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‘which said: "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea" …

… The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.’ ~Rev 1:11&20

Firstly, we need to understand that the seven churches mentioned above are real physical churches that were well known among the believers then. In the book of Revelation, though many observations of visions were made by John, we should not attempt to spiritualise these seven churches and treat them as visions. The Lord instructed John to write these letters to the seven churches in the province of Asia (Rev 1:4), therefore we can safely justify that they are actual local churches that existed during that time. Now, since there were so many local churches, what principles did the Lord use to choose these seven churches?

From the letter written to the church of Sardis, we know that these seven churches were not chosen because they were representative among the churches or because they were more spiritual than the other churches. With regards to the church of Sardis: the Lord said, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” Their deeds were found incomplete in the Lord’s sight and they were rebuked by the Lord. Should they persist in their deeds, even those that remain shall moan and perish. We can conclude that the seven churches were definitely not the most spiritual.

The Lord tells us that the seven lampstands represents the seven churches. As the seven lampstands illuminates the things around; in the same way, the seven churches shines and testifies for God in this fallen world. The number seven used in the bible represents perfection and these seven churches chosen by the Lord make manifest the attributes of the Lord perfectly. Some churches displayed Christ’s beauty in their strengths while the others made evident God’s grace and abundance through their weaknesses. Smyrna, for example, was a suffering church for Christ. In upholding God’s truth, they suffered immense persecutions and tribulations just as Christ had suffered death on the cross while upholding the truth. The church of Smyrna therefore proclaimed the sacrificial spirit of Christ as they endured all suffering for the sake of the truth.

In contrast, Laodicea’s deeds were neither cold nor hot, in spite of their spiritual poverty, they thought themselves to be rich and without lack. The Lord instructs them to repent, to pursue true riches – gold refined by fire. The Lord bids them to open up the doors to their hearts and let Him in; because having the Lord is equivalent to having attained all spiritual riches. The church of the Laodiceans hence revealed the rich abundance of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was not due to “something” that they had, rather it was because of the “something” they did not have that the Lord was able to reveal His perfect and all abundant life through their “poverty.”