Revelation has always fascinated me. As a theologically curious seventeen-year-old, I read every Watchman Nee book I could get my hands on. Of them all, the one that most captivated my imagination was The Orthodoxy of the Church, a ninety- page work on the seven churches in Revelation 2–3. Yet when I reached the end, I felt stunned and disappointed, because I had wanted to understand what was going on with those historical churches in the first century, and Nee had not told me.
For the most part, those from a dispensational background, like Watchman Nee, spiritualize the seven letters into seven time periods of Church history without looking at the historical context. And those who are not dispensationalists typically ignore them. The reason so many people have overlooked these letters is, at least in part, because they do not think they are relevant to us.
In the years since my disappointment with Nee’s book, I have read other more historically thorough sources, and I have done my own research, including traveling to and touring the modern locations of each of these seven churches. In doing so, I’ve discovered an incredible list of connections between the cultural, geographical, and historical events of the first century in these cities and the contents of Jesus’ letters to them.
Now, many years later, I’ve written the book I wish I had read when I was seventeen and eager to understand what these beautiful yet cryptic letters were all about. Many commentaries on the Book of Revelation give the seven letters little to no coverage. Here, I am attempting to correct that oversight by making them the center of conversation. Though many have seen them as periphery, I believe these letters hold significant and relevant information that influences our understanding of the Book of Revelation as a whole and that holds practical relevance for our lives. I hope and believe that what I share here will make these often misunderstood letters clear in the light of history.