Revelation 1:11 Index
"Saying, 'I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.'"
Research Material

"...I am Alpha and Omega..." (Revelation 1:8)

  • In view of Revelation 1:17 and Revelation 1:18 it is clear that in the present instance these titles apply specifically to Christ.... In Revelation 1:4-10 John addresses to the seven churches his own introductory statement of the circumstances under which he received the Revelation. Beginning with Revelation 1:11 John gives Christ's own authorization of the Revelation. It is appropriate that [Christ] should do so, for this is "the Revelation of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:1). The revelation itself begins with Revelation 1:11. (7BC 736)

"...what thou seest..."

  • Visual communication and perception dominate the Revelation (Revelation 1:2). John saw visions, panoramic scenes in symbol, which he portrays as fully and accurately as finite human language can. Many of these symbols represent infinite truths that transcend the words and experience of men. At times the apostle finds himself at a loss for words to describe fully what he sees, as for instance, when he beholds the throne of God (Revelation 4:3, 6). Nevertheless, throughout the Revelation the grandeur of God's way with His universe, the intensity of the great controversy between Christ and Satan, and the glory of the final triumph are portrayed more vividly and magnificently than elsewhere in Scripture. (7BC 736-737)

"...write in a book..."

  • Or, "scroll," the most common type of book in John's day. (7BC 737)

"...write... unto the seven churches..."

  • The seven churches were in seven leading cities of Asia. Today these locations are in the country of Turkey. They are in relatively close proximity to each other, so the letters written by John could be easily carried from one to another. But while John was given visions, which he wrote about in... Revelation, in contrast, the messages to the seven churches were spoken by Jesus Himself to each church. (KC 24)
  • The Apocalypse was addressed primarily to seven actual, contemporary churches chosen, presumably, for their character as representative of the universal church of all time. They were not the only, or the most prominent churches in the province of Asia. Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum, along with Sardis, were indeed rival claimants to the leading position, but the other three did not rank next in importance. (Froom 89-90)
  • Ephesus and Smyrna were ancient Greek colonies, Pergamum and Sardis were old Anatolian cities, but Laodicea, Philadelphia and Thyatira were rather new cities, founded, or refounded, by Hellenistic kings -- the successors of Alexander's divided empire -- who wished to dominate and Hellenize their Oriental subjects through their strong and prosperous garrison cities. Consequently, western Asia Minor, where these seven churches were located, became a melting pot of Greco-Asiatic civilization. When the Romans conquered this territory from Antiochus the Great, they gave it to their ally, the king of Pergamum (189 B.C.). Then when his adopted son Attalus III bequeathed his kingdom to Rome in 133 B.C., this region became the Roman proconsular province of Asia. This wealthy and civilized province suffered from greed and misgovernment under the late Roman Republic, but Augustus brought peace and prosperity. Therefore the Asians became fervently loyal to the emperors, and worshipped Augustus as the Saviour of mankind. During the first century... emperor worship was chiefly a matter of form, but always more important in the East than in the West. Under the customary Roman toleration the heterogeneous citizens of Asia could worship their own gods -- so long as they also made offerings to the imperial god. But in the second century, emperor worship became the principal test of loyal citizenship, and was increasingly used as a weapon against Christians. At such a time the warnings and reassurances of the Revelation were peculiarly appropriate. (Froom 90)
  • Each of the seven letter of Revelation 1 thru 3 deals with the distinctive characteristics and problems of the church in question. This evidently indicates -- unless the messages had no meaning at all to their immediate recipients -- the actual condition of the individual churches. It is interesting to find that each church is addressed in terms which are eminently appropriate, locally and historically, to each city, and significant to the citizens... (Froom 91)
  • The order in which the churches are listed both here and in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 represents the geographical sequence in which a messenger carrying a letter from Patmos would [travel to] reach these seven cities in the province of Asia.... The seven churches are the first in a series of sevens in the Revelation. Thus there are also seven Spirits (Revelation 1:4), seven candlesticks (Revelation 1:12), seven stars (Revelation 1:16), seven lamps of fire (Revelation 4:5), a book with seven seals (Revelation 5:1), the seven horns and seven eyes of the Lamb (Revelation 5:6), seven angels with seven trumpets (Revelation 8:2), seven thunders (Revelation 10:4), a dragon with seven heads and seven crowns (Revelation 12:3), a beast with seven heads (Revelation 13:1), seven angels having seven vials containing the seven last plagues (Revelation 15:1, 7), and the beast with seven heads, which are also said to be seven mountains and seven kings (Revelation 17:3, 9, 10). This repeated use of the number seven with so many different symbols implies that it, too, is to be understood in a symbolic sense. Throughout Scripture the number seven, when used symbolically, is generally understood to indicate completeness, perfection.
    • As applied to the seven churches, then, this number may be expected to have a specific purpose. That there were more than seven churches in the province of Asia is clear from the fact that two other churches in that region, those at Colossae and at Hierapolis, are also mentioned in the New Testament (Colossians 1:2; 4:13). Consequently it is reasonable to conclude that the Lord chose the seven churches here named because they were typical of the condition of the church as a whole -- both in apostolic times and throughout the Christian Era (AA 583-585).
    • The messages to the seven churches applied to conditions in the church in John's day. Had this not been so, these messages would have mystified and discouraged the Christians in the churches of Asia who were to read them (Revelation 1:3). John would have proved to be a false prophet if the messages he addressed to his churches had not revealed the true situation in those congregations and had not been appropriate to their spiritual needs. These messages were sent at a time when the Christens of Asia were suffering great tribulation, and their firm reproof, reassuring comfort, and glorious promises must have been designed to till those needs (AA 578-588). Accepting and heeding these messages, the Christian churches of Asia would be prepared spiritually to understand the drama of the great controversy portrayed in the remainder of the Revelation, and to maintain a steadfast hope in the ultimate triumph of Christ and His church.
    • Although the various messages to the seven churches must have applied in the first instance to the churches of Asia in John's own time, they were also relevant to the future history of the church. A study of history reveals that these messages are, indeed, applicable in a special way to seven periods that cover the entire history of the church.
    • Inasmuch as the number seven implies completeness... it appears reasonable, also, to understand these messages as, in a sense, descriptive of the whole church at any time during its history, for doubtless every individual congregation throughout Christian history could find its characteristics and needs described in one or more of these messages. Accordingly, they may be said to have universal application in John's day and the historical application in successive periods.... Although, for instance, the message to the Laodicean church is particularly appropriate to the churches today, the messages to the other churches also contain words of admonition by which it may profit. (5T 368, 481, 538, 612; 8T 98-99). (7BC 737-738)
  • The seven cities to whose churches John wrote his well-known letters from the island of Patmos were in western Asia Minor. Two of them, Ephesus and Smyrna, were large port cities. Three, Thyatira, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, being centers of industry and commerce for the areas in which they were located, enjoyed great prosperity and economic importance. Sardis and Pergamum, having formerly been capitals of powerful kingdoms, still possessed great political prominence in the time of John. The whole area in which the seven churches of Revelation were found is rich in historical memories of the early Christian period, and played a great role in ancient history..... (7BC 86)
  • Most of the coastal cities of western Asia Minor were founded by Anatolian tribes, but at an early time they were taken over by Greek colonists. For this reason western Anatolia possessed a strong Greek culture for many centuries. During the 7th and 6th centuries B.C., the powerful Lydian kingdom, which ruled over more than half of Asia Minor, had its capital at Sardis, one of the seven cities of Revelation. This kingdom gave way to the rule of the Persians when Cyrus defeated Croesus and in 547 B.C., took his fortress capital, though it had been considered impregnable. During the following centuries a continuous but not quite successful struggle against the Persian rule was carried on by the Greeks of Asia Minor's western coastlands, until Alexander the Great freed them from the Persian yoke. much military action was again seen during the Hellenistic period following Alexander's death. It was during this area for almost 150 years, until it was taken over in the 2nd century B.C., by Rome. For more than four centuries Rome administered it as the "Province of Asia," with Pergamum as its political capital. (7BC 86)
  • It was during that time that some of the cities, whose names are well known to us from the book of Revelation, experienced their glory and wealth. They also underwent a tremendous religious change, as paganism gave way to the Christian religion. The apostle Paul was probably the first Christian missionary who brought the gospel to western Asia Minor. He visited some of its cities several times during his various missionary journeys (Acts 18:19; Acts 19:1; Acts 20:17; 1 Timothy 1:3), and lived in one of them, Ephesus, for three years (Acts 20:31). From that city the gospel rapidly spread to other important parts of western Asia minor. The Churches of at least two of the cities of this area were favored by Paul with personal letters - Colossae, Ephesus, and Laodicea (Colossians 4:16). One other church in this area, Hierapolis, is mentioned by name (Colossians 4:13). (7BC 86-87)
  • The application of the various messages to the seven churches to seven consecutive periods of church history (Revelation 2:1) naturally suggests the utility of a series of transition dates to facilitate the coordination of the several periods. In attempting to assign such dates, however, it is well to remember that:
    • (1) The prophecies of the seven churches is not a time prophecy in the usual sense of the term, for no specific chronological data accompany it. It is concerned primarily with successive experiences of the church , and differs considerably from such prophecies as those concerning the 1260 days of Daniel 7:25, the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14, and the 70 weeks of Daniel 9:25.
    • (2) Major eras of history can hardly be marked off by exact dates. So used, dates are at best convenient landmarks of a rather general sort, not exact boundary markers. Actual transition from one period to another is a gradual process. Nevertheless it is well to select approximate dates as an aid to correlating the messages with the corresponding events of history. Some would suggest different dates from those given below and use different phrases to describe the various periods. However, these variations in dates and names do not materially affect the over-all message found in the letters to the seven churches. (7BC 753)