|I believe the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three represent seven successive periods of church history from Pentecost to the Rapture. This is what is called the "church age." Not every period stops at the beginning of the next period in history. These are the predominant characteristics in each period of church history.
1. Ephesus Period - Pentecost to approximately 100 A.D.
a. Ephesus means "Desirable One" or "Beloved."
b. Church had left its first love.
2. Smyrna Period - 100 A.D. to about 313 A.D.
a. Smyrna means "myrrh" or "bitterness."
b. Myrrh is a bitter herb which when crushed yields a sweet aroma or pleasant smelling perfume.
c. Church was being severely persecuted.
3. Pergamos Period - 313 A.D. to about 460 A.D.
a. Pegamos means "thoroughly married."
b. Church had compromised with the world.
This refers to the marriage of church and state. The Lord hates this. Revelation 2:15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Nicolaitan means "conquer the people." (the elevating of clergy over the people).
4. Thyatira Period - 460 A.D. to about 1517 A.D.
a. Thyatira means "perpetual sacrifice" or "continual offering."
b. Church represents Roman Catholicism in power.
The perpetual sacrifice refers to the Catholic Mass where they believe the wafer and the wine turn into the body and blood of Christ and they "sacrifice" Him at every Mass. This totally contradicts the Bible. Hebrews 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Roman Catholicism teaches terrible satanic doctrine and preach a false gospel. The people who are deceived by this false religion will be left behind after the rapture and have to go through the great tribulation (Rev. 2:22), and if they don't repent will be cast into the lake of fire.
5. Sardis Period - 1517 A.D. to about 1750 A.D.
a. Sardis means "those escaping" or "remnant" or "renovation."
b. Church represents Protestant Reformation.
I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead (Rev. 3:1). The Protestant Reformation has not succeeded in reforming Roman Catholicism. Many Protestants still hold Roman Catholic heresies such as baptismal regeneration (the belief that water baptism is absolutely necessary to be saved) and transubstantiation (the belief that the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper actually turn into the body and blood of Jesus Christ).
6. Philadelphia Period - 1750 A.D. to about 1920.
a. Philadelphia means "brotherly love."
b. Church represents missionary and evangelistic movement.
The Lord has opened a door for evangelism that no man can shut, this still continues today to some degree. The Lord promises to "keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." (Rev. 3:10) The hour of temptation refers to the great tribulation. This is strong evidence for a pretribulational rapture. Let us pray we are a Philadelphia type church.
7. Laodicean Period - 1920 to ? .
a. Laodicean means "judgment of the people" or "rule of the people."
b. Church represents modern lukewarm Christianity.
This is the period of church history we are currently in. Many churches today operate on the principle of "give the people what they want." People want to be entertained, they want short sermons, they want less emphasis on Bible study. The "ecumenical movement" is gaining momentum. This movement is seeking to unite all denominations without regard to doctrinal truth. God hates lukewarm religiosity, and His judgment will fall on any church that compromises with evil.
Revelation 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Many, if not most, people who say they're Christian today are really not saved at all. We must be careful to practice biblical separation from liberal, apostate individuals or groups. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 plainly states that the believer must not be "unequally yoked together (fellowship, association or identification) with unbelievers. . ., " but is to ". . . come out from among them, and be ye separate." A fundamentalist must never join with any man or organization where those represented are not clear in their testimony of the new birth, or their strict adherence to the truth of the Word of God. Any common religious or spiritual endeavor (worship, evangelism, prayer, education, relief, etc.) with those who have rejected Bible truth is in direct conflict with this Biblical commandment of separation if we participate with them.