The salutations from the throne to the churches highlight key themes of the book, especially the present reign of Jesus – Revelation 1:4-8.
Next, the book presents greetings to the “churches” from the “throne,” from God, Jesus, and the “Seven Spirits.” It stresses Christ’s present over the political powers of the earth, and his sovereignty is based on his Death and Resurrection. The recipients of the book are identified, the “seven churches” in Asia .
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The church at Laodicea receives no commendation, only corrections, and ominous warnings – Revelation 3:14-22.
Laodicea was founded in approximately 260 B.C. on the site of an older village named Diospolis, meaning the “city of Zeus.” It was sixty-five kilometers southeast of Philadelphia and one hundred and sixty kilometers east of Ephesus. Because of its location at the confluence of three major trade routes, the city depended heavily on regional trade.
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The “hour of trial” will come upon the whole habitable earth, but overcoming saints will not experience this final judicial act – Revelation 3:10.
Jesus promised to “keep” the faithful church of Philadelphia “from the hour of trial” that was coming upon the “inhabitants of the earth.” A comparison with similar passages demonstrates this “hour of trial” refers to the time of final judgment when those whose names “are not written in the Lamb’s book of life” experience the “second death,” the “lake of fire that burns with brimstone.”
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Philadelphia receives no correction, for she has remained faithful, and therefore, she will be kept from the “hour of trial” – Revelation 3:7-13.
Philadelphia lay fifty kilometers southeast of Sardis, where it straddled a major road into the interior, making trade with the other cities of Asia vital to its economy. The city was established in 189 B.C. by the king of Pergamos, and later, came under Roman provincial government when the last king bequeathed his realm to Rome in 133 B.C.
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The church at Sardis received no commendation, only warnings, and calls to repent while time remained – Revelation 3:1-6.
Sardis was situated approximately sixty kilometers south of Thyatira, near the crossroads between Smyrna and Pergamos. Therefore, regional commerce was vital to the economic and cultural life of the city. Woolen goods figured prominently in local trade. Sardis is mentioned in Obadiah – (“They of the captivity of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad shall possess the cities of the South”), “Sepharad” being the Hebrew form of ‘Sardis.’
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The prophetess “Jezebel” deceived many at Thyatira into accommodating the idolatrous practices of pagan society – Revelation 2:18-29.
The city of Thyatira was situated fifty-five kilometers southeast of Pergamos and eighty kilometers from the Aegean Sea. Its proximity to Pergamos explains why the doctrines of the Nicolaitans had also infiltrated this congregation. Christianity reached Thyatira at an early stage, but the details of its establishment are unknown. Most likely, it was an area reached by Paul’s earlier missionary activities from Ephesus.
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