Revelation 1: The 7 letters
There are many different views on the book of Revelation but one that has a lot of sway in Pentecostal churches is the seven age theory. A teacher of this view is William Marion Branham, a Pentecostal healer who claimed that he had the gift of knowledge and so could name the illness of a person, increase their faith and then they would be healed. Branham eventually lost the plot and gave birth to the Oneness Pentecostal church/ the Jesus only movement. It is presently doing well in places like Iran. He taught that God was one person who took on three offices, that the Father was the same person as the Son but in a different office or function, veritably denying the Trinity. He claimed that only a prophet could properly interpret the book of Revelation denying that one needed to interpret Scripture with Scripture. This is a methodological difference because we have stressed that the OT is the dictionary for Revelation. Branham claimed that God had revealed the key to interpreting the book of Revelation to him. That the 7 churches of Asia Minor in fact represent 7 church ages, the present age being the age of Laodicea. And he interpreted the seven stars of the seven churches to be the apostle of each age that was able to capture the book of Acts for their time. And so he divided history up in the following way.
53-170 was the age of Ephesus with Paul as the star/angel.
170-312 was the age of Smyrna with Irenaeus as the messenger.
312-606 was the age of Pergamum and Martin was the star.
606-1520 was the age of Thyatira and Colomba was the man.
1520-1750 was the age of Sardis and Luther was the star.
1750-1906 was the age of Philadelphia and Wesley was the angel.
1906-the present is the age of Laodicea and I think Branham thought he was the man of this age.
So by this reading the 7 ages have to run their course before the rapture and the breaking of the 7 seals can begin, and then a more traditional Dispensational view kicks in. He sees the Laodicean age as the darkest seeing a great apostasy preceding the end. And he believed/predicted that the rapture would happen in 1977.
The question that puts all of this hogwash to bed is how did the original 7 churches who received the 7 letters understand them? One would think that the most ‘normal’ part of the book of Revelation would go untouched by man’s lunacy but even in clear and obvious letters man has interposed his own views. This is our last sermon on Revelation for the year and so I will not get started on the 7 letters so today we will be doing a general analysis and introduction and next year look at the 7 letters themselves. We look then to their structure, their interconnectedness with the rest of the book and their universal application.