek word, apokalypsis,
from which we get our English word "apocalypse."
It means an "unveiling" or "to uncover."
The Book of Revelation is an unveiling of God's message.
Its purpose was was not to cover up God's message but to make it increasingly vivid
by "unveiling" it through signs and symbols.
This literature is presented in a cryptic manner that characterized apocalypses.
This literature was written in dangerous times.
The personal safety of writer and reader was endangered if the persecutors understood the true meaning of the book.
The message of the apocalypse was written to conseal and reveal.
It consealed the message from the outsider and revealed it to the initiated.
In Revelation Jesus was giving them a message that foretold the destruction of Rome and the victory of the saints of God.
John wrote in a method in which the Christians of that day were familiar.
John was faced with the task of seeing the invisible and expressing the unexpressible.
Revelation is full of imagery and symbolism.
This makes it difficult for us in our day to understand.
Symbolism is a system in which qualities, ideas, and principles are presented by things which are concrete.
These things are understood by the initiated but are meaningless to the outsider.
In the hostile environment in which those Christians were living
the system of symbols, figures, and codes enabled them to safely communicate.
The meaning of many symbols are clear while there is a difference of opinions about others.
It is not wise to be dogmatic about some of them.
It is wise to follow the proper method of interpreting parables
when interpreting the symbols and imagery of Revelation
When interpreting parables the best way is to find the central truth which is presented and let the details fit in naturally.
One of the main usages of symbols in Revelation in the smybolism of numbers.
To the mind of that day a certain number would suggest a certain concept.
They saw the number "1" to have the idea of unity or independent existence.
It stood for that which was unique.
This word does not appear symbolically in Revelation, but it is the base of other numbers that do appear.
The number "2" stood for strengthening, for redoubled courage, and energy.
Two were stronger and more effective than one.
This significence is seen as Jesus sent the disciples out two by two.
In Revelation the truth of God is confirmed by two witnesses who are slain and rise again and ascend to heaven.
The number "3" was a symbol of the divine.
The most divine things in life was "3."
The Trinty of "Father," "Son," and "Holy Ghost" is seen in this.
"Four" was the cosmic number.
To man in that day the world was flat and had four boundaries, east and west and north and south.
There were the four winds from the four sides of the earth.
There were four angels to govern the four winds -- as was their thought.
In their homes were four walls.
In Revelation there were four living creatures that symbolized the four divisions of animal life.
There were four horseman that symbolized the destructive powers of the world at war.
The world was symbolized by "4."
Man went from his study of the world to the study of himself.
He studied his fingers and his toes.
A full-rounded man had all his members intact,
so the number "5" doubled to "10" and came to stand for human completeness.
The whole duty of man was summed up in "10" commandments.
the picture of complete power in government was that of a beast with ten horns.
As a multiple, "10" occurs in many of the higher numbers of Revelation such as,
"70," which is a very sacred number.
Of course "1000" is ultimate completeness.
They took the perfect world number "4"
and added it to the perfect divine number "3" and got "7."
This is the most sacred number to the Hebrews.
The number runs through the book of Revelation.
There are seven spirits, seven churches,seven golden candlesticks,
seven stars, seven sections to the book, each save the last, divided into seven parts.
The sacred number, multiplied by the complete number "10,"
resulted in the very sacred "70."
There were 70 members of the Jewish high court.
Jesus sent out seventy prepared workers.
Jesus told his disciples to forgive his brother seventy times seventy.
When it came to multiplication, "4" was multiplied by "3,"
and "12" became a well-known symbol.
This was the symbol of organized religion.
There were twelve tribes of Israel, twelve apostles, twelve gates to the Holy City in Revelation.
This number was reduplicated to 144,000 to picture the security of a perfect number
sealed from the wrath of God visited upon the world.
In division the perfect number "7" was cut in half.
Thus "31/2" came to express the incomplete.
It symbolized restless longings not yet fulfilled and aspirations unrealized.
When John saw people in despair and confusion hoping for peace, he used "31/2."
This was used in several forms, such as "a time, times, and a half,"
and "forty two months," "1,260 days," -- all have the same meaning.
In Revelation two witnesses preached "31/2" years -- an indefinite time.
The court of the Temple was tramples by the ungodly "31/2" years.
The saints were persecuted forty two months.
The church was in the wilderness "1,260 days."
The number, "31/2" or its equivalent always stood for the indefinite,
the incomplete, and the dissatisfied.
One last number is the number "6."
To the Jew this was a sinister number.
As "7" was the sacred number, "6" fell short of it and failed.
"Six" had within it the stroke of doom.
It failed to measure up.
It was to the Jew an evil number.
It is important to remember this when you come to the number "666".
Apart from the symbolism of numbers in Revelation, there are many other figurative language.
Used symbolically are birds, beasts, persons, cities, elements of nature,
weapons, qualities (light,darkness, etc.), and precious stones.
All these are used to picture the triumph of righteousness over evil.
One cannot truly understand Revelation if he ignores this central characteristic.
The message of Revelation can only be revealed to us when we rightly interpret the symbols as they were known
to those who first received the book of Revelation.
Its meaning for them has the same meaning for us.
In the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3, we learn about their current life situation in first century AD.
The affirmations and warnings given to them are also given to us.
"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants what must soon take place.
He made it known by sending His angel to His servant John,
who testifies to everything he saw -- that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ."
This is a revelation to the church and it is a revelation of Jesus Christ, and it is a revelation through John.
The book was originally submitted to the seven churches in Asia Minor (v. 4),
and in verse 11, Christ names them as Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum,
Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
The seven cities were listed in the order in which a messenger might visit them
if he were delivering to them on a postal route.
Even though the letters were originally sent to the seven churches
they also convey the God's Word to us.
The churches numbered "seven," which indicated perfection and completeness.
The seven churches in Asia represent local churches in all ages.
The recipients of the Revelation are the churches of Christ,
and the subject of the Revelation is Christ Himself.
The book begins by describing itself as a "revelation of Jesus Christ."
The revelation is given to John, but of Christ the theme.
The first chapter makes this very plain.
Christ is first called the faithful witness (Revelation 1:5).
Christ never faltered in bearing testimony to the Father, even when He suffered and died on the cross.
He is called the firstborn of the dead (Revelation 1:5).
Others had been brought back to life, such as Lazarus,
but Christ was the first to enter into a new and indestructible life.
Others whom the Lord raised from the dead died again later,
but He arose and is alive forevermore.
Death has no dominion over Him, and a persecuted church needed this assurance.
Finally, He is called the ruler of the kings of the earth (Revelation 1:5).
Earthly kings might seek to crush the church, but cannot succeed.
Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords.
To these titles John adds an eloquent doxology,
which is a description of Christ's accomplishments:
"He has freed us from our sins by His blood,
but He has made us to be a kingdom of priests to serve His God and Father
-- to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen!"
The opening of the book reveals Jesus Christ, His titles and His deeds, but it is only a foretaste
of the riches in Revelation, which bear witness to the person and work of the Lord Jesus.
Christ's message to the church was communicated through the apostle John.
It was indeed a revelation of Jesus Christ to His church,
but John was the means of its transmission.
Verse 1 says, "He [Christ] made it known to His servant John."
God used John to to communicate Christ's message of hope and encouragement to the church,
and the Revelation bears John's own expressions in conveying God's truth.
John has been described as as a prisoner, pastor, and poet.
He was a prisoner, having been banished to the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea.
He stated the reason for his exiled was
"on account of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (1:9).
John was also a pastor and his pastor's heart is seen throughout the book of Revelation.
In addition to being a prisoner and a pastor, John was a poet,
and the book of Revelation is the one great poem.
Our Lord gave John this revelation of Jesus Christ at a time when he was banished away from the churches
he had pastored, and from the people he loved.
Through this revelation, John sees the penetrating eyes of Christ his Savior.
Though weak from his confinement, he sees the strong, burnished feet of his Lord.
John hears the authoritative voice of the Lord of the church and the world.
John sees his beloved children held by the strong right hand of almighty God.
Suffering at the mercy of the political sword of Rome, he sees the Word of God proceeding from Christ's mouth.
Nearing the end of his days, John sees the presence of a radiating Christ showering blessing on all His children.
John's experience of receiving the revelation from God reminds us that it is when we are doing ordinary things
that God will often speak to us in extraordinary ways.
In verse 10 we read, "On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit,
and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet...."
John made it a regular practice to worship God on the Lord's Day, Sunday,
and it was in the context of that regular worship that the Lord spoke to Him.
William Wilberforce was a member of the English Parliament.
In 1801, Lord Addington had led his party into power,
and as the new Prime Minister was ready to form a new cabinet.
Wilberforce was rumored to be among the candidates for a cabinet post.
Soon he became preoccupied with that possibility, and for days it troubled him.
His ambition was crippling his soul.
Wilberforce went to church, and God gave this Christian statesman a revelation.
He wrote in his journal later that day,
"Blessed be to God for the day of rest and religious occupation wherein earthly things assume their true size.
Ambition is stunted."
God shows us more of Himself in extraordinary ways so often when we are doing ordinary things.
Have you noticed that when we are at our lowest Christ lifts us up.
"I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom
and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the Word of God
and the testimony of Jesus." (Revelation 1:9)
John was in exile suffering for his faith under the persecution of Domitian,
and was nearing the end of his life.
This was a time of confusion and probably great despair.
That is when the Lord came to John and gave him this great revelation of Himself.
You may be in dealing with some difficult circumstances.
You may even be suffering.
This is the time to look to Christ!
Look at John's experience when Jesus appeared to him.
"When I saw Him [Jesus], I fell at His feet as though dead" (Revelation 1:17).
John had been with Jesus for three years.
He had lived, eaten and served the Lord.
He was probably Jesus' closest disciple, the one whom Jesus loved,
the one whom Christ asked to care for His mother after He died.
Despite this closeness to Christ, John fell as a dead man when He saw the risen Christ.
Christ is not our good old the buddy as depicted in some contemporary Christian music.
He is the awesome Lord of the universe, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords.
His power overwhelms our weakness,.
His authority leaves us speechless.
His holiness rebukes our impurities.
We should be careful that in our desire to draw close to Christ we don't presume upon His grace and kindness.
He is the holy God of the universe, and when we come into His presence
we must enter with awe, with worship and and with reverence.
Study the seven letters to the church in Revelation.
Study with an open mind and heart to what God wants to teach us.
And then strive to become the disciples He would have us be in a world that is opposed
to the purposes and plans of God.
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White