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NLT Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, NIV Study Bible, and “The Seven Churches” (Revelation 1:4)

I have done a lot of studying from the book of Revelation over the past couple of years. I thought I would plunge into the available material concerning this controversial book. With so many points of view and interpretations concerning the book, how will the study Bibles “reveal” their information? Will their be a bias toward a millennial view? Or can the study notes make points without choosing a point of view?

NLT Study Bible:

1:4 To the seven churches does not mean that there were only seven churches in the Roman province of Asia but that these seven churches represent the entire group.

ESV Study Bible:

1:4-6 the seven churches that are in Asia. Since churches existed in other cities of Roman Asia (e.g., Colossae, Troas), Christ’s selection of “seven,” symbolizing completeness, implies that he addresses the whole church through them.

NIV Study Bible:

1:4 seven churches. Located about 50 miles apart, forming a circle in Asia moving clockwise north from Ephesus and coming around full circle from Laodicea (east of Ephesus). They were perhaps postal centers serving seven geographic regions. Apparently the entire book of Revelation (including the seven letters) was sent to each church (see v. 11).


I find it interesting that neither the NLTSB or the ESVSB allowed for the possibility that these letters are to actual churches. While there were more than seven churches in Asia, it seems reasonable to not symbolize or spiritualize the number seven because each church is named. If the seven churches were to merely symbolize the whole church or represent all local churches in the area, then why name the seven churches as Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea? We should expect just the phrase “seven churches” like “seven Spirits,” “seven trumpets,” “seven seals,” etc. Only the NIV Study Bible treats the seven churches as actual churches that received these letters and the book of Revelation. Therefore, the NIV Study Bible is superior here in my opinion.

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