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does not profess to be correct, was taken partly from the Arch of Titus and partly from the details in Exodus. It will serve to illustrate the symbolism of the Seven Churches.
The seven golden candlesticks of the Tabernacle are made use of by Jesus Christ to symbolise His Church, through which He shines, as the Light of the World.
The Candlesticks and Churches appear in the first chapter of the Book and are introduced in this way. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave to him to make known to his servants the things which must shortly come to pass, and signified sending by his angel to his servant John” (R. i. 1). A revelation of the future was given to John to make known to the Servants of God. We may anticipate the exegesis a little by saying that the “Servants” of God form the hierarchy of the Church. Then follows, “ John to the Seven Churches " grace and peace from the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ who has made us a kingdom and priests to God.
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying: What thou seest write in a book; and send to the seven churches which are in Asia, to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me: and being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks. And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one like unto the Son of Man. ... And he had in his right hand seven stars. ... And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying: Fear not: I am the first and the last. ... Write, therefore, the things which thou hast seen, and which are, and which must be done hereafter. The mystery of the seven stars, which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven candlesticks are the seven churches.” (R. i. 10-20).
The first and most important point to notice is that this is a vision of the future. S. John was ordered to make known to the servants of God “the things which must shortly come to pass.” It is a revelation in the sense of a prediction or prophecy. S. John heard behind him a great voice, and " turned to see the voice," and being turned "saw seven golden candlesticks,' corresponding to the Seven Churches.
This imagery places the Seven Churches in the future. The prophets looked upon history as a procession of events. As in a procession the leader must turn round and look behind him to see what is coming after him, so the prophet turns round to see the events which follow after him in point of time. Looking behind him into the future, S. John saw seven golden candle
sticks, which our Lord tells him, " are the seven churches," subsequently named, from Ephesus to Laodicea. He saw " in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks one like unto the Son of Man." This vision confirms the promise made by our Lord to His Church. “Behold I am with you all days even
to the consummation of the world” (Matt. xxviii. 20). And our Lord had “in his right hand seven stars ” which He tells us are “the Angels of the Seven Churches." The Angels of the Churches are the Chief Bishops of the Church, the successors of S. Peter, to whom it was said, “ Thou art Peter and upon
this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. xvi. 18). This promise is also confirmed by the vision.
Some writers have held that the Angels of the Churches are not flesh and blood, but spiritual beings, in charge of the Churches, as guardian angels. Our Lord held visible stars in His right hand, and He tells S. John that these are the “angels” of the Seven Churches. Spirits are invisible and intangible, and do not correspond to the symbolism. Moreover, these angels of the Apocalypse are admonished, warned, praised and encouraged, according to the state of their Churches.
It is not probable that God would grant visions to S. John, and order him to write a book about them and send it to supernatural beings.
We may anticipate the exegesis a little by saying that “angels” and “apostles " are derived from two Greek words, having the same meaning, “a messenger” or “one sent.” We assume that the Angels are the successors of the Apostles, who as Chief Bishops, rule the Church.
The introduction to the seven Churches contains one other important note for our guidance. Our Lord refers to "the mystery” of the seven stars, and the seven golden candlesticks. He draws attention to the fact that this vision veils a mystery, and He lifts but a corner of the veil.
The Key to the mystery lies in the seven candlesticks which symbolise the seven churches. As the seven-branched lamp of the tabernacle formed but one lamp, so the seven churches are one church, the complete cycle of the Church of Christ in its secular aspect. The seven lamps of the Tabernacle in their union with each other, through their foundation and support, represent the union of the Church in all its ages with its founder and supporter Jesus Christ. This invests every one of the Seven Churches of Asia with a symbolic significance. Collectively they stand for the universal Church of all time. Individually they stand for its seven successive periods.
It is generally accepted that the history of the Church, as it lies before us, falls naturally into seven divisions, each having its special characteristics. First,“ the Apostolic Church. Second, the Church of the Martyrs. Third, the Church of the Confessors and Doctors. Fourth, the widespreading Church of the Middle Ages. Fifth, the Church of the Reformation period. Sixth, the present day Church of the open door. Seventh, the Church of the last days.”
Holzhauser thought that the seven churches from Ephesus to Laodicea were selected because their names indicated the
chief characteristics of the different ages of the Church. Thus, Ephesus means "counsel," "my wish ” and “great distinction.” The first age witnessed the will of God in the new counsel of Christianity. It also witnessed the aboli. tion of the Old Law and the advent of the Kingdom of Christ. Smyrna means “canticles,” or “myrrh.” Myrrh is an emblem of blood. It characterises the martyrs' age, which ended in the canticles of the Church triumphant (R. vii. 10). Pergamos means “dividing the horns.” It witnesses to the separation of truth from heresy, which took place in the third age; also the division of the Church into East and West. Thyatira means "to be lighted up." It is a symbol of the conversion of the nations, which took place in the fourth age. Sardis signifies, “ the origin or cause of beauty,” referring to the Reformation persecution, which renewed the strength and beauty of the Church in the fifth age. Philadelphia means, “brotherly love," the characteristic of the present or sixth age. And Laodicea means “vomiting,” significant of the last age of the Church.
The Seven Churches to which the Book of Revelation was sent, were situated on the main Roman road circling in S. John's district of Proconsular Asia in the same order in which they are named by S. John. This will be seen in the accompanying map. Starting from S. John's headquarters at Ephesus and travelling north, one came first to Smyrna, and then to Pergamos, where the road turned south-east, then to Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
There is a peculiarity in the selection of these names which gives colour to Holzhauser's theory. A glance at the map will show that the seventh city on the Roman road was Hierapolis. But that Church was passed over in favour of Laodicea, because Laodicea signifies vomiting. Of this Church our Lord says, " But because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth” (R. iii. 16).
The Letters were not Epistles from S. John to his flock, although the Churches addressed were in his Apostolic charge. They are unlike any of the Canonical Epistles. They come direct from God. Their opening words are prophetic and their concluding words show that they are the outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Every letter ends thus, “ He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the Churches.”
Dr. Swete makes a comment on the Greek text with which these letters begin, which confirms the above conclusion. He says: The formula Tộ xyến . γράψον: Τάδε λέγει is not epistolary, but prophetic; for ypáfov cf. i. 11, 19; xiv. 13; xix. 9;
Laodic a Colossae.