Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“John, to the seven congregations that are in Asia . . . .”
“On the Lord’s day, I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, ‘What you see, make into a book and send it to the seven Assemblies: to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamon, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.’ ”
We know that in the Roman province of Asia, there were, in the days of Paul’s labor, other congregations than the ones mentioned here by the Spirit to John. Of special note is the congregation in Colossae, to whom Paul’s “Letter of the Colossians” was written. What happened to these other congregations? Why were they not mentioned by the Spirit? It is highly unlikely that the Lord would have had nothing to say to them if they were still there.
The most likely explanation is that they had become so dead in spirit that there was no point in Jesus saying anything to them. For the seven congregations that the Lord does mention, there was hope, though in a couple of those cases, the hope was fading fast.
Paul, as an aged man, wrote to Timothy, his “son in the faith”, lamenting that every congregation in the province of Asia had forsaken the truth of Christ that he had brought to them -2Tim. 1:15). This statement, however, should not be understood as meaning that those congregations in Asia had ceased from worshiping God altogether. That never happened. A gospel of Christ continued, no doubt, to be proclaimed, but if it was not the holy gospel that Paul preached, then it really was no gospel at all -Gal. 1:6-7). To be sure, other apostles had come to them and had taught them “in the name of the Lord”, but if God did not send them, they were not apostles at all -2Cor. 11:13). Paul described them as “preaching another Jesus, whom we have not preached” with the result that those dear children of God “received another spirit” and believed “another gospel” -2Cor. 11:4).
The congregations who were not corrected by Paul and who continued honoring that “other Jesus” and continued being led by that “other spirit” and continued to support those “other apostles” who were proclaiming “other gospels” became “other congregations”, no more of God than were the other Jesus, the other spirit, the other apostles with their other gospels.
This is most likely the reason that Jesus mentioned only seven congregations to John. Years before, Paul had said that all the congregations in Asia had turned from the truth; in other words, they were no longer “of God”. These seven congregations that Jesus recognized, then, were probably remnants of those earlier and larger congregations. They were still in communication with the real Jesus, serving him in the real Spirit of God, listening to men who really were men of God, and still believing in the gospel Paul had long ago preached to them. The “other congregations” were probably still there, claiming to be of Christ and functioning as religious bodies, but not “in spirit and in truth”, which is the only kind of worship that God recognizes as His.
What we call ourselves or think of ourselves determines nothing in heaven. No creature in heaven is influenced or confused by human talk. God and His Son certainly are not. Jesus demonstrated that while he was living here among us. The fact that Jesus in Revelation acknowledged to John those seven congregations tells us that they not only considered themselves to belong to God through Christ Jesus but that God also considered them to belong to Him through Christ, which is the only thing that really matters. Does God think what you think about yourself?
There is no disputing the fact that other congregations of “believers” than these seven existed in the Roman province of Asia at the time Jesus spoke to John and that they also claimed to belong to God through Jesus Christ. But to them, Jesus had nothing to say. And of them, Jesus said nothing. What, then, are we to learn from what Jesus did not say to John?