This is just a comment I left last night on a forum. Thoughts?
1.) I believe that like most numbers in Revelation, the seven churches are purposed to reflect the numerology of John. I see seven representing the number of completion (I am hesitant to use the word perfection). Seven churches represented the fullness of the message of Christ – further, it mimicked Paul’s letters to his seven churches.
An untested, and maybe an unmerited theory, working in my mind at the moment is that when Ignatius and Polycarp were writing a generation later, they used Paul’s name in their epistles to the cities that he had written too, and yet, John’s name is not mention. And later, the great Bishop Polycarp doesn’t mention the fact that his city was addressed by John, his father in the faith.
Further, I believe that for very specific purposes, mimicking Hosea marrying a certain woman or Isaiah naming his children a certain name or Ezekiel does some very weird things, these cities were used by Christ to set the stage for His message. I think that the cultural context of the city allowed Christ to assert His Image/Identity/Authority as opposed to the gods of that city and thereby tell the non-Messianic Jews and Gentiles exactly who He is/was/will be. I am still refining that theory, or perhaps, working on it as I explore the cities themselves, individually.
2.) While I explored this theory before I read Dr. Gombis’ work, I had to admit that his work on cosmic warfare in Ephesians has if not influenced me, at least bolstered my understanding of what is happening in Revelation. I have said for a while that I see Revelation as the 5th Gospel, although admittedly, I have yet to fully solidify this with written evidence. I see the 1st chapter as the intro, setting the scope of work so to speak. The 2nd and 3rd chapter as defined above. The 4th chapter begins the cosmic tale. It happens on Pentecost, mimicking the birth of Church and the giving of the Law. The 6th seal is the Cross (cf Matthew’s earthquake and the Day of the Lord imagery, especially in Joel).
I believe that the cosmic imagery in Isaiah, Ezekiel and some other apocalyptic materials provided John a great resource book to work with. If I understand prophecy correctly as well as apocalypse, I believe that John is speaking about the revealing of Christ which is happening then/now through the persecution of the believing Community. Just as Paul wrote in Ephesus about those powers above, invisible, which Christ is freeing us from, calling us to the New Creation, John is writing about what is happening now and what is about to happen. I think that John is reminding his readers that a cosmic warfare is influencing what is happening on earth, around the community, and reminding his readers, as Paul did, to resist the temptation to surrender, accommodate or fight. He is setting himself up as Daniel and Ezekiel in opening the scrolls of heaven to show that those who are oppressed are being freed, not by earthly actions but by God and His armies. This time, Christ. I guess, in fewer words, I would say that Revelation is how John sees the heavens controlling, reacting, and ultimately vindicating the actions on earth, including the judgment of the Church.
Further, let me note that the beginning of the heavenly vision, Jesus is among the Elders, in the throne room somewhere, but by the end of the heavenly vision Christ sits in the place of God on the Throne of God and the Lamb.