The Mysteries of God Lesson #6
The Mystery of the Stars and the Candlesticks Revelation 1:20
(Read Revelation 1:9-20.)
These seven churches and their pastors are symbolic and representative of all true gospel churches and all true gospel preachers. Historically, the seven churches of Asia Minor mentioned in this chapter did exist during the days of the Apostle John. However, they are used here as allegorical representatives of all local churches in the kingdom of God. The stars, the pastors of the churches, represent all true gospel preachers, given by God to be pastors in his churches. The churches represent all local churches where Christ is worshipped. The mystery of the stars and the candlesticks is full of instruction. May God the Holy Spirit apply that which is here revealed to our hearts continually.
BOTH GOD’S SERVANTS, GOSPEL PREACHERS, AND HIS CHURCHES ARE CONSTANTLY PROTECTED AND PROVIDED FOR BY THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. If the churches of Christ and his servants are so highly valued by him, they ought to be highly valued by us. The greatest blessing God can ever bestow upon any community is to establish a local church in it where men and women gather in the name of Christ to worship him. A local church, in the New Testament sense of that term, is a congregation of saved sinners, united in the name of Christ to worship him and to serve the interests of his kingdom in this world, seeking his glory, proclaiming his gospel, seeking his sheep, and endeavoring to be faithful and obedient to his Word in doctrine and practice.
The greatest blessing the Lord God can or will bestow upon any local church is to give it a pastor after his own heart, a faithful gospel preacher, who will feed his people with knowledge and understanding (Jer. 3:15). Pastors are the ascension gifts of Christ to his church, for the conversion, teaching, edification, and steadfastness of his elect (Eph. 4:8-16). They are to be known, loved, and highly esteemed for their works’ sake (I Thess. 5:12-13). These men, as the servants of God, are to be obeyed, as those who watch for the souls trusted to their care by God (Heb. 13:7,17).
I have no hesitancy in stating also that the single most important aspect of every believer’s life is the assembly of God’s saints for public worship (Heb. 13:24-27). It is there that Christ has promised to meet with, minister to, and be worshipped by his people (Matt. 18:20). When public worship is despised and willfully neglected it is an indication of inward apostasy from Christ.
Those who despise God’s servants despise God (I Sam. 8:7); and those who seek to divide God’s church bring upon themselves the judgment of God (I Cor. 3:16-17). The Son of God places such high value upon his servants that he considers anything done to them, either bad or good, as being done to himself; and He places such high value upon his people that he considers anything done to them, either bad or good, as being done to him. That means that pastors must be very careful in their treatment of God’s people and local churches must be very careful in their treatment of their pastors, who are God’s servants.
NOTICE THAT EACH OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES HAS ITS OWN ANGEL, ITS OWN MESSENGER FROM GOD. We are told that seven is the number of grace, the number of holiness, completion, and perfection. If that is so, we must assume that the churches of Christ are represented as seven to show us that there are always as many local churches in this world as are needed to fulfill our Lord’s purpose, just as many and no more.
The seven stars which John saw in Christ’s right hand, represent the angels, or pastors and ministers of the churches in all periods of time, from the first to the second advent of our Lord. Thus, the Holy Spirit tells us that all true gospel preachers are in Christ’s right hand (v. 16). They are placed by him where he wants them, protected by him, and provided for by him. All true gospel preachers are under the authority and direction of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. They are instruments in his hands to accomplish his will, by which he serves the interests of his people in this world.
Faithful pastors are here compared to stars and angels. Stars, like preachers, are made by God. Stars, like preachers, give out light in the midst of darkness (2 Cor. 4:4-6). True gospel preachers, like stars, are men on fire, burning with zeal for the glory of God and burning with a word from God that must be delivered (Jer. 20:9). Every true pastor is an angel of God to the church to which he is sent. He the minister of Christ and his church. He is sent forth to minister to those who shall be the heirs of salvation. The faithful pastor is a messenger, a man sent with a message from God that he must deliver. The message God sends his preachers to declare is always the same. It is the gospel of his free and sovereign grace in Christ. Like the angels of God, faithful; pastors rejoice in the conversion of sinners by the grace of God.
It should also be noticed that there are no more angels than churches and no more churches than angels. God almighty never lacks for messengers. Whenever and wherever his church needs a preacher, he raises one up. Yet, he never raises up a preacher until he is needed. As one old preacher used to say, “God never made a possum that he didn’t make a persimmon tree; and he never made a preacher that he didn’t make a pulpit.”
EVERY TRUE LOCAL CHURCH IS A CANDLESTICK, A HOLDER OF LIGHT, A CENTER FROM WHICH LIGHT IS DISPELLED. “Ye are the light of the world,” our Savior said. The only reason for the existence of local churches is to hold forth the light of life in this world of darkness and death. Local churches do not invent light, or even improve it. They are simply to hold it forth. We get the light from Christ, who is the Light. A candlestick has no more light than is put into it. Even so, we have no light but Christ. We hold forth the light of truth (The Gospel of Christ), that we may guard it, teach it, and extend it. We hold forth the light of purity, that we may keep ourselves unspotted from the world. We hold forth the light of love, that we may comfort and gladden the hearts of men, displaying in the gospel the wondrous love of God and showing forth the result of his love experienced in the heart, which is love for one another. Each local church is called a “golden candlestick,” to express the great value of it. In the eyes of Christ, who loved the church and gave himself for it, and in the eyes of saved sinners, who have heard the Word of the Lord published in Zion, the church of God is precious, more precious than gold.
ALL TRUE GOSPEL CHURCHES ARE UNITED IN CHRIST, WHO IS IN THE MIDST OF THEM. Alford wrote “Their mutual independence is complete. Their only union is in him who stands in the midst of them.” Though local churches are independent, without denominational affiliation, influence, or obligation, they are not isolated from other gospel churches. The Head of every true church is Christ. The church of God has no other head! Absolute loyalty to the Son of God is the responsibility of every church and every individual believer. And all true believers are one in Christ, one church, one family, one kingdom, one body, one holy nation (1 Cor. 10:17; 12:13; Eph. 2:19-22; 3:15; 4:1-6; 1 Pet. 2:9). Every true church of Christ is engaged in one work, the preaching of the gospel. Each labors by one Word of authority, the Word of God. Each one has the same goal, the glory of God. And each is governed by one rule, the will of God.
NO LOCAL CHURCH IN THIS WORLD IS PERFECT. BUT EACH HAS ITS OWN EXCELLENCES AND ITS OWN DEFECTS, ITS OWN DANGER AND ITS OWN DUTY. The churches at Corinth, Galatia, and Colosse all had their peculiar weaknesses and troubles, their own faults and failures. Those super-pious people who hop and skip from one local church to another looking for one worthy of their allegiance, will never find what they are seeking. There are no perfect churches in this world. Churches are made up of saved sinners, not perfect people, forgiven people. Yet, such churches today, with all their faults, are true churches with many excellencies, just as those were in the New Testament era. As we read our Lord’s letters to the churches, we see that one is loyal to the Lord, another wavering. One is on fire, another losing its first love. One has a great reputation, though it is dead. Another is in great poverty, though it is very rich in grace. One church abounds in every good work, while another is fast asleep. In the churches most full of life, some are dead. In the churches most dead, some are full of life. Loyal and faithful men do not forsake and abandon a ship when it is in trouble. They rally to save it. The only justifiable grounds for separating from a true gospel church is when it ceases to be a true gospel church when it no longer holds to and proclaims the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ, when it no longer holds forth the light of the gospel.
THE LORD JESUS REVEALS AND MANIFESTS HIMSELF TO HIS CHURCHES TO MEET THEIR NEEDS. He walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, not to make people feel good, and shout, and have a good time, but to graciously meet the needs of his people. To Ephesus Christ reveals himself as “he that walketh in the midst,” to observe and correct. To Smyrna he is “the Living One,” who gives the crown of life. To Pergamos he comes the “the sharp sword,” to sever and slay, to divide and destroy from her all that would destroy her. To Thyatira his “eyes are like a flame of fire,” to see all, see through all, and to consume all that is dross. To Sardis the Savior comes as he who “hath the seven spirits of God,” to quicken, revive, and give life, raising his church from her spiritual death. To Philadelphia Christ appears as “he that hath the key of David,” to open to the faithful all the bountiful treasures of the house of God. To Laodicia he is “the Faithful and True Witness,” to expose her pride and sin, to call her to repentance, to chasten and to correct his fallen, languishing people.
THE LORD JESUS, WHO WALKS IN THE MIDST OF HIS CHURCHES, PRESERVES AND KEEPS THEM; YET, HE EXPECTS AND REQUIRES OF EVERY LOCAL CHURCH AND EVERY PERSON IN IT, FAITHFULNESS, LOYALTY, AND PERSEVERANCE, NO MATTER WHAT THEIR DIFFICULTIES ARE. Not one of the letters to the seven churches gives us the slightest reason to imagine that the adversities and trials of the people would justify laxity, indifference, or surrender. On the contrary, our Lord constantly assures us that his grace is sufficient, - his love is Immutable, - his faithfulness is sure, - his intercession prevails, - his hand is strong. Whatever your trial or temptation is, Christ is greater. He will sustain you, as you cling to him (I Cor. 10:13).
THE LORD GOD WILL PRESERVE OR REMOVE THE CANDLESTICK ACCORDING TO OUR FIDELITY OR INFIDELITY TO CHRIST AND HIS GOSPEL (Rev. 2:5). “Judgment must begin at the house of God” (I Pet. 4:17); and it shall. When our Lord spots unfaithfulness in us, he will do one of two things. Either he will chasten us and drive way our sin; or he will judge us and sweep us away in his wrath. No true church has anything to fear, except indifference to Christ. If any local church is to be preserved and persevere in the service of Christ, each member must himself overcome those things that hinder obedience and impede faithfulness to Christ.
This is the mystery of the stars and the candlesticks. The stars are God’s appointed pastors. The candlesticks are gospel churches. The churches are made up of sinners saved by the grace of God. While the security of the church is the work of Christ alone, the success or failure, life or death of the church ii the responsibility of each member (Rev 3:19-22).