Prophecy for the church age can be found in two main places: the seven churches that John wrote to in Revelation 2 and 3 and the seven churches that Paul wrote to in his epistles.
The seven churches that John wrote to are: the church of Ephesus, the church in Smyrna, the church in Pergamos, the church in Thyatira, the church in Sardis, the church in Philadelphia, and the church of the Laodiceans. These seven churches represent the general spiritual condition of the Church as it goes from Pentecost to the rapture.
Paul also wrote to seven churches: the church at Rome, the church at Corinth, the churches of Galatia, the church at Ephesus, the church at Philippi, the church at Colosse, and the church of the Thessalonians. The letters to these seven churches represent the greatest need of the church at a given time. In the chart below, I will show how the two sets of seven fit together.
Church Description Time Period Pauline Epistle
Ephesus – Apostolic Church 30 A.D. – 100 A.D. Romans
Smyrna – Suffering Church 100 A.D. – 300 A.D.
Pergamos – Compromised Church, Pagan 300 A.D. – 500 A.D. 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians
Thyatira – Adulterous Church, Papal Rome 500 A.D. – 1000 A.D. Galatians
Sardis – Dead Church 1000 A.D. – 1500 A.D. Ephesus
Philadelphia – Missionary Church 1500 A.D. – 1900 A.D. Philippians
Laodicea – Lukewarm Church 1900 A.D. – Rapture Colossians, 1 Thessalonians
There are 70 chapters from Romans through 1 Thessalonians. There are also 70 chapters through the Gospels from the beginning of Matthew to John 2. John 2 is the wedding at Cana and is a type of the marriage supper of the Lamb. (Please see my teaching on the number 17 and the mention of John 1:51.) The number 7 is the number of completion or perfection and is often used in relation to the Church. The number 10 is the number of the Gentiles. For the combination of these two numbers and their association with the rapture of the Church, please again see my teaching on the number 17. 2 Thessalonians is a book targeted toward Gentiles during the first half of the tribulation. This is why it has 3 chapters and ends with verse 18 (6 + 6 + 6). 1 Thessalonians has 5 chapters because it is targeted toward the last 5 years before the rapture. The Jews will begin rebuilding the Temple in 2018, 5 years before the rapture. Please notice that Noah’s father, Lamech died 5 years before the flood at the age of 777 years old. You will find also that Hebrews and James are written for the tribulation Jew.
Next, I want to discuss in more detail the chart above and how thing fit together. The seven churches mentioned in Revelation each have a meaning attached to their name which has prophetic significance. Ephesus means fully purposed. This is the apostolic church which is described by Christ as being doctrinally pure and yet they lost their first love. It seems the work and purpose of the Church had replaced the Person of the Church as far as its affections. Romans which is the foundational book of the New Testament as far as the Gospel of grace is concerned is the Pauline epistle for this time period.
Smyrna is connected with the spice myrrh used in burial. The Smyrna time period of the church is the time of great persecutions. It is the time when the word martyr which means witness became synonymous with one who died for their faith. Romans is also the Pauline epistle which fits this time period (see in particular Romans 8:32 – 8:39).
The Pergamos time period of the church is the time when the Church got married to the world for Pergamos means much marriage. In this time period, Christianity went from the persecuted religion to the accepted state religion of Rome through Constantine. When the Church compromised with Rome, its witness to the world was weakened by the acceptance of paganism as church practice. Almost overnight, statues to pagan gods became statues to honor the saints. Pagan temples became churches and many practices that cannot be found in the scriptures became accepted in the worship services of the Church. 1 and 2 Corinthians are the Pauline epistles that the church needed during this time. 1 Corinthians deals with such subjects as the preaching of the Gospel, questions about the Lord’s Supper, questions about worship, and also the resurrection. 2 Corinthians deals with questions about the ministry and also what a true apostle is.
Thyatira means odor of affliction and is the adulterous church of papal Rome. This is the time period where the worship of Mary really made inroads into the regular practice of the Church. It may be what this passage of scripture is referring to in a prophetic sense when it mentions that woman Jezebel leading the people to commit adultery. This passage also could be referring to the rampant sexual immorality that happened within the church.
Sardis means red ones. This is the time period when the church was the persecutor. It is inevitable that the adulterous church then becomes the murderous church. Think of David from the O.T. Sardis is the 5th church and 5 is the number of death in the scriptures. This church is also representative of the many dead churches of Europe and New England.
Philadelphia means brotherly love. This is the great missionary church with the open door. This is the church of Luther, Calvin, and Knox. It is the church of the Wesley’s. It is the church of David Livingston and Hudson Taylor and the Judson’s. Christ opened the evangelistic door of opportunity and the church went through it time and again. This is the church that kept God’s word (v. 8). It is the church of the reformation that found its strength in Christ alone.
Laodicea means civil rights or rights of the people. This is the church without Christ. It is the church of the health and wealth movement; also called the prosperity gospel. This is the church which corrupted God’s word for the sake of money. This is the church which has decided that she does not need her husband. This church does not long for the glories of heaven because they have their best life now.