I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. -Revelation 1:10-20
John had heard Jesus’ voice countless times and seen Him every day over the course of three years, and yet nothing could have prepared him for what he was about to witness. As he turns, the sight of the resurrected and exalted Christ nearly kills him. He is instantly floored by the splendor and majesty of what he is witnessing. Before collapsing, he takes in a few details. These details warrant closer inspection and reflection.
John writes that the first thing he notices is seven lampstands. Later this will be followed by the seven stars in Jesus’ right hand. We have already addressed the interpretation given at the end of this chapter.
The lampstands are the seven churches to which John is to write. The seven stars are the angels, or perhaps better understood, the messengers or pastors of these seven churches. It is worth noting the hand in which the stars rest. They are in Jesus right hand which is indicative of the place of authority that pastor’s sit in their office of the ministry. When a pastor speaks for God in Christ, he speaks with the same authority that Christ does. His words, the pastor’s words, are not His own if he is a true and good pastor. He speaks the Word of Christ, and these words are to be received as if Christ Himself were speaking directly to us.
When a called and ordained man of God stands before us, hears our confession, and hands out the goods (i.e., absolution, forgiveness in Christ’s name, or with His authority) we are to believe that it is Jesus, Himself, Second Person of the Trinity, who has spoken. And thus, His Word, expressed by a man, His servant, seals the deal. If God says you are forgiven, it is to be believed, and thus the pastor is literally speaking as though He is being carried along in the right hand of Christ, speaking only that which Christ commands Him to say. We should not doubt it, nor disbelieve, but instead, believe and rejoice that at long last we have received God’s absolute verdict of our sin in Christ. The judgment rendered is always, and thankfully so, forgiven for Christ’s sake.
Secondly, noting the lampstands, the earliest Christians point out that the lampstands themselves are not the light, but they carry the light, who is Christ, to the world. They are vessels of the light, no matter how dirty, tarnished, worn, or old. The light, then, is what we, as members of the Church, collectively carry to the world. And we do this by keeping Christ at the center. For as long as Christ is in our midst, then is our light at its brightest.
The golden sash around Jesus’ chest indicates the value of the Gospel–that it is priceless. It is around His chest to teach us that it is the heart of the matter in the life, work, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nothing is of higher value and worth than the Gospel, not even the Law. Where the Law speaks one thing, it is never so certain as the Gospel when it speaks, for the Law, right and holy as it is, can be overruled and overturned by the grace wrought in the life and death of Christ's holy heart.
To be continued…
This is a weekly article series working through the book of Revelation. It is followed every Friday morning at 8 am (CST) by a live devotion dealing with the same subject matter and often additional material for reflection. Tune in Friday mornings on Christ Hold Fast's Facebook Page to learn more and ask questions.