Last message on Revelation...for awhile.
Wanted to do a wrap-up of a major theme running through Revelation: how does God see the Church (with a capital "C"). See, Revelation is a book of...well...revelation: it is revealing reality as God sees it...which is...well, reality. Revelation is not about when the world will end (chronologically) or how the world will end. What Revelation is about is a revealing of who God is, who Jesus is, who the Spirit is, who the Church is, and what they are up to in this world.
Anyway: the last seven messages have been a brief look at what God/Jesus/Spirit has to say to seven different churches located in the western region of what is modern day Turkey. Seven churches with a letter reflecting the political, cultural, political, geographical, economical, religious, military, historical realities of their city/church. Very fascinating.
Here's how I see it: chapter one is crucial to understanding chapter two and three (the section of seven letters), and the first three chapters are the key for understanding the next nineteen chapters. If you skip chapter one, or skim chapters two and three, you'll come up with some pretty interesting yet weird interpretations for Revelation.
Here's what I think is the key verse of chapter one to understand chapters two and three (my translation from the original language):
To Jesus Christ who loves us
and has released us from our sins by his blood
and created us to be a Kingdom and Priests
unto Jesus' God and Father -
To Jesus Christ be glorious splendor and mighty power
Unto the ages!
So be it!
The letters to the seven churches are calls for each one of them, in their unique situations, to reorient themselves to being a kingdom within the Empire, a kingdom within the city they dwell - the kingdom of God amidst the Emperor of Rome. To be part of the kingdom is to be under the rule, authority, protection, and grace of the king - in this case God the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The letter is also calling to each church to live up to it's calling to be priests of Jesus' God and Father - a priest is a go-between, a mediator between God and the people. In this case, the individuals of the church are a priest between God and the world. As a priest, individuals are the means by which God makes known his will, his works, his words known to the world. And as a priest, you are how the world will know God and what he wants to give them.
Using this framework of kingdom/alternative Jesus society and priest/go-between, it opens up the letters to the seven churches in a fresh way that taps into very old themes found in the Torah and the Instructions of Jesus - and even Paul.
God created Israel to be his Kingdom and Priests; and the Church is the New Israel ruled by Jesus the High Priest. We are God's people, instructed by Jesus to carve out a new society where His right/just/merciful way's prevail - and where those part of this new society are individuals who are used by God as conduits/instruments/vessels of truth, love, freedom, beauty, good, etc.
Wouldn't you want to be part of a people who are marked by justice and mercy? Wouldn't you want to become a person out of whom truth, love, freedom, reconciliation, goodness overflows?