Vision of Christ among the Lampstands: Part 6 of 6 (series: Lessons on Revelation)
by John Lowe
1. if the word does not mean literally “an angel”; if it does not refer to messengers sent to John in Patmos by the churches; and if it does not refer to a prelatical bishop, then it follows that it must refer to someone who presided over the church as its pastor, and through whom a message might be sent to the church. If this is the proper understanding, then the pastor or “angel” would be regarded as the representative of the church; that is, as delegated by the church to manage its affairs, and as the authorized person to whom communications should be made in matters pertaining to it—as pastors are now. A few considerations will further confirm this interpretation, and throw additional light on the meaning of the word:
a. The word “angel” is used in the Old Testament to denote a prophet; that is, a minister of religion sent by God to communicate his will. Thus in Haggai 1:13 it says, “Then spake Haggai, the Lord‘s messenger.”
b. It is applied to a priest, as one sent by God to execute the functions of that office, or to act in the name of the Lord. Malachi 2:7 states, “for the priest‘s lips should keep knowledge, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts”— that is, “angel of the Lord of hosts.”
c. The name prophet is often given in the New Testament to the ministers of religion, appointed by God to proclaim or communicate His will to His people, and as occupying a place resembling, in some respects, that of the prophets in the Old Testament.
d. There was no reason why the word might not be employed to designate a pastor of a Christian church, as well as to designate a prophet or a priest under the Old Testament dispensation.
e. The supposition that a pastor of a church is intended will meet all the circumstances of the event, because:
i. It is an appropriate designation;
ii. There is no reason to suppose that there was more than one church in each of the cities referred to;
iii. it is a term which would express the respect in which the office was held;
iv. It would impress upon those to whom it was applied a solemn sense of their responsibility.
Furthermore, it would be more appropriately applied to a pastor of a local church than to a prelatical8 bishop; to the tender, intimate, and endearing relation sustained by a pastor to his people, to the blending of sympathy, interest, and affection, where he is with them continually, meets them frequently in the sanctuary, dispenses to them the bread of life, goes into their abodes when they are afflicted, and administers the funerals
of their loved ones, than to the union existing between the people of an extended diocese and a prelate (bishop, high-ranking official, etc.)—the formal, infrequent, and, in many instances, stately and pompous visitations of a diocesan bishop—to the sympathizing relationship between him and the people scattered in many churches, who are visited at infrequent intervals by one claiming a “superiority in ministerial rights and powers,” and who must be a stranger to the ten thousand ties of endearment which bind the hearts of a pastor and people together. The conclusion, then, to which we have come is, that the “angel of the church” was the pastor, or the presiding presbyter in the church; the minister who had the pastoral charge of it, and who was, therefore, a proper representative of it. He was a man who, in some respects, performed the functions which the angels of God do; that is, who was appointed to execute His will, to communicate His message, and to convey important edicts of His to His people. To no one could the communications in this book, intended for the churches, be more confidentially entrusted than to a pastor.
There is within this passage the awe-inspiring vision under which this book opens, and the solemn commission which the writer of the book received. No more appropriate introduction to what is contained in the book could be imagined; no more appropriate circumstances for making such a marvelous revelation could have existed. To John, the most beloved of the apostles, and now the only one of the Twelve still alive; to him who had been a faithful laborer for Christ for nearly 60 years after the death of the Lord Jesus, who had been the bosom friend of the Savior, who had seen him on the mount of transfiguration, who had seen him die, and who had seen him ascend into heaven; to him who had lived when the church was founded, and while it had spread into all lands; and to him who was now suffering persecution on account of the Savior and His cause, it was appropriate that such heavenly communications should be made. In a lonely island; far away from the homes of people; surrounded by the ocean, and amid barren rocks; on the day consecrated to the worship of God and the reading of His word—the day observed as a memorial of the resurrection of His Lord, it was most fitting that the Redeemer should appear to the “beloved disciple” in the last Revelation which he was ever to make to mankind. No more appropriate time or circumstance could be conceived for disclosing, by a series of heavenly visions, what would occur in future times, and especially at the consummation of all things.