Are the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3 Prophetic? -- By: James L. Boyer
GTJ 6:2 (Fall 85) p. 267
Are the Seven Letters
of Revelation 2-3 Prophetic?
The letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2–3 outline the course of Church History from the first advent of Christ to his second advent. This interpretation does not compromise the doctrine of imminence since the prophecy is implicit and thus not discernible until its fulfillment has been accomplished. Some have failed to see the correspondence between the characteristics of the seven churches and the history of the church because they have failed to recognize that the seven churches are true churches (λυχνία, ‘lampstands’).
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Traditionally, dispensational premillenialists often have seen in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2–3 three interpretations which, taken together, comprise the meaning of the passage. The three interpretations may be called the historical interpretation, the typical or representative interpretation, and the prophetic interpretation.
The historical interpretation understands the seven churches to be seven actual historical churches in provincial Asia in the first century. Some of them are mentioned elsewhere in Scripture (Ephesus and Laodicea) while others are known from church history. There seems to be almost total agreement on this interpretation; the only view known to the present writer that would deny it holds that the seven churches are seven Jewish congregations in the future Tribulation period.1
The usual interpretation sees these churches as seven types of churches in any age. That is, these churches exhibit characteristics which may be found in any church of any time or place. This interpretation is also nearly universally held by all dispensational
GTJ 6:2 (Fall 85) p. 268
premillenialists and does not in any sense replace or contradict the historical interpretation.
Third is the prophetic interpretation which additionally sees a prophetic or predictive element in these seven letters. Each church in Revelation 2–3 exhibits qualities and conditions which become predominant in a certain period of church history from the first advent of Christ to his second advent.2 Thus, just as there are types of churches, there are types of church periods.3
These three interpretations are not antithetical; not many interpr...
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