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How did the Lord Choose the Seven Churches in Revelation?

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How did the Lord Choose the Seven Churches in Revelation?

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Jul 12, 2021

Revelation / Chapter 1 / V11&20

‘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 literal physical churches that were well known among the believers at the time of writing of Revelation. In this book, although what John saw were mostly visions, we should not attempt to spiritualise these seven churches and interpret 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 deduce that they are actual local churches. However, there were so many local churches during that time, 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 representatives among the churches or because they were more spiritual than the rest. 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 incomplete in the Lord’s sight and were rebuked by the Lord. Should they persist in their current state, even those that remain would moan and perish. Hence, we can conclude that the chosen seven churches were definitely not the most spiritual.

The Lord tells us that the seven lampstands represent the seven churches. As the seven lampstands illumine their surroundings, in the same way, the seven churches shine and testify for the Lord in this fallen world. The number “seven” is used in the bible to represent perfection, and these seven churches chosen by the Lord hence manifest the attributes of the Lord perfectly. Some churches manifest Christ’s attributes in their strengths, while the others manifest His attributes through their weaknesses. 

Smyrna, for example, was a suffering church for Christ. For the Lord’s sake, they suffered great afflictions and poverty. In the letter, the Lord told them not to be afraid of the coming great persecution for ten days from devil. Should the Smyrna believers be martyred for their faith, the Lord assured them that He would raise them up again. Christ was manifested as the Lord of life, and the Smyrna church had revealed His attribute through their strengths. 

In contrast, Laodicea’s deeds were neither cold nor hot, they were an unspiritual church. Although they were in spiritual poverty, they thought that they were rich and lacking in nothing. The Lord admonishes them to repent, to pursue true riches. The Lord bids them to open the door 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 abundant attribute of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was not due to what they “had,” rather it was due to what they “did not have,” that the Lord was able to manifest His rich and all abundant life through their “poverty.” 

The key to how these seven churches were able to manifest the Lord’s attributes perfectly lies within the seven letters. In the absence of these seven letters, the seven churches by themselves would not be possible to portray the perfect attributes of the Lord. Most importantly, the Lord ended every letter with: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Obviously, the focus of the seven letters was not on the seven churches but rather, the Lord’s true intention was to use the strengths and the shortcomings of these churches to fully reveal His attributes; so that these churches can become the learning examples for all other churches to follow and in turn becoming the true lampstand that shines for the Lord. Therefore, after we have read these seven letters, we should not adopt the wrong attitude, thinking that the letters only concern the seven churches and have nothing to do with us. The Lord has purposed the seven letters for all churches, and this includes us, hence we ought to reflect upon ourselves and become a church that pleases the Lord.

The second reason as to why the Lord chose these seven churches was because of the common spiritual conditions they shared with the churches of the End Times. The Book of Revelation records the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and His judgement of the world. After the letters to the seven churches in chapter three, from the fourth chapter onwards, it speaks of God’s judgement concerning the world. We know that the church age will end before the judgement, and the Lord wrote these letters to conclude the end of the Church as a witness to the world – following which the judgement will begin.

To the church of Sardis, the Lord said,

“You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead … Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.”

We can imagine when the letter to the church of Sardis was read before the congregation, what a great commotion it must have caused! The Lord pointed out to us that the majority in this church were mere Christians in name only – false Christians who did not possess true spiritual lives. Among them included the deacons, elders and pastors of the church – what a difficult truth to swallow! In such a huge church, the one truly saved, dressed in white, whose name is found in the book of life are but a few. This unbelievable truth is repeated before our very eyes today. So many mega-churches today may have a huge congregation, but on the inside, only a handful of them are truly saved. This corresponds with what the Lord had described concerning the churches of the Last Days: “You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” This is a sign of the Lord’s Second Coming, we who remain in the period of the Last Days, ought to take heed of the warnings of the Lord to the seven churches.