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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. - Revelation 1: 20

At this point "The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand and the seven golden lampstands" is explained. The Greek word musterion, means "anything hidden." In the New Testament it generally refers to a truth not revealed in the Old Testament, but now made known.

Jesus employed this word in Mark 4:11 in connection with parables - designed to transmit truth to those who will receive it and hide it from non-believers.

The word is mostly used by Paul, especially in relation to the Church (Ephesians 1:9-11; Ephesians 3- whole chapter, esp. vv. 3,4,9; Ephesians 5:32 - including the Rapture: the end-point of the Church Age - 1 Corinthians 15:51); temporary blindness for Israel (Romans 11:25); and the Gospel being taken to the Gentiles (Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 1:26-27; 4:3; 1 Timothy 3:16).

In Chapter 3 of our book, Connecting the Dots: A Handbook of Bible Prophecy, we show how this word "mystery" is used to convey vital truth about the Church, which is a major part of God's plan that was not revealed in the Old Testament. The Church evangelizes the world during the period of the blindness of Israel, However, there is a definite beginning and end of the Church Age, and those who do not distinguish between Israel and the Church cannot understand prophecy.

John did not use the word "mystery" in his Gospel or epistles, but he wrote it 4 times in Revelation: in this verse, where it most definitely applies to the Church; and in 10:17; 17:5 and 7 - where it describes the conclusion of certain aspects of the end-times.

Next we see the first of many places in the Revelation where the book defines its own symbolism. "The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches," simplifies the vision considerably but we must still choose between two possible meanings of the word "angel". The primary use of the Greek word aggelos is "messenger." In the Bible it generally conveys the idea of supernatural messengers. In various parts of Revelation we will see the word used for both human messengers and that separate class of created beings called "angels." Angels are spirit beings, but they can take on human or other forms when they appear to men. There is much to discover about these creatures, but we will save our discussion of good and bad angels for later portions of this commentary.

In the context of the Seven Churches, it seems most logical that the angels are human messengers, or the pastors of the churches.

The last part of this verse is another explanation of an earlier symbolic expression. It says, "and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches."

The word "church" (Greek ekklesia, meaning "assembly") was a common word in Jesus' day for any gathering of people. It was used especially to designate a public meeting, or what we might call today a "town hall" meeting. Jesus endowed the word with His own special significance when He announced that He would form His "Church" (Matthew 16:15-19). Ecclesia is formed from two words (ek, "out of" and kalleo, "to call"). Therefore such an assembly is "called out" for some special purpose. This is an excellent description of Christ's Church, since each member of it has been "called" by God (Romans 1:6-7; 8:28-30; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 24-26; 2 Timothy 1:9). This calling brings to mind Our Lord's careful personal selection of each of His disciples. He said "The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Paul said plainly, "There is none who seeks after God" (Romans 3:11), but Jesus loves us and initiates the relationship with us.

In verse 12, where the seven lampstands were first mentioned, we noted that this verse (20) specifically explains the symbolism. Each lampstand represents one of the seven churches of Asia that are about to receive special messages from the Lord. The image of light is used universally for the concepts of truth, beauty, security, and whatever is good. Light dispels the darkness, which in turn is symbolic of falsehood, and evil. Jesus taught this principle in His Sermon on the Mount.

14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. - Matthew 5:14-16

Next: Revelation 2:1


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