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15.1.1. Representative of All Churches of All Ages

The seven churches appear to typify a broad range of strengths and weaknesses which are found in any church in any location in any age. Each letter to an individual church is given for the benefit of all seven churches of the Revelation (and all saints of every age: Rev. Rev. 2:7+, Rev. 2:11+, Rev. 2:17+, Rev. 2:29+; Rev. 3:6+, Rev. 3:13+, Rev. 3:22+).1

This theory says the churches, which were actual existing congregations, are like seven types of churches that one might at any given time in the history of the church. The historicity of these assemblies is not denied, but this view holds that the Lord chose to single them out because they represent seven kinds of problems that typify various congregations of believers.2

Of this larger Epistle, namely the Apocalypse itself, these seven Churches are the original receivers; not as having a nearer or greater interest in it than any other portion of the Universal Church; though as members of that Church they have an interest in it as near and great as can be conceived (Rev. Rev. 1:3+; Rev. 22:18-19+); but on account of this their representative character.3

These letters have the same universal application to the saints of all ages as the epistles written to various churches in the NT:

These seven Epistles, however primarily addressed to these seven Churches of Asia, were also written for the edification of the Universal Church; in the same way, that is, as St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, or to Timothy, or St. James’ to the Dispersion, were written with this intention. The warnings, the incentives, the promises, the consolations, and, generally, the whole instruction in righteousness in these contained, are for every one in all times, so far as they may meet the several cases and conditions of men. . . Thus far there can be no question. “All Scripture,” and therefore this Scripture, “was written for our learning.”4

It also seems probable that these churches were the ones with which John enjoyed the closest relationship.5


Notes

1 “The [Muratorian Canon] states in lines 47-59, “. . . For also John, in his Apocalypse, while writing to the seven churches, yet speaks to all.””—Mark Hitchcock, “The Stake in the Heart—The A.D. 95 Date of Revelation,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 132.

2 Mal Couch, “Ecclesiology in the Book of Revelation,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 125.

3 Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 5.

4 Ibid., 222.

5 “These adequately represented the various spiritual situations of the surrounding churches at the time. Then too they were probably the ones with which John enjoyed the closest relationship.”—Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 64.