The Book of Revelation holds a unique place in Scripture, detailing the astounding events preceding the ultimate culmination of God’s plans for His creation, the glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ, and creation’s entry into the indescribable wonders of the eternal state. It is a book which outlines the dreadful events leading up to that much longed-for time, and as such is replete with cataclysmic judgments and global catastrophes, graphically depicting a future worldwide alliance under Satan’s control resulting in an epic struggle of mankind against the Lord and His people.
Because the book of Revelation deals with such great and overarching themes it is therefore surprising, that the narrative opens with the Lord’s dealings with seven small churches situated in Asia (modern-day Turkey). In contrast with the rest of the book which graphically relates the account of satanic aspirations to dominate the global economy and religion resulting in divine judgments in which millions of people will lose their lives and in which the earth itself is rocked and shaken to its very core, these seven churches individually received a message describing seemingly everyday issues and attitudes with which nearly any church elder might be routinely confronted.
Why are the seven churches included in an otherwise prophetic book full of astonishing and breathtaking events?
Why, then, does the book of Revelation begin in such a fashion? Why are the seven churches included in an otherwise prophetic book full of astonishing and breathtaking events? There are generally three views concerning their inclusion:
- The seven churches represent seven distinct ages of the church, from Pentecost to the Rapture. This view is supported by the fact that Jesus’ messages to the churches would themselves be prophetic in nature in accordance with the overall genre of the book.
- The seven churches represent the distinct types of churches found at any given point during the present dispensation. For example, the Ephesian church represents a strongly doctrinal church while the Philadelphian church represents an assembly with a missionary emphasis. According to this perspective, nearly all churches throughout ecclesiastical history resemble in some aspects at least one of the seven mentioned.
- The seven churches are historical churches present at the time of John’s writing. Although the churches were literal assemblies of Christians with each church having specific issues and distinct difficulties which the Lord addresses, there are overall principles and spiritual applications that are applicable throughout the present age both in the context of church life as well as the individual Christian.
Which of the above perspectives is the correct one? I personally believe that all three views are valid. They are by no means mutually exclusive and each is worthy of careful study. However for the sake of our present considerations, we’ll be focusing on the third viewpoint, i.e. how does the message of Jesus to the individual church apply to me and to my church life? I trust the Lord will use this short series to enrich and strengthen your daily walk with Him.
Jim Haesemeyer (To be continued)