The Recipients of Revelation

From start to finish, the Book of Revelation is addressed to the “Seven Assemblies of Asia.” These congregations do not fade from the picture in the Book's later sections. While it may include a larger target audience, Revelation is a message for those Seven Assemblies, and the significance of its visions cannot be understood apart from them.

The opening paragraph presents the Book as a record of the visions received by John while he was on the Isle of Patmos. It calls itself “the prophecy” in the singular number, and its contents concern “what things must come to pass soon.” Its first recipients would have understood that time reference from their historical perspective.

Stone Church - Photo by Ken Cheung on Unsplash
[Photo by Ken Cheung on Unsplash]

John was commanded to record his visions in a Scroll. He would then send the document to seven congregations in key cities of the Roman province of Asia. According to the promise of Jesus, the one “
who reads, and they who hear the words of the prophecy” would be pronounced “blessed.”

John sent it to the “Seven Assemblies, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” The Book includes seven individual letters for the seven congregations. Each letter contains commendations, corrections, warnings, and promises specific to its addressed congregation, and each concludes with the admonishment - “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the assemblies!” - (Revelation 1:1-11).

The seven churches do not disappear after the final letter addressed to the “messenger of Laodicea.” The promises for “overcomers” in each letter include verbal links to the vision of “New Jerusalem” at the end of the Book. Likewise, the exhortation to “hear what the Spirit is saying” also occurs in the Book’s central and concluding sections - (Revelation 13:9-10, 22:16).

The daily struggles of the “Seven Assemblies” with opponents, sin, and deception echo the larger battles and victories described in chapters 4 through 22. For example, the false “prophetess Jezebel” who “seduces my servants to commit fornication” is a local version of the “Great Harlot, Babylon” - (Revelation 2:18-24, 17:1-5).

This does not mean Revelation is only applicable to these seven congregations. There were more than seven churches in the province of Asia, plus dozens more scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Plural terms like “churches” and references to saints from “every nation” indicate a wider intended audience.

However, the original seven congregations remain a part of that audience, and in the Book, the number seven is used symbolically for completion. The “Seven Assemblies” represent a larger whole. Likewise, the admonishment in each letter for the “churches” to hear what the spirit is saying also suggests a broader audience.

The vision of the vast “innumerable multitude” of men from every nation redeemed by the death of Jesus envisioned something larger and grander than the seven marginalized congregations of Asia.

Nonetheless, the seven churches are included in the glorious vision of “New Jerusalem,” and their members also will find themselves “rendering divine service” before the “Lamb and the Throne” in the “Holy City.”

The Book uses the real-life experiences of these first-century churches to set the stage for its visions. Thus, any interpretation that writes the “Seven Assemblies of Asia” out of the Book or pushes them to the side does not take its self-description as a message for those churches seriously and is doomed to go awry.

  • Understanding the Times - (Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, is the interpretive key that unlocks the Hebrew Scriptures and unveils the Unseen God)
  • The Age of Salvation - (The Gospel of the Kingdom announced by Jesus offers salvation and life to all men and women of every nation and people)
  • Unsealing the Scroll - (Daniel was commanded to seal the Scroll, but the angel sent by Jesus commanded John NOT to do so since the season is now – Revelation 22:10)



Second Trumpet

Short Season