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Revelation 2. Context: Seven Churches, Empire and Patmos. Learning Outcomes. By the end of the module the student should be able to:

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Revelation 2

Revelation 2

Context: Seven Churches, Empire and Patmos

Learning outcomes
Learning Outcomes

  • By the end of the module the student should be able to:

  • 1.  locate the Revelation in the genre of Jewish apocalyptic 2. show the distinctive ways that the risen Christ is portrayed in the text3 identify some of the key theological themes in the text4. use several different hermeneutical tools to interpret the text5. give an account of how Revelation might be used within the context of Christian worship and praxis today

What is apocalyptic
What is Apocalyptic?

  • The disclosure of divine secrets is the purpose of Jewish apocalyptic

  • Those secrets can include creation, the origin of evil, calendaric matters and the end of the world


  • What strikes you about the seven letters?

  • What do you find unusual

  • Stephen Smalley has said the overall theme is one of ‘salvation through judgement’. Do you agree?


  • Ephesus – on an Aegean gulf, near the mouth of the River Cayster

  • A major commercial centre

  • Self-governing status

  • Famous for Market place and massive theatre (25,000 seats)

  • Religious life – vibrant and marked by Imperial worship. Shrine and altar set up to Caesar Augustus in the earliest years of reign.

Diana artemis
Diana (Artemis)

  • 120 years to build

  • 425 feet long and 225 feet wide

  • 127 columns

The letter
The Letter

  • 1"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: 'The words of(A) him who holds the seven stars in his right hand,(B) who walks among the seven golden lampstands.2(C) "'I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but(D) have tested those(E) who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up(F) for my name’s sake, and you(G) have not grown weary. 4But I have this against you, that you have abandoned(H) the love you had at first. 5Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do(I) the works you did at first. If not,(J) I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6Yet this you have: you hate the works of(K) the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7(L) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.(M) To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of(N) the tree of life, which is in(O) the paradise of God.'


  • Originally founded as a Greek colony, more than a 1000 years BCE

  • It became the first city in the ancient world to erect a Temple in honour of Dea Roma

  • In 23 BCE, the city was afforded the honour of building a Temple to Tiberius (Tacitus, Annals 4: 55-56)

  • Large Jewish population which were hostile to ‘the Church’

Positive notes
Positive notes

  • Crown of Life

The letter1
The Letter

  • "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: 'The words of(P) the first and the last,(Q) who died and came to life.9"'I know your tribulation and(R) your poverty ((S) but you are rich) and the slander[a] of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison,(T) that you may be tested, and for(U) ten days(V) you will have tribulation.(W) Be faithful(X) unto death, and I will give you(Y) the crown of life. 11(Z) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.(AA) The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.'


  • 40 miles north of Smyrna – 10 miles in land from the Aegean

  • Pergamum means ‘citadel’ – standing 1000 feet commanding the surrounding valley of Caicus

  • Large Library – by tradition parchment (pergamene) was invented in the city

  • Gigantic altar to Zeus stood 800 feet above the city

Revelation 2

The letter2
The Letter

  • 12"And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: 'The words of him who has(AB) the sharp two-edged sword.13"'I know where you dwell,(AC) where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not(AD) deny my faith[b] even in the days of Antipas(AE) my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of(AF) Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might(AG) eat food sacrificed to idols and(AH) practice sexual immorality. 15So also you have some who hold the teaching of(AI) the Nicolaitans. 16Therefore repent. If not,(AJ) I will come to you soon and(AK) war against them with(AL) the sword of my mouth. 17(AM) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.(AN) To the one who conquers I will give some of(AO) the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with(AP) a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.


  • Lay on the overland route between Pergamum and Sardis

  • Religion of Thyatira obscure. The guardian of the city was Tyrimnos

The letter3
The Letter

  • 18"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: 'The words of the Son of God,(AQ) who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.19(AR) "'I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman(AS) Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants[c](AT) to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21I gave her time to repent, but(AU) she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he(AV) who searches mind and heart, and(AW) I will give to each of you according to your works. 24But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call(AX) the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I(AY) do not lay on you any other burden. 25Only hold fast(AZ) what you have until I come. 26(BA) The one who conquers and who keeps my works(BB) until the end,(BC) to him I will give authority over the nations, 27and(BD) he will(BE) rule them with a rod of iron,(BF) as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28And I will give him(BG) the morning star. 29(BH) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'


  • 50 miles east from Ephesus

  • Upper and lower city – Sardeis is plural

  • Wealthy city

  • Gold mines

  • Wool was dyed

  • Temple to Cybele, local goddess, credited with restoring life to the dead

The letter4
The Letter

  • 1"And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: 'The words of him(A) who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

  • "'I know your works. You have the reputation(B) of being alive,(C) but you are dead. 2Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works(D) complete in the sight of my God. 3(E) Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up,(F) I will come(G) like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not(H) soiled their garments, and they will walk with me(I) in white, for they are(J) worthy. 5(K) The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never(L) blot his name out of(M) the book of life.(N) I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6(O) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'


  • 30 miles south-east of Sardis

  • Economy based on industry and agriculture

  • AD 17 – devastating earthquake

  • Chief god – Dionysius – the god of wine

  • AD 211-217 a provincial temple for the Imperial Cult was founded

  • At the time of Christ, engaged in Hellenistic evangelism

The letter5
The Letter

  • 7"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: 'The words of(P) the holy one,(Q) the true one,(R) who has the key of David,(S) who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.8"'I know your works. Behold, I have set before you(T) an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9Behold, I will make those of(U) the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold,(V) I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that(W) I have loved you. 10(X) Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try(Y) those who dwell on the earth. 11(Z) I am coming soon.(AA) Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize(AB) your crown. 12(AC) The one who conquers, I will make him(AD) a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him(AE) the name of my God, and(AF) the name of the city of my God,(AG) the new Jerusalem,(AH) which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13(AI) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'


  • Wealthy city; wool, textiles and banking

  • Medical school

  • Lack of natural resources; nearest Springs were in Denizli some 6 miles away

The letter6
The Letter

  • 14"And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: 'The words of the(AJ) Amen,(AK) the faithful and true witness,(AL) the beginning of God’s creation.15"'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.(AM) Would that you were either cold or hot! 16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17(AN) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor,(AO) blind, and naked. 18I counsel you(AP) to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and(AQ) white garments so that you may clothe yourself and(AR) the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes,(AS) so that you may see. 19(AT) Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door and(AU) knock.(AV) If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,(AW) I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21(AX) The one who conquers,(AY) I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as(AZ) I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22(BA) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"


  •  The Emperor and the Imperial Cult claimed to have brought peace and prosperity to the Empire.

  • The worship of the Emperor as ‘Lord and God’

  • Refusal to worship the Emperor would have meant excluding oneself from normal patterns of life:

  • Persecution of Christians was localised rather than widespread

Critique of the empire
Critique of the Empire

  • John’s critique of the Rome because of the absolutizing of power and wealth

Revelation 4
Revelation 4

  • Cf. Isaiah

  • Merkavah

  • The central theological symbol of the book is the throne