What do the seven churches in Revelation chapter two and three stand for? Some people say they represent different periods of time in history, others say they don't. What do you believe they stand for, if anything?
I believe that the seven Churches of Asia represent the Church universal. The number seven is a number that signifies the totality of whatever is in view. So when Christ speaks to the seven Churches in Revelation chapters two and three, He is ultimately speaking to the totality of Churches that existed during that era, the Churches that came after, and the Churches that exist today. He is demonstrating to the universal Church the blessings of obedience, and the certain
judgment of disobedience. The message is, just because we are in a Church doesn't mean that we are saved. People who are truly saved are not in willful lawlessness simply because they believe grace abounds.Romans 6:15-17
- "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
- Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
- But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you."
The epistles of Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are an example of the judgments that will come upon the Churches for disobedience, and of God's commending the Churches that hold fast the doctrines of Christ. A Church cannot be a Church in name only, else God will judge it and bring it down.
I do not believe that these messages are (as some suppose) illustrating that each Church is representing a chronological dispensation, or seven distinct eras of Church history. I do not believe that there is any real Biblical warrant or justification for this conclusion. Or if there is, I haven't yet heard it. You can find in the message to the Church at Ephesus, the commending and warning to the Church today, and you can equally find in the Church of the Laodicea warnings to the Church today. They don't only pertain to, or represent Churches in distinct periods of time. i.e., when God warns the Church of Ephesus that if they don't repent, they will have their Candlestick (Church) removed out of it's place, He is talking to the Church then, to the Church a thousand years ago, and to the Church today. He has divinely inspired writings to a total collective or associated body and is warning them of the judgment for forsaking Him. Just as Christ would address Peter, John or Matthew and yet also be warning or encouraging the whole Church or Church universal who would read His words in the future. In other words, He, being Omniscient and inspiring the Bible, He was talking to the totality of the Church (signified by the number seven) and giving them notice. It's no coincidence that John wrote these epistles to only these "seven" Churches in Asia (What is now Turkey). They are written as examples for all Churches, that we take heed that in our arrogance we think we stand, lest we fall. ..as Israel before us did.1st Corinthians 10:10-12
- "Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
- Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
- Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
Thus all the Church should remember their first love, lest they fall after this same example. Likewise, when a letter is addressed to each of the seven [aggelos] or Messengers (not angels) of the Churches, it does not mean to be for those particular Messengers only. But to all God's Messengers of all His Churches that would exist throughout the world, throughout history. When John, under inspiration of God wrote to the messenger of each Church, it is understood to be the divinely inspired word of God to the messengers of the Churches throughout history.nosce te ipsum
"I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. -Psalms 32:5"