Yesterday, we noted that the book of Revelation takes its name from the word apocalypse—which means to take the things that are hidden and make them known. Jesus Christ is taking us behind the scenes and letting us see the invisible, spiritual realities that are at play in this world. Yet, the book of Revelation is also apocalyptic in a literary sense. What I mean is that we want to read it differently than we would read, a narrative, or a letter, or even poetry. Like the last half of the book of Daniel, in the book of Revelation we have prophetic realities that are being revealed through the frequent use of symbolic language. As we read Revelation, we’re going to see objects, places, and even numbers being used as symbols which point to a greater reality.
One of the numbers that we’re going to encounter frequently is the number seven. In fact, we’ve already been introduced to it. John is given a vision of the glorified Jesus walking in the midst of seven golden lampstands, which represent the seven churches that John is instructed to write to. Throughout Scripture, we come to see that the number seven represents completion—particularly with reference to the work of God. In the beginning, God finishes his work of creation and rests from his work on the seventh day. Here in Revelation, these seven churches that John is writing to represent the entire Church that Christ is building—the Church in all places and at all times. Thus, in a very real sense, Jesus’ words to the church in Ephesus, the church in Smyrna, in Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea are also his words to us—the church in Crestwood.
Thus we would do well to pay attention to these words. To repent of those times where our love for God and for our neighbor has grown cold. To take courage and make a bold confession of our faith even in the face of the devil’s threats and the world’s persecution. To safeguard our worship and teaching from any trace of falsehood. Until Christ returns, this is our mission. This is what we are called to do. Our comfort, of course, is knowing that Jesus Christ himself is always present with his Church. Walking in our midst. We don’t serve a God who is distant—but one who is near. “I know…” Jesus says over and over to his church. “I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance…I know your tribulation…be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.”