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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS – STUDY 2
Please look at the questions and discuss the answers. The case histories are designed to let you apply what theoretical knowledge you have gleaned from the study. There are intentionally many more questions and case histories than you can manage in one session but this is designed to cover the many and varied needs of the individuals in the church hence please pick and choose which ones to discuss as long as it gets people sharing and applying the Word to real life situations. Never feel obligated to finish all the questions The answers will be posted on the web the next day.
The letter historically is written to 7 churches specifically because John writes…
Revelations 1 : 4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
However it is not meant to be exclusively to these specific churches because the message is equally relevant applied to the other churches because
Rev 2: 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Additionally, there is the symbolic use of the number 7 which represents completion from the 7 days of creation to the 7 times Israel marched around Jericho before God brought its walls down, to the length of days from cleansing before a person who partake in worship before being clean and the number of times blood is sprinkled for cleaning in Lev 4:6, 17.
Jesus is addressing the churches of the time where persecution is universal and the use of the number seven to describe the Spirit is not to confuse us that there are seven spirits instead of the one Holy Spirit but to use the number seven to emphasize an aspect of the Spirit that is relevant to the church at the time. It is to emphasize fullness and completion as 7 is that symbol which represents completion from the 7 days of creation to the 7 times Israel marched around Jericho before God brought its walls down, to the length of days from cleansing before a person who partake in worship before being clean and the number of times blood is sprinkled for cleaning in Lev 4:6, 17.
Luke 12: 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
Here Luke emphasizes the role of the Spirit in timers of persecution particularly relevant to a persecuted church.
Jesus is described in terms that are relevant to the recipients of the letter. For example if Roger Federer were to write a letter to a young tennis player or was quoted in an article of book designed to advise or train aspiring tennis players his relevant attributes would be
mentioned first and foremost.
We would not write
“Roger Federer, husband of one wife and father of twins and wonderfully patriotic Swiss and very handsome fellow” would we ? Whilst these attributes are all true they are not relevant the particular audience of aspiring tennis hopefuls and they are more relevant if the description was to a group of parents in a PTA meeting.
Jesus describes Himself chiefly as
The Greek for witness is “martus” from which we today get the word “martyr” which is one who dies because he is faith to the end for a particular cause. In our world being a witness for Christ does not hold the same meaning of being a martyr unless one lives in China or in Iraq under ISIL. In the world of the early church being a witness and a martyr was often one and the same thing. So if Jesus is the Faithful Witness even to death as He testified as to Father and relationship with the Father which resulted in unbelief and persecution ultimately causing His crucifixion. So we as His disciples sought to take comfort we have a Saviour too who suffered as we suffer to bear witness.
First born of the dead
This refers to His resurrection and this is the singular hope of all suffering disciples as we need to fear nothing of which the evil one can do to us in this life when our transition to eternal life is secured in the realisation of Jesus death and resurrection.
Ruler of all kings of the earth
In a time where the Roman emperors persecuted the church, it would seem that the Empire was all supreme and what mattered in life was political power as it was everywhere. Through His death and resurrection Jesus was declared supreme and ruler of all earthly kings. In other words His overcoming was by way of death and resurrection forming the paradigm for the rest of us to follow and take comfort. No matter how difficult things get the one really in power is not the king it is Jesus.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.
This king of kings actually loves us and the magnitude of His love is encapsulated in his singular act of dying on the cross for us to free us from our sins. This casts aside any human prevention of salvation by any effort of our own. We only need to rest in His finished work for us and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen
The final consequence of what he has done is incorporating us into His kingdom which means realising that we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom now present and active and more than that priests with direct access to God ministering worshipping to Him and mediating His influence and love to our world. This is no longer in the future tense but the present where we live under His rule and more importantly something we need to understand and appropriate in the way we live. We can live focussed directly on the political realities on the ground buffeted by the oppression of the kings and politicians or we can live understanding that our true identity as priests serving Him. Hence if we live solely in man’s kingdom we will strive to accrue political power , money, influence and all the trappings this society offers us. The alternative lifestyle is living as citizens of His kingdom meaning the purpose of our lives is to glorify Him and serve Him which is the total opposite of the citizens of this world. While they accrue power we loose power, while they oppress others ,we lift others up. While they focus on comfort and glory in their possessions we focus on the poor and down trodden.
The symbols are explained by Jesus, the Lamp stands are the churches and He is walking in their midst holding the angels in charge of each church in His right hand. The imagery is clear. The churches are to bear witness as they are lampstands and that is their primary function to bear His light to the world. In the final analysis of what a church is it is first and foremost His witness to the world and the fact that He is walking in the midst of the lampstand indicates that Jesus is closely monitoring the life of His church. He holds each angel in charge of each church in His right hand, means He directly is in control. Jesus is not on social media or sunning Himself in a celestial heaven where the affairs of the church might have been an afterthought. This vision assures us that He is totally focussed on what the church is and what the church does. There is therefore both accountability and comfort. Accountability in the sense of the churches need to be responsible for its mission and what He has tasked it to do and certainly Revelations 2-3 is all about Jesus pointing the many ways in which churches do stray away from their mission and comforted by Jesus on what some of them were doing well.
The early church lived with the vibrant anticipation of the return of Jesus as prophesied in Daniel 7 but the contemporary church makes little to no attempt to keep that anticipation current and alive. Why is this so ? Do you think it is important to do so and why? How does this post ascension appearance of Jesus appear to you? What are you expecting to gain in your study of this epistle in Gamma this time?
Answers will be available on 8th October 2020.