The Son of Man, Jesus the Messiah, is giving specific messages to the 7 Churches. For the most part His assessment of the 7 churches is negative with criticism and rebuke, but also contains affirmation, encouragement and praise. The imperative goal of these 7 letters is to be an overcomer!
What is the purpose of these 7 letters? I believe they are prophetic instructions for the Saints living in Daniel 70th week. Understanding the 7 churches gives us keen insight into an overall outline of the Book of Revelation.
Four theories regarding the audience and timing of the 7 letters;
HISTORICAL: Good advice written to universal Church and historic churches down through history. “He that has an ear, let him hear.” YES. Others go a little further and teach they represent 7 church ages over specific time periods over the last 2000 years up to today(very popular). NO! See point 15 and 16.
PRETERIST VIEW: They are directed only to 7 churches at the end of the 1st century. It’s past history and not applicable to us.
FUTURIST: Represent the universal church, or 7 church types living in Daniel’s 70th week, the final 7 years before Jesus returns . YES
FUTURIST: Sequential prophetic instructions to the church living in the future of Daniel’s 70th week during the end times i.e. they parallel seven events of the seven seals during the end times. YES
Rev. 22:6 The angel said to me, “These words (They are prophecy) are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place (These things will soon take place).” “Behold, I am coming soon (Jesus is coming quickly)! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” REALLY?
Revelation 22:7 says the “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” The Book of revelation is prophecy, and that must include the 7 letters to the churches.
Yes, Jesus will come quickly… Once the seven years of Daniel’s 70th week have started. But, it’s been 2000 years. Where is He? Delay has led to the false teaching of Preterism, (aka Replacement Theology), teaching all prophecies have been fulfilled long ago in Jesus’ time or over the course of history. But it should be obvious the prophecies in revelations have not been fulfilled. See 7 Trumpets.
How do we explain Jesus is coming soon? Book of Revelation was written for the churches. Rev. 22:16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony *for* the churches.” “For” is the Greek word “epi” means concerning or about the churches. He means EVERYTHING written in the Book if Revelation is about the 7 churches, the 7 churches during the end times.
Rev. 1:11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” I believe the instructions for the 7 churches are primarily about the end times.
Revelation 1:19 in KJV is translated to mean 3 things. 1. things seen (past)– Risen Jesus. 2. things which are (present) – 7 churches. 3. things after – future prophecies.
Revelation 1:19 can better be translated in a prophetic sense and mean 2 things: 1. Things seen and what they signify – Jesus’ appearance, past. 2. and the things which will take place AFTER these things – future. Which would mean the 7 Churches are future prophecies.
According to Bible Teacher Nelson Walters, Alford and Myers translate it this way. Context of next verse Rev. 1:20 confirms the translation; the lampstands ARE the 7 churches, and the 7 stars ARE the angels of the 7 churches. No evidence they are referring strictly to the past.
Many Pastors who are Pretrib don’t teach Revelation because they think Church will not go through any of Daniel’s 70th week, and it's not applicable.
The language to the 7 churches is apocalyptic.
The order of Jesus advice to the churches is not random, rather follows a distinct pattern.
Concerning these applying to Church ages. Rev. 2:25 Only hold on to what you have until I come. Hold fast until I come. How is that possible for a church era that has long since passed and Jesus has not come? Makes no sense for this to be a church age!
Rev. 3:3 Sardis. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. How does this make sense to a church age that ended hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
Pretrib objection: The word “church” is not used after Rev 2,3 (letters to the 7 churches) until Rev 19 when Jesus is on earth. John used a different word that meant church. Saints and bond servants.
Finally, the instructions given to each church are precisely what believers should be doing during each one of the seven seals. The instructions given to Ephesus match those that should be given to those believers during the first seal, Smyrna during the 2nd seal, Pergamum during the third seal and so on. This is very precise and in order.
The 7 churches are the one and only church of Jesus Christ as it endures and overcomes each of the seals in exact order. The letters to the churches are specific instructions explaining how to overcome during each one of the 7 seals.