The book of Revelation is addressed: “to the seven churches in Asia” (1:4), their names are listed in Rev. 1:11. Why did John write to these seven churches, when we know for certain there were other churches in Asia (for example Colosse)? Some feel that these churches are the historical ones that represents all churches of all ages. They limit the interpretation to the first century. The tone of the book looks beyond the first century to the Second Coming of Christ and the events surrounding it. Others feel these churches will come into existence again during the great tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ, and the letters are written to them. This is speculation since we have no evidence that they will come into existence and they lay in ruins today. God can surely resurrect these cities and churches, but at this point it is speculation. There is no doubt that these churches did exist when John wrote this book. It should not be doubted that this letter was sent to the churches addressed. It is far better to hold that these historical churches are representative, but representative of what?
The Historical school (as well as many futurists) sees these churches as representing stages of church history—Ephesus being the apostolic age and ending with Laodicea being the last age of the church. Again this is speculative. The people in the dark ages, the reformers of 1500’s, as well as Bible students today have said they are the lukewarm Laodicea church or the last age of the church. We know this cannot be true. This view has called for a realignment of the churches to reflect new historical situations as time goes on. No, it is better to hold that John wrote to real contemporary churches with the real problem of suffering and persecution staring them in the face. All the works of the prophets writings have been directed toward real people with real problems at the time of authorship, but much of what they wrote looked beyond their times. Revelation is no exception to this prophetic principle.
I see these churches as representing two things: (1) In general, the type of churches that have existed throughout the history of the church, and still exist, especially in troubled times. These churches in John’s day are beginning to feel the wrath of Roman power and persecution, which foreshadowed the tribulation. (2) They represent primarily the tribulation churches that will go through the coming great and terrible day of wrath. Much of the language addressed to these churches is Jewish in character. The terms (such as the synagogue of Satan, Satan’s throne, I will make war with them with the sword of my mouth) pertain in tone and content to the Great Tribulation period. After the Rapture of the Church, the body of Christ (1 Thess. 4), God will again deal with the nation Israel (Rom. 9-11) and the nations. It is the tribulation church that will face the wrath of Satan and the great time of suffering. What John writes is applicable to the church of his day and ours, but the primary representation and interpretation belongs to churches of the Tribulation and Kingdom.