I tend to believe these seven churches are also prophetic of the seven major periods of time in the history of Christianity. It also seems that there are churches today with the same characteristics of each named church in the passage. The church of Ephesus represents the church system after the apostles passed away and the leaving of their first love. I want to look at the church at Smyrna which represents the persecutions of the church by the pagan godlessness of the Roman Empire. During this time many Christians lived in cave like places known as the catacombs. I have seen them both in Rome and Salzburg, Austria. Many were tortured in places like the Coliseums of Rome and other places. What is unique about this particular church is that Christ does not reprimand them like He does five of the other six churches mentioned. I’ve heard a preacher once say that you don’t spank a sick baby. This could be an analogy of Christ’s compassion for the persecuted church.
The ten days of this persecution represent the time (possibly ten years) until the Emperor Constantine came along and decided to make Christianity the religion of the realm. Notice that Jesus describes Himself as the first and the last. This makes Him the One who has complete control. By the way, John wrote this long before any of this was happening. Jesus writes the word “I know.” There are many Christians in some parts of our world who are under great persecution and suffering today. Jesus would still say, “I know.” He understands suffering more than any other person in this world. You will notice their prize would be the ‘crown of life’, if they would be faithful unto death. It makes me wonder how faithful we would be if we in America were to undergo similar persecution?