The Church Letters

The Book of Revelation is full of symbolism, prophesy, and mostly difficult things to understand.  In addition, I only have a few lines in this posting so an indepth Bible study is out of the question.  But, there may be something to be gained by at least looking at the letters to the seven churches, which is recorded in chapters 2 and 3.

The seven letters are written to the ‘leaders’ of the seven churches, which are literal churches of that time.  In other words, they actually existed.  But, scholars largely agree that these letters also represent more than the seven churches of the early church era.  They mostly agree there are three interpretations possible:

  1. Letters to the 7 churches, that existed at the time the letters were written, sometime in the late first century AD.
  2. The seven churches represent seven attitudes or characters of churches in every age.  In other words, churches of any time frame can be identified as belonging to one of the seven churches identified in chapters 2 or 3.
  3. The seven churches represent churches in distinct time periods, that have occurred since the church began.

In the limited space I have I want to focus on #3.  Not all scholars agree, but a good number believe that in looking at the seven churches and identifying them with time periods, leaves us with not one, but two churches to represent the ‘end time’ in which we are living.  These two churches would be the Laodicean church, of which most everyone is acquainted, and the Philadelphia church.  The thinking is that these two churches exist side-by-side during the same time period, which, by the way, is our own.  One church, the Laodicean church represents the false or apostate church, and the Philadelphia church represents the true church.

The letters to the seven churches each follow a pretty standard pattern, with a few exceptions.  The pattern mostly looks like this:

  1. Identification of the writer, usually a picture of Christ that is meaningful to that church group.
  2. Positive or notable attributes of the church
  3. Things where the church comes short or needs correction
  4. A warning to ‘hear’ (or take heed) to the instructions
  5. A promise/reward to those who overcome

Every church, but two receive some condemnation, or correction for things that they need to fix or change.  These two are the Smyrna church and the Philadelphia church.  The Smyrna church is identified with the early martyr church in which many of those who believed were tortured, maimed, beheaded, crucified, boiled to death, and other atrocities.  And, of course, as I mentioned, the Philadelphia church represents the ‘true’ church of the last days.

It is probably worthwhile to note the commendable things the Philadelphia church is doing, as it does represent the true church of the last days:

Here are the attributes of the Philadelphia church, in summary form:

  1. He knows their works
  2. He has set an ‘open door’ before it that no man can shut.  This can only be understood to be an open door to witness and spread the gospel.
  3. They have a little strength
  4. Kept His word
  5. Has not denied  His name

We have run out of time and space to discuss this in more detail, but given the time and divine direction we may want to explore the topic, ‘have a little strength’ fuller, as it signifies the church is not operating at fullest possible strength, but because of the unique situation is not to be condemned, but receives praise.  I encourage you to pursue further with your own reading and study.

One closing note about Revelation.  There are literally thousands of interpretations of this book, including images of rockets, atomic bombs, flame-throwing tanks, and other instruments of war being identified.  I believe it is not fruitful to get caught up in this type of unconfirmed symbolic interpretation.  There have also been numerous attempts to identify the Antichrist with people of our time.  This too is missing the point.  All that said, we should concentrate our limited understanding to grasping those concepts that are laid out for us in plain view, rather than reaching for those things that cannot be firmly identified.

One Response to “The Church Letters”

  1. Barbara McGuire Says:

    Great blog! I always marvel at something written so long ago applies to this very day! The Word of God is just so awesome and in it contains lessons for everyone for today! Blessings…

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