In researching background information and reading through the letters to the seven churches there are many points and lessons to be taken from them by people from all schools of thought. To a large extent there is little difference in the observations and lessons that would be drawn out by people of various persuasions. However, among those of the historicist school, some have observed and concluded that the seven churches could be taken to represent seven different phases that the church (worldwide) has passed through in the last 2000 years.
In such thinking it might be observed that there are only two of the seven that received only commendation from The Lord, without rebuke. The church at Smyrna, which is said to represent the suffering church, particularly under the era of the cruel persecutions of pagan Rome and the Philadelphia church which could be taken to represent the church at the time of worldwide evangelism during the 18th/19th centuries, when so many gave their lives in other sacrificial ways. Following this line of thinking of course means that we are now in the Laodicean age!
These are of course, broad generalisations and it is always true that every ‘kind’ of church co-exists (in individual churches) in every age.
As mentioned above, some see the seven churches as representing the seven ages/phases of the Church age. Even if this was not a strictly correct interpretation it none-the-less provides a very good simplified summary of some key aspects of Church history. See below for the approximate dates and simple summaries.
Ephesus ~ AD 30 – 100
The apostolic era but with love growing cold by the end of the first century.
Smyrna ~ AD 100 – 313
A time of enduring the persecutions of the Roman Empire.
Pergamos ~ AD 313 – 500
Compromise and carnality reaches its full fruition and a completely fake Church has amalgamated Christianity (so called) with paganism.
Thyatira ~ AD 500 – 1517
The spirit of the previous Pergamos age pervades the entire Church (so called) for the next thousand years.
Sardis ~ 1517 – 1700
The reformation Church – a mixture of good and bad. Still holding a reputation of greatness but not all was right.
Philadelphia ~ 1700 – 1900
The Church of mission, reaching out in sacrificial, evangelistic love around the globe.
Laodicea ~ 1900 – Current Day
The modern, liberal, compromising, lukewarm Church.
Once again, it should be reiterated that each of these ‘types’ of churches can be found in every era but there is an overarching simple summary to be found in the above.