The Lord decided to divide the history of the Christian Church into seven periods -- periods which are unique in their experiences, history, and doctrinal understandings. He gives each of these periods a symbolic name and introduces us to them in Rev 1:11.
Jesus watches over these seven churches as symbolized by his being "in the midst of seven candlesticks," "The seven candlesticks ... are the seven churches" (Rev 1:20). He had said previously that His disciples were "the light of the world" (Matt 5:14) and that they were candles on a candlestick (Matt 5:15, 16). He continues this symbolism here in Rev 1:12, 13.
In Rev 1:16 we see Jesus holding seven stars in His right hand. Stars are used in Scripture to symbolize teachers -- good and bad. (Dan 12:3; Jude 13; Num 24:17; Matt 24:29; Rev 12:1)
In Rev 1:20, the seven stars are said to be the same as the seven angels mentioned in Chapters 2 and 3.
The implication is strong, and history has confirmed it, that during the Gospel Age God sent seven men, each at the appropriate time, to be messengers (the word angel means "messenger") to the seven stages or periods of the church.
Three Times Seven
Between Chapter 2 and Chapter 11, the seven periods of church history are repeated three times under different symbols. The seven churches are listed in Chapters 2 and 3; the seven seals are listed in Chapters 5 through 8; and the seven trumpets are found in Chapters 8 through 11. Here is a chart showing their locations:
Notice that the Churches, Seals, and Trumpets (each of which takes us through the Gospel Age in seven successive steps,) have introductions. This is true also of the seven last plagues of Chapter 16. (Chapter 15 serves as their introduction.) No other part of Revelation has this kind of introduction (save the introduction to the whole book 1:1-8).
ONLY the four series of seven parts each have this peculiarity (Churches, Seals, Trumpets, and Plagues). Why is this?
It is likely that the Lord wanted to unify each series so that we understand that the parts of these series DO NOT stand alone. In each case, one part affects the next, and it is the totality of each series, which gives us the true story of the Gospel Age or Gospel Age Harvest. The introductions give us vital lessons applicable to all parts of the series.
Also, when we study the three introductions to the Churches, Seals, and Trumpets, we find the evidences we need to show us that one series DOES NOT FOLLOW another series historically. Rather, the first church, first seal, and first trumpet are all SIMULTANEOUS (and so on through the series). This might well escape our attention without a study of the introductions.
It is important for each individual to be convinced in his own mind regarding the histories and lessons of these Churches, Seals, and Trumpets.
It is a good idea to READ each of the Churches, Seals, and Trumpets MANY TIMES. The purpose for this is NOT study or understanding, but merely familiarity. The more familiar we become with the words of this prophecy, the more sensitive we will be to subtleties when we try to interpret the words.
We recommend reading the first church, first seal, and first trumpet together. Then do likewise with all the others in sequence.
Because the architecture is important, so also is SEEING it. Marking your bible clearly helps to find things and to see relationships. Thus this would be a good time to mark your Bible so that each of the seven Churches, Seals, and Trumpets are clearly visible to your eye as you look through Revelation.
I personally have done this, I found these little round self-adhesive stickers, and I numbered and color-coded them to correspond to each of the appropriate churches, seals, and trumpets, this makes it much easier to jump from the church to the proper seal and trumpet in each series.
In our next post we will take a look at Section 2 (Chapters 14 -19).
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