We have now ended our study of the 7 churches in the Book of Revelation. We can see that not only were these letters written to the people in these churches in John’s lifetime, but they apply directly into our lifetime and for that matter any era of the church age.
Read Revelation 1:19 over again. We can see that our study of Chapter 1 took us into the things that John saw when Jesus spoke to him while he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos (“what you have seen”), and we see that chapters 2 & 3 have to do with the church age (“what is now”). So starting in chapter 4 to the end of the book we will see what God has in store for the last days (“what will take place later”).
Coming back to the 7 churches that represent the church age in chapters 2-3, many have also seen a connection in the order each church is presented and the characteristics of each church to the timeline and characteristics of the church throughout history. A short synopsis of the 7 can be broken down as such: Ephesus “the loveless church”, Smyrna “the persecuted church”, Pergamum “the worldly church”, Thyatira “the tolerant to false doctrine church”, Sardis “the spiritually dead church”, Philadelphia “the spiritually alive church”, and Laodicea “the lukewarm compromising church”. Let’s take a brief look at church history to see if there is a connection:
Since the day of Pentecost the church grew rapidly, being spreading all over the world by zealous and on fire for the Lord Christians. I don’t know how fast the Gospel spread over the next 60-70 years up until the days that John wrote the Book of Revelation around 95-96 AD, but it probably wasn’t spreading as fast as it used to as Christians may have started to just go through the motions of Christianity and forgot the love of God that initially drew them in (Ephesus). As the church regained its zeal and love, Satan stepped up his attacks and from 100-300 AD the church underwent a time of suffering and persecution under the rule of Roman Emperors that would never be seen again in history (Smyrna). Satan’s plan backfired however, as the increase in persecution actually made the church grow in number, so he took a different approach. Under the Emperor Constantine, Christianity started to become accepted and eventually became the official religion of the Roman Empire. This brought in worldly power, money, greed, and corruption into the church (Pergamum). This eventually led to a slow progression to tolerance and acceptance of many false and pagan teachings that invaded church practices and teachings throughout the Dark Ages (Thyatira). It wasn’t until the Reformation, the split of Catholicism and Protestantism, that things started to change. But first, the church went through a period of deadness and inactiveness (Sardis). An awakening happened around the 18th to 19th centuries as the Gospel was again taken to the ends of the earth in the form of missionary movements never seen since the first centuries of the Christian church (Philadelphia). And since that time, the church has slowly drifted into a place of complacency and compromise that is increasingly characterizing our time era as the lukewarm church (Laodicea). For example, look at the 3 things the Laodiceans prided themselves on: wealth, materials for clothing, and healing eye salve. We live in the days of the super wealthy and people living their lives to gain wealth and power, of popular fashion and celebrity gossip, and of an over obsession with ways to find the fountain of youth through fad diets and exercise. Read 2 Timothy 2:1-7 to see how closely our generation resembles the attitudes and actions of people in the Last Days.
Let’s finish our study on the 7 churches with words from David Guzik: “This historical approach to the seven churches of Revelation is valid if these periods are seen as broad, imprecise descriptions of the church through history, allowing for generous periods of overlap… If one accepts these seven letters as descriptive of the flow of church history, it does not require that we see them as exclusive, rigidly sequential ages… It is good to remember that if these letters are a prophecy of the course of church history, this is their secondary significance. First and foremost, the letters were written to real, existing first-century congregations, and to “all who have an ear to hear.”… As well, we must remember that every age has had some characteristics of all seven churches. Though certain historical periods are marked by the conditions spoken of in these letters, we could never say that “only one letter” applies to us or our age… We need to hear what the Spirit says to the churches (in the plural sense), not just one church.”