Robert E. Surgenor
As we commence another year perhaps you would be interested in taking a most unique journey with me into the past. The places that we will visit will be most unique and at the same time, most instructive. We will move about on a monthly basis, the same route that the Roman mail carrier travelled almost two thousand years ago.
As we enter each of seven chosen cities, we will consider their past history, their present conditions and most interesting of all, the assemblies that were located within their limits. I'm sure that none of us while travelling on a vacation would ever locate ourselves on the Lord's Day where there was no assembly to be found. Consequently, on our tour, we will visit the saints and consider their surrounding circumstances, their faults, their commended qualities and perhaps most inspiring of all, their promises from the risen Lord. We trust that this scripturally guided tour will not only educate you as to the hidden dangers that lurk at every assembly's door, but also of the desires of Christ relative to His testimonies.
To keep you interested on our tour, we have purposed in our heart to make our words simple, searching, sweet and short. We will earnestly try not to give you bushels of words and only spoonfuls of thought, but will take the advice of Solomon, "The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth" (Eccl. 12:10). So I trust that you will pray for me regarding the composing of the articles to come, as I seek to be a faithful guide as we move from city to city and assembly to assembly.
Governed by a Roman proconsul, the western shore of Asia where we will be travelling is presently known as Turkey. The letters of Ignatius reveal that in the days of John there were other churches in Proconsular Asia besides the seven that we hope to visit. They were located in Collosae, Hieropolis, Troas, Miletus, Magnesia and Tralles. Our tour will take us to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, in that consecutive order. As stated before, we will be taking the same route as the mail service took.
Why Only Seven
The question might be asked, why only seven churches mentioned and not thirteen as was found in this area. We believe that we have a prophetic implication here, seven being the number of completeness. Thus, if looked at in a prophetic light, we have unravelled before us in the seven chosen churches, a picture of the complete history of the Church from Pentecost until the rapture. However, it is not the guide's attempt to unfold the prophetic truths that could be expounded from such an approach. Let us just keep our feet on earth and look at these churches as they actually were. We will term this the "practical approach.' I'm sure that you are in agreement with me that we need practical ministry today. Something that will clean us up, cheer us up and carry us on in this dark age in which our lot is cast. Are you ready for lessons? Then come with me and visit seven unique assemblies, all connected together through Christ, yet each one autonomous, answering for its own condition before the Lord.
Christ and His Letters
The vision that John experienced of our resurrected Lord (Rev.1) is extremely interesting. The reason being, that when Christ is seen addressing each church through a letter, (1) only part of the whole description of Himself is employed. (2) Each description of Christ differs in keeping with the message to that particular church. (3) Each letter is addressed to the angel of each church. Who is the angel? We will discuss that later. (4) In each letter "He that hath an ear" is challenged. (5) Each letter Christ commences by saying, "I know thy works" Solemn thought, isn't it? Everything you have done and are doing, He knows it all, including the true motive. (6) The promise to each assembly corresponds to the character displayed of their faithfulness. (7) Their spiritual state corresponds precisely to the exhortation given. (8) The context of each letter and the customs of that particular city correspond each church's characteristic being affected by its geographical location.
It is also interesting to observe, that the word "Satan" is mentioned as such eight times in the Book of Revelation and out of those eight occurrences, five of them are in relation to the seven assemblies. Do not think for one minute that Satan (meaning "adversary") is not intensely interested in the assemblies. He is! How often he has used the flesh and the world to ruin a testimony for God. He is very much against God, the assemblies and even you as an individual saint. Paul exclaimed, "Satan hindered us" (1 Thess. 2:18). "We are not ignorant of his devices" (t2 Cor. 2:11). "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12). Another occurrence of a word five times is, "Repent." Thus five out of the seven assemblies are rebuked by the Lord. I wonder where your assembly would stand? With the five, or, with the two? Three assemblies are praised and rebuked and two receive no commendation from their Lord. The letter to each church was to be read to all the churches. Were some embarrassed at the thought of the all-seeing One exposing them to the surrounding assemblies? Would you as an individual be ashamed and embarrassed if Christ declared all your actions and motives to all the surrounding saints? Well may we all cry like the psalmist, "Search me, 0 God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps.139:23-24). Are we open and above board? We certainly should be!
One more thing is extremely interesting to notice, namely that, Christ's features presented to each assembly correspond to and afford a solution to the particular need of that assembly. Thus we see the all-sufficiency of the Master of assemblies and His willingness to solve each particular assembly's need. Brethren, the Lord takes a special interest in every assembly throughout the world. What is the extent of YOUR interest in the assembly in which the Lord has placed YOU?