“Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Revelation 1:11
The Book of Revelation was written by one of Jesus' disciples, John.
John had relocated from Israel to the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor. From his base in Ephesus, it appears that John pastored six other churches. The cities - and the churches that existed within them - lay on the ancient world's major highways.
This series was presented over sixteen weeks on Zoom during the COVID-19 lockdown.
This series's focus was to read through the seven letters to these churches as if we were first-century people living in those towns. The original hearers would have been people who understood their cities history and the culture of first-century Asia Minor.
What would we have heard? What references to the culture or the cities history does John make that our modern ears cannot hear?
You will find in this study that the answer is A LOT!!! The Book of Revelation spoke loudly and clearly to those first readers. They understood the message from John and held on to it tightly.
My goal in this study is to reclaim some of that original message that still applies to our walk with God today.
This initial lesson will introduce you to the seven churches. I also provide an example of the approach we are going to take to the text each week.
One of the central concepts that occur throughout this study is that John speaks "text to context." This phrase comes from Ray Vanderlaan of That the World May Know Ministries. Ray was the leader on our tour.
John is going to take the words - and the associated meaning - of the Old Testament and intertwine them with references to the local context.
This combination creates a powerful way to convey biblical principles to an audience entrenched in Greco-Roman culture.
The city of Sardis was one of the great cities of the ancient world.
The city's history goes back at least a thousand years before John arrived in Asia, so John has a deep well of colorful history to draw his analogies.
The city of Sardis also happens to be mentioned in the Old Testament. John, of course, zeroes in on this reference and brings a message directly to the church.
Studying Sardis first - even though it is the fifth church on the list - provides us with fantastic imagery of how John connects the local context to the Old Testament text.