All Things Rabyd
The first thing we need to dismiss is the idea that the churches represent some seven ages of the church because if we are going to interpret Revelation with an eye on how it was originally understood we need to realize these seven churches were real churches with real people with real leaders. Jesus is addressing them and not some vision of the future for the church universal.
So what then do we know about them?
The church of Ephesus was addressed in its own book Ephesians by Paul and Paul left Timothy there to be its bishop at the time of the Pastoral Epistles. The temple of Diana was its central core and became a place of dispute between Paul and the silversmiths in Acts. In Roman times the city was the capital of Asia Minor. It was ultimately the area’s richest and most influential city. It remained so until the Goths sacked it in the third century AD.
The Church of Smyrna
The church of Smyrna is shrouded in mystery because very little is known until later when church fathers like Polycarp and others write of it. At the time of Revelation being written it was constantly in competition with its two neighbors Ephesus and Pergamum to be the best city in Asia Minor. It had a significant Jewish colony and so the church was probably made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Other than that the Bible and other sources tell us little of the church at the time.
The Church of Pergamum
The church in Pergamum is not as well known either. The city was constantly a place that changed hands but it had one main feature which was its temple to the god Zeus. It was a proper roman city and the church in it would have been faced on every side with this fact.
The Church of Thyatira
Thyatira is mentioned as the place Lydia was from who met Paul and Silas when they were in Philippi in the book of Acts. The city was known for the dyes and textiles, thus Lydia was a seller of purple. The town was devoted to this trade so all of its occupants were tradesmen both Jew and Gentile.