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Sermon #2161[i] — Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: Pastors and Churches
The Mystery of
the Seven Stars and Candlesticks
Text: Revelation 1:20
Subject: Local Churches and Their
Pastors in the Hands of God
(Revelation 1:1) The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: (2) Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
(3) Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
(4) John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; (5) And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (6) And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
(7) Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
(8) I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
(9) I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
(10) I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, (11) Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
(12) And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; (13) And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. (14) His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; (15) And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. (16) And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. (17) And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: (18) I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. (19) Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; (20) 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.
I wonder what God might do with a man utterly committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, utterly committed to His will, utterly committed to His glory, utterly committed to His Gospel. — I wonder what God might do with a local church utterly committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, utterly committed to His will, utterly committed to His glory, utterly committed to His Gospel.
My subject is Pastors and Churches — The Mystery of the Seven Stars and Candlesticks.
(Revelation 1:20) 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.
John is giving us “the revelation of Jesus Christ” as God the Holy Spirit gave it to him. In his first vision of that revelation we learn that there is an intimate connection between “the revelation of Jesus Christ” and the stars in the Savior’s right hand and the seven golden candlesticks in the midst of which the Son of God continually walks, an intimate connection between “the revelation of Jesus Christ” and the pastors and churches of Christ. That makes God’s pastors and God’s churches immensely important. That importance is the mystery of the seven stars and seven golden candlesticks unveiled.
The seven churches and their pastors in Revelation 1 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; but they represent us. The stars, the pastors of the churches represent me and all my brethren in the gospel ministry. The churches represent this local church and all other local churches where Christ is worshipped. But before I explain to you the mystery of the stars and the candlesticks, I want to make several very important comments, by way of introduction.
1. The greatest blessing God can ever bestow upon any community is to establish in her midst a local church 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 Gospel and His glory in this world.
2. The greatest blessing the Lord God can or will bestow upon any local church is to give that church a pastor after His own heart, a faithful Gospel preacher, who will feed His people with knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 3:15).
(Jeremiah 3:15) And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
Pastors are the ascension gifts of Christ to His church, for the teaching, edification, and steadfastness of His saints (Ephesians 4:8-16).
(Ephesians 4:8) Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (9) (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? (10) He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) (11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Pastors are to be known, loved, and highly esteemed for their works’ sake (I Thessalonians 5:12-13).
(1 Thessalonians 5:12) And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; (13) And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
Pastors are to be obeyed, as those who watch for your souls (Hebrews 13:7, 17).
(Hebrews 13:7) Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
(Hebrews 13:17) Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
3. The single most important aspect of every believer’s life is the assembly of God’s saints for public worship (Hebrews 10:24-27).
· For the Hearing of the Word!
· For the Worship of Christ!
· For Communion with and Revelations of Christ (Matthew 18-20).
· For the Fellowship of God’s Saints!
(Hebrews 10:24) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: (25) Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (26) For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, (27) But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
Illustration: The Coal Taken out of the Fire
4. Those who despise God’s servants despise God (1 Samuel 8:7; 2 Kings 2:23-25); and those who seek to divide God’s church bring upon themselves the judgment of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
(1 Corinthians 3:16) Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (17) If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
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...
Proposition: Both God’s servants, Gospel preachers, and His churches are constantly protected and provided for by the Lord Jesus Christ.
With those things in mind, I want to show you seven things about this mystery of the stars and the candlesticks. As these seven things were true of all the seven churches of Asia Minor in John’s day, they are true of all true Gospel churches in our day.
First, each of the seven churches has its own angel, its own messenger from God. — I am 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 are the angels of the seven churches.” — John Gill righty states, “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 until Christ’s second coming.”
All true Gospel preachers are in Christ’s right hand. — “And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in His strength” (v. 16).
Note: Gospel preachers are under the authority and direction of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself — Instruments in His hands!
Faithful pastors are here compared to stars.
(2 Corinthians 4:3) But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: (4) In whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (5) For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. (6) For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (7) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
(Jeremiah 20:9) Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.
Every faithful Gospel preacher, every true pastor is an angel of God to the church to which he is sent.
There are no more angels than churches and no more churches than angels! — “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.” (Townley Davis)
Second, 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!” The only reason for the existence of local churches is to hold forth the Light of Life in this world of darkness and death.
We are not the inventors of light, but the holders of light. 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.
Each local church is called a “golden candlestick,” to express its great, indescribable value.
Christ in the Midst
Third, all true Gospel churches are united in Christ, who is in the midst of them. — Someone said, “Their mutual independence is complete. Their only union is in Him who stands in the midst of them.” We are independent Baptists. That means we have no denominational affiliation or obligation. However, we are not isolated from other Gospel churches.
No Perfect Church
Fourth, no local church in this world is perfect. Each has its own excellence and its own defect, its own danger and its own duty.
Illustrations: The Churches at Corinth, Galatia, and Colosse, with all their faults, were true churches with many excellencies. — The Son of God attended church regularly with Judas Iscariot!
As we read our Lord’s letters to the seven 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!
Note: 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.
Fifth, 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 us feel good and shout and have a good time, but to graciously meet the needs of His people.
Sixth, 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 might justify laxity, indifference, or surrender. On the contrary. He constantly assures us that:
Whatever your trial or temptation is, Christ is greater. He will sustain you, as you cling to Him (1 Corinthians 10:13).
(1 Corinthians 10:13) There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Fidelity or Infidelity
Seventh, the Lord God will preserve or remove this candlestick or any other, according to our fidelity or infidelity to Christ and His Gospel (Revelation. 2:5).
(Revelation 2:5) Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
“Judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17). — It always does. 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.
This is the Mystery of the Stars and the Candlesticks.
1. The Stars — The Pastors!
2. The Candlesticks — The Local Churches!
3. The Churches — You and Me!
4. The success or failure, life or death of the church is your responsibility and mine (Revelation 3:19-22).
(Revelation 3:19) As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. (20) Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (21) To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (22) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
I wonder what God might do with a man utterly committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, utterly committed to His will, utterly committed to His glory, utterly committed to His Gospel. I sure would like to be such man! — I wonder what God might do with a local church utterly committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, utterly committed to His will, utterly committed to His glory, utterly committed to His Gospel. I sure would like for us to be such a local church!
[i] Danville — Sunday Morning — June 1, 2014
San Diego Grace Fellowship, San Diego, CA — (PM — 05/24/14)
Reading: Revelation 1:1-20