Summary: To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. – Revelation 2:1
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. – Revelation 2:1
A viewpoint held in our day as almost as factual and unalterable is the belief that the seven churches in revelation are epochs of time or to say it in another way: A timeline of Church history. Such a view places the churches in sequential order and covering basic time periods that are guessed and tries to parallel characteristics of each church with the general tenor of the universal global Church in a point of time. Though we would think that all Christians have believed this view of reading these passages since the Apostles, such is not the case. It seems pretty clear that dispensational thinkers in the 1800’s were the postulators of this thinking, and it was popularized cheifly through the Scofield study bible. This historicism viewpoint has been believed by most and is now passed on in a way where if you do not accept it, you are looked down upon in the western Church. Some reasons why this is important to mention is that the early Church and most believers never held such a view of these important letters. If the Churches were not literal Churches then the false doctrines and people mentioned in them are not applicable and are types or shadows. If these letters are not actual Churches in the first century then what other Scriptures could we spiritualize as time periods or epochs of the Church, this dangerous practice can allow us to pick and choose what Scripture passages are relevant for us in this day. This viewpoint also re-enforces the idea that the Church by-in large was apostate or become apostate in our day and we need to somehow have a totally new definition of the Church itself. Many in this thinking have disregarded all godly traditions in the Church and have conveniently choose what they think is important to be followed in our day.
Augustine held that each of the messengers of these Churches were bishops of each city not angels. Andrew of Caesarea says, “Angel of the church in Ephesus: That is, its bishop. Moreover, the expositors commonly say it was Timothy, the disciple of Paul. Timothy was the apostle over all the bishops of Asia, nevertheless he mostly stayed in Ephesus.” Polycarp was believed to be the bishop in Smyrna. Gaius the bishop of Pergamum. Irenaeus the bishop of Thyatira. Melito bishop of Sardis. Quadratus bishop of Philadelphia. Archippus bishop of Laodicea. Why this is signifigant to mention is that these Churches were real people, and false teachings were mentioned by name: doctrine of Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6) teachings of Balaam (Revelation 2:14) that woman Jezebel (Revelation 2:20). What also makes this signifigant is the heresies and problems in these Churches are not types of certain time points in history but struggles the Church always has gone through. The danger of re-thinking and interpretation of the Bible that has not been accepted in all of Church history or just recently is that it is very prone to error and in the end we can be deceived. There is a faith that the Apostles had and they passed it to other leaders of the Church (Jude 1:3, 2 Timothy 2:2). Though there can be a way the Lord is teaching his universal church through these seven Churches we should not try and apply meanings to things that are not clearly in Scripture. One believer speaking of the condition of the evangelical Church in the West stated that the only parallel he can see is of the dark ages of Church history. We are abounding in knowledge and new ideas but are in a dearth of true spirituality and godliness in the evangelical Church. There needs to be a balance between questioning what is currently given to us in the evangelical movement as well as learning to trust some of the godly traditions of the past.