The seven letters in the book of Revelation lay out the themes of the book, but are themselves a full contained unit. They are a seven by sevenfold witness to the true Israel of God, themselves a self-contained covenantal creation sequence.
These seven epistles are a new Shema. Each letter is concluded with “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches”. In Deuteronomy, there are four Shemas: Deuteronomy 5:1, 6:3-5, 9:1, 27:9. Mosess or God says, “Hear, O Israel,”. In Deuteronomy, the four Shemas are a fourfold, worldwide confession of Yahweh, the God who saves and commands, who is a consuming fire who fights for Israel and grants land. He requires utter devotion and has a love that drives out fear. These seven letters are a new Shema, setting out a new sevenfold confession about the Christ who saves and commands the Churches and rewards those who are faithful.
The new Shemas are directed to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Jesus tells John to write seven letters and addresses them to the pastors of the church (symbolized by the stars in Jesus’ right hand). John sees seven golden lampstands, seven menorah from the Tabernacle. (Remember, the book moves from Tabernacle that is Formed to the Filling of the Temple.) Each lampstand would have had seven lights on it, so John sees a total of 49 lights. Seven times seven in the Scriptures is the number of Jubilee: the year of the freedom of slaves and rest for the Land. In the midst of this Jubilee, he sees the exalted Christ holding seven stars in his right hand. Each star in Jesus’ hand was one of the pastors, and each lampstand was one of the churches. In the Tabernacle, the Lampstand stood over the Table of Showbread, illuminating the twelve loaves of bread which stood for the 12 tribes of Israel. Each Church, then, illuminates the true Israel of God, and all seven combined light the whole of the true Israel of God.
The seven churches then form a chiasm with more significant meaning unearthed in the structure:
A. Ephesus: Ephesus means “first”, so it is a representative of Eden. Every picture in the epistle is one of Eden. Jesus holds the stars in his hand, and Jesus walks among the seven lampstands just as God walked with Adam and Eve. It’s about judgment: they stand against those who call themselves apostles, rejecting their message. They also reject the Nicolaitans, those who falsely eat from the sacrifices. This is the true work of Adam: he was to reject the teaching of the serpent and prevent him from consuming the bride in fire. The Ephesians are doing their job well (hopefully, considering that they have Ephesians, 1-3 John, John, and I and II Timothy!) But they have forgotten Paul’s admonishment: the purpose of rejecting false teaching was to build a charge of love. They have forgotten their love. If they give ear to Jesus, they will partake in the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
-B. Smyrna: Smyrna means “bitter affliction”, so it applies to the era of Joseph. Israel was bitterly afflicted by famine, causing them to move to Egypt. Thankfully, God used Joseph to convert Egypt and feed Egypt, housing Jew and Gentile alike, bread and wine. In any seven fold chiasm, the second slot is devoted to separation. Jews of the flesh and Jews of the Spirit are divided in this section, the Jews of the Flesh following Satan. This is also the exodus part of a chiasm: those thrown into prison may be killed, but they will not taste the second death (they will be resurrected unto life). Israel “died” when hiding in their houses, but were resurrected when they were baptized in the Jordan.
–C. Pergamum: Pergamum means “earthly height” which correlates to the “Ascension” slot for the third day. The third slot matches architecturally with the Table and the Altar, and both are present here. They eat food sacrificed to idols (the sin of Balaam) and follow the Nicolaitans. They should follow the example of the covenant “head”, Antipas. This church is in the wilderness because it is tempted by Balaam. The False Table presented by the Balaamites is replaced by the true Manna of heaven, the Eucharist, and a white stone. The white stone with a new name symbolizes holiness. Everything that the Pergmamum congregants would receive are priestly items, lining up with the third slot.
—D. The turning point, Thyatria: Thyatria means “sacrifice of labor”, but Mike Bull contends that it refers to the Monarchy. This makes sense, as the Day Four slot deals with stars and the rulers which it symbolizes. Jesus comes as a King, with a rod of iron, and a slew of references to Psalm 2, to take down the sin of Jezebel. They are given the morning star.
–C’. Sardis: Sardis means “that which remains” or “prince of joy”. The church is dead, a useless army for God. The living saints in the city must band together to make sure that God is honored by a new heavenly host. They are in judgment and are threatened with exile.
-B’. Philadelphia: Philadelphia means “love of the brother”. This is the restoration period because this church is one of little power, but will come to be rulers of the world. They are called to have patience and endure much persecution, knowing that Christ will come to exalt them. They are called to show the patience that Adam failed to muster.
A’. Laodecia: Laodecia means “Just People”, but they symbolize the Apostasy of Israel of the flesh. They are a useless meal for God: sacrifices are food for God. They are neither hot nor cold, so they are useless food for Jesus, so he vomits them out. He comes as a judge to their door, knocking, with judgment, that they might repent. If they come out of the tribulation following Jesus, they will reign and judge with him.
Thyatria sits in the center because it displays Christ the most prominently as King. Drawing on references from Psalm 2, Christ is shown as the King who will bless Israel but crush the nations of the world who join to conspire against God. This is important because the rest of the book is the formation of a locust-like anti-Bride to the Dragon, who deceives the nation into going to war against the kings of the East, the Church of God. Christ will break the nations who plot in vain with his rod and laugh in derision.
For translations of city names, I used this site. I learned which era each church was paired with from James Jordan and his book “The Vindication of Jesus Christ” available for Kindle for a measly $4. Mike Bull also comments on these sections in God’s Kitchen and Inquietude.