John Is Called To Write the Prophecy -5
v.17-18 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and Death.”
John last saw Jesus nearly sixty years earlier. Imagine the heart throb felt by the aged Apostle when he turned and saw Him standing just a few feet away. It’s no wonder he collapsed in awe. But what Jesus had done so frequently in His humanity, He repeats in His glory: Jesus comforts. “But He laid His right hand on me,” John said, “saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid’” (see also—Isa.41:13).
“I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and Death.” Jesus once again transcends what was His in humanity. As in His appearance, it’s not His name, but symbols and titles associated with the sacred truth of Himself that Jesus uses to present Himself.
He is God the Almighty: “I am the First and the Last” (check—Isa.44:6). He is God the Redeemer: “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (check—Phil.2:5-11). He is God the Victorious: “And I have the keys of Hades and Death.” Having conquered death upon the cross Jesus alone can redeem from death (Hosea 13:14) and sentence to death (Rev.20:2-3). Life and death answers to no other, whether in heaven or hell, than to the power and authority of Jesus Christ.
v.19 “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.”
Okay, dear ones, now we come to the virtual outline of the Revelation and as such, the “key” to understanding the vision. John is instructed to write the Book in three sections.
- “the things which you have seen…”
- “the things which are…”
- “…the things which will take place after this”
Section one: “the things which you have seen…”. This is clearly in the past tense and concerns that which John had seen earlier as he beheld Christ. Thus corresponding with John’s eyewitness account of the risen and glorified Son of God as contained here in Chapter one.
Section two: “the things which are…”. This is clearly in the present tense and concerns that which existed during the time of John which is the Church. And as we will see Chapters two and three surround the Church exclusively.
Section three: “…the things which will take place after this”. This is clearly in the future tense and concerns the yet-future events shown to John beginning in Chapter four after he is airlifted into heaven.
v.20 “The mystery of the seven stars which 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 which you saw are the seven churches.”
The word “mystery” signifies a hidden truth not yet revealed and is used here in connection with the “seven stars” and the “seven golden lampstands” because these are symbols inside the appearance of Christ that John would not have understood without an interpretation. That the “seven stars” are the “seven angels” of the seven churches, and that the “seven lampstands” are the “seven churches”.
Okay, let’s consider it.
The Greek word “angel” (angelos) means “messenger” and doesn’t carry with it any direct application to a spirit being; it can also be interpreted to mean a human messenger. The prophet Haggai, for instance, was called “the Lord’s messenger, [who] spoke the Lord’s message to the people” (Haggai 1:13) and from Malachi we learn that the priest of Israel was considered “the messenger of the Lord of hosts” (Mal.2:7). So it’s not required of us to interpret the word “angels” in this passage to mean literal angels. Given the context, it’s more likely to think that Jesus is addressing the seven pastors of the seven churches.
The seven “lampstands” clearly signify the seven churches in Asia to which John was instructed to write and distribute the Revelation. The Church is the lampstand through which the light of Christ (Who is the light; Luke 9:5) shines.
A possible explanation for the mystery or mysterious sense surrounding this passage is that Jesus intended to suggest that more than just seven pastors and seven churches are in view. That He deliberately used the imagery because this address is made to all the pastors and to all the churches, in successive ages, from the time of John to the end of the church age.