No study of the Book of Revelation would be worth its salt without a discussion of the seven churches of Asia. These churches are listed in 1:11 and later referred to as “lampstands” by Jesus himself. The Lord explicitly identifies the lampstands as the seven churches in 1:20. He also explains the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. In a book that is rich with symbols, these explanations are useful. Nevertheless, many are still confused about the meaning of the seven stars.
To every English-speaking person, the word, “angel”, refers to a heavenly being. It cannot mean a human, unless it is being used as a figure of speech (i.e. “Laura is so kind. She is just an angel!”). In Greek, however, “angel” (angelos) can refer to any messenger. For example, John the Baptist is called an “angel” in Matthew 11:10 because, as a messenger, he was sent to prepare the Lord’s way. He functioned as an angel, even though he was only human. This has opened the door for debate about the identity of the seven stars. Are they just human messengers sent to deliver John’s letter to the seven churches of Asia or are they heavenly beings? Various arguments have been made for the view which holds that they are nothing more than human messengers. I do not take that strange but very common view. It is my objective to give some clear reasons why these angels are truly heavenly beings. First of all, let us consider the immediate context. Jesus directly states that the stars he holds in his right hand are the angels of the seven churches (1:20; 2:1). This indicates a peculiar use he has for them to convey a heavenly message to human hearers. Does it not seem strange that he would place such great emphasis on mere men performing commonplace letter delivery? No such titles of honor were bestowed upon the couriers of any other New Testament epistle. The stars’ unique place in Jesus’ right hand and their assignment to each of the churches makes the human messenger view suspect. Secondly, as we consider the overall context of the book, we note that angels fill its pages. In fact, they numbered “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” in heaven’s throne room (5:11). Angels maintain various duties throughout the book, including holding back the four winds, sealing the saints, sounding the trumpets of God’s wrath, carrying a little book, fighting the dragon, declaring the gospel from the midst of heaven, pouring out the seven bowl judgments, and sealing up Satan in the bottomless pit (Rev. 7:1 – 3; 8:7 – 13; 9:1, 13; 10:1 – 7; 12:7, 14; 14:6; 16:1 – 21; 20:1 – 3). Human messengers don’t seem to fit with the vast angelic presence in Revelation. Thirdly, as we examine the New Testament as a whole, we observe instances of angels watching over the churches (Acts 5:17 – 21; 8:26; 10:3 – 7; 12:6 – 11; 1 Cor. 11:10; 1 Tim. 5:21). They are “ministering spirits” for the saints (Heb. 1:14). This agrees with Revelation, which indicates each congregation has a guardian angel in addition to the hosts protecting and attending to individual saints. Finally, it would be rather odd for Jesus to speak of human messengers as stars because, prophetically, stars always represent heavenly beings (cf. Job 38:7). Satan is called “morning star” in Isaiah 14:12, a title later applied to Jesus in Revelation 22:16.
In conclusion, it is my belief that the angels of the seven churches are actual angels and not human beings sent to deliver copies of the Book of Revelation to the churches. Mankind certainly does have a role in bringing the gospel of peace, but angels fulfill an important duty as messengers to believers, and they assist believers who bring the message of eternal life to the world. – MAH