The Evidence of the Mail-Route
What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
~ Revelation 1:11 ~
As Christ dictated these seven letters, John was instructed to write them in a book (Rev. 1:11). The word “book” is biblion in the Greek, a term indicating “a roll: – bill, book, scroll, writing” (Strong’s, G975). Understanding the writing material of the time, the seven letters were recorded on a single continuous parchment which was delivered to each of the seven Churches beginning with Ephesus and proceeding to the next church named in the letters. As the scroll was unrolled and the letters were read, they were viewed in the same order that we see in our Bibles today.
The scroll would then continue its route to each successive church on Christ’s list. It is interesting to note that the sequence in which Christ addressed the churches corresponded exactly to the location of these cities on a mail route in Asia Minor. John McRay explained this in his work, Archeology and the New Testament, stating:
Our study of transportation routes in the province has been facilitated greatly by a major work on Roman roads in Asia Minor by David French. Roads ran up the coast from Ephesus to Smyrna and Pergamum, and from there a road ran through the valleys to Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. It is no accident that the letters in Revelation 1-3 are arranged in the same sequence. Beginning with Ephesus, the roads follow a geographical semicircle, extending northward, turning to the east, and continuing southward to Laodicea, thus connecting the cities on what must have functioned as an ancient postal route. Thus the order of the list may simply reflect the order in which the letter would be delivered to the churches (p. 242).
Mail Route of the Churches
Since the city of Ephesus was the port of entry for goods coming into Asia, the scroll containing John’s vision was first read there. It was then passed on to Smyrna where the brethren would read the parchment before sending it to Pergamos. On it went to Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and finally to Laodicea. Each presiding elder would unroll the scroll and read through the messages to the previous churches until he came to the message directed to Christians in his city. The way these missives were delivered and read serves to help us understand their purpose. This pattern mirrors the order in which they would be read and understood by the Church throughout human history. Each era would first read the letters to the churches that existed before them and thus be able to understand the circumstances of the preceding era. Then, they would come to the epistle addressed to them. They could then apply Christ’s message of exhortation and warning to the events and circumstances of their time.
Had Christ addressed the churches in any other order than the sequence in which they received their mail, there would be little or no basis for a belief in eras. Small as this fact may seem, it is of enormous importance. Christ dictated the letters in the exact order in which they would be received on this mail-route, and they were read in this very same sequence for a reason. As will be shown later, these seven congregations were specifically chosen because their characteristics coincided with the record of Church history.
Since these messages were placed in a book that is entirely prophetic, and because of the historical parallel, it becomes obvious that this progression also serves a symbolic and prophetic function. The order in which the letters were received foreshadows the same successive pattern in which eras of God’s Church would occur. Thus, we have further evidence of successive Church eras.