Chapter 30 |
The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia
W. M. Ramsay
Chapter 31: Epilogue
As many as I love, I reprove and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold,
I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in
to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also
overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.
The first sentence in what we take to be an epilogue might quite well be regarded as
part of the Laodicean letter. The words seem at first to express naturally the reaction
from the sharp censure conveyed in the preceding sentences. But, as we read on, we become
conscious that all reference to the Laodiceans has ceased, and that the writer is drifting
farther and farther away from them. The final promise has no apparent relation to their
situation and character.
Now, when it is remembered that the Seven Letters were not real letters, intended to be
sent separately to Seven Churches, but form one literary composition, it becomes evident
that an epilogue to the whole is needed, and that this is the epilogue. One might hesitate
where the Laodicean letter ends and the epilogue to the Seven Letters begins. The writer
passes almost insensibly from the one to the other. But it seems best to suppose that the
epilogue begins at the point where clear reference to the circumstances and nature of
Laodicea ceases. And when the transition is placed here a difficulty is eliminated. After
the extremely sharp condemnation of Laodicea, it seems hardly consistent to give it the
honour which is awarded to the true and courageous Church of Philadelphia alone among the
Seven, and to rank it among those whom the Author loves. We can understand why
Philadelphia, the true city, the missionary Church, in danger even yet ever enduring,
should receive that honourable mention; but we cannot understand why Philadelphia and
Laodicea should be the only two that receive it.
But, as part of the epilogue, this first sentence unites all the Seven Churches and the
entire Church of Christ in one loving waning: the Seven Letters have conveyed much reproof
and chastisement, but the Author reproves and chastens those whom he loves. The admirable
suitability of the remainder as an epilogue is a matter of expository interpretation
rather than of the historical study at which the present book has aimed.
In a few words the historical epilogue to this historical study is summed up.
Among the Seven Churches two only are condemned absolutely and without hope of pardon:
Sardis is dead: Laodicea is rejected. And among the Seven Cities two only are at the
present day absolutely deserted and uninhabited, Sardis and Laodicea. Two Churches only
are praised in an unreserved, hearty, and loving way, Smyrna and Philadelphia. And two
cities have enjoyed and earned the glory of being the champions of Christianity in the
centuries of war that ended in the Turkish conquest, the last cities to yield long after
all others had succumbed Smyrna and Philadelphia. Other two Churches are treated with
mingled praise and blame, though on the whole the praise outweighs the blame; for their
faith, steadfastness, works, love, service and patience are heartily praised, though they
have become tainted with the false Nicolaitan principles. These are Pergamum and Thyatira,
both of which still exist as flourishing towns. One church alone shall be moved from its
place; and Ephesus was moved to a site about three kilometres distant, where it continued
an important city until comparatively recent time, though now it has sunk to an
Chapter 30 |