It is worthy of note that the "Messages to the Seven Churches" are inserted between Two Visions, the "Vision of Christ" in the midst of the "Seven Lampstands" in chapter one and the "Vision of the Four and Twenty Elders" round about the Throne, in chapter four.
As chapter four is a vision of the "Glorified Church" with the Lord, after it has been caught out (1 Thess. 4:13-17), then the Second Division of the Book--
"The Things Which Are,"
and which includes chapters two and three, must be a description or prophetic outline of the "Spiritual History" of the Church from the time when John wrote the Book in A. D. 96, down to the taking out of the Church, or else we have no "prophetic view" of the Church during that period, for she disappears from the earth at the close of chapter three, and is not seen again until she reappears with her Lord in chapter nineteen. This we shall find to be the case. See Chart of the Book of Revelation.
This interpretation of the "Messages to the Seven Churches" was hidden to the early Church, because time was required for Church History to develop and be written, so a comparison could be made to reveal the correspondence. If it had been clearly revealed that the Seven Churches stood for "Seven Church Periods" that would have to elapse before Christ could come back, the incentive to watch would have been absent.
While the character of these Seven Churches is descriptive of the Church during seven periods of her history, we must not forget that the condition of those churches, as described, were their exact condition in John's day. So we see that at the close of the First Century the leaven of "False Doctrine" was at work in the Churches. The churches are given in the order named, because the peculiar characteristic of that Church applied to the period of Church History to which it is assigned. It also must not be forgotten, that, that which is a distinctive characteristic of each Church Period, does not disappear with that Period, but continues on down through the next Period, and so on until the end, thus increasing the imperfections of the visible Church, until it ends in an open Apostasy, as shown on the chart--"The Messages to the Seven Churches Compared with Church History."
It is noteworthy that the "Salutation" to each Church contains a reference to some characteristic of the Son of Man as described in chapter one. We will now consider each message separately.
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The Messages to the Seven Churches Compared with Church History