Q. Can you tell me where the idea came from that the seven churches in Revelation are seven church ages, and does the word of God teach this?
A. The belief that the seven Churches of Rev. 2-3 summarize church history is held by many theologians. The idea came from comparing the seven letters with the history of the Church. In the order in which the letters are presented they give clear “snapshots” of Church history. While the Bible doesn’t expressly say to do this, seeing them as an overview of the Church Age greatly helps our understanding of the Church.
John was told to “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” (Rev. 1:19)
What John had seen was the Earthly ministry of the Lord, and His post-resurrection visit to John (Chapter 1). What John was seeing, as are we, is the Church, on Earth and in Heaven (Chapters 2-5). What will take place after the Church is the 70th Week of Daniel, the 2nd Coming and the Millennium (Chapters 5-22)
Remember, there are four levels of application for these letters. In addition to being prophetic of the Church Age, the letters are historical in that they were written to actual first century churches. They are also admonitory to all churches, since all churches either have or will face the same challenges of the first century churches. And finally, they’re meant to be applied personally. At one time or another we all experience the problems identified in the letters.