The Meaning of the Mystery

“Write down what you have seen—both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen. This is the meaning of the mystery of the seven stars you saw in My right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
Revelation 1:19-20 NLT

Following his encounter with Jesus amongst the lampstands, John received his commission. He was told to start writing. And he was told specifically what to write about – events as they happened, and also those that will happen at some time in the future. In other words, all the events as they unfolded in the vision he received. I’m sure John was only too eager and willing to do what he was asked; after all, I’m sure he would have realised that he was in a special place. And Jesus started by explaining what the seven stars he had in His right hand represented and what the significance was of the seven gold lampstands. 

There was obviously a special interaction, not just between John and Jesus, but also between John and the Holy Spirit. The vision that unfolded before John either took place over quite a long period, enabling him, and giving him time, to go through what would have been a laborious process of writing everything down longhand, or it happened quite quickly, as in a dream, and the Holy Spirit then helped him recall everything he needed to record. Either way, it was some vision. It was so vivid that John must have had difficulty separating his incarceration in exile on Patmos with the events that were unfolding before him. And what a contrast!

Jesus explained the mystery that was appearing in the vision, that the seven stars were the angels appointed to the seven churches, represented by the gold lampstands. Angels. Created but immortal beings residing in heaven with God and on hand to always do His bidding. And here we have seven of them overseeing churches. Does that imply that all of our churches have a spiritual covering from an angel? They may well do, but I’m sure there will be those who disagree. Some might even question the existence of angels, but in John’s vision there were many of them. But in the next chapter of Revelation, we see Jesus delivering messages to the angels of the seven churches. Were these the angels from Heaven? Or was the message being delivered figuratively to the leader or leaders of the churches? Or was the message being delivered corporately to the entire church? Personally, I discount the idea that the angels were getting a bit of a telling off. So I lean more towards the leadership and the church as a whole. Some commentators have worked out that the Greek word for “angel” could also mean “messenger”, who could be a human being. But in the end, the important thing is to listen to the message, however it is delivered, and act accordingly.

As pilgrims, we all need a bit of correction from time to time. Isn’t it strange that humans have a tendency to rationalise their thinking to a place of comfort, and even error. It’s important that we read God’s Word because it is from God Himself. We read in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work“. Notice that Jesus delivered a message to the churches, not to individuals, so it is also important that we pilgrims get plugged into a Spirit-filled church somewhere. There are other pilgrims on the same journey as us and together we keep to the right paths through the minefields of life.

Dear Lord. We thank You for Your Word, the Bible. And I pray that as we continue to journey through the Book of Revelation, You lead us and guide us in Your ways. In Jesus’ name. Amen.