Brighter than the Lampstands

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and toSardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. As for 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 are the seven churches. (Rev 1:10-20)What does church mean to you? Is it an invigorating social network, a sublime ceremony, a time of comfort and reflection, or a center of equipping for action? Does it fill you with enthusiasm and joy, or does it depress you? The book of Revelation features seven churches known to the writer, John. Of his short letters to each one (Rev. 2-3), only two receive unqualified commendations; the rest are tarnished.

The opening lesson in Revelation is that the churches are not center stage. When John turned to see who was speaking, he did see seven magnificent lampstands but he didn’t focus on them—he was drawn to Jesus.

Jesus appeared in the same divine splendor that Daniel had seen in God, the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:9-10). The vision impacted John so powerfully that he collapsed in fear. Jesus comforted John and then explained what he had seen.

The seven stars were angels of seven churches, presumably guarding the churches. The angels are God’s messengers. They are in Jesus’ right hand dispatched and ministering at His command. The lampstands were the churches and they surrounded Jesus.

The churches did not block John’s view of Jesus. The best and the biggest failed to steal the show. The glaring faults of the most worrisome ones escaped John’s attention. John was in the Spirit; he saw spiritual reality. Jesus was central no matter what the churches were like.

When we begin to define church, it helps to remember what John saw and what Jesus said. “He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Rev 1:6) Jesus made us subjects of God the king; we function as priests giving glory to God. Each local church is a gathering of priestly, royal subjects focused on God.

Any kind of inordinate attention on the church is inappropriate, whether it is idolizing a good church or allowing the problems of a bad one to suck us dry. Agonizing about church challenges or enthusing in a great church should both be secondary to our loving service to Jesus, the head of the church.

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