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Revelation: Chapters 2 and 3 Timelines

The vision in Revelation 1 reveals the Lordís nature, and Revelation 2 and Revelation 3 reveals how the Lord relates to each church through His nature. The seven candle sticks represent the character and challenges faced by each church type from the day of Pentecost until the rapture. All of the seven churches are contemporary with one another at the writing of these letters, and their close proximity geographically represents the close knit properties of the church as the body of Christ. The Lord is speaking to several layers in the church, the church as a whole throughout its time from Pentecost until the rapture, to each individual church congregation, and to each believer and non-believer within a church congregation. This is shown in the attached graphic where the entire church body, the body of Christ, covers the entire church era from Pentecost until the time of the rapture. The representation of the body of Christ is presented as a conical shape to illustrate how the Lord Jesus Christ relates to His church throughout the entire church age through the consistent message of His gospel to all mankind. These letters to the seven churches then represent the smaller part of the cone, and finally ending at the point, where the Lord is addressing each individual within the congregation to make a choice, and to those who have the spiritual ear to hear the Lord's words, to heed them.

There are several interpretations on these letters to the seven churches. One is the view of some that these letters reflect the future church history, leading up to the rapture of the church. This historical division may help to explain some of the events that have been observed through time.  Work has been done to critically divide the church age into seven segments from when it began at Pentecost, to the present.  Each time segment is related back to a specific church the Lord described.  That church would then characterize a time period.  Though some try to fix a historical time period to each church age, named after one of the seven churches, it is not necessarily the best method to fully explain what is observed today.  According to this method, we should be living in an age characterized by the church of Laodicea.  However, there are geographical regions in the world where Christians are being severely persecuted, and could never be compared to Laodicea.  

A second view then, is that characteristics of each of the seven churches is concurrently manifest across the church worldwide. Not only is this represented about a geographically dispersed church, but also through time.  The time of the church age would encompass the birth of the church at Pentecost in Jerusalem, to the present, until some future time when the church is raptured to be with the Lord. It is not difficult to see some areas of the church today under severe persecution as Smyrna, and others who are lukewarm such as Laodicea.

A third view that is advanced on this website, is that the letters represent not only the Lordís words to the churches that were physically present when the book of Revelation was written, but also the characteristics and relationships of churches through time. This mix of the first two points is probably a more satisfactory method of understanding to whom and what groups of people through time these letters were addressed. As inferred earlier, the seven churches are identified, as the often repeated series of sevens, indicates, the seven churches represent a completion of a thing, in this case the role, characteristics, and relationship of the churches to Christ, and His judgments and guidance to them.

The following series of graphics are an extension of the timeline introduced in Revelation 1.  The difference is the exaggerated time period representing the church age.  This age begins with the day of Pentecost and ends with the rapture of the church.  To provide a context, the following is the base timeline for Revelation is repeated here, but is explained in the section of this site describing the basic structure of Revelation.  

The next chart is a summary of the words of the Lord to John, instructing him to write the things that he has seen, the things that are, and the things that shall be, Revelation 1:19.  As can be seen below, the church age falls within the category of "the things that are."  The rapture of the church is what falls under the term used by the Lord, "hereafter" as translated in the King James Version (KJV).  Again, the difference between this chart and the previous one, is the expansion of the timeline for the period covering the church age.  This is done for purely chartmanship, and to enable the description of the churches.

This next timeline provides the view of the church age with the list of the seven churches.  There is also the boundary of time illustrated that shows the era of the church age.  The church began with Pentecost, though some take it back earlier to when the Lord was raised from the dead.  The church age will then end with the rapture of the church.  Anyone alive at this great event, the rapture, and are left behind will go through the seven years of tribulation, which will be the most horrific time that the world will have ever experienced.  Those left behind, who then believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and profess His name, will be part of the group that has been termed "the tribulation saints."  At the bottom half of the chart is a horizontal double arrow.  This indicates the kingdom of God, which during the church age is spiritual, but with the return of the Lord with all His saints, Revelation 19, His kingdom will be established physically on this earth forever, it will have no end.

The following graphic builds upon the previous timelines by adding the view of the church age being divided into seven parts.  The seven time periods are assigned the church name whose characteristic best describes that era, based on what is written in Revelation 2 and Revelation 3.  Gary Cohen provides an excellent overview of these subjects.  The following charts the divisions in church history that is accepted by a number of well-known individuals through the church history.

The following is another view that is illustrated to show that the characteristics of the seven churches are always present through time.  As a result, there are seven solid arrow heads extending across the entire church age, Pentecost to the rapture.  

The final graphic is a compilation of the first two views.  It is illustrative of three points.  First, the letters were written to the seven existing churches at the time John wrote the book of Revelation, and therefore had direct relevance to them.  Second, as one culls through church history, there is an arguable division into seven segments of the church age.  Third, the dates that had been suggested by Philip Schaff to describe the church age, they have been modified in the following graphic to show the end of each church age as the rapture.  This is from the melding of the differing views described above, to illustrate the contemporary existence of all seven characteristics of the churches through time.  It is thought that these seven characteristics of the churches will continue on until the rapture of the church.  Therefore, there is an abrupt end of the church age.  

As is pointed out in this site on several occasions, the beginning of the tribulation is not marked by the rapture of the church, but by the signing of the seven year covenant between the government that the Antichrist represents and Israel.  Simultaneously, there will be the opening of the first seal of the seven sealed scroll that the Lord takes from the hand of the Father on His throne.  It should also be noted that the thought forwarded by this site is that the church will not go through the tribulation, since the church is not appointed unto wrath, Romans 5:9, 1Thessalonians 5:9-11.


Copyright (c) 2001, 2005, 2008, J.E. Huntley.  All rights reserved.
last edited August 2013

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