Revelation 1:20 – The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches…
Revelation 1:20 – The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands…
Recall from Revelation 1:1 that “revelation” means to uncover, disclose, unveil, bring to light, or reveal something not known or hidden. God reveals mysteries through the Spirit:
1 Corinthians 2:7, 10-12 – But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory…. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
The Spirit revealed to John that the seven stars are angels of the seven churches, and the lamp stands are the seven churches introduced in Revelation 1:11.
As a side note, the number seven is exhaustively used throughout the Revelation. In Scripture, the number seven denotes complete perfection, as demonstrated in the following passages:
Leviticus 23:15 – And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed.
Esther 1:5 – And when these days were completed, the king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were present in Shushan the citadel, from great to small, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace.
Revelation 15:1, 8 – Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete…. The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.
In addition, God took seven days to complete creation, which was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Click here for more on prophetic numbers.
As mentioned earlier, the word translated “angel” simply means “messenger.” One has to look at the context to know whether the angel is supernatural or human. In this case, it is not clear. Opinions differ on who these angels are.
Some believe these angels are of the heavenly host – angels, both holy and fallen – because they are the “stars” in the following passages:
Job 38:4, 7 – “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth… when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
Daniel 8:9-11 – And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great…. And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them. He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host….
Amos 5:26 – You also carried Sikkuth your king and Chiun, your idols, the star of your gods, which you made for yourselves.
Revelation 9:1 – Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit.
There are some who look to Matthew 18:10 and Psalm 91:11, which show that people have guardian angels. Some have gone a step further to suggest that churches might also have guardian angels. While interesting, this idea is purely speculative.
On the other hand, the same Greek word “aggelos” translated “angel,” or “messenger,” is also used to depict men delegated to bring a message, as shown in the passages below:
Matthew 11:7, 10 – As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John…. For this is he of whom it is written: Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.
Luke 7:24 – When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?”
Luke 9:51-53 – Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.
Galatians 4:14 – And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
James 2:25 – Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
Some believe the text in Revelation 2-3 indicates that the angels are held accountable along with the congregations of the churches. This would support the belief that the “stars” are men. However, it could also be argued the message was simply given for the angel, or messenger to pass on with no personal accountability on their part, which would support the messengers being heavenly angels. Either way, it is not clear.
If these messengers were held accountable as many believe, then it would make sense that they would have been the overseers or leaders of each church, who then passed on the message to their congregation. Church leaders, or elders are to shepherd, or take care of and teach the flock through the message of the Word:
1 Peter 5:1-4 – The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
Incidentally, the heavenly host in Joseph’s dream represented the patriarchs:
Genesis 37:9-10 – Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?”
The perceived height of physical stars can allude to higher stature or self-exaltation:
Job 22:12 – “Is not God in the height of heaven? And see the highest stars, how lofty they are!”
Isaiah 14:13 – For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north.’
Obadiah 1:4 – “Though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” says the LORD.
Moreover, Jesus, who is the “Chief Shepherd” is also called a “Star”:
1 Peter 5:4 – …and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
Numbers 24:17 – “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.”
In short, a star can depict a supernatural being, but it can also represent someone of prestige or nobility. While not dogmatic, I believe the stars being human make the most sense, both as guardians and respected leaders over the flock, and logistically in delivering the messages. Also, since John got the message from an angel (Revelation 1:1), it seems odd that John would then share the message with seven other angels to share with the churches.
In the next two chapters, Jesus addresses the seven churches listed in Revelation 1:11. While, these were literal churches with unique issues, it is clear that the Lord’s instruction was also intended for the Church body at large. Revelation 1:1 shows that Revelation was given for Christ’s servants, or followers. Furthermore, each church was not to receive only their part of the letter addressed to them, but also the entire Revelation.
As we continue our study it is important to remember the “golden rule” of interpretation:
“When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context , studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.” – Dr David L Cooper
First, we will look at the literal churches and the issues that they had. Then we will see how this is applicable to the Church body. Last, we will take a look at a possible spiritual interpretation held by many prophecy teachers; in that the letters to the churches encompass the entire Church history, divided into seven different time periods. On that note, while the spiritual interpretation is interesting, and appears to fit historically, it is speculative and should not overshadow the clear literal meaning directed toward the churches and the Church body at large.
A mystery is a hidden message. Not for the world, but for the church. The mystery is Jesus. In this case, it is the Truth and the Word that is kept secret. Jesus is widely proclaimed, but few really have the understanding or knowing of Him.
“The angels”: The word literally means “messenger”. Although it can mean angel, and does throughout the book, it cannot refer to angels here because angels are never leaders in the church. Most likely, these messengers are the 7 key elders representing each of those churches (see note on verse 16).
Whoever, or whatever, they are, they spread the Light. Jesus is the source of this Light. He is holding and protecting these stars in His right hand. If these are ministers of God, they have no power in themselves. The Light that they give out comes from Him.
This is one of the reasons that I believe preachers should be moved upon by the Holy Spirit of God, and receive their message for the church through the Spirit from God. I do not believe that ministers should buy, or be sent, messages from other people to be used to give to the church. Jesus’ Spirit is in each church, if we are His. He knows the problem of each specific church on a given day, and He alone knows what message needs to be brought.
These seven candlesticks, we are told here, are the seven churches symbolic of all churches for then and now. A candlestick is not a light. It is the holder for the Light. These candlesticks lift the Light up for all to see. That is the exact purpose of the church, to elevate the Light, Jesus. These candlesticks have to be cared for and fueled to be able to burn.
The minister and the church are difficult to separate. We know this is speaking of the church and the ministry of the church. I believe that the stars are ministers held in Jesus’ hand.
I believe these letters were written to these particular churches describing conditions that were going on then. But perhaps a more important message for us to see, is the message in each of them dealing with the problems in our churches right now.
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We are now living in the absolute End Times as per biblical prophecy.
Our Lord Jesus Christ – King of Kings. 2nd Coming and return is IMMENENT!.
Please do not waist another a minute.
No matter what religion you serve, there is only one God.
If, you want to be assured that you will not have to endure the perilous times that will befall you.
Irrespective, of what sins you may have committed at any time of your life. If you humble yourself and ask for God’s forgiveness. He will forgive you and wash them all away and welcome you as his beloved son or daughter with open arms.
If you are not a child of Father God or have not asked Jesus Christ to come into your life yet?
I implore you to do this without delay.
Read this prayer of Salvation and ask God to forgive you now and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour and you will be assured of eternal life.