THE ANGELS OF THE CHURCHES
I read to you the first vision the apostle John received from Christ on the Isle of Patmos where he was imprisoned for preaching the gospel of Christ. J.W. McGarvey, a well recognized Bible scholar among Churches of Christ, made this informative statement, “We learn from Ireneus, a noted Christians writer who was born near the beginning of the second century and lived to the end of it, that the Book of Revelation was written in the the year 96 of our era; and as the apostle John was very nearly of the same age with our Lord, he must have been about 96 years old at the time.” In the third verse of this opening chapter, a blessing is pronounced upon those who read, hear and keep the words of this prophecy. This means it was given for instruction and edification. It is the one book in the Bible which begins and ends with a blessing pronounced on those who read and keep.
what is written is written there in(Revelation 1:3, Revelation 22:7).
The chief matter to be discussed in this message is the first vision John received from the glorious Person who appeared to John and said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega the First and the Last. What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia.” Then John turned and saw Jesus standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands or candlesticks, and He had seven stars in in His right hand.. Jesus interpreted this first vision for us as recorded Revelation 1:20, “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.” It is evident at once that the first vision is about the Lord's church which He purchased.
with His own blood.
Before I analyze the Lord's interpretation, I want to say a few words about the aged apostle John who was banished by Rome to a sun-scorched island called Patmos It was about a mile wide and eight miles long, and was situated some 70 miles southwest of Ephesus, off the coast of Asia Minor. John could see the coast of Asia from the Island. He had been working among the seven churches to whom this book was written. He had been banished to this Island as part of a persecution which had been visited on these seven churches, and perhaps other congregations in Asia. We can only imagine how lonely it must have been for a man of his age to be banished from his Christian friends and , from the churches he had been teaching and serving. I wonder how he must have felt
when each Lord's Day rolled a round on that lonely rocky island. There was no assembly of Christians where he could go and enjoy their fellowship in the worship of God. There was no Lord's Table spread where he could commune with Christ in remembrance of His death.
There is one thing of which we can be certain. He had never missed observing the Lord's Supper on every Sunday for the past 60 years, unless providentially hindered. But now this privilege was not available to meet with his fellow Christians to sound the praise of God, engage in holy worship, and break the loaf with fellow Christians. However, we learn from the text that he was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, just as we would expect. Although by himself, he was in full communion with the Spirit of God. Tourists are shown a cave where supposedly John received the visions in the book of Revelation, but there is no evidence to support the claim. I visited this cave, and it is considered such a sacred spot that no pictures are allowed to be taken . To me it was just another cave, for no one knows exactly where on the island John received the visions.
With as much time as John had to spend on that I Island I feel certain he did a lot of reminiscing and looking back to happier times in serving the Lord. He could remember the day he was fishing with his brother James, and Jesus came by and said, “Follow Me.” That ended his fishing profession. That very day he left all and followed Jesus. How could he forget that day Jesus took him, James and Peter to a high mountain, and there he saw the body of Jesus transfigured or changed into a supernatural form. On that same occasion he saw Moses and Elijah from the other world talking with Jesus about His coming death. How well he must have remembered that day when he and Peter went up to the temple. Peter was preaching his second gospel sermon when suddenly they were seized by soldiers and thrown into prison, and the next day they preached Christ to the entire Sanhedrem of Israel. How well he must have remembered one day fifty years ago when his own brother James was beheaded by Herod. and became the first apostle to die for Christ. With the long life he lived he had many precious memories, some pleasant and some unpleasant.
His close and faithful friend Peter had been in paradise almost thirty years, and Paul had been dead about the same length of time. Most likely it was the death of Paul that caused John to leave Israel and come to Asia Minor and make his home in Ephesus. He came west to assume apostolic
oversight of the Gentile churches Paul had established in the western part of the world. The city of Jerusalem had been in ruins for over twenty five
years, and his own nation had been scattered all over the world. This brief biographical resume of his past life gives us some idea of how many precious memories this man had.
The second part of this message has to do with the first vision of Jesus in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. The silence and loneliness of Patmos was broken by the sound of a mighty voice which rang out loud and clear, like the tones of a trumpet. John turned to see the speaker whose voice had startled him, and his eyes rested upon a vision of surpassing glory. He beheld seven lampstands made of pure gold, and among them walked a person said to look like the Son of man. The candlesticks were more properly lampstands, stands upon which lamps are set to give light in a room. It would appear that there were seven separate lampstands, each with it own light, and Jesus walked in the midst of them. He looked sonewhat like Jesus, but not like the Son of man as He had been seen on earth, when His glory was veiled in a fleshly body. He looked more like the Christ he saw on the mount of Transfiguration when his body assumed a heavenly form. A sword was going from His mouth which represented the word of God., and in His right hand He was holding seven stars or lights.
Jesus explained the meaning of this vision in Revelation 1:20, “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.” The seven lampstands represent, first of all, seven Churches of Christ, clustered close together in Asia Minor, none of them but a short distance from Ephesus. Jesus sent each of these congregations a personal letter. He had inspected the spiritual condition of each church, complimenting them for their faithfulness and rebuking them for their unfaithfulness. These seven letters were inspection letters; Jesus was inspecting His church as it existed at the close of the first century. Some He gave some the grade of A, others C, some D, and some F. All had some good points and bad points. While He wrote to only seven congregations, yet these seven were representative of all Churches of Christ world-wide as the first century came to a close Furthermore, they were fitting representatives of all Churches of Christ wherever they existed. One of the lessons we learn from this first vision is that Christ continually inspects His churches, and approves of faithfulness to Him and disapproves of unfaithfulness to Him. He still walks among His churches and still inspects His churches.
While we learn that the church was not perfect at the close of the first century, nevertheless, His church is the most important organization on the earth. The question comes to me about this part of the vision, “Why did Jesus select a golden lampstand to represent each one of His churches? I will tell you the reason. Every New Testament church represents Him, and it is planted in every location and city to give light, even as a lampstand held up light in that day and time for all in a room or apartment. In the judgment of the great Head of the church, His churches on earth must not be represented by a tin lampstand, or one of pewter, or one of brass, or even one of silver. He is teaching the whole world that a church that bears His name and honors it, cannot be represented by anything except pure gold. The Son of God says nothing less than gold can be a fair symbol of a Church of the living God. A true and faithful Church must be a bright and wonderful thing in the eyes of heaven. Such common expressions are heard today as, “It makes no different what church you are in. The church can't save you. One church is just as good as another church.” Don't you believe it. . The Bible says that the the Lord adds to the church daily such as are being saved.. Be careful what you say about the Lord's church.
Finally, Jesus said the seven stars in His right hand represent the angels of the seven churches. Each one of the seven letters Jesus wrote was addressed to the angel of each church. The Greek word translated angel in this verse is aggelos. That Greek word is brought over into English as angel. Angel is really a Greek word, not an English word, but we have made it an English word by transliteration, that is, substituting an English letter for each Greek letter. The word literally means a messenger, no more and no less. John the Baptist was called an aggelos, a messenger(Mark 1:2). Paul sent Epaphroditus, a preacher, to the church in Philippi and said he was their messenger or aggelos(Philippianss 2:25). The word angel as used in the Bible simply means a messenger, but it may be a heavenly messenger or a human messenger. The Greek word commonly translated angel is so rendered correctly when it refers to one of the heavenly beings, but when it refers to an earthly being it is always rendered by the word messenger. We are to determine whether angel or messenger should be the word in English by ascertaining whom it represents.
Now Jesus sent these seven letters to the angel in each church. So each church had an angel there in the congregation. I read nothing in God's word about a heavenly beings as a members of a New Testament church, but I do read of Paul sending various preachers to that church and this church and called them the messenger, or aggelos of the church. They were
messengers of God and delivered God's message to Christians.. An angel was a heavenly being and dwells in heaven. God did send them to earth with messages and so they were heavenly messengers. When Paul sent preachers to correct matters out of hand in Corinth, he said to the church, “If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ”(2 Corinthians 8:23,24) This passage proves that preachers, teacher's of God's word or anyone who is in charge of instructing the church on a continual basis is an aggelos or an angel as used in this passage. It was the human messengers of God that Jesus wrote these letters to, and the preacher or teacher was to present each letter to the churches and help them to understand it, even as we do to this day. Jesus did not write these letters to some heavenly messenger in heaven but to a human messenger in each congregation.
Paul styles gospel preachers, elders and others who teach the word of God as messengers of the churches and said they are the glory of Christ. Jesus in this vision depicts them as bright stars, clustered about His right hand. This is Christ's estimate of all who are ministers, preachers, teachers, elders, and male and female Sunday school teachers who handle the word of God for the church. If they are bright stars in he eyes of the great Head of the Church, do not speak lightly of them. Honor them and love them. Christ prizes them highly. What would happen if all this teaching group in the church was taken out of it? What would happen to the rest of us? Think of all the great teachers of the church who have had a part in bringing you to Christ and have had a part in making you a faithful member of the Lord's church. Remember them, and be thankful that they came into your lives.
This church is one of the Lord's churches. It may be small, but so were most of these churches mentioned in this first vision of the Revelation.. Don't speak lightly of it because it is small. Never speak lightly of one of His churches. There have been a number of outstanding messengers who have worked with this church over the years, and this church has done much more missionary work over the years than many churches have done. It has had a largde part in sharing the light of the gospel with the world, and that can never be taken away from this church. The study today should bring to mind the many messengers of God who have worked with this church, and let us remember and be thankful.. These were the bright shining stars that were in the right hand of Christ. Those bright stars are continually in His right hand and will be so long as time exists. Paul and the other apostles were these bright stars and only John was left. Their light went out, but others took their place, and there will always be bright stars in the right hand of Christ.