Troublesome Topic: The Seven Cities Can Represent Differing Types of Opposition

Just like famous places today, the cities mentioned by name in Revelation were famous in their day for a variety of reasons, not just one. However, I believe their inclusion was focused on just one or two characteristics which would have been in the forefront of the believers’ minds. What were those cities known for by the Christians of that day? The people of John’s day who heard these cities mentioned in his vision would immediately think of the reputation those cities had among believers, i.e. what type of opposition they represented.

As is often the case, there is both a real meaning and a symbolic meaning here. John did write to seven specific congregations, and the letter was sent to, and read by, those seven congregations. So the seven cities were real cities. But the fact that there were seven of them would not have gone unnoticed. As mentioned before, there were more than seven congregations of the Christian faith in Asia, so “seven” was obviously a symbol. Was it intended to represent “all” the churches in Asia to the exclusion of the churches elsewhere? Or does it represent all the churches everywhere throughout all time? It is most likely the latter.

If my assumption is correct that these cities represented different types of opposition to the followers of Jesus, then the fact that there were seven cities mentioned would be a way of saying “all” the types of opposition possible. If you are going through something that is not specifically represented by one of those cities, the opposition you face is still included because of the symbol for “all.”

In order to determine the type of opposition each city represented I have taken into account the following factors:

– The Reputation of the city

– The Meaning of the city’s name

– The Identity of Jesus as stated

– The Good characteristics of the local church in that city

– The Negative characteristics of the local church in that city

– The Other word-pictures used

– The Rewards for those who overcome

If there is any importance to be found in the meaning of the city’s name, it is a twist, a reversal of the name. The names end up being the opposite of what the followers of Jesus experienced in that city. Here we find sarcasm and irony at their best! (This reversed symbol is explained in the comment about each city.)

The next lesson is: The Possible Symbolism of Ephesus