Reflections on Revelation #27

Day 27

‘TO THE ANGEL OF THE CHURCH OF . . . . WRITE.” REV 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14.

While the Book of Revelation has many similarities with other ancient apocalyptic books, the letters of Revelation 2 and 3 are somewhat out of character in such a work. Some scholars suggest that the letters to the seven churches are “prophetic letters,” a type of writing that appears in the Old Testament (2 Chr 21:12-15; Jeremiah 29) and early Jewish literature (2 Baruch 77:17-19; Epistle of Jeremiah 1). Such letters carried a great deal of authority and were treated like royal or imperial edicts.

In the Roman world there was no official postal system, except for governmental business. Most letters were carried by friends who happened to be travelling in the right direction, or by designated messengers. But the Empire’s superb road system, combined with efficient shipping on the Mediterranean Sea, made travel easier and faster than it had ever been before. Archaeologists have found evidence of people in Egypt sending letters to Asia Minor and receiving replies in as short a time as 25 days!

Letters almost always introduce an element of suspense. The envelope gives some idea as to sender and purpose, but the content may still be a surprise. I can imagine the suspense in the cities of Asia Minor as the readers of the Apocalypse came to the part that said, “To the angel of the church of Ephesus, write,” or “To the angel of the church of Smyrna, write.” The members of these respective churches must have held their breaths as they awaited a message directly from Jesus. And there were a lot of surprises in this collection!

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