Homilies on the Book of the Revelation (Apocalypse) Part II

Saint Phoebe the Deaconess at Cenchreae near Corinth

Saint Phoebe the Deaconess at Cenchreae near Corinth

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

By Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios

Chapter 2

Revelation 1:1-4

"...So what we have here is a living of paradosis, or teaching tradition. [Paradosis means tradition in Greek.] It literally means to pass down, to have one person deliver and another person receive. So, God the Father gives to the Son Incarnate, not God the Logos/Word, but to Jesus Christ, to God Incarnate. Jesus Christ gives to the Angel; the Angel gives to Saint John; and Saint John passes it to the Church. So, here we have the wonder of the living tradition, or paradosis. This is precisely why this Living Tradition, along with the Holy Scripture makes up the basis or the foundation Church.

As we know, it is Holy Tradition that preserves the authenticity and validity of the Holy Scripture. Holy Tradition told us which book is genuine and which is fraudulent. Those who discard and disregard the Holy Tradition of the Church, whether Protestant, or Orthodox who have been heavily influenced by the non-Orthodox must understand this; they disregard the Holy Tradition of the Church. The key, and we will mention this repeatedly; the key to the Orthodox interpretation of the Book of Revelation is to be found in the treasure chest of Holy Tradition. If you do not take advantage of this key that Holy Tradition has given you, then you will never interpret and see the True meaning of Holy Scripture. This is why the Protestants interpret Scripture every which way, with the result being the deterioration of their faith into thousands of pieces (i.e., 41,000 worldwide). They have no idea what they believe today, what they believed yesterday, and what they will believe tomorrow...

"...One who does not live a spiritual life cannot talk about matters of God. It is not possible. And he can never understand the written word of God because the understanding of the word of God is not simply academic or philosophical. One can be a PhD. He can be a doctor of divinity, and have no understanding of the word of God. The understanding of the word of God has a different dimension. I am not saying that philosophy or some knowledge of literature or grammar is not helpful. All these elements do help but they are not enough. You cannot say "I have a degree in literature so I will have no problem understanding the Bible." You will not understand anything. The spirit of the Scripture will be elusive to you; you will be left only with the letter. The existence of a liturgical atmosphere is also necessary, a prerequisite in order to study and understand the word of God. What does that mean? It means that the reading or the hearing of the word of God cannot be reduced to a living room conversation, or become an academic matter...

"...John is the author; the receivers are the Seven Churches in Asia Minor; and we have the greeting: "Grace and peace to you from God the Father" and so on; and the we have the doxology: "To Him belongs the power and the glory unto the ages of ages, amen." So, the book of Revelation is a letter. And we pray that someday God allows it to be read as an apostolic reading in the Church.

So, "John to the seven Churches in the province of Asia" (1:4). Saint John, the sender of the letter writes to the Seven Churches, the receivers of this letter. Here again the name of the author, John, is placed at the beginning of the sentence, and this will be done again in verse nine. The name bears no titles, no last name, which shows that the intended readers of this letter know John quite well.

Which are the Seven Churches mentioned in the book of Revelation? Which of the Seven Churches that our Lord asks that a special letter be sent to each one of them? These are historical churches, literal churches, not noetic or symbolic. So, we have: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. These were all in Asia Minor, ancient cities, lively cities with strong Christian populations. They became episcopates, which show a strong Church presence. And to these Seven Churches Christ speaks through the book of Revelation, with a special message for each one of these Churches...

"...So why are the epistles directed to and addressing these particular Seven Churches and not the other bigger and more seasoned Churches? It is simply because the number seven is allegorical or schematic and it expresses variety along with fullness. In other words, the number seven denotes a complete picture of the entire Church from that time until the end of the age; and these seven representative types of Churches represent in turn the fullness of the Church. In short, the Seven Churches are seven different folds, seven different realities of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

So, we have here two intertwined circumstances. One is that each epistle (letter) is sent to each specific historical Church. We need to stress this point of a specific historical Church, which refers to a specific circumstance for each Church. For example, when He says, "you are neither cold nor hot, you are lukewarm" (3:5); or "you have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen" (2:4-5), these are specific flaws or weaknesses of Church A or B. Therefore these epistles (letters), at the first level, have a historical character. They are exactly that. They aim to cure the flaws of those individual Churches of two thousand years ago.

However, at the second level these elements also serve as warnings for the entire Church through the ages. So we have here two intertwined dimensions, the first one being the historical one which is limited to the topographies of the seven city Churches; and then we have the other dimension which refers to the entire history of the Church, or the Church through the ages. So, when we read what Christ says for the Church of the Ephesians, or to that of the Philadelphians, it means that all these points are elements that are pointed out and exist in the catholic Church of Christ.

The cities where the Seven Churches were located were Greek cities. All of Asia Minor was Greek and these are historical churches, and historical epistles. with an historical base. I will repeat this again and again, when the time comes, but I will mention it now. When Christ says, "I will remove your lampstand" (2:5) every Church is represented by a lampstand or a candlestand, one candle. So, "I will remove your lampstand" means I will move you around. He took these Seven Churches and moved them. And, "none of these historical churches exists in Asia Minor today! Not one! Not Ephesus, nor Smyrna, not even one. The lampstands were removed permanently in 1922, during the infamous Asia Minor destruction and expulsion of the Greek populace.

Saint Andrew of Caesarea says, "With the number seven, what it means is the totality of all the Churches." As the seven days of the week are a symbol of the creation of the world, or our life, the number seven or the seven Churches shows the fullness of the Church." Therefore, I will ask you to please pay close attention to this point because whatever we analyze in the seven great epistles to these Churches is not limited to the seven historical Churches, but will always refer to the entire Church, which will exist always until the end of time.

"Grace and peace to you" (1:4) is the Christian greeting of strong vivid liturgical character. This greeting of Saint John is a shortened version of the greeting of Saint Paul, "The grace of the Lord Jesus and love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit" (2 Cor. 13:14). Here again we see the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. Our God is Triune..."

(To be continued)



The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George