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The Seven Churches of Revelation


The Seven Churches do not represent seven ages of the Church


The greatest mistake many prophecy “experts” make about the Seven Churches of Revelation is teaching that they represent seven ages of the Church. This is a false teaching and a complete fabrication by John Nelson Darby without any evidence to support it from anywhere in the Bible. The Church age is spoken of in the Scriptures only as one complete age and never as more than one. “And lo I am with you always, even to the end of the (Church) age.”  Matthew 28:19.


A problem for the Pre-Tribulation Rapture


The seven ages were invented by Darby because these particular Scriptures posed a problem for his fallacious Pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine. If taken as clearly stated, these letters portray a Church that is being warned and prepared for the test of the approaching Tribulation period. Unless an alternative interpretation was fabricated, the letters to the Seven Churches would destroy any notion that the Church will not be here during the Apocalypse, hence no Pre-Trib rapture either. Interpreting these as seven church ages pulls the Seven Churches back into history instead of on the cusp of the Tribulation. A clever trick, to be sure, but wholly unbiblical and contradictory to what the Seven Letters actually describe.


Free to understand the real message of the Seven Letters


The problem with this false teaching is that it corrupts and hides the true purpose of these seven letters to the Seven Churches of Revelation. Many believers have been confused by Darby’s teaching on this and so don’t realize what the Lord Jesus really wants to teach us here. The lessons we need to understand from these seven letters is of vital importance to the Church as we approach the Tribulation period.


Much like a “State of the Union” Speech


The Seven Letters could be described as a “State of the Church” message. In these letters the Lord is telling us as the Church (or churches) where we stand at this time in history and what we need to do to become spiritually prepared for His Return. The Letters to the Seven Churches are prophecies about the End Times Church. The same way John the Baptist was sent to prepare Israel for Christ’s first coming, these letters were written to the Church of the Last Days to prepare us for His second coming.


Christ’s immediate Return is declared to the Seven Churches


The Lord makes it very clear to all Seven Churches that He is about to return:


“I am coming to you”...“I am coming to you quickly”...“hold fast until I come”...“you will not know what hour I will come to you”...“I am coming quickly”...“I stand at the door.” Revelation 2-3.


When we see the events of the Tribulation begin to take place we can know that the Coming of Christ is near,  and when all the events of the Tribulation described in Matthew 24:4-29 and the cosmic disasters of the Sixth Seal have taken place, we know that He is right at the door. This is the true definition of imminence according to the Bible, not the false definition that supposedly has gone on for 2,000 years according to the pre-Tribulation theory.


“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Matthew 24:32-34


“This generation” is us!


“This generation” is the generation who will be here when “all these things take place.” We are the generation Jesus was talking about. Since Jesus is going to return in 2030, our generation will not pass away until all the events of the Seven Seals, the Rapture, the First Resurrection and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ have taken place.


Revelation was written specifically to End Times believers


It is clear that the Lord is writing to these seven churches as if they were all about to go into the Tribulation period. In fact the whole of the book of Revelation is presented in this “futurity” literary style, as if John were seeing it all take place right then. Much like the book of Daniel, Revelation has apparently been “concealed and sealed up” until the End Times (Daniel 12:9), that is, a fully accurate understanding of it would be given only to those believers who would be here when it all occurred. This is why Revelation has been the most misunderstood and misinterpreted book in the Bible.


The Apostles were told of the Lord’s Return, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” Acts 1:7. This makes perfect sense because first century believers did not have to prepare for the Tribulation because it wouldn’t happen for another 2,000 years. The Church through the centuries didn’t have to understand the times of the Apocalypse but we do. We are the generation that this will all happen to. Like giving a passenger their ticket just before the plane departs, a full and accurate understanding of Revelation is now being disclosed to believers that past generations were not privileged to see.  


Only those who heed the words of Revelation will be blessed


“And behold I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” Revelation 22:7.


The prophecy “experts” who continue to reject Christ’s warnings to the churches to prepare them for the approaching Apocalypse will remain in a state of confusion about this book.  Only those who actually heed the Revelation of John will understand it fully and be blessed by it. Those who brush it aside by denying the Church will be here during the Tribulation will be dangerously unprepared. They will easily fall victim to the Antichrist and may not live to see the day of Christ’s return. Just as those who do not heed the warnings of an approaching storm are the ones who will be its victims. The people of Noah’s day did not heed his warnings and were swept away. The people of Jeremiah’s day did not heed his warnings and were taken away. “Behold I have forewarned you.”  Matthew 24:25.


The Great Apostasy


Any believer can learn a great deal about the End of Days by studying the book of Revelation, but only those who actually heed its words will fully understand it and receive its full blessing. Those who don’t cannot expect to survive the Tribulation and be here when Christ returns. One of the great apostasys of our generation is the false doctrine of the invisible Return and Pre-Tribulation Rapture. It’s a dangerous contradiction to Christ’s straightforward teachings on the End Times. It may prove catastrophic for the millions of believers who don’t expect to be here when the Antichrist arises.


The pandemic of “Darbyitis”


This “malignant power,” as Charles Spurgeon called Darbyism, is like a contagious virus that is infecting most of the evangelical Church today. Our task is to do everything we can to cure this pandemic of “Darbyitis” with prophetic doctrine that comes directly and solely from the written Word, not filtered through some faulty system of theology like Dispensationalism.


Time to wake up, repent and prepare


Revival is the theme of Christ’s letters to the Seven Churches. Nothing is sugar coated. High praise and stern warning are given. Each church has its own set of shortcomings or circumstances to address. Wonderful, distinctive rewards are promised to those who heed His words. It is clear the Lord wants His Bride to be ready for His return but He also wants to build her character and spiritual depth to face the unprecedented challenges of the Tribulation.


Victory in the Tribulation will come from heeding Christ’s words


“They (the brethren) overcame him (the Dragon) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life, even when faced with death.” Revelation 12:11.


“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2. NRSV


The identity of the Seven Churches of the Last Days


The exact identity of each of the Seven Churches may not be readily apparent. Whether they describe churches in the seven regions of the world (the seven continents) or seven types of churches found throughout the world or something else, may not be clear as of yet. At this point I would personally see them as describing the seven churches in the seven major regions of the world.


The Church of Philadelphia is unique in that it is the only one of the seven that is promised to be kept from the test that is coming upon the whole world. “Because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name... I also will keep you from the hour of testing hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” Revelation 3:8,10. They will  be spared the worst of the Tribulation period. This may be because they will have already been tested by trials and have been proven faithful, even though they are not a powerful church. Pre-tribulation advocates insist that only the Philadelphia church is the church of the Last Days, and so is evidence that the Church will not go through the Tribulation, but this contradicts what the text actually says. You could hardly describe the Church in America as having little power. The Lord is telling all of the seven churches that His is coming to them quickly. It it clear that He wants them all to understand (not just the church of Philadelphia) that all seven churches will see Him shortly.




The Seven Churches do not represent seven ages of the Church. This unbiblical theory is a complete fabrication of John Nelson Darby to prop up his fallacious Pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine. Taken as clearly stated, the letters to the Seven Churches are prophecies about the Church as it will be just before the beginning of the seven year Tribulation. In these letters the Lord is instructing the Last Days churches (our generation of believers) to prepare them for His imminent return and the test of the approaching Tribulation. These seven letters, as well as the entire book of Revelation was written specifically to the Last Days Church, but only those who heed the words of the prophecy of this book will fully understand it and receive its full blessing.   



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© Daniel Speck 11.4.13