The Evidence of a Prophetic Book
No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
~ 2 Peter 1:20-21 ~
The seven letters were set within the framework of a book that is entirely prophetic. The book of Revelation was written as a chronological record of events that would occur over vast periods of time. This is apparent from the very first verse in the book. Notice that the angel introduces Christ’s vision with these words:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John (Revelation 1:1).
This opening statement makes two crucial points. First, the entire vision is directed to God’s servants. Since John’s vision covers events that were to take place over thousands of years, it was written to all of God’s servants; including those who would live at the end of the age. This is apparent as the prophecy almost immediately moves to the end time, stating that Christ will come “with clouds; and every eye shall see Him” (Rev. 1:7).
Second, this verse tells us that the entire book was written to show things that must “shortly come to pass.” By this, God is NOT referring to events that were to occur immediately. Rather, He is speaking from the perspective of Heaven in which Christ considers the last 2,000 years of man’s rule as the “last days” (Heb. 1:2; 1John 2:18).
Therefore, the purpose of this entire vision is to reveal pivotal events that would begin in the first century and continue right up to the return of Christ and beyond.
Seven Letters—One Book
The Savior instructed John to write everything he saw in the vision and send them to these seven churches. If each of the letters had no relation to all of the congregations, the messages would NOT have been recorded as an integral part of the same manuscript. They would have been written to each church group separately; as were all the other epistles penned by John, James, Peter, and Paul. Instead, these seven letters were included as an intrinsic part of a book that is entirely prophetic!
This fact generates a vital question. Why would God send the entire book filled with these prophecies only to these seven congregations if they had no practical application for them? Why send warnings of the beast, the false prophet, and the great tribulation if these events would have no impact on them? The only purpose for giving the churches the entire book was to ensure that it was passed it down to succeeding generations who would experience these things.
The only way these prophecies would have meaning is if the churches represented eras throughout time. By recording these prophecies and handing them down to successive eras, as each age came to pass, the Church existing at any point in time would understand both the history that went before them and the circumstances they would face during its time.
Therefore, God intended these missives to be an inherent part of the entire vision for a divine purpose. They are symbolic and prophetic! Their warnings and admonitions correspond to prophesied events that would begin in John’s time and continue throughout the future of God’s Church! For this reason, the angel told John to:
Write the things which thou hast seen and the things which are, and the things
which shall behereafter (Revelation 1:19).
These profound introductory verses were written to set the stage so that Christians could understand as their respective era in time arrived. The book of Revelation is a calendar of successive world events that would begin in the first century and continue over vast periods of They will culminate with the end of this age and finally the establishment of God’s Kingdom on the earth.
These prophecies describe successive stages of a great whore riding atop an enormous empire called the beast. They chronicle the rise of a tremendous merchandising superpower—a modern day Babylon. They document the pivotal steps in man’s history leading up to the unleashing of God’s wrath just before the return of Christ. They reveal the establishment of God’s Kingdom on the earth and describe the creation of the new heavens, a new earth, and the glorious New Jerusalem!
The entire book of Revelation is a panoramic prophetic chronology, and the messages to the churches were set within it as an indelible part of its framework and purpose. Therefore, while these letters might have had an application for the congregations existing in the first century, they were engrafted within Christ’s entire revelation. They carry enormous meaning for God’s servants who would experience later circumstances. They were written to ALL of God’s servants! Therefore, the messages within them were inextricably tied to the forward march of history.
The fact that the letters are directed to churches existing at different times becomes more obvious as the letters to Philadelphia and Laodicea are read. The messages to these two churches are directed to Christians living in the last days—not those existing during the first century (Rev. 3:10-20).
Based on these facts, it is evident that these seven churches represent seven distinct eras of God’s Church throughout time. They were written to the Ephesian era in the first century but were also addressed to Pergamos, Smyrna, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea—Church eras that would exist centuries later.