Revelation 1:4a: Particular Inscription to the Seven Churches

Verse 4:[1] John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him (Ex. 3:14; Rev. 1:8) which is, and (John 1:1) which was, and which is to come; (Zech. 3:9; 4:10; Rev. 3:1; 4:5; 5:6) and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne…

[John to the seven Churches (the names of which are related in verse 11 [Piscator]) which are in Asia] Namely, Asia Minor (Ribera, Zegers, Cluverus, Menochius), in which these seven cities were (Ribera): or, in Asia, properly so called, where the Kingdom of Gog had been[2] (Grotius): in Asia, Lydian or Proconsular, as the Most Reverend Ussher demonstrates in great detail in a tractate concerning this matter:[3] thus Asia is taken in Acts 19:26 and 20:18 (Hammond). To the seven, that is, either, 1. to all the Churches (Bede and Arethas[4] in Ribera, thus a great many in Pererius): for the whole is wont to be designated by number seven (Ribera), which is the number of perfection (Pareus). Or, 2. to seven properly (Pererius, Ribera, Pareus), since they are διακριτικῶς/separately named (Pareus, similarly Pererius). Now, unto those he writes in particular (Grotius); either, 1. because they were more excellent than the others (Cluverus, Durham), and were the principal cities (Grotius), and the metropolitan cities (Apocalyptic Harmony, Hammond); as the seat of the Roman Proconsuls, as testify Ulpianus,[5] Ptolemy[6] in his Geography 1, 2, and Pliny[7] in his Natural History 6:29, 30 (Hammond): or, 2. because, as long as he was able, he, being present, had governed those (Grotius); because they had fallen to him in the division of the lands, and he had taught in them for a long time (Ribera); because they had been founded either by himself (Jerome in Apocalyptic Harmony), or rather were founded by Peter and Paul, but were taken up and cared for by John after the martyrdom of those: or, 3. because these were having a need for correction more than others: or, 4. because here the propagation of the Gospel first flourished (Apocalyptic Harmony): or, 5. because heresies were springing forth there, and the Christians were disquieted, and there was a danger that they might fall away from the sincerity of the faith (Pererius): and upon these Churches he had foreseen that the fury of Satan was first going to lie (Apocalyptic Harmony, similarly Durham). But under the name of them he tacitly comprehends also other Churches, for their states and qualities are able to be applied unto seven classes, as it were, an example of which classes those Asiatic Churches provide (Grotius). What he writes to these seven churches he writes to all others; just as Paul, what things he wrote to the Romans or Corinthians, wrote for the use of all the faithful also (Menochius, similarly Durham). And John wished this Prophecy to be transmitted from these Churches to the others (Durham). John made those Churches repositories of this book, so that by them it might be kept and carried to all Christians. But also those seven Churches, distinct with respect to locations, were enigmatically signifying the universal Church in distinct times all the way unto the end of the world. What? Does Christ walk only among the seven Churchs? or hold only the seven stars in His hand? or is the Holy Spirit the Spirit of these only? And what morning star arose to the Church of Thyatira according to promise? And what notable preservation of the Philadelphian Church? Neither is it proven that the remaining things written here happened in those Churches. Therefore, by their names he understands the Church of all times (Cocceius).

John to the seven churches which are in Asia: John, the apostle and evangelist, writes either to all the churches of Asia under the notion of seven, (which is the number of perfection,) or to those seven churches mentioned Revelation 1:11, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, seven famous places in Asia the Less, where the gospel was planted; which being the most famous churches in that part of the world, John is commanded to deposit this prophecy in their hands, by them to be communicated unto other churches. These churches were in the most famous cities of the Lesser Asia: some think John was the apostle that preached most in Asia, and founded these churches; others, that though they were founded by Peter and Paul, yet after their death John took upon him the charge of them. It is the opinion of some learned men, that the apostle did not, in the epistles to the churches in Asia, design only to tell them of their error, and prescribe to their cure; but that in writing to them, he assigns both a prophetical instruction of us all concerning the state of the church in all periods from that time to the day of judgment, and also to reprove and counsel all present and succeeding churches; but of this we may possibly speak more afterward.

[1] Greek: Ἰωάννης ταῖς ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησίαις ταῖς ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ· χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ Θεοῦ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος· καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἑπτὰ πνευμάτων ἃ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου αὐτοῦ.

[2] It is thought that Gog was located in the region between and around the Black and Caspian seas.  See Genesis 10:2.

[3] A Geographical and Historical Disquisition, Touching the Asia properly so Called, the Lydian Asia (Which Is the Asia so often Mentioned in the New Testament), the Proconsular Asia, and the Asian Diocese.

[4] Arethas of Cæsarea (ninth century) was a Greek Orthodox bishop and scholar.  He compiled a scholia on the Apocalypse, the oldest extant.

[5] Domitius Ulpianus (d. 228 AD) was a Roman jurist.

[6] Claudius Ptolemæus (c. 90-c. 168), of Roman Alexandria, was a scientist and thinker of great profundity; and his contribution to the fields of geography and astronomy in the Western world has been enormous.

[7] Gaius Plinius Secundus, or Pliny the Elder (23-79), distinguished himself as a learned author, a distinguished Roman Procurator, and a courageous soldier.

3 thoughts on “Revelation 1:4a: Particular Inscription to the Seven Churches

  1. William Tong (for Matthew Henry): ‘The apostolic benediction is pronounced more especially and particularly to the seven Asian churches, Revelation 1:4. These seven churches are named in Revelation 1:11, and distinct messages sent to each of them respectively in the chapters following. The apostolic blessing is more expressly directed to these because they were nearest to him, who was now in the isle of Patmos, and perhaps he had the peculiar care of them, and superintendency over them, not excluding any of the rest of the apostles, if any of them were now living.’

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