Chapters two and three of Revelation are a unique and compelling prophecy. Christ Himself speaks to humanity, and His words are often printed in red text. These words hold a special place in the hearts of His people. Unlike the rest of Revelation, these are specific counsels for the intended subjects. But were these counsels to the churches meant as immediate messages for the literal churches of Asia? Or are they meant as allegoric references to various peoples throughout the ages? Reading them we get the impression that they suggest long, consecutive periods of time.

If these truly are sequential periods of time, how are they delineated? When does one period end and the next begin? Many opinions exist. Some students of prophecy have attempted to outline approximate dates when specific events seem fulfilled, but their explanations appear strained at best. Often the dates given do not really coincide with events that have significant historic value. When they do, period durations frequently become a problem. These difficulties stretch the interpretations’s credibility. As a result, the associated dates are easily forgotten.

Christ’s messages, however, bear the insignia of critical importance. Every message contains an imperative of its own and concludes with “He that hath an ear let him hear” Christ Himself emphasized the importance of the message’s content for all listeners.

Many suggest, though, that these messages remain too difficult for most people to understand. Some believe that elaborate education and extensive, specialized training are critical to gain an insight into such prophecies. That conclusion, however, brings us to a dilemma. Most of the world’s population cannot afford an elaborate education, much less specialized training. Yet these words are spoken to “he that hath an ear,” not to “he that hath a theology degree.” In His love, Christ devised a way to communicate the message for the discerning hearer.

Consider this: To fulfill His mission, the Savior did not reach out only to the well educated and specially trained, hoping that His knowledge would naturally trickle down to the common man. This pyramidal scheme disagrees with the Biblical promise that we will all be taught of God. In fact, the Savior reached out to those who lacked training more than to others. Because of their humility, they seemed to grasp the truth faster. In one climactic moment of Christ’s mission, He cries out to His Father,

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. (Luke 10:21)

God is often misunderstood because His thinking frequently runs counter to the status quo. His concern is for the humble, no matter how disadvantaged he may be to perceive the message. We must then conclude that a God of this kind would not introduce the complexity often suggested within human prophetic explanations. We need to abandon the idea of abstract complexity and seek for the humble and the simple ideas – ideas that were conveyed in love and concern for the common man.

With that in mind, let’s approach this subject with a clean slate and look at the most obvious aspects of this intriguing and awesome prophecy. As you will see, this study will dispel the common apprehensions associated with prophetic studies. As your understanding grows, this prophecy will unfold to reveal the great theme of God’s love, and will lead us to a better insight into the character of God and the plan of salvation.

So, when do the seven church periods really occur?

This certainly is the big question. Within the context of this prophecy, many clues have been supplied to suggest the timing of the church periods. Often these are overlooked and misunderstood for something other than timing. We should keep in mind that these prophecies cover long periods of time. They could have been given in large book volumes, but they were not. The information is brief, yet, it is packed with precious ideas. These ideas, as we will see in our study, mostly suggest time.

The first church discusses the tree of life, which reminds us of Adam and Eve. Some may say, “But prophecy is not history, so we conclude that this must be just a metaphor of future events.” Can we dismiss the history perspective so readily? Thinking about it we note that there are many instances where prophecies refer to history. Chapter 13 of Revelation discusses a beast composed of the same beasts as those that Daniel saw in vision. Chapter 12 discusses a red dragon that draws a third part of the stars and casts them down with his tail. Many see this as a historic reference of events preceding the Crucifixion, but become apprehensive to admit the same possibility within other prophecies. Surprisingly, however, the historic perspective makes a lot more sense than other interpretations. Too often, we overlook the obvious. History plays an important role in prophecy. This perspective synchronizes history with God’s plans for the future. It is useful to help the student gain confidence in the prophetic content.

As you will see shortly, history is consistently suggested in much of the seven churches’ prophecy. The idea is a little surprising at first, but truth is its own defense and, given the opportunity, it will suggest itself without doubt. We will discuss many of these details as we go.

Next: Ephesus

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