When Christ speaks, we are to listen

When Christ speaks, we are to listen.  In an age where we don’t think much about authority and we overvalue human autonomy, we would do well to remember that.  Revelation 2:1 says, 

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. – Revelation 2:1

Here begins the letters from Jesus to the seven churches, which we shared in a previous bleat are representative of the church universal.  And first, he writes to the church in the city of Ephesus, a metropolitan city, full of idolatry and sin.  

Notice there the words, “the words“.  This is the authoritative tool of the Savior.  The words need no qualification.  What He speaks is gospel, as the old saying goes.  What He speaks is true and authoritative.  

And these words are “of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands“.   In chapter 1, the Savior is seen in the midst of the seven golden lampstands and holding the seven stars in His right hand.  (The lampstands are the churches and the stars are the angels/messengers of those churches.)  Here, we see stronger language.  Here, the word translated “holds” is stronger than the word translated “held” in chapter 1.  This one is more of a firm hold, like when Jesus says that no one can take His sheep from His grasp.  

And where He may have been standing in the midst of the lampstands in chapter 1, here it says He is walking.  Walking in activity.  Active involvement among His lampstands.  Jesus is not merely watching from afar like a lifeguard.  He swims in the pool as an instructor.  

So, when He speaks, we listen.  We listen attentively.  We listen humbly.  And when we say, “speaks”, here, we mean from the Bible, the complete and perfect revelation, the one that is living and active, through which He speaks authoritatively.  

So, when we read the Bible, we listen.  When someone preaches from it faithfully, we listen.  When the Holy Spirit brings to mind a passage we know well, we listen.  For it’s not mere words.  It is the words of Him who grasps the seven stars and who walks among the lampstands.  

How to apply the seven stars and lampstands in Revelation 

The book of Revelation, packed with symbolism, can be a challenge to read and apply.  For example, Revelation 1:20 says,

As for the mystery of the seven stars that 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 are the seven churches. – Revelation 1:20

The Savior explains the vision

Jesus has just instructed John to write what He was about to reveal to him, and to start, He begins to explain the meaning behind what John saw in verses 12 and 16.  It was a “mystery” to John, and now the Savior would explain it. 

The seven stars

Notice that the “seven stars” were in His right hand.  The right hand symbolizes power and authority.  He has power and authority over these seven stars. 

What are these seven stars?  The Savior says, “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches”.  There has been much discussion about what these angels are.  Some think it refers to actual angels, i.e. something like guardian angels.  But it doesn’t make sense that the Lord would rebuke the angels for the church’s misgivings.  Others say that the angels are presbyters or pastors or messengers.  (The word translated “angels” means simply, “messengers”.) 

In any case, the messengers here are representatives of the church, as we see in the fact that the letters written to them coming up in the next couple of chapters is not written to one person, but to the whole church.  But human leaders are accountable, as well, so it would make sense if these messengers were actually elders of the churches.  

The seven lampstands

The Savior says, “…and the seven lampstands are the seven churches”.  So, the stars are the angels of the seven churches and the lampstands are the seven churches themselves.  

But surely there were more than just these seven churches.  And surely Christ had more than just the seven stars in His hand.  

Seven is a number of perfection and completeness, so what likely is going on here is that these seven stars and seven lampstands are representatives of the church as a whole, at the time and throughout church history.  The temptations they faced and the weaknesses they had are not unique to them; we face them even today.  

And so as we review the letters in the coming days, may we not distance ourselves from these seven lampstands.  Instead, we should ask how this book may speak to our churches today.