Bible Order: 2 Thessalonians 1–3
Chronological Order: Philemon 1, Colossians 1-4
Let Your Ears Hear
Today we read the first four letters to the seven churches. Understand that these are not letters from John but from Jesus Christ. John is delivering the message here in Revelation but it is Christ speaking. At times John is no more than the Western Union messenger boy delivering a message transmitted word for word by the Author. At the end of yesterday’s passage we were given some symbols. We do not have to guess at what these symbols are because John explains those symbols to us.
Revelation 1:20 ESV
“As for the mystery of the seven stars that 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 are the seven churches.”
So, seven stars are angels of seven specific churches. The word angel literally means messenger and here refers to the pastors of these churches. You might have thought that the word angel only refers to heavenly beings but it all depends upon usage since heavenly beings are not the only individuals God uses to deliver messages. Preaching the Word of God is delivering His message of salvation. Referring to a pastor or preacher as an angel is perfectly appropriate in such a context.
The symbol of the lampstands refers to churches. Churches are supposed to reflect the light of Jesus Christ. Earlier in yesterday’s passage we saw a reference to Jesus’ face shining like the Sun as He stood amidst the seven lampstands (Revelation 1:13-16). If Christ is not at the center of a church then it is not His church. If He is at the center of our churches then His light will shine forth.
Notice that in most instances Jesus starts with a word of commendation followed by a word of condemnation. There are, however, exceptions to this pattern. The churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia do not receive a word of condemnation. Philadelphia was a missionary church that was busy getting out the good news. Smyrna was a martyr church; you don’t condemn those that give the last full measure in obedience to their Lord. The church in Laodicea was apostate and as such received no commendation from the Lord.
In each of the seven letters to the seven churches Jesus promises blessings to “the one who conquers”. Whether it is a matter of repenting of sin, resisting sin, or persevering through persecution, you are more than a conqueror in Christ. There is nothing you cannot overcome in Him. To do so, however, you must submit completely to His authority. Is He truly Lord of your life – all of your life, not just the few hours you spend each week at church or in Bible Study or prayer?
Jesus wraps up each letter to each church with the warning “he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”. We may tend to think that each letter is only of value to the specific churches in the specific time they were sent. This warning tells us otherwise. While specific churches in a specific time are being addressed, there is something for the universal Church and individual followers of Christ to learn. In chapter 1 verse 3, John specifically tells us that what is written in this book is of value to all who hear and keep what is written herein.
Revelation 1:3 ESV
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”