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Revelation 2:1-7







Lesson Focus

Jesus calls us to faithfully follow God’s commands in a loving manner rather than with strict legalism.


Lesson Outcomes

Through this lesson, students should:

  1. Become more familiar with the context in which Revelation was written.

  2. Understand the nature of the “spirit” that emanates from each church addressed.

  3. Be encouraged to follow God’s commands without drifting into an exclusionary legalism.


Catching up on the Story

Last week we noted that John’s Revelation is written as a prophetic apocalyptic letter to Christ’s church. Understanding the style of the letter is vital for us as we seek to grasp what Jesus, through John, is trying to communicate.


We noted that apocalyptic literature is often comprised of an epic struggle between good and evil; it names the evil and hardship in our world, uses lots of imagery that was not meant to be taken literally, and makes symbolic use of numbers ( 3.5, 7, 666, 12, 24, 144,000) but that these numbers weren’t intended to be combined or calculated to reveal end times timelines, and was written to describe past, present, and possible future realities.


While Revelation is apocalyptic in nature, it is also prophetic. In prophetic literature, we find confessions that God is the sole creator of creation, that God has made a covenant with humanity for its flourishing and salvation, that God has called Israel and the church to be God’s people who participate in God’s mission in the world, that God plans to dwell among creation after finally and fully defeating evil.


As we began to look at chapter 1, we noted that John sees a symbolic vision of Jesus dwelling among the churches. In a context where Christians often face daily persecution and temptations to conform to their world, Christ is always present. We stopped to ponder this and the hope and encouragement it should give us as we seek to be faithful and obedient servants of Christ.


T0 the Angels…

Each letter that Jesus instructs John to write to the churches begins with a similar phrase, “To the angel of the church in….” In his book, Seven Deadly Spirits, T. Scott Daniels fixates on why the letters are addressed to each church’s angels. Who or what are these angels? Are they the guardian angel of each church? Daniels doesn’t think so.


Instead, Daniels believes that the angels are the corporate spirit that emerges from each church as a collection of persons in relation to each other. In other words, the sum of the parts of each church creates a vibe, if you will, that characterizes the church. More formally, Daniels states:

Communities, like the individual persons from which they are formed, take on a kind of spirit, personality, or "life of their own" that becomes greater than the sum of their physical parts. The seven angels of the churches, to whom John writes, are neither disconnected spiritual beings nor merely a colorful way of describing nonexistent realities. Instead, the term "angel" signifies the very real ethos or communal essence that either gives life to or works at destroying the spiritual fabric of the very community that gave birth to it (Daniels, 17).

There’s a good chance you know what Daniels is talking about at an intuitive level. Have you ever walked into a place and felt its “spirit,” its “vibe?” You might feel it walking into a school or workplace. At the beginning of my first job as a youth pastor, the youth group had a spirit of competition and low-level violence. It was not a place that radiated a sense of safety and calmness. Daniels goes on to say:

I am now convinced that churches, because they are a communal body, have an essence or collective spirit that is at work either aiding or hindering the life-giving work of the Spirit of God. (Daniels, 17).

I find Daniels’ observation convincing because I’ve experienced the “spirit” of a church. I’ve also experienced the transformation of a church’s spirit. One of John’s main aims is that the churches experience transformation so they might remain or become more faithful.


Babylon

We need to note one more thin