Write therefore the things which thou sawest, and the things which are, and the things which shall come to pass hereafter; the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks.

The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks are seven churches.

Revelation 1:19‭-‬20 ASV

This is John’s commission to write the vision for the benefit of the seven churches, and for all generations.

Of course, the three things mentioned which John was to write have often been understood as an outline of the book, the things which he saw referring to Revelation 1, the things which are pertaining to Revelation 2 and Revelation 3, and the things that shall be “hereafter” referring to the balance of the prophecy.

This classification does not help much in interpretation.

Furthermore, the word “hereafter” is used eight other times in Revelation 4:1; 7:1; 7:9; 9:12; 15:5; 18:1; 19:1; 20:3!

It is very difficult to reconcile this repeated use of “hereafter” with the theory that everything in the book was fulfilled “shortly” after it was written.

This verse gives us a three-fold outline of Revelation.

It is better to take the words “things which thou sawest” to mean the whole of John’s vision.

It is the view of this interpreter that in each of the cycles covered by the prophecy there are things past, present, and future in all of them.

For example, the judgment, mentioned over and over again, is a future event; and it is mentioned no less than seven times, each mention of it coming in a different section of the book.

All kinds of efforts have been made to identify these “angels” of the seven churches as the ruling bishop, the pastor, the chief elder, or other human representative of the church; but such a view cannot be otherwise than incorrect.

Whatever may be the exact conception, “the angel” is identified with and made responsible for the church to a degree wholly unsuited to any human officer … he is punished with it; he is rewarded with it.

The angels are the symbolical representatives of the churches … in toto.

The angels then are all those members of the church who are actively engaged in carrying out God’s commands … in any or all congregations throughout the world.

Christ holds them in the hollow of his hand and gives them the strength and protection that only He can give.

In keeping with this interpretation is the fact that in spite of the seven letters being directed in each case to “the angel” of the church, it is not an angel, but the church itself which is addressed.

“Hear what the Spirit saith to the churches” is the injunction repeated no less than seven times, applying in each case to the message that was written to “the angel” of the various churches.

It is clearly the members of the church who are addressed; hence, the conclusion must be that in some kind of metaphorical language, the members are individually represented under the figure of an angel, that is a star, in Christ’s right hand.

The consideration should also be noted that, if any such thing as a metropolitan “bishop” had been intended by this, there can be no doubt whatever that the primitive church would have preserved this title for “bishop.”

It was noted under Revelation 1:13 that in the vision, these churches are not joined in one corporate unity, as was the case with the Jewish candlestick, familiar to all as depicted on the Arch of Titus. No.

They were separate and independent, indicating the autonomy and completeness of each local unit of the church of Christ.

Also, there is another lesson to be received from this, when the illustration is compared with the words of Jesus who warned that a person’s religious life, his spiritual life, should not be hidden under a bushel, under a bed, or under a vessel; but that it should be put “on a stand!” (Luke 8:16 and its parallels).

The application is that a truly spiritual life is always identified with the local congregation of the Lord’s people.

In plain words, this simply means that every Christian should “put his membership in the church.” If he does not do so, he is not likely to have any spiritual life whatever within a very short time.

It is characteristic of Revelation that, even after it has been “explained,” the mystery and uncertainty often remain.

It must be admitted that the interpretation we have received concerning the “angels” of the churches still leaves many questions about it.

Significantly, this is true even after the heavenly voice has itself told us what the stars in Jesus’ hand represent.

He concluded the review with the solution that both the lampstand and the angels represent the churches.

The lampstand represents the outward organic life of the church; the star symbolizes the angel which is the invisible spiritual life of the congregation.

And HE said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.
Mark 16:15‭-‬16 ASV
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