The Evidence of the Number Seven
The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my
right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven
stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven
candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
~ Revelation 1:20 ~
Throughout the Bible, the number seven is used to convey a symbolic meaning. It is the number of completion.
Seven days complete a week. There are seven weeks in the count to Pentecost and seven weeks of years until the Jubilee. Noah waited in the ark seven days before the flood came upon the earth, and God commanded His people to eat unleavened bread for seven days. The number seven literally appears hundreds of times in the Scriptures. And when it is used symbolically, it always denotes completeness. E.W. Bullinger discusses this unique number in his book, Number in Scripture, stating:
In Hebrew, seven is shevah. It is from the root savah to be full or satisfied, have enough of. Hence the meaning of the word “seven” is dominated by this root, for on the seventh day God rested from the work of creation. It was full and complete, and good and perfect. Nothing could be added to it or taken from it without marring it… It is seven, therefore, that stamps with perfection and completeness that in connection with which it is used (pp. 156-157).
By this, we see that seven is the number God uses to portray that which is complete. With this understanding, the fact that there are seven messages sent to seven churches demonstrates an important truth. These churches must represent the complete New Testament Church throughout time. Notice how Christ used this number when describing these churches:
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the, seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches (Revelation 1:12-20).
Candlesticks or Lamp Stands?
The Apostle John explained that he saw seven golden candlesticks. It is important to understand that Christ did not give John a vision of seven candles, each having a wick surrounded by wax and set in decorative holders as we see today. The Greek word translated candlesticks” is luchnia, and its literal translation is “lamp stand” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, G3087). Candles were not yet invented in John’s time; therefore, the apostle was describing a lamp and not a candle.
Our modern candles likely began with the Egyptians who first put beeswax over the reeds that they gathered along the Nile. These were more like torches. It was not until the middle ages that wax was used with a wick. At that time, candles became the chief source of artificial light. It was this kind of light the King James translators were familiar with, and likely the reason they translated luchnia as candlesticks.
In John’s day, the Jewish people used a device that was closer to the menorah as described by the prophet Zechariah (Zec. 4:2-3). In the lamp stand, oil was distributed from a base to the lamp’s various conduits. The flame would heat the oil and the resulting vapor burned at the end of each of the branches. Therefore, each lamp bore its own light from the one main source of oil which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. This imagery represents the Spirit of the One True God flowing through the leaders that Christ would send. His Spirit would ensure the light of truth they preached during each era would burn brightly.
While introducing the letters, Christ gives us the key to unlock their mystery. Notice that He does not say that the candlesticks are seven OF the churches, but rather they “are THE seven churches.” Since seven is the number of completion, these candlesticks must represent the entire Church of God.
The Entire Book only Sent to Seven Churches?
Imagine Christ revealing prophecies that would occur over thousands of years yet sending them to only seven specific congregations in Asia Minor. However, that is exactly what Christ commands:
Saying; I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and what thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea (Revelation 1:11).
The prophecies covered in the book of Revelation are of enormous importance to all of God’s people. Yet, at the time of their unveiling, Christ sent them only to seven churches. Why? Did the Savior want to deny the other congregations access to this information? Did He withhold it from the congregations in Jerusalem, Thessalonica, Philippi, Colosse, or any of the others? Of course not!
Christ was not withholding information from any other congregation. The truth is that the entire book is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants…” (Rev. 1:1). By this, He gave a warning and hope to ALL the churches who would read the book. Christ commanded that it be sent to these seven without mentioning the others because these specific churches were symbolic and represented seven Church eras.
All of the congregations existing during John’s time were included in the first era and would ultimately have access to the book. This is another piece of evidence that these seven churches represent the entire Church over the course of history.
Other Churches in Asia Minor When Christ instructed John to send these letters to the seven congregations, it must be understood that they were not the only churches of God in the province of Asia Minor. While the seven were located in cities 30 to 50 miles apart, there were several other congregations in close proximity. For example, Hierapolis was located south of Philadelphia and approximately six miles north of Laodicea.
Colosse was situated eleven miles to the south of Laodicea. Therefore, the Apostle Paul wrote of them, stating:
For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you (the church in Colosse), and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13).
Besides Heirapolis and Colosse, two other churches are noted in history. Magnesia and Tralles were congregations positioned on this same route connecting the other churches, but they were not addressed by Christ in the Scriptures. This means that a minimum of four other churches existed along this same route.
Knowing this, why did the Messiah only mention seven? Did He favor the brethren in these seven cities? No!
Christ is without partiality and does not play favorites (Jam. 3:17). We must understand that, in a book of prophecy, the
number seven is symbolic. Since seven is a number that means complete or whole, these seven churches represent the
entire Church of God. They picture all believers around the world and throughout time. Thus, Christ likely chose these seven congregations from among all those in the province because they most closely represented the seven Church eras that would occur down through history.
The Messiah in Their Midst
It is also important to note that Christ is described as being in the midst of the candlesticks (Rev. 1:13). In the same passage, He told us plainly that the candlesticks are the seven churches (Rev. 1:20). Since Christ is, and always has been, in the midst of the entire Church, this truth stands as further evidence that these seven represent the entirety of His Church throughout time. Each candlestick portrays one era of the Church of God.
The Seven Angels
As the book of Revelation begins, it states that there are seven stars in Christ’s hand. We are then told that these stars are “the angels of the seven churches” (Rev. 1:16, 20).
It is preposterous to consider that only the seven churches in Asia Minor had angels representing them. If each of the churches in Asia had a separate angel, then the congregations in Jerusalem, Macedonia, Colosse, Galatia, Heirapolis, and Rome would also have an angel. If this were the case, Christ would have been depicted as having a dozen or more stars in His hand. However, He is shown only with seven.
By this, the prophetic number seven continues to instruct us. As the seven candlesticks represent the entire Church throughout history, these seven stars also reflect the seven angels who would preside over the Church at respective points in time. Each angel would be responsible for their specific era when its time arrived.
Who are the Seven Angels?
In the first chapter of Revelation, Christ is described as being in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands and having seven stars in His right hand. He explained that “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches” (Rev. 1:20).
Some have thought that these angels are human leaders, pastors, or apostles of each Church. Others believe that they are literally angelic spirit beings. What is the truth?
Those who believe the term refers to angelic beings cite the fact that the Greek word is aggelos meaning a “a
messenger; especially an angel” (Strong’s, G32) In addition, the book of Revelation uses the word 77 times, and nowhere
does it appear to mean other than angelic beings. Also, the symbol of a star is used to represent angels in several other
verses (Job 38:7; Isa. 14:13; Rev. 9:1).
On the other hand, Strong’s also states that, by implication, aggelos can mean “a pastor” (G32). In fact, the Bible occasionally uses the word angel in reference to a human messenger. In Malachi 2:7 a priest who gives instruction is called “the messenger of the Lord.” Later, the individual announcing Christ’s return at the end of the age is also called a messenger (Mal. 3:1). In Matthew 11:10
aggelos is used to identify John the Baptist. It is used when referring to the representatives sent to Jesus from John (Luke
7:24). It is also the term used in James 2:25 when speaking of the spies who were protected by Rahab. In addition, stars are sometimes a reference to human beings. For example, in Daniel 12:3, we are told that those who lead many to righteousness shall shine “as the stars.” In Jude 1:13, false teachers are called “wandering stars.”
We must also recognize that God has never used a human to deliver a message to one of His angels. Since John was told to write “Unto the angel of the church,” it is unlikely that he wrote messages intended for angelic beings. God does not need our assistance to instruct His angels. Christ simply would have relayed these messages to them Himself.
From this evidence, we recognize that the word “angels” can refer to both spirit beings and human beings.
This can be confusing, but perhaps a solution can be found in the duality that pervades the Bible.
Scripture often sets up a physical representation of that which is spiritual. There is the earthly reflecting the heavenly (Rom. 1:20). For example, man on earth is made in the image of God in heaven. There is a first Adam, and the second Adam—Christ. There was a physical temple on earth, and it was patterned after the spiritual in heaven. There was physical Israel, and later spiritual Israel—the Church. In light of such duality, is it possible that this same twofold representation is found in the angels of these churches?
From the example of the damsel who, upon seeing Peter, thought she had seen his angel; we realize that there are guardian spirit beings over God’s people. As Peter had an angel assigned to him, is it possible that each era has both an angelic being and human messenger associated with it.
Consider that, as servants of the Almighty, the angels in heaven minister to, protect, and influence the human heirs to salvation (Heb. 1:14). As the angels in heaven bring messages from God to men, God’s human servants also bring messages from God to other human beings. In this way, the statement, “angels to the seven churches” could be dual; representing both spirit beings and
human church leaders.