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Letters: Daily Reading


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Letters: Daily Reading


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Daily Reading Plan

Week 1 - The Church at Ephesus

Monday - Revelation 1:1-8
Tuesday - Revelation 1:9-14
Wednesday - Revelation 1:15-20
Thursday - Revelation 2:1-3
Friday - Revelation 2:4-7
Saturday - Revelation 2:1-7

Week 2 - The Church at Smyrna

Monday - Revelation 2:8-9
Tuesday - Revelation 2:10-11
Wednesday - 1 Peter 3:8-12
Thursday - 1 Peter 3:13-17
Friday - 1 Peter 3:18-22
Saturday - Revelation 2:8-11

Week 3 - The Church at Pergamum

Monday - Revelation 2:12-14
Tuesday - Revelation 2:15-17
Wednesday - 2 Timothy 2:14-18
Thursday - 2 Timothy 2:19-22
Friday - 2 Timothy 2:23-26
Saturday - Revelation 2:12-17

Week 4 - The Church at Thyatira

Monday - Revelation 2:18-21
Tuesday - Revelation 2:22-29
Wednesday - 1 Corinthians 6:12-15
Thursday - 1 Corinthians 6:16-20
Friday - 1 Corinthians 7:17-24
Saturday - Revelation 2:18-29

Week 5 - The Church at Sardis

Monday - Revelation 3:1-3
Tuesday - Revelation 3:4-6
Wednesday - James 2:14-17
Thursday - James 2:18-21
Friday - James 2:22-26
Saturday - Revelation 3:1-6

Week 6 - The Church at Philadelphia

Monday - Revelation 3:7-9
Tuesday - Revelation 3:10-13
Wednesday - 1 Peter 4:7-11
Thursday - 1 Peter 4:12-15
Friday - 1 Peter 4:16-19

Week 7 - The Church at Laodecia

Monday - Revelation 3:14-18
Tuesday - Revelation 3:19-22
Wednesday - Hebrews 12:1-5
Thursday - Hebrews 12:6-9
Friday - Hebrews 12:10-12

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Letters: Introduction


INTRODUCTION

Letters: Introduction


INTRODUCTION

Which letters in the Bible are we referring to?

If you are familiar at all with the book of Revelation-you can quickly be reminded of stories of fire, end times battles, prophecies and a lot of confusion. While there is a great deal of value and meaning to the message of the return of Christ, we are going to sit down in chapter 2 of the book of revelation and look at the “letters to 7 churches”. We will examine the nature of the letters and how they fit into the larger narrative in the early sections of the study guide, but in summary-we will see God’s message to his people. How we should repent, what we should guard our hearts over-common pitfalls and ways we can get sidetracked from our mission, and what we should strive to emulate.

As followers of Christ, this section of Revelation is a hidden treasure. It is a clear blueprint for the church to follow as we seek to be a healthy community of people following Christ and serving in his cause. As we explore the letters to these churches, we are able to take a look into the past at the lives of those who came before us and learn from them.

Let’s jump into a challenging section of scripture and allow God to illuminate the areas of our lives where we need to refocus and repent-where can find encouragement and rejoice, and how we can continue to grow into the people we have been called to be.

It is important for an adequate understanding of Revelation to remember that God is communicating his message by means of visions that are symbolic rather than literal. What they portray exists in actuality, but the vision itself is simply the medium used by God to transmit that reality.

Mounce, Robert H. (1997-11-07). The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (p. 42). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.


Read on for the in-depth, biblical background, or press the button for week 1 to skip ahead to the main content of this study.


Authorship

The author of the Apocalypse identifies himself simply as John. The epistolary introduction of 1: 4 reads, “John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia.” Apparently it could be assumed that there could be no possibility of mistaken identity. The author’s matter-of-fact approach and his extensive knowledge of the precise conditions that existed in each of the seven churches indicate that he wrote as a person of authority to Christian communities that were in some sense under his jurisdiction. The name John occurs four times in Revelation. In 1: 1 he designates himself as a “servant” who serves as a vital link in making known “what must soon take place.” In 22: 8 he is the one “who heard and saw these things.” His role as Seer is joined with that of faithful witness in 1: 9, where he writes, “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” (cf. also 1: 4) Within the book itself, however, there is no specific indication as to who exactly this John was. Some suggestions need not detain us long. Dionysius of Alexandria speculates that it may have been John Mark, the young man who accompanied Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey (Acts 13: 5), but then appears to dismiss the idea on the historical grounds that John returned to Jerusalem instead of going with them into Asia. 33 There exist no significant linguistic similarities between Mark’s gospel and the Apocalypse, nor does the Evangelist display characteristics of a visionary possessed of a strong prophetic consciousness.

Early tradition is unanimous in its opinion that the Apocalypse was written by John the apostle. Justin Martyr, who lived for some time at Ephesus during the first part of the second century, 48 was familiar with the Revelation and held that the apostle John was its author. 49 This is corroborated by a remark in Eusebius (who himself did not accept the apostolic authorship of Revelation), who says that Justin mentioned the Revelation of John, “plainly calling it the work of the apostle.” 50 In his work against heresies Irenaeus frequently cites from the Apocalypse and holds it to be the work of “John the disciple of the Lord,” 51 by which title few would deny that he means the apostle. This witness is of special interest because as a boy Irenaeus had known Polycarp, who in turn sustained a close relationship with John. 52 Clement of Alexandria cited the Apocalypse in several places and accepted it as the work of John the apostle. 53 Writing from Carthage Tertullian quotes from all but four chapters of Revelation (mostly in his Montanist works), holding it to be the work of the apostle John.

Mounce, Robert H. (1997-11-07). The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (p. 11). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

Date

The book of Revelation has been dated as early as Claudius (A.D. 41– 54) and as late as Trajan (A.D. 98– 117). The early date4 interprets certain statements and allusions as best understood in light of the political, cultural, and religious milieu of the middle of the first century. The late date is found only in authorities many centuries removed from the events. Dorotheus, a sixth-century ascetic, and Theophylact, an eleventh-century Byzantine exegete, place John’s exile in the time of Trajan. 75 The majority of scholars place the composition of the Apocalypse either during the reign of Domitian (A.D. 81– 96) or toward the end or immediately after the reign of Nero (A.D. 54– 68).

Mounce, Robert H. (1997-11-07). The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (pp. 15-16). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

The letters to the seven churches of Asia (chaps. 2 and 3) form a distinct unit in the book of Revelation. That they are integrally related to the vision in chapter 1 is indicated by the fact that in the introduction to each letter the writer (Christ) identifies himself by means of a descriptive phrase taken from the vision and appropriate for the specific church. To the angel of the church in Ephesus the message comes from the one who “holds the seven stars in his right hand” and “walks among the seven golden lampstands” (2: 1; cf. 1: 12, 16). To Smyrna he writes as “the First and the Last, who died and came to life again” (2: 8; cf. 1: 17, 18). To Pergamum he is the one who “has the sharp, double-edged sword” (2: 12; cf. 1: 16). 1 Charles understands this phenomenon as the result of the author’s reediting an earlier set of his letters dealing with the spiritual conditions of the churches so as to relate them to the impending crisis. Part of the process consisted in bringing the original titles into closer conformity with the divine titles of Christ in 1: 13– 18.8 The plausibility of this conjecture rests on one’s larger understanding of the nature and purpose of the letters themselves. The older view is that the letters existed independently of the rest of the book. Charles maintains that they were originally sent to the various churches separately at a time prior to the fundamental antagonism that developed between Christianity and the imperial cult. The allusion in 3: 10 to universal persecution, therefore, would belong to the period of later redaction. 3

Mounce, Robert H. (1997-11-07). The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (p. 64). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

The seven churches of Revelation

The seven churches of Revelation

It has often been noted that what we have are not true letters, but “messages,” 6 “special words,” 7 or “proclamations.” 8 They form a sequel to chapter 1 and are part of a common epistle sent to all seven. Feuillet suggests that a greater emphasis should be placed on their being oracles. Christ comes to inspect his churches, and issues words of warning and notes of encouragement. The utterances, says Feuillet, resemble the prophetic oracles of the OT more than the epistles of the NT. 9 In any case, the messages are a vital part of the Apocalypse as a whole and are intended for the exhortation and edification of the church universal. Each oracle contains the challenge, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (the plural is significant!).

Mounce, Robert H. (1997-11-07). The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (p. 65). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.



 

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Letters: Week 1


Study Guide: Week One

Letters: Week 1


Study Guide: Week One

Week 1 - The Church at Ephesus

Scripture

Monday - Revelation 1:1-8
Tuesday - Revelation 1:9-14
Wednesday - Revelation 1:15-20
Thursday - Revelation 2:1-3
Friday - Revelation 2:4-7
Saturday - Revelation 2:1-7


Ephasus

It is appropriate that the first letter should be sent to Ephesus. It was the most important city of proconsular Asia. Situated at the mouth of the Cayster River on a gulf of the Aegean Sea, 2 it flourished as an important commercial and export center for Asia. The traveler from Rome landing at Ephesus would proceed up a magnificent avenue thirty-five feet wide and lined with columns that led from the harbor to the center of the city. Ephesus was part of the kingdom of Pergamum, which Attalus III bequeathed to Rome in 133 B.C. By NT times it had grown to more than a quarter of a million in population. Its commercial importance was heightened by the fact that three great trade routes converged at the city (from the Euphrates by way of Colossae, from Galatia through Sardis, and from the Maeander valley3 to the south and east). Although Ephesus was not the titular capital of Asia (Pergamum retained this honor), it was a city of great political importance. As a free city it had been granted by Rome the right of self-government. It also served as an assize city in which the Roman governor on a regular schedule tried important cases and dispensed justice. It boasted a major stadium, marketplace, and theater. The latter was built on the west slope of Mt. Pion overlooking the harbor, and seated some 25,000 persons. The imperial cult was not neglected in Ephesus. Temples were built to the emperors Claudius, Hadrian, and Severus. The major religious attraction, however, was the Temple of Artemis (Diana in Latin), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. About four times the size of the Parthenon, it was adorned by the work of many great artists. After a devastating fire in 356 B.C. that destroyed the first temple, it was rebuilt, with Dinocrates (who later built Alexandria) as architect. Pliny the elder4 gives the dimensions of the temple as 425 feet long, 220 feet wide, and sixty feet high. He also notes that the 127 pillars were of Parian marble, with thirty-six of them overlaid with gold and jewels. 5 Artemis herself was originally an Anatolian fertility goddess, but under the influence of Greek culture she had become the focus of an extensive religious cult. The Christian faith came to Ephesus perhaps with Aquila and Priscilla about A.D. 52 when Paul left them there en route from Corinth to Antioch (Acts 18: 18– 22). On his next missionary journey the apostle remained in Ephesus for more than two years (Acts 19: 8, 10), and some time later Timothy ministered there (1 Tim 1: 3). It was the apostle John, however, who is most closely associated with the city.

Mounce, Robert H. (1997-11-07). The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (p. 67). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

Big Idea

The church in Ephesus Loved truth-but apparently had fallen away from their first love, Jesus Christ. In doing so, they had also cooled their love for one another. When we get our “truth” right, but don’t love, we are in a bad place. Here’s the takeaway for us MCC-If we know all the right answers but don’t love well, God is not pleased with us. Love is the foundation of everything we do. Have you fallen away from your first love?

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Letters: Week 2


Study Guide: Week Two

Letters: Week 2


Study Guide: Week Two

Week 2 - The Church at Smyrna

Scripture

Monday - Revelation 2:8-9
Tuesday - Revelation 2:10-11
Wednesday - 1 Peter 3:8-12
Thursday - 1 Peter 3:13-17
Friday - 1 Peter 3:18-22
Saturday - Revelation 2:8-11

Smyrna

Smyrna lay about thirty-five miles north of Ephesus on the east shore of the Aegean Sea. Its excellent harborwas sufficiently narrow at the mouth that it could be closed for protection in time of war. An important road extended eastward from Smyrna over which the produce of the rich valley of the Hermus moved. In exports, Smyrna was second only to Ephesus. Smyrna was a proud and beautiful city. Three to four hundred years after it had been destroyed by Alyattes, king of Lydia, it was rebuilt in 290 B.C. by Lysimachus and Antigonus as a model city. It boasted a famous stadium, library, and public theater (the largest in Asia). It claimed to be the birthplace of the great epic poet Homer. A famous thoroughfare called the Street of Gold curved around Mt. Pagus (which rose over500 feet from the harbor) like a necklace on the statue of a goddess. At either end was a temple, one to a local variety of Cybele, known as Sipylene Mother (a patron divinity), and the other to Zeus. The acropolis on Mt. Pagus was called the crown or garland of Smyrna. In NT times the population may have been about 200,000.

Coins describe the city as “First of Asia in beauty and size.” Smyrna sustained a special relationship to Rome and the imperial cult. During the period when Rome was engaged in a struggle for supremacy against the Carthaginian empire (roughly 265– 146 B.C.) Smyrna had placed itself squarely on the side of the Romans, and in 195 B.C. it became the first city in the ancient world to build a temple in honor of Dea Roma. Later, in 23 B.C., Smyrna won permission (over ten other Asian cities) to build a temple to the emperor Tiberius. 1 This strong allegiance to Rome plus a large Jewish population that was actively hostile to the Christians made it exceptionally difficult to live as a Christian in Smyrna. The most famous martyrdom of the early church fathers was that of the elderly Polycarp, the “twelfth martyr in Smyrna,” who, upon his refusal to acknowledge Caesar as Lord, was placed upon a pyre to be burned. We do not know when the church was first founded at Smyrna, but it is reasonable to suppose that it could have been during the time Paul lived in Ephesus on his third missionary journey (cf. Acts 19: 26). 2 From Ignatius’s letter to Smyrna (early second century A.D.) we learn that the church was already well organized, with a bishop (Polycarp), elders, and deacons. 3

Mounce, Robert H. (1997-11-07). The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (pp. 73-74). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

Big Idea

Suffering does not mean we have done something wrong. This chapter is such a clear picture of how God calls us to respond to suffering-with faithful obedience. Sometimes we shouldn’t just seek to end the pain and suffering, but seek God’s power to be obedient in the midst of the suffering. We are also called to not be afraid. We are in a time in history that seems point towards an increase of suffering for the sake of the faith-we don’t have to be afraid. God is with us, and we are wealthy beyond comprehension because of the riches of the inheritance we have in Christ Jesus.

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Letters: Week 3


Study Guide: Week Three

Letters: Week 3


Study Guide: Week Three

Week 3 - The church at Pergamum

Scripture

Monday - Revelation 2:12-14
Tuesday - Revelation 2:15-17
Wednesday - 2 Timothy 2:14-18
Thursday - 2 Timothy 2:19-22
Friday - 2 Timothy 2:23-26
Saturday - Revelation 2:12-17

Pergamum

The road north from Smyrna follows the coastline some forty miles and then turns inland in a northeasterly direction up the valley of the Caicus River. About ten miles inland from the Aegean Sea stands the impressive capital city of Pergamum. 1 In the letter to Pergamum Christ commends their faithfulness to his name even when Antipas was martyred, but rebukes them for allowing in their midst false teachers who had encouraged them to accommodate themselves to the prevailing culture. If they overcome they will be invited to the messianic banquet, but if they fail to repent Christ will come and fight against them. Pliny called Pergamum “by far the most distinguished city in Asia.” 2 Built on a cone-shaped hill a thousand feet in height, it dominated the surrounding valley of the Caicus. Its very name in Greek (Pergamon) means “citadel.” Although the site appears to have been inhabited from prehistoric times, its rise to prominence came in the third century B.C. when it became the capital of the Attalids. Under Eumenes II (197– 159 B.C.) Pergamum became “the finest flower of Hellenic civilization.” 3 It boasted a library of more than 200,000 volumes. Legend has it that parchment was invented there when the supply of papyrus from Egypt was cut off in reprisal for Eumenes’s attempt to lure a famous librarian by the name of Aristophanes away from Alexandria. 4 Until Attalus III bequeathed his kingdom to Rome in 133 B.C. the Pergamene kings continued as enthusiastic patrons of Hellenistic culture. The most spectacular aspect of this remarkable city was the upper terrace of the citadel with its sacred and royal buildings. Of these, the most remarkable was the great altar of Zeus that jutted out near the top of the mountain. A famous frieze around the base of the altar5 depicts the gods of Greece in victorious combat against the giants of earth (symbolizing the triumph of civilization over barbarism). It commemorates the victory of Attalus I (the first ruler in Asia to refuse tribute to the plundering Gauls) over the Galatians. Religion flourished in Pergamum. It was a center of worship for four of the most important pagan cults of the day— Zeus, Athene (the patron goddess), Dionysos, and Asklepios (who was designated Sōtēr, Savior). 6 The shrine of Asklepios, the god of healing (also known as “the Pergamene god”), attracted people from all over the world. 7 Galen, one of the most famous physicians of the ancient world, was a native of Pergamum and studied there. 12 Of greatest import for the Christians living in Pergamum was the fact that it was the official center in Asia for the imperial cult. It was the first city of Asia to receive permission to build a temple dedicated to the worship of a living ruler. In 29 B.C. Augustus granted permission for a temple to be erected in Pergamum to “the divine Augustus and the goddess Roma.” 8 Of all the seven cities, Pergamum was the one in which the church was most liable to clash with the imperial cult. To the church Christ writes as the one who has “the sharp, double-edged sword.” In the context of life in a provincial capital where the proconsul was granted the “right of the sword” (ius gladii), the power to execute at will, the sovereign Christ with the two-edged sword would remind the threatened congregation that ultimate power over life and death belongs to God.

Mounce, Robert H. (1997-11-07). The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (pp. 78-79). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

 Big Idea

Corrupt teachers had led the church at Pergamum astray. The church was faithful in a hard place, but as false teachers came into the fold, people began to leave the proper practice of their faith. How can we know if someone is a false teacher or not? We have to know what scripture says and what it means! This letter should serve as an appeal to us to be able to distinguish between those who teach sound doctrine and those who do not, because false teachers are dangerous. For us to be able to do this, we have to be rooted in our faith. Do you know your doctrine? Do you know what we believe and why?

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Letters: Week 4


Study Guide: Week Four

Letters: Week 4


Study Guide: Week Four

Week 4 - The Church at Thyatira

Scripture

Monday - Revelation 2:18-21
Tuesday - Revelation 2:22-29
Wednesday - 1 Corinthians 6:12-15
Thursday - 1 Corinthians 6:16-20
Friday - 1 Corinthians 7:17-24
Saturday - Revelation 2:18-29

Thyatira

Following the overland route from Pergamum to Sardis, travelers would head eastward along the south bank of the Caicus River, turn southward over a low-lying range of hills, and descend into the broad and fertile valley of the Lycus. Their journey of about forty miles would take them just across the Mysian border to the city of Thyatira situated on the south bank of the Lycus in the long north-south valley that connected the Caicus and Hermus valleys. Thyatira was founded2 by Seleucus I as a military outpost to guard one of the approaches to his empire. Since it possessed no natural fortifications, it would draw heavily upon the spirit of its soldier-citizens to make up for its vulnerability. In 190 B.C. the city fell to the Romans and became first part of the kingdom of Pergamum and then part of the Province of Asia. With the coming of stable conditions under Roman rule, Thyatira was destined for growth and prosperity as a center for manufacturing and marketing. An outstanding characteristic of Thyatira was the large number of trade guilds that flourished there. Ramsay notes that inscriptions, although not especially numerous, mention “woolworkers, linen-workers, makers of outer garments, dyers, leather-workers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave-dealers and bronze-smiths.” 3 In Acts 16: 14ff. we meet “a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira,” 4 who also had a house at Philippi. It would appear that Thyatira’s market extended across the Aegean Sea into Macedonia. Since the trade guilds were inseparably intertwined with local religious observances, they posed a special problem for the economic well-being of Christians. The divine guardian of the city was the god Tyrimnos5 (identified with the Greek sun-god Apollo), who would be conceived of as the patron of the guilds and therefore honored in their festivities. 18 The writer of the letter to Thyatira describes himself as “the Son of God.” Only here in the book of Revelation is this title found (although it is implied in many other places; e.g., 2: 27; 3: 5). Since Ps 2: 9 is quoted later in the letter (v. 27), it may be that Ps 2: 7 (“ the LORD … said to me, ‘You are my Son’ ”) suggested its use here. In any case, it stands in strong contrast to the local cultic worship of Apollo Tyrimnos, which was merged with that of the emperor (identified as Apollo incarnate) so that both were acclaimed as sons of Zeus. Thus it is not the emperor or the guardian deity of Thyatira, but the resurrected Christ, who is the true son of God. He is described as having eyes like blazing fire and feet like burnished bronze. Both descriptions are taken from the initial vision of chapter 1 (vv. 14– 15). In Daniel’s great vision of the last days (chaps. 10– 12) the celestial being appearing to him has “eyes like flaming torches” and “legs like the gleam of burnished bronze” (Dan 10: 6). The blazing eyes suggest the penetrating power of Christ’s ability to see through the seductive arguments of Jezebel and those who were being led astray by her pernicious teaching. Feet (or legs; cf. on 1: 15) like burnished bronze6 convey the idea of strength and splendor.

Mounce, Robert H. (1997-11-07). The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (p. 85). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

Big Idea

The church in Thyatira was doing a lot of things well. They were serving, they were active in the church and they loved each other. As we read this, we realize that they were possibly a little too loving.... They had become influenced by the culture around them and had become morally flexible. They were largely sexually disobedient. They had made compromises to the culture around them and had left the ways of the faith. Are we being vigilant about our morals and obedience? Are we justifying being disobedient to the word of God? Where in our lives do we look more like the culture around us than the people of God?

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Letters: Week 5


Study Guide: Week Five

Letters: Week 5


Study Guide: Week Five

Week 5 - The Church at Sardis

Scripture

 Monday - Revelation 3:1-3
Tuesday - Revelation 3:4-6
Wednesday - James 2:14-17
Thursday - James 2:18-21
Friday - James 2:22-26
Saturday - Revelation 3:1-6

Sardis

In the sixth century B.C. Sardis was one of the most powerful cities of the ancient world. Yet by the Roman period it had declined to the point that Ramsay could describe it as “a relic of the period of barbaric warfare, which lived rather on its ancient prestige than on its suitability to present conditions.” 1 It was located some fifty miles east of Ephesus on a northern spur of Mt. Tmolus overlooking the broad and fertile plain of the Hermus. The acropolis, with its nearly perpendicular rock walls rising 1,500 feet above the lower valley (on all but the south side), was essentially inaccessible and provided a natural citadel. 2 As Sardis grew, it became necessary to develop a lower city to the north and west of the acropolis on the banks of the Pactolus, a southern tributary of the Hermus. Excavations in the lower city have unearthed a Roman theater and stadium as well as an exceptionally large (160 by 300 feet) temple dedicated to Artemis. Its seventy-eight Ionic columns (of which two are still standing) are each fifty-eight feet in height. Built on the sixth-century-B.C. foundations of an ancient temple constructed by Croesus, it was destroyed in 499 B.C. and reconstructed but never completely finished in the time of Alexander the Great. It was dedicated to a local Asiatic goddess usually referred to as Cybele, who was identified with the Greek Artemis. This patron deity was believed to possess the special power of restoring the dead to life. Sardis was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, the most obstinate of the foreign powers encountered by the Greeks during their early colonization in Asia Minor. In 546 B.C. it fell to Cyrus and became the seat of the Persian governor. Later it became part of the Seleucid kingdom, then passed to Pergamum, and subsequently to Rome (133 B.C.). In A.D. 17 Sardis suffered a catastrophic earthquake, 3 but it was rebuilt with considerable help from the emperor Tiberius (10,000,000 sesterces— about a million dollars— and five years of tax remission. 4 Nine years later (in A.D. 26) it competed with ten other Asian cities for the privilege of building an imperial temple, but it lost out to Smyrna, which stressed its practical services to Rome. 5 Situated at the western end of a famous highway from Susa through Asia Minor, Sardis was a city of wealth and fame. Under Croesus gold was taken from the Pactolus. Jewelry found in the local cemeteries indicates great prosperity. It was at Sardis that gold and silver coins were first struck. It claimed to be the first to discover the art of dyeing wool.

Mounce, Robert H. (1997-11-07). The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (p. 92). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

Big Idea

The church in Smyrna gets the roughest treatment of the 7. We read that the church is spiritually dead. They were basically showing up to church and going home. Many of the people that were in the church may not even be Christians, but just those who show up on Sundays. Here is the big takeaway for us on this one-are you awake?? This church was asleep and disengaged. How is your faith? Are you sleeping? Have you shut down? What does it look like for you to wake up!

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Letters: Week 6


Study Guide: Week Six

Letters: Week 6


Study Guide: Week Six

Week 6 - The Church at Philadelphia

Scripture

 Monday - Revelation 3:7-9
Tuesday - Revelation 3:10-13
Wednesday - 1 Peter 4:7-11
Thursday - 1 Peter 4:12-15
Friday - 1 Peter 4:16-19

Philadelphia

Philadelphia (modern Alashehir) 1 lies at the eastern end of a broad valley that, passing through Sardis (some thirty miles west-northwest), leads down to the Aegean Sea near Smyrna. Its location commanded high ground on the south side of the river Cogamis, a tributary of the Hermus. This strategic location at the juncture of trade routes leading to Mysia, Lydia, and Phrygia (the imperial post route from Rome via Troas passed through Philadelphia and continued eastward to the high central plateau) had helped it earn the title “gateway to the East” and made it a city of commercial importance. The great volcanic plain to the north (katakekaumenē, the burnt land) was fertile and well suited to growing grapes. With an economy based on agriculture and industry, Philadelphia enjoyed considerable prosperity. Its one major drawback was that it was subject to earthquakes. The devastating earthquake of A.D. 17 that leveled twelve cities of Asia overnight2 had been particularly severe on Philadelphia, perhaps because it was nearer the fault line and also suffered a long series of tremors that followed. With the defeat of Antiochus IV at Magnesia in 190 B.C. Lydia passed to Pergamene control. Although Philadelphia is the most recently established of the seven cities of the Apocalypse, there is some confusion as to whether Eumenes II, king of Pergamum, or his younger brother Attalus II Philadelphus, who reigned from 159 to 138 B.C., founded the city. 3 What is certain is that its name commemorates the loyalty and devotion of Attalus II to his brother (this is what earned him the epithet Philadelphus, “lover of his brother”). Hemer calls attention to two incidents of special note: (1) a false rumor of Eumenes’s assassination led Attalus to accept the crown, which he then relinquished when his brother returned from Greece, and (2) Attalus’s resistance to Roman encouragement to overthrow his brother and become king. 4 The city was probably founded between 189 B.C. when the region came under the control of Eumenes and 138 B.C. when Attalus died, although without doubt it was built on the site of some earlier settlement. In its development under Pergamene rule Philadelphia was intended to serve as a “missionary city” to bring Greek culture to the recently annexed area of Lydia and Phrygia. Ramsay indicates the success achieved by noting that before A.D. 19 the Lydian tongue had been replaced by Greek as the only language of the country. 5 Following the great earthquake of A.D. 17 it took the name of Neocaesarea for a time in appreciation for the imperial help received for rebuilding. At a later date, under Vespasian (A.D. 69– 79), the name Flavia began to appear on coins. Philadelphia was remarkable for its many temples and religious festivals. For this reason, in the fifth century A.D. it was called “little Athens.” Because it was located in a vine-growing district, the worship of Dionysus was its chief pagan cult. After Tiberius’s help, it founded a cult of Germanicus, the adopted son and heir of the emperor. Between A.D. 211 and 217 a provincial temple to the imperial cult was built, and Philadelphia was honored with the title Neocoros, warden of the temple.

Mounce, Robert H. (1997-11-07). The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (pp. 98-99). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

Big Idea

This letter doesn’t have specific encouragements or rebukes-however, it does give us a clear picture of why the Church in Philadelphia should be encouraged. Their faith and their endurance make it clear to us that they are firmly rooted in Christ. One of the ways that we can tell that our faith is in a healthy, good place is when we can look at our lives and recognize that they are marked by obedience. Do we live the way God has called us to? What does our obedience say about the state of our hearts?

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Letters: Week 7


Study Guide: Week Seven

Letters: Week 7


Study Guide: Week Seven

Week 7 - The Church at Laodecia

Scripture

 Monday - Revelation 3:14-18
Tuesday - Revelation 3:19-22
Wednesday - Hebrews 12:1-5
Thursday - Hebrews 12:6-9
Friday - Hebrews 12:10-12

Laodecia

Laodicea (modern Eski-hisar, “the old fortress”) was located in the Lycus valley in southwest Phrygia at the juncture of two important imperial trade routes1— one leading east from Ephesus and the Aegean coast following the Maeander and then via the gentle ascent of the Lycus to the Anatolian plateau, and the other from the provincial capital at Pergamum south to the Mediterranean at Attaleia. Five of the seven cities to which John wrote lay in order along this latter road (Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and, some forty miles on to the southeast, Laodicea). Its sister cities were Hierapolis, six miles to the north across the Lycus River, and Colossae, ten miles on up the Lycus glen. 2 To the south lay mountains that rise to over 8,000 feet. The city occupied an almost square plateau several hundred feet high some two miles south of the river. It was founded about the middle of the third century B.C. by Antiochus II to command the gateway to Phrygia and settled with Syrians and Jews brought from Babylonia. 3 Antiochus named the city after his wife (and sister?) Laodice. In Roman times Laodicea became the wealthiest city in Phrygia. The fertile ground of the Lycus valley provided good grazing for sheep. By careful breeding a soft, glossy black wool had been produced that was much in demand and brought fame to the region. 4 Among the various garments woven in Laodicea was a tunic called the trimita. So widely known was this tunic that at the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451 Laodicea was called Trimitaria. 5 Agricultural and commercial prosperity brought banking industry to Laodicea. Cicero, the Roman statesman and philosopher of the last days of the Republic, wrote of cashing his treasury bills of exchange there. 6 The most striking indication of the city’s wealth is that following the devastating earthquake of A.D. 607 the city was rebuilt without financial aid from Rome. Tacitus wrote, “Laodicea arose from the ruins by the strength of her own resources, and with no help from us.” 8 Laodicea was widely known for its medical school, established in connection with the temple of Mēn Carou9 thirteen miles to the north and west. It boasted such famous teachers as Zeuxis and Alexander Philalethes (who appear on coinage). Ramsay notes that the Laodicean physicians followed the teaching of Herophilos (330– 250 B.C.) who, on the principle that compound diseases require compound medicines, began a strange system of heterogeneous mixtures. 10 Two of the most famous were an ointment from spice nard for the ears, and an eye-salve made from “Phrygian powder” mixed with oil. 11 Laodicea’s major weakness was its lack of an adequate and convenient source for water. Its location had been determined by the road system rather than by natural resources. Thus water had to be brought in from springs near Denizli (six miles to the south) through a system of stone pipes approximately three feet in diameter. Such an aqueduct could easily be cut off, leaving the city helpless, especially in the dry season when the Lycus could dry up. 12 A large number of Jews had emigrated to the area, so many, in fact, that the rabbis spoke bitterly of those who sought the wines and baths of Phrygia. From the amount of gold seized as contraband following an embargo on the export of currency by Flaccus, governor of Asia (62 B.C.), Barclay estimated that there were at least 7,500 adult male Jews in Laodicea and the surrounding district. 13 Laodicea was the center of the imperial cult and later received the Temple-Wardenship under Commodus (A.D. 180– 191). The church was probably founded during the time Paul spent at Ephesus on his third missionary journey (Acts 19: 10), perhaps by Epaphras (Col 4: 12). There is no evidence that Paul visited the church, although he wrote them a letter (Col 4: 16) that was subsequently lost.

Mounce, Robert H. (1997-11-07). The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (pp. 106-107). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

Big Idea

This church was lukewarm. They knew a lot, felt very confident, maybe even a little self righteous in their knowledge and morality. They did all the right things...but they didn’t really make much of a difference in the world around them. They had an impotent faith because they had lost sight of the needs of the world around them. They had a safe, comfortable faith that rarely impacted the world around them. Where is your faith lukewarm? How is God working in your life to wake you up and bring you back into a place of obedience?