The Spirit Speaks to Seven Churches
In the second and third chapters of Revelation, the Lord communicated timeless information to seven first century churches existent in Asia Minor. These seven churches represent the spiritual condition of all churches in every age since the founding of the church by its Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
The letters are different for each church because churches then and now are different in their spirituality and the holiness of their consecration. Each letter is an assessment of their spirituality. Some required harsh rebuke with the threat of separation from the Lord, while others had correctable issues requiring repentance and rededication to Him and His work. Two churches required no rebuke and stand as models for the church ours aspires to be.
Many understand these seven churches in a different analysis. They see them representing stages of history, and the church fluctuating between the extremes of pious fidelity and rank apostasy. The final apostasy sets the time for the Lord’s return to the earth to take His church out of the world. This is the church that ebbs and flows with the times—a nameless, faceless, unchurchbecause it is an unbody, one that has never met nor can meet. This is the infamous invisible church universal.
On the contrary, the Lord wrote to seven specific congregations is seven specific cities with seven specific pastors. These are local churches each distinct from the other and each experiencing their own problems, and given solutions to those problems. It is best we remain with the intent of the passage. It is consistent with the rest of the New Testament in which we see churches organized at specific locations, some having New Testament epistles written for their doctrinal and practical correction, and encouraged to remain faithful.
For this reason, I believe the seven churches represent churches as they exist in every time. In other words, one church does not represent a period of centuries followed by another church representing a different period of history. Instead, we find these seven types of churches existing together in the same times cutting across the full gambit of faithfulness to apostasy. Some are true churches, but existing on the edge of apostasy ready to lose their standing with the Lord, while others are church bodies for discerning Christians to find refuge with men and women very near to the apostolic model in doctrine and worship.
This concerns me as pastor of this church. The Lord wants me preach doctrines that are centuries old and adhere to the teachings of Christ and the apostles. I often speak of our church as a historical Baptist church. This is what I mean—we are apostolic in doctrine. Our Baptist forefathers taught the same doctrines we preach today.
I am sure of this—there is no era of history since Christ formed the church that is without a true faithful church. Catholicism is not the apostasy of the true church and neither is Protestantism the reform of the apostate church. Christ promised a church that would not surrender to the power of Satan against it. This guarantees a church that never went into apostasy. We were the ones persecuted by the apostate church. Through intense persecution, the church survived owing its protection to the one described in Revelation chapter 1. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the one who was dead and is alive.
Our view of church history is quite different than most. We are survivors with truth. We need nothing to be restored to us. We live in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who always walks in the midst of His churches.
Pastor V. Mark Smith