Author: Lawrence D. Pruitt
Why were the seven churches of Asia Minor selected as the ones to which the Revelation should be dedicated or addressed? (Rev. 1:11). “Does what is said of the seven churches in chapter 1 and to them in chapters 2 and 3, have reference solely to the seven literal churches named, describing things only as they then and there existed, and portraying what was before them alone?”
The entire book of Revelation was dedicated or addressed to the seven churches. “But the book was no more applicable to them, except the special messages to the individual churches, than to other Christians in Asia Minor-those, for instance, who dwelt in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia, addressed in I Peter 1:1; or the Christians of Colosse, Troas, and Miletus, in the very midst of the churches named.” “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass.” Note that the Revelation was sent “unto His servants”-all of God’s servants, regardless of geographical location.
“Only a small portion of the book could have personally concerned the seven churches, or any of the Christians of John’s day, for the events it brings to view were mostly so far in the future as to lie beyond the lifetime of the generations then living, and consequently they could have no personal connection with them,” except in the special messages directed to the particular congregations named.
“The seven stars which the Son of man held in his right hand (verse 20) are declared to be the angels of the seven churches. The angels of the churches, doubtless all will agree, are the pastors or ministers of the churches. Their being held in the right hand of the Son of man denotes the upholding power, guidance, and protection provided for them. But there were only seven of them in His right hand. And are there only seven thus cared for by the great Master of assemblies? May not, rather, all the true ministers of the whole gospel age derive from this representation the consolation of knowing that they are upheld and guided by the right hand of the great Head of the Church? Such would seem to be the only consistent conclusion.”
“John, looking into the Christian dispensation, saw only seven candlesticks, representing seven churches, in the midst of which stood the Son of man. The position of the Son of man in their midst must denote His presence with them, His watch-care over them, and His searching scrutiny of all their works. But does He thus take cognizance of only seven individual gospel ages? Then why were only seven mentioned? Seven, as used in the Scriptures is a number denoting fullness and completeness, like the first seven days of time, which gave the world the still used complete weekly cycle. Like the seven stars, the seven candlesticks must denote the whole of the things which they represent.” The entire universal Church throughout the gospel age is symbolized by the figure “seven.” The scope of the prophetic feature of this symbolization is not derived from the churches themselves as such, or the messages to them, but rather from the symbolic number “seven” alone.
Any congregation of the Church in any period of the Christian dispensation is subject to the same condemnation or commendation as any one of the seven churches if it is found in a similar condition. One authority has rightly said, “Many expositors have imagined that these epistles to the seven churches were mystical prophecies of seven distinct periods, into which the whole term, from the apostles’ days to the end of the world, would be divided. This theory, though very old, has arisen from imagination, and finds no basis in reason or fact from the Scriptures.”
Adam Clarke writes in A. D. 1831: “I do not perceive any metaphorical or allegorical meaning in the epistles to these churches. I consider the churches as real; and that their spiritual state is here really and literally pointed out; and that they have no reference to the state of the church in all ages of the world, as has been imagined; and that the notion of what has been termed the Ephesian state, the Smyrnian state, the Pergamenian state, the Thyatirian state, etc., is unfounded, absurd, and dangerous; and that such expositions should not be entertained by any who wish to arrive at a sober and rational knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.”
F. G. Smith writes: “These churches can scarcely be symbols of chronological epochs for the reason that they are themselves the object of symbolization. We know that type and antitype cannot be united in the same things, that they are mutually exclusive; and I fail to see how a particular church can be a direct object of symbolization and at the same time a symbol of something else. ‘The seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.’ ” (Rev. 1:20).
Again Smith says, “Some have assumed that the seven were selected in order to set forth seven successive historical epochs in the Christian church. The record shows however, that instead of the seven being symbols, they are themselves the objects of symbolization. Furthermore, the actual facts of ecclesiastical history, in their successive order of unfolding, do not agree with the messages as given to these churches.”
Throughout all prophecy we find first the true Church in her apostolic beauty and glory, later arises apostasy and the deepest spiritual darkness in the Middle Ages, and finally there is a restoration of the true Church just before the end of time. Now, for instance, try to make the message to the church at Ephesus apply or correspond to the Church of the first century when she shone forth in her pristine glory. The message to the Ephesians indicates that it was a backslidden church. (Rev. 2:5.) Such a prophetic symbolization of the Church in general at this period is inconsistent with the facts. Then according to this theory, the restored Church in the evening time-“At evening time it shall be light” (Zech. 14:7)-would be represented by Laodicea, reference to which the message from the Son of man declares that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Rev. 3:17).
This unsound doctrine arose many years ago, and has been widely promulgated by the Seventh Day Adventist sect, whose false doctrines on other lines were exposed by Bro. D. S. Warner in his day. Brethren, let us endeavor to hold fast to sound doctrine, rightly dividing the word of truth.