More than two thousand years ago the Apostle John had a vision he received from the Lord. He was told to write seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor. Out of the seven churches only two received commendation from the Lord. The rest were letters of warning.
Compromise and disobedience, combined with a lack of knowledge of the Word of God, has placed the 21st century church in a precarious situation. The letters to the seven churches are a message for this generation during the last days. He who has an ear will know what to do and act accordingly.
1. Who Are the Seven Angels?
Who are the seven churches of Revelation? Are they still in the world today? Do these letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor represent real churches or a type of church (i.e. Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, etc.)? Are the warnings relevant to this generation? Are they for each of us as individuals? As we look carefully through the letters of Revelation, we will discover the answer to all these questions and more.
But before we can get to any of the letters, we must first determine who the angels were that the letters were written to. It has been suggested that the angels represented the head or bishop of each church. Others suggest that the angels were actual angels that stood guard over these churches. First, let’s look at the word angel in both Hebrew and Greek.
Angel in Hebrew is Malack and means messenger. Angel in Greek is Angelos and also means messenger. So, what kind of messages do angels bring?
1. They bring good news (Luke 2:8-14; Luke 1:26-38).
2. They also bring bad news (Genesis 19:15).
3. They communicate God’s will to men. (They helped reveal the law to Moses in Acts 7:52-53, and served as the carriers for much of the material in Daniel and Revelation).
4. They give instructions and act as guides (Matthew 1:20-21; Acts 8:26; Acts 10:1-8).
5. They strengthen and encourage God’s people (Matthew 4:11; Acts 5:19-20; Acts 27:23-25).
The most important thing about angels is that they continually praise God and carry out His commands. They ascend and descend to earth quite frequently. (John 1:51; Genesis 28:12; Revelation 7:2). We cannot see them, but they are here watching over us for God and I assume reporting back to Him on how we are doing (Job 1:6).
Besides being messengers for God, angels have different jobs. For example:
1. God has used angels to provide for physical needs such as food for Hagar (Genesis 21:17-20), Elijah (1 Kings 19:6), and Christ after His temptation (Matthew 4:11).
2. They act as protectors (Daniel 3-6; Matthew 2:13).
3. They can deliver people from danger. They released the apostles from prison in Acts 5 and did the same for Peter in Acts 12.
4. They care for God’s people at the moment of their death (Luke 16:22).
There are also different types of angels:
1. *Cherubim (Ezekiel 1)*
2. Seraphim (Isaiah 6)
3. Archangels – We know of two, – Michael (Daniel 10:13; Jude 9) and Gabriel (Daniel 9:21; Luke 1:19; 26).
*For the record, cherubim are not cute little babies. There is nothing in scripture to indicate they are. In fact, the reaction of most people who saw angels was to fall down in fear, not reach out and say, “Coochie-coo!” The cherubs you see on Valentine’s Day cards or at Christmas are from the minds of the card companies who created them, nothing more.
Before the edict is given to write to the churches, John sees the following in his vision in Revelation 1:12-16:
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
It’s no wonder that in the next verse, John “fell at his feet as though dead.” But Jesus touched him and said not to be afraid and then in verses 19-20 he says the following:
Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
To be clear, John wrote about the past, the present, and the future. Then Jesus explained the mystery of the seven stars and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the lampstands are the seven churches.
While the appearance of angels was usually frightening enough to make people fall to the ground, these supernatural beings sometimes took on human form to contact people (i.e.: Genesis 18-– when Abraham welcomed three men). According to Strong’s Concordance, the word for messenger and angel were used interchangeably. For example, in Malachi 2:7 we read the following:
For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth.
Again, the Hebrew word for angel, Malak, means messenger. It should be no surprise to learn that the word messenger in Hebrew is also Malak. If we read the verse above with that in mind, we get: “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the angel of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth.”
Does that mean our pastors are angels? Not in the real sense of an angel, no. However, it does reveal how important God considers those who bring messages from Him, either through His Word or through prophecy. People, therefore, should not be so quick to say, “I have a message from the Lord,” unless they are very sure it is the Lord who is sending it.
While it is possible that each of the seven angels referred to in Revelation are actual angels disguised as humans, I think it is more plausible that the angels referred to are the elders of each church. It would make no sense for John to write letters and send them to real angels. For that matter, why would Jesus have John write everything down when the angels were always before Him in heaven?
In addition, we must also remember that John was writing to real churches during his era. The fact that these letters have been preserved for us is just a bonus. No, it makes more sense that the “angels” are the messengers in the church who will read the letter aloud to the congregation to bring forth the message from God.
Now here is where confusion sets in. After the apostles died, other men who had known them took up the reins to keep the church functioning. Catholic tradition suggests there was a bishop for each church. For example, Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch, Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna, Timothy was the bishop of Ephesus and so on. However, there is no mention in the Bible that Timothy was appointed as a bishop. Not by Paul or anyone else. In fact, there are no scriptural references that say each church should have one man as a bishop. The truth is, the role of a bishop over the church did not start until at least 154 A.D. more than fifty years after the Apostle John died. That’s plenty of time for wrong doctrine to enter the church.
Therefore, the angels referenced in the letters to the seven churches could not be bishops because one bishop for each church did not exist at the time the Apostle John wrote Revelation. And since most churches today don’t have bishops in the formal sense like the Catholic Church, how do these letters relate to us? Who are the bishops of the church today? We’ll discuss that in the next chapter.
About the Author
Laura J. Davis is a former singer/songwriter who took to writing full-time after emergency surgery caused the loss of her singing voice. Her singing career had lasted for 30 years. Her first book, Come to Me, won a Reader’s Favourite Award. In 2013, her bible study Learning from the Master, Living a Surrendered Life, was featured in Book Fun Magazine as the non-fiction book of the month first place winner. She has had stories featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul Married Life and Chicken Soup for the Soul the Dating Game. Her latest book, He Who Has an Ear, is a look at who the seven churches of Revelation are today. Laura is currently featured in the Author’s Network book, 50 Great Authors You Should be Reading. When Laura is not writing she is teaching bible studies and reviewing books.
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