I received the following question:

Revelation 1:4, 11 – this speaks of “the seven ekklesias which are in Asia.” Does this mean that the territory known as the province of Asia will belong to the nation of Israel in the kingdom of God? Since all Israelites will have been restored to their own land in that day, how does it happen that there are seven ekklesias in Asia unless that territory belongs to Israel? And what is the significance of these ekklesias being only in Asia and not elsewhere in the land? Please explain.

You bring up a very good question here, and one that I have puzzled over myself. Why should any Jews be in Asia during the kingdom of God? We can of course understand why they were there when the New Testament was written, but believing as I do that this book is written to Jews of the future, not those of the past, this means that they will be living there again in the kingdom of God. Yet after thinking about it I do believe that there are some hints in the Bible as to why this must be so.

First of all, we must remember that this passage is taking place not in the kingdom of God as it will be during its long reign over the earth, but rather during the revolt at the end of the kingdom when everything will be upset and in turmoil once again. The book of Revelation starts up in the day of the LORD, but before the great and terrible day of the LORD the falling away (rebellion) will happen, and the man of sin shall be revealed. This has all happened already before the book of Revelation begins. Therefore, many conditions on earth may not reflect how they would have been a few decades earlier when the kingdom was in full swing and all was as it should be.

Then, there is the fact that there seem to be multiple passages that indicate that there will be a captivity of Israelites again in the tribulation period. For example, Daniel 11:33 states:

33. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days.

Joel 3:1-8 also speaks of a selling of Israel into captivity.

1. For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,
2. I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.
3. And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.
4. Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head;
5. Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things:
6 The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border.
7 Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompence upon your own head:
8 And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: for the LORD hath spoken it.

Of course, we could argue as to whether the pleading in the valley of Jehoshaphat is at the start of the kingdom or of the parousia, but I think this is made clear by verses 12-14.

12. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.
13. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.
14. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

This speaks of the “harvest,” and of the “day of the LORD.” These both point to a time at the end of the kingdom of God period and the beginning of the parousia of Christ. The revolt against the kingdom that takes place immediately before the Parousia will naturally result in much enmity by the rebels against those who were most privileged in God’s kingdom. That will include the people of Israel, who in the kingdom will be the head of all nations and not the tail. Their rage against them will result in much trouble for God’s people, and they will be conquered, probably multiple times, but at last by the anti-Christ and his forces. One of those troubles that will come upon them as a result of these conquests will be being sold into captivity.

Now the Joel passage mentions them getting sold to the Grecians. Greece was just west of the area that was called “Asia” in the Roman Empire. If some Israelites were sold into Greece, it could well be that some would also be sold into Asia, to such places as Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. It could well be, just as it was in the captivities in the days of Babylon, that the most faithful and upright among God’s people at the time will be among those sold into captivity. Thus God would have great concern for them, and might well have written Revelation in anticipation of these things to help them.

If some Israelites are sold into Greece (as in Joel) and other places, it is odd that only those in Asia are singled out for the writing of this book. Yet at the same time, there are many books of the New Testament that were written to those believers in one place, and yet that could help others in other places facing similar situations as well. For example, we know that Paul urged the Colossians to share their letter with those in Laodicea, and to read the letter from Laodicea (perhaps a copy of Ephesians) as well. Colossians was to Colossae, but God recognized that others could read it and benefit from it as well. The very center of the captive Israelites may well be in Asia, and that will be where the most significant events are taking place. That said, captive Israelites in other places may face similar difficulties, and the things written to those in Asia may well help them. Just because it is only addressed to these seven ekklesias does not mean that those in other places cannot read it and benefit from it when that time comes. This is just as we can read Revelation and benefit from it ourselves even today, long before the events it speaks of take place.

I pray this reply helps you understand these passages. I certainly cannot say I have plumbed the depths of them myself, particularly when it comes to the book of Revelation, but those are my current thoughts and understanding of the passage as of right now. I pray that what I have written may help.