Richard Ritenbaugh provides introductory information to his ensuing series on the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. Letter-writing, as a means of communication, became highly formalized in the Greco-Roman world. The Scriptures contain a large number of letters, the epistle being the dominant literary form in the New Testament. The "Seven Letters" are an example of letters embedded in a larger book. Christ has written these letters to all the members of His Body, that is, to individuals having the Holy Spirit and therefore capable of understanding their highly symbolic language. God intends the book of Revelation to be a disclosure of vital information, warning us to prepare for those things that will occur with lightning speed. God admonishes the members of Christ's body to read and keep the spiritual lessons, not just to "figure out" prophecies. The seven churches represent the composite church of God in its multiple personalities, as well as each individual God has called-out. The book's dramatic introduction, emphasizing the sovereignty of our High Priest and His Father, projects us into the Day of the Lord and offers vital information as to how to endure that horrendous time. Christ, standing in the midst of the seven golden lampstands (the church of God) rules and teaches the church. The seven angels (Greek: angelos, or "messenger") could apply to spiritual guardians, physical leaders, or even individual church member as we also serve as messengers of the Way.
Martin Collins, wrapping up his sermon series "Back to Life" by focusing on the seventh sign narrated by the Apostle John, the resurrection of Lazarus, reiterates that the statement, "Jesus wept" reveals that Lazarus was precious in God's sight. All of us who are called by God are so precious in His sight that Jesus Christ, before we were even born, died for us, saving us from oblivion. God has made it possible for the spirit in man to link with His Holy Spirit, revealing the deep things of God and building in us godly character, qualifying us to become one with Christ, spiritually His Bride. Without a calling from Almighty God, there is no hope in avoiding the consequence of sin. Human effort will not remove sin. The seven miracles narrated by John illustrate that Jesus (1.) is the source of all joy (turning water into wine), (2.) has power over sickness (healing of the nobleman's son), (3.) has the power to transform helplessness to wholeness (healing of the invalid), (4.) is the Bread of Life (feeding of the 5000), (5.) has power over nature (walking on the water), (6.) is able to reverse the deleterious effect of sin on the mind (healing of the blind man), and (7.) has power over life and death (resurrection of Lazarus). Jesus made it clear that "believing is seeing." God demonstrates His profound love for us, submitting us to a demanding sanctification process to make us ready for His Family.
David Grabbe reiterates that the term "god of this age" (II Corinthians 4:4) would be a colossal anomaly if Paul used it to refer to Satan. Except of the 2nd Century heretic, Marcion of Sinope, apostolic writers and early Church writers understood that this verse referred to God and not to Satan. The Protestant reformer John Calvin misunderstood the Scripture, declaring that "nobody of sound judgment can think of any other than Satan in this verse." God does not share with any other being the power to blind, though Protestant scholars like to equivocate, substituting the word "deceive" for "blind." Satan encourages this playing fast and loose with the truth. The use of the lowercase "g" as in "their god is their belly" does not apply to II Corinthians 4:4 because the article "the" there is specific, referring to the God of this age (aion) Who has the power to blind. As Moses had to veil his luminous face, so, metaphorically, the God of this age mercifully blinds carnal individual because light hurts their eyes. As we see in the incident of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Christ also has the prerogative to heal the blindness and take away the veil of ignorance. For those who are perishing, the Gospel is veiled; only the elect see the truth, but for the present, dimly.
David Grabbe, citing numerous scriptures that show God has the power to give sight to the blind, and conversely, to inflict spiritual blindness on others as a consequence of sin (Deuteronomy 28), argues that the Church's current understanding of II Corinthians 4:4 is incorrect. Translators use a lowercase "g" in "god of this age," yet it is the true God who does the blinding; He alone opens and closes eyes. Satan, on the other hand, deceives; he blurs the vision that God has made available. While Satan is opposed to truth, God embodies truth, yet does not reveal all truth all at once. There is no second witness of the Greek noun theos (rendered "god" in II Corinthians 4:4) denoting Satan. The New Testament writers refer to Satan as a ruler, but never as a god. Satan is certainly the prince of the power of the air and a major world ruler, but only in his wildest dreams is he a god capable of blinding.
John Ritenbaugh insists that God holds mankind responsible for knowing about Him and His divine attributes. Moral and spiritual deterioration begins when one does not live up to what he knows to be right. Deep within every human being is a consciousness of God based upon the public revelation of creation as well as the spirit of man—a basic conscience as a guide—not limited to converted people. Conscience, unfortunately, is always subject to education combined with what we choose to believe. The United States is plunging into a cesspool of immorality despite a so-called 'new-paradigm church,' 'emerging church' or 'outcome based religion' which is based on Satan's Gnostic education, stealing the name 'Christian,' while systematically rejecting God's truth. The truth is unacceptable to human nature. Unity cannot be achieved because of the problems of sin that drives all to seek their own way. The whole world, by rejecting the knowledge of God, is spurning God's gift of unity. It has been that way from the beginning when Adam and Eve didn't believe God enough to submit to Him. The human heart is incredibly sick; we desperately need a savior.
Focusing upon II Corinthians 13:5, John Ritenbaugh cautions us of the futility of assenting to a code of standards we do not intend to apply. Belief without conduct equals a dead faith leading to death. Works give evidence that we really do believe and have the Holy Spirit in us. What we believe (correctly or incorrectly) will inevitably produce works. According to a survey conducted by Barna, a large segment of professing Christians have rejected major tenets of the Bible (in effect, calling Jesus Christ a liar) fashioning their own subjective, private religions, giving themselves license to sin in selected areas and fostering a tolerance for hideous societal perversions. Rejecting a biblical world-view, unfaithful modern Israel has degenerated into a habitation of demons. As God's called out ones, we are admonished not to conform or follow suit, but to yield to God's purification.
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