“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” Revelation 1:19.
Verse 19 is the outline for the entire book and if you read no more in this study than these first five paragraphs and use this outline you will be able to understand far more in your study of Revelation than a great many scholars.
“The things which you have seen”, refers to everything John has seen in Revelation 1:1-20.
“The things which are”, is a reference to the church age from Pentecost to the rapture, the removal of Christ’s church from the earth, Revelation 2 through 3:22. This will be further explored in this and the next few entries.
“The things which will take place after this”, takes up the rest of the book and concerns the tribulation period which ends with the return of Christ to set up His reign on earth for a thousand years. The thousand years ends with a short rebellion, followed by judgment day and the eternal state.
Not for the faint of heart and much less confusing if you follow the outline strictly, the things which will take place after this encompasses Revelation 4 through 22:21. Read Revelation like you would any book, start at the beginning and read to the end. There are some exceptions which will be noted, otherwise it is all sequential.
We are about to enter the second section of the book, “the things which are”, Revelation 2 through 3: 22, concerning the present church age.
John is told by Jesus in verse 11 to write the things that he sees in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia, these are: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
The salutation at the opening of the chapter, Revelation 1:4 is also “to the seven churches which are in Asia…”
Most conservative commentators agree that there is a fourfold function served by this letter to these churches.
One, these are real historical churches that existed in John’s day, each with the problems, and answers outlined in the letters addressed to them.
Two, they are problems that can or will occur in any church at any time in history including the present day churches. This is a good reason to know and recognize these problems when they crop up in church.
Three, they are problems any individual in the churches may have or create. The downfall of many a church has been brought on by individuals who have crept in and caused divisions, or brought in heresies.
Fourth and last, they represent the characteristics of seven different periods of church history from Pentecost to the end of the church age at the rapture, the removal of the church from the earth.
As a result these letters are relevant to everyone throughout church history. This study will be founded on these four premises.
Now the seven part break-down of church history from Pentecost to the end is as follows:
Ephesus 33 to 100 A.D. Revelation 2:1-7.
Smyrna 100 to 312 A.D. Revelation 2:8-11.
Pergamos 312 to 590 A.D. Revelation 2:12-17.
Thyatira 590 to 1517 A.D. Revelation 2:18-29.
Sardis 1517 to 1750 A.D. Revelation 3:1-6.
Philadelphia 1750 to 1925 A.D. Revelation 3:7-13.
Laodicea 1900 to the rapture of the church. Revelation 3:14-22.
These dates will vary from author to author, but only by a few years. For instance, the end of the church period of Pergamos is given as 590, the fall of the Roman Empire, but historians have differing opinions as to the exact year it fell.
The same with the end of the dark ages church of Thyatira, it is given as 1517 here, but one commentator listed it as 1492; which is kind of neat since, “in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue”, easy to remember.
So do not let yourself be suckered into a meaningless argument over dates that can vary by quite a bit.
“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.” Revelation 1:20.
As we go along it should be noted that parts of the descriptions of the glorified Christ in Chapter one verses 12-18 are used when addressing the seven churches and each description is significant, as you will see.
The Lord Himself interprets the meaning of stars and lampstands and that is enough, however, the stars being the angels of the church may simply mean something like guardian angels assigned to each church.
Or since the word angel means messenger, it could also refer to those in leadership in the church. The word apostle, by the way also means messenger.
While one of my favorite expositors, along with others, state that these could be nothing less than angels addressed to here; the problem is the manner in which they are addressed.
It is as though they were directly responsible for the condition of the church they are in charge of. Angels can strongly influence men, but they cannot force them to do what is right, so failure would fall on the heads of church leadership, not the angel.
These differences of opinion are the reason for some good advice, conservative scholars agree on almost everything concerning Revelation.
But on a few little things, it is good to agree to disagree, why spoil a friendship on small matters; basic fundamental Bible doctrine though is non-negotiable.
The Lord also tells us that the lampstands are the seven churches. These lampstands are an interesting picture of the church, first a lampstand gives light in a dark place, which is necessary to lead a world blinded by sin to the true light, the light of Christ.
The lampstand itself is a container to hold the oil to fuel it, this container being gold is a picture of God and the fuel is olive oil which is a picture of the Holy Spirit and the fire, the light, is the truth, the gospel of Jesus.
“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12b.
The church is the representative of the triune God if any part of this lampstand is missing the light is lost. It is disturbing that the lampstands are mentioned only once in all the letters to the churches.
Another thing worthy of mention is that in the old King James translation the word candlestick is used instead of lampstand. This is not called for in the Greek from which the New Testament was translated, it should be lampstand.
The reason for this error is that in England when they translated the King James Bible from the Greek the people used candles for light making the term lampstand unfamiliar.
While a candlestick is made of brass, silver or gold, it still gives light by means of a candle made of wax, and this does grave injury to the types in the lampstand given in Revelation 1:20 earlier.
While the average lamp or lampstand used by the Israelites in Old Testament times could vary in shape or material used in construction olive oil was used to fuel them.
While the form of the seven golden lampstands are not given, it is my feeling that they resembled in some way the construction of the golden lampstand, the Menorah, which was in the Tabernacle in the wilderness, Exodus chapter 25 through 31.
“You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work. Its shaft, its branches, its bowl, its ornamental knobs, and flowers shall be of one piece. And six branches shall come out of its sides: three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side.” Exodus 25:31-32.
This description goes on further with more detail, Exodus 25:31-40. The fuel oil for the light is described below.
“And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.” Exodus 27:20.
Now here is the interpretation:
The lampstand was to be made of pure gold, one talent (58 to 80 lbs.). Gold represents God, both the Father and the Son, in this case Jesus Christ.
The lampstand was hammered out, not cast which would have been easier; the hammering out represents Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
“Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage [appearance] was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men…” Isaiah 52:14.
The three branches on each side are light holders and with one in the middle this makes seven lights. The seven of them represent the seven attributes of the Holy Spirit.
“The [Holy Spirit] Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him [Jesus], the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord [YAWEH].” Isaiah 11:2.
If you only count six, it is because “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him” is the first which is “the fullness of the Godhead bodily”.
“For in Him [Jesus] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Colossians 2:9-10.
The number seven is also the number of completion, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is complete and perfect, there is nothing more to be done and there is nothing to add to it.
“And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God…” Hebrews 10:11-12.
“For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14.
Lastly, the fuel of pure pressed olive oil to light the lampstand represents the Holy Spirit.
So to sum up, when we look at the golden lampstand of hammered work we see Jesus on the cross paying for the sin of all mankind.
It is on the cross where He is hard pressed unto death under the weight of sin and heat of God’s wrath. From this press comes the Holy Spirit, the comforter of all who believe in Him.
“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” ‘But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.’” John 7:38-39.
It is the oil of the Holy Spirit which feeds the fires of the lampstand which exposes the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever it goes.
This is why a wax candle does not represent the seven churches.
“The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.” Revelation 1:20b.
The church is a golden lampstand which represents Jesus, the oil is the Holy Spirit which teaches all of us all about Jesus Christ, the fire which burns within us is fueled by the Spirit and the flame which shows through us lights up this whole dark world.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.
Revelation 1:19-20 taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 9-22-16, updated on 4-13-22.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.