Series: The seven churches of Revelation
timeless message of Jesus Christ to his Church
note: This is the first in a series of eight articles that will
be run weekly, except for World Missions Editions.
Every follower of Jesus Christ
should have a compelling interest in the Book of Revelation. It was written
specifically to the church of Jesus Christ. Its messages to the seven churches
are both anchored in history and applicable to the church today.
of the glorified Son of Man
a prisoner of the Roman government, John had been exiled to the
small island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea just off the coast of
present-day Turkey. Though banished on earth, John was not banished
from heaven. On this lonely and desolate island, through the Holy
Spirit, the Lord Jesus was revealed to John in His glory.
It was while John was caught up
in the Holy Spirit on the Lord’s Day that the Lord revealed to him the
future events that would usher in the kingdom of God. The Lord has made provision
for His church to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), and it is in this anointing
that we may know the experience which John described as being “in the
Spirit” (Revelation 1:10, NKJV).
Closely observe the Christ that
John now beheld:
1. “Clothed with a garment
down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band” (1:13).
Christ is no longer wearing the simple garb of a carpenter. During the last
view the world had of Him, He had been stripped of all His clothes and nailed
to a cross. Now He is clothed in regal garments that depict His heavenly ministry.
2. “His head and His hair
were white like wool” (Revelation 1:14). This description of Christ
is similar to the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7. His deity, eternity, wisdom
and knowledge, symbolized by His white hair, are the same attributes as God
3. “His eyes [were] like
a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14). John had seen the look of compassion
in the eyes of Jesus on many occasions, but now he sees his Master’s
penetrating gaze that searches the depths of His church. “There is no
creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes
of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
4. “His feet were like fine
brass, as if refined in a furnace” (Revelation 1:15). Jesus’
feet gave evidence that He had trod the furnace of affliction
with His children. He moves among His church to exercise authority
and to walk with His people through all the vicissitudes of life.
(See Isaiah 43:2,3.)
5. “His voice [was] as the
sound of many waters” (Revelation 1:15). In his Gospel,
John declared that when the Son of God speaks to the spiritually
dead, those who hear live (John 5:25). The time will come when
the Son of God will speak to all who are dead physically, and
they will come forth from the grave to be judged (John 5:28).
Today, Christ is speaking to His church through the Holy Spirit:
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to
the churches” (Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22).
6. “Out of His mouth went
a sharp two-edged sword” (Revelation 1:16; see 19:15 and Hebrews 4:12).
The Word of God can cut to wound or cut to heal. With this sword Christ will
destroy His enemies, and with it He will protect His church.
7. “His countenance was like
the sun shining in its strength” (Revelation 1:16). Here
is Christ in His heavenly estate “ascended far above all
the heavens, that He might fill all things” (Ephesians 4:10).
From this exalted position the Lord Jesus governs His vast universe
and oversees His church on this earth.
of Christ in the midst of His church
turned I saw seven golden lampstands” (Revelation 1:12).
John clarifies for us the symbolism
of the seven lampstands when he records Jesus’ statement that “the
seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20).
Christ chose to use the symbol of a golden lampstand to depict the church
of the Lord Jesus Christ. Gold is a very precious metal, and it represents
the worth that only Christ can put in His church. Because of what Jesus Christ
has done for us, we do have value. It was with precious blood (of incalculable
price) that we were redeemed. Like the lampstand, the church does not produce
light. It is only a container, a place where the light is set. Christ is the
light and His church is a lampstand on which His light is to shine through
us. In this sense we can “shine as lights in the world” (Philippians
2:15). The church can properly be called a light bearer for it bears the light
of Christ who is the “light of the world” (John 8:12).
The seven churches are obviously
representative of other churches. These were not the only churches in Asia.
We know of others such as Colossae, Hierapolis, Troas, Miletus, Magnesia and
Tralles. Seven is the number that stands for completeness, and these were
selected because they represent the conditions that can be found among all
churches throughout church history from the first century until now.
“In the midst
of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man” (Revelation
Many believers today, like the
disciples before Christ’s resurrection, do not understand the reason
why Jesus had to return to heaven. He said to the early disciples, “It
is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will
not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).
How is it that the glorified Christ can be found in the midst of the seven
representative churches? It is because of the coming of the Holy Spirit who
is the Spirit of Christ. How was it possible for the Holy Spirit to be sent
to us? It was through the heavenly ministry of the One who baptizes in the
Holy Spirit. Had Christ remained in His earthly ministry, He would not be
able to minister to the church universal.
of Christ and the leadership of His church
seven stars are the angels of the seven churches” (Revelation
Some teach that the seven stars
are literal angels, but we do not find angels in the leadership of the church
anywhere in the Scriptures. And, Christ would not be using John to send His
Word to angels to in turn be relayed by the angels back to the churches.
These angels, or messengers, represent
the pastoral leadership of the church. Christ’s message is addressed
directly to the pastor, who is responsible to see that the congregation receives
the blessing that belongs to those who read, hear and obey the Word of the
God (Revelation 1:3). A true shepherd of Christ will see that the sheep continue
“steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the
breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). A Spirit-filled pastor
will teach the people to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
“He had in His right hand
seven stars” (Revelation 1:16).
John took notice that the ministers
were being held in the Lord’s right hand. Here the Master can examine,
encourage, discipline and give special attention to those whom He has called
into ministry. It is in this close relationship that Christ can communicate
to the pastors of the churches their responsibility to obey Him in carrying
out His heavenly ministry of empowering His church for end-time harvest.
Christ refers to His ministers
as stars because they are illuminated by the Spirit of Christ who has anointed
them for the ministry to which they are called. There is a great accountability
for the work of God as Paul reminded the Ephesian elders: “Take heed
to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you
overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood”
The Revelation of Jesus Christ
began with an awesome unveiling of the exalted Christ poised in
the midst of His church with His ministers in His right hand.
His sovereign appearance revealed that Christ had been glorified
and ordained to guide His church and govern the universe from
the throne of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Next Christ
addresses His special message to each of His churches through
K. Bridges is general treasurer of the Assemblies of God.
This series will be expanded in
a forthcoming book from Gospel Publishing House.
Next week: “Ephesus: The
church in danger of extinction.”
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