- LETTER TO THE CHURCHES. What is happening

What is happening

The letters to the churches reflect the situation of the communities, “what is happening” (Rev 1, 19). Each letter is addressed to the “angel” (bishop, leader) of the church or community. Two communities go well, two go badly, three have problems. It is necessary to revise: “That one who has ears, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches”.
1. First letter: “To the angel of the church of Ephesus he writes: This says that one who has the seven stars in his right hand (1, 20; 12, 4; Dn 12, 3), that one who walks among the seven golden candlesticks (Ex 25, 31-40; Ze 4,2; Mt 5, 15). I know your deeds, your work and your endurance, and that you can bear the bad people and that you tested to those who called themselves apostles without being, and that you discovered their fraud. You have endurance and you supported on behalf of my name without fainting.
But I have against you that you have abandoned your first love. Remember, then, from where you have fallen, convert yourself and carry out the first deeds. If not, I will go where you and I will change of place your candlestick… On the other hand, you have in your favour that you detest the conduct of the Nicholaitans… To the victor I will give the tree of the life to eat” (Rev 2, 1-7). Ephesus is the capital of the roman province of Asia. There is imperial worship and other pagan worships, among them that “of the great Artemisia and of her statue fallen from heaven” (Acts 19, 35). The Lord acknowledges to the church her resistance in the middle of the dominant culture, but he reproaches her to have abandoned her “first love”, “the first deeds”, deeds are love. The Nicholaitans, who boast of appealing to deacon Nicholas, “prostitute themselves without the slightest reserve” (Eusebio, HE III, 29, 1-2). Not everything is valid (1 Co 6, 12)
2. Second letter: “Write this to the angel of the Church in Smyrna, “Thus says the First and the Last, he who was dead and returned to life: I know your trials and your poverty: you are rich indeed. I know how you are slandered by those who pretend to be Jews but are not, for they are, in fact, the synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what will happen to you. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you and there will be ten days of trials. Remain faithful even to death and I will give you the crown of life.”  (Rev 2, 8-11; 1 Co 9, 24-25). The city raises from he seaside to the peak of the mountain, crowned by temples and houses. The Romans call it “Smyrna the faithful” (Cicero, Fil 11, 5). The church is poor and persecuted by those who call themselves Jews without being, They are “Satan’s  synagogue”, the adversary. The resurrected Lord urges her to stay faithful.

3. Third letter: “Write this to the angel of the Church of Pergamum: This says that one who has the two-edged sword (Hb 4, 12) I know where  you live, where Satan’s throne is. You are faithful to my name and you have not repudiated my faith, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness who was assassinated among you… But I have one thing against you: you keep there some people who support the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balaq to set back the sons of Israel so that they should eat meat immolated to the idols and also to fornicate. (Nm 31, 16; 25, 1-3), And you also keep some people who support the doctrine of the Nicholaitans. Convert yourself, then; if not, I soon will go where you are and I will fight against those with the sword of my mouth. To the victor I will give hidden manna; an I also will give him a white small stone and, engraved on it, a new name that nobody knows, but only that one who receives it” (Rev 2, 12-17). The Lord, who judges history, acknowledges to the Church of Pergamum the difficulty of living where she is “the Satan’s throne”, the temple of the emperor. In the times of Nero a narration of Antipas´ martyrdom is situated. Someone fall in the  old temptation, the sacred fornication.

4. Forth letter: “Write this to the angel of the Church in Thyatira, “Thus says the Son of God whose eyes are like flames of fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. (Dn 12, 6) I know your works: your love, faith, service, patient endurance and your later works, greater than the first. Nevertheless, I have a complaint against you: you tolerate your Jezebel, this woman who calls herself a prophetess and is deceiving my servants; she teaches them prostitution and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent but she is unwilling to leave her prostitution. So I am going to throw her onto a bed and inflict severe trials on her partners in adultery unless they repent of their evil. I will strike her children dead and all the Churches will know that I am the one who probes the hearts... To the victor who keeps to my ways to the end, I will give power over the nations…I also have received this power from my Father.” (Rev 2, 18 – 29; Ps 2). The city lacks imperial temple. Lydia comes from there, a purple seller, of the Philipus community. (Acts 16, 14). The son of God, who sounds out the hearts, acknowledges her works to the church, her love, her faith, her service, her endurance, but reproaches her to tolerate that woman  who makes Jezebel’s works (1 Re 16, 30 -31; 1 Co 10, 7-8) and she teaches the sacred prostitution: “ Satan’s´ depths” (Rev 2, 24; Gn 3, 5). The announced punishment, very hard, must be listened in the spirit of the Gospel. At the end of the second century there is no Christian community in Thyatira (Epiphany, + 403, Adv. Haereses 51, 33). In the third century the city is bastion of the montanist church: they boast of “having the Paraclit in Montano and in the women of his accompaniment, Priscilla and Maximila”,  “they also started to speak raving” (Eusebio, HE, 5, 14.16). It is necessary to discern. Not everything is valid.

5. Fifth letter: “Write this to the angel of the Church in Sardis, Thus says he who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: I know your works: you think you live but you are dead. Wake up and strengthen that which is not already dead. For I have found your works to be imperfect in the sight of my God. Remember what you were taught; keep it and change your ways. If you do not repent I will come upon you like a thief at an hour you least expect. Yet, there are some left in Sardis who have not soiled their robes; these will come with me, dressed in white, since they deserve it. The victor will be dressed in white and I will never erase his name from the book of life; instead, I will acknowledge it before my Father and his angels. (Rev 3, 1; Lk 9, 26). The church is dead. The Lord, who has the plenitude of the spirit (Is 11, 2 – 4), invites her to keep the word, to convert, to be  awake. A few did not stain their dresses.

6. Sixth letter: “Write this to the angel of the Church in Philadelphia, “Thus says he who is holy and true, who holds the key of David… I know your works; I have opened a door before you, which nobody can close, because you have kept my Word and not renounced me, in spite of your lack of power. I am giving you some of the synagogue of Satan who call themselves Jews but they are only liars. I will make them fall at your feet and recognize that I have loved you. Because you have kept my words with patient endurance, I, for my part, will keep you safe in the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole world, to test the people of the earth…  I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, lest anyone take your crown. I will make the victor into a column in the sanctuary of my God, the new Jerusalem… and my own new name.” (Rev 3, 7-13). The Lord, who has the key of David (Is 22, 22), has opened to the church a door that nobody can close. Some that say they are Jews and they are not, will prostrate before her; they agree with the empire. The church must resist. In Antioch the disciples begin to call themselves Christians (Acts 11, 26). Nero’s law (institutum neronianum) forbids “the name Christian”: “It is not licit for you to exist” (Tertulian, 160 – 220; Apologetics II, 3 Ad nations I, 7)

7. Seventh letter: “Write this to the angel of the Church in Laodicea, Thus says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation: I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot… I will spit you out of my mouth. You think you are rich and have piled up so much (Ze 11, 5)… I advise you to buy from me gold that has been tested by fire, so that you may be rich, and white clothes to wear so that your nakedness may not shame you, and ointment for your eyes that you may see…  Look, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my call and open the door, I will come in to you and have supper with you, and you with me… I will let the victor sit with me on my throne just as I was victorious and took my place with my Father on his throne.” (Rev 3, 14-22). Laodicea is known by her textile industry and her school of Medicine. The church is cool, poor , blind and nude. In the letter to the Colossians Christ is presented like “first born of all the creation”, “everything was created by him and for him”, everything has in him its consistency”, “he is the beginning, the first born among the dead”, “God was so kind to make lie in him all plenitude, and to recapitulate in him everything” (Col 1, 15-20).

8. The first Christians have before them Jesus´ testimony, that continues to be current. Ecclesial renewal is at stake: “They are not those who sold out / to the order of Pilate / frequent very pious / the temple of Caiaphas. / They are those who persecuted / share by the homes / with the Lord who passes by / the table, the wine, the bread”. “It is not, not, the inert church / that sees with discouragement / in collapse / the old Christianity./ She is that one who converts herself / and comes back to the sources / of the emergent Church, / being community”.

*Dialogue: How are the churches? How are the communities? What is happening?

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