Today, I want to focus on Revelation 1:20 and a brief introduction of chapters 2 and 3. Revelation 1:20 says, “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 which thou sawest are the seven churches.”
Verse 20 is what I call the explanation verse. I have always believed that the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself and its true! When we find things in the Bible that don’t make sense, usually there is another verse that explains it. That’s the case here. We are told that the stars in the right hand of Jesus represent the messengers or pastors of each of the churches and the candlesticks represent the actual churches.
Now, let me take a moment to introduce chapter 2 and 3 where we see the seven churches. There are three things that we must first know about these churches before we proceed. First, they were literal churches in Asia Minor. Second, they represent a dispensation, time, or age of the church from the time of Christ to the present. Third, a little bit of each of them can still be found in churches today (i.e., some churches have left their first love, others have fallen into dead orthodoxy, and many have accepted the doctrines of men over the clear teachings of Scripture). We will discover these three things as we go through chapters 2 and 3 together.
Another thing to note about these churches is that their names are very important. Each name correlates to the age or time in which it represents. Ephesus means Desirable. It represents the apostolic church of the 1st Century. Smyrna means Myrrh. It represents the persecuted church of 2nd and 3rd centuries. Pergamos means Marriage. It represents the compromising church that started around 345 A.D. under the leadership of the Emperor Constantine when he created the first church-state relationship by establishing not only political Rome but also a spiritual one. Thyatira means Continual Sacrifice. It represents the church of the Dark Ages. Sardis means Remnant. It represents the church of the Protestant Reformation. Philadelphia means Brotherly Love. It represents the true church or the revival church. Laodicea means People’s Rights or Rule. It represents the lukewarm church of the last days in which we live.
Another interesting parallel is the relationship between each of these seven letters and the seven Kingdom Parables found in Matthew 13. These parallels will be mentioned in some of the churches. It’s a great study to do on your own.
Another point that I want to cover briefly is some background on the church. The church began with Jesus. He said in Matthew 16:18, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Understand that when Jesus said this, it was brand new! There was no such thing as a church in Jesus’ day; only synagogues, the temple, and the Tabernacle in the Old Testament.
The church upon this Earth will end at the rapture at the end of the church age. That will happen in Revelation 4:1. When the rapture does happen, I really don’t think that the world for the most part will realize it, because so much of the organized church will still be here. That sounds weird until you realize that there must be a distinction made between what many refer to as the organism and the organization.
The Bible tells us that the church has within it both wise and foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-13), faithful and lazy servants (Matt. 25:14-30), and wheat and tares (Matt. 13:24-30). The wise virgins, the faithful servants, and the wheat all represent the true church of Jesus Christ which is the organism or Body of Christ. The foolish virgins, the lazy servants, and tares all represent the false church which is the organization.
The organization is man-made. It is of the world; while the organism is the true body of Christ made up of the redeemed. When the Lord returns for His church, He is only going to receive the wise, the faithful, and the wheat. He will leave behind foolish, the lazy, and tares. The organism will be taken and the organization will be left. Which one do you belong to?