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January 21, 2006
Notes for Revelation 2-3
Historical notes about each church:
Ephesus was the greatest city of the province of Asia. In Roman times it was populous, privileged, and wealthy. It was the chief port and market city of Asia. However, because of extensive silting, the port was becoming more swampy and difficult to navigate. The temple of Artemis was one of the great wonders in Ephesus and was associated with the imperial cult. Paul confronted many false apostles in Ephesus, such as the Judiazers. The Church in Ephesus had a reputation for resisting false teaching and was hailed in this regard by St. Ignatius. St. Irenaeus claimed that the Nicolaitans were the followers of Nicolas, who was one of the seven men ordained deacons (Acts 6:5). They lead lives of indulgence and tolerated adultery and eating meat sacrificed to idols.
Smyrna was one of the most prosperous cities of Asia. It contained a temple to Tiberius which was the center of the emperor cult. There was a considerable Jewish population with significant antagonism between the Jews and the Christians. Though the city was rich, the Jews dominated the city and the Christians were often very poor. The city was one of the first to be founded in 600 BC, although it was destroyed and re-founded around 300 BC. Pergamum had a temple to Zeus, as well as a temple dedicated to the imperial cult. It was known as a religious center in the Greek world. A great throne-like altar to Zeus overlooked the city.
Thyatira was in a broad valley and was a trading-center with many trade guilds. Livelihood was associated with the pagan trade-guilds and therefore pagan practices. Some wanted to make compromises in this situation.
Sardis was a former capital of the Lydian kingdom of Croesus. It had a citadel that was considered impregnable, but had been taken twice by stealth, because of the lack of watchfulness of the people. It suffered a catastrophic earthquake in 17 BC. Although it was a vibrant city, it had become secularized.
Philadelphia was a center of Greek culture. It suffered a great earthquake in 17 BC. Due to hostility, the Jewish Christians were probably expelled from the synagogue during the first century.
Laodicea developed as a commercial city and was known for banking, manufacturing clothing and carpets of a native glossy-black wool. It was the seat of a medical school noted for Phrygian powder which was used in the making of eye salve. Laodicea was an opulent city and rebuilt after an earthquake in 60 AD. It was close to Hierapolis and water from the hot springs flowed over a cliff near the city and ran near the town.
Symbolic notes about seven historical periods of Old Testament History: (Compare to each of the seven churches)
Language of Paradise: The creator holds the stars in his hand. Sin enters when love fails. Eat of the tree of life in paradise.
Patriarchs: Isaac was as good as dead and came back to life. Joseph was thought to be dead and was found alive. Joseph was sold into slavery and prison, but became prince of Egypt. Ten plagues had to pass before their liberation from Egypt.
Wandering in the Desert: The temptations of the prophet Balaam and Balak. The Ark was fashioned during this period. Manna in the wilderness. The sword of Phineas (Num 25:7).
Monarchy: Jezebel was the wife of King Ahab. The son of David will break the kings of the earth with the rod of iron and dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel (Ps 2).
Prophets: The prophets spoke by the Spirit. Their message was consistently one of trying awaken the people from spiritual death that they might live a holy and righteous life. Even so, the remnant would remain.
Return from Exile: The temple was rebuilt in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. There were conflicts between those returning from exile (Jews) and those who had remained in Israel (Samaritans), who were still considered second-class even at the time of Christ.
Time of the coming Messiah: The blindness of the people to their condition. The danger of being thrown out from their inheritance. Yet, the offer of a new relationship with God.