MORE THAN JUST A CHURCH...
John was instructed to write down special messages to seven churches in Asia Minor. Jesus instructed him to write to the angels of those churches. Who or what were those seven angels? Were they spiritual angels in the normal sense we think of angels?
In Revelation 1, the angels spoken of are primarily messengers. That doesn’t mean they must be spiritual angels as mentioned above. Nor does this mean they can’t be spiritual beings.
There are some things to keep in mind before you come to your own conclusions about the angels of the seven churches.
Angels have no understanding at this point of salvation. No, angels are not good people that go to heaven and try to earn their wings. People do not become spiritual angels no matter how hard they try. Angels may appear as people but they are not people. Angels are angels and people are people. However, both angels and people have the ability to act as God’s messengers. But there is a difference.
God has chosen people, not angels, to carry the message of salvation. I know of no place in the Bible where an angel preaches the gospel. At a point in the future, angels will be allowed to preach the gospel. So far as I know, the angels carried messages or announcements from God to man in the past.
If my understanding is correct (and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know everything) and angels cannot “understand” the gospel, they must also have a limited understanding of how a church works. Why would I want someone to deliver a message to a church that can’t understand the church?
God uses under shepherds in his churches, doesn’t He? This is the same person that delivers the message to the church two or three times a week. Who better understands the needs of the church than its Pastor? It has been that way since the church started! Since the Pastor is the messenger to the church, it seems the angels spoken of in Revelation 1-3 speak of pastors. He’s also the one God holds responsible for the direction of the church and for the feeding of the sheep of that local flock.
Why would the Lord Jesus tell John to write a letter to a spiritual angel? I’m sure angels can see better than we can and I’m not aware of a single case in the Bible where someone sent a letter to a literal angel. Since when does an angel need a letter to see what’s happening? Why send a letter when God can tell the angel Himself about things?
It seems to me that the angels here are not spiritual angels but pastors. Why not call them bishops or pastors then? Words themselves do not always have to appear for them to be there. Here’s what I mean. The word “church” for instance does not always appear where there is a church. In other words, neither “pastor” or “bishop” must appear for the Bible to refer to them. I think that’s the case here too. The function of messenger appears, which is what angel here means. This requires a look at the context and the function of what these angel/messengers are to do. What’s that? Deliver the message to their churches while they look at their own lives as well. The church adopts the personality of the pastor.
Churches are people
Churches are more than buildings. They are made up of people that possess genuine salvation and scriptural baptism who have voluntarily joined themselves together to go about the Lord’s business. None of those elements can be left out it you have a true church.
Revelation is an unveiling of Christ not only to churches but to Christ’s servants. This doesn’t refer only to those who serve Christ but it also speaks about those who serve Christ because they have a relationship with him. A servant may be a poor excuse of a servant but he remains a servant just the same. So it is with Christ. Because we have a relationship with Christ, we should want to serve him. Sometimes, though, we fail in our service to the King.
Without people you have no church. You probably know that but I want you to expand your thinking a little. The letters Christ sent to the angels of the seven churches in Revelation applies to more than just those churches. Also, remember that the churches written to were not mysterious church ages of the future. Those churches existed at the time the letters were written. They were dealing with specific threats to their existence at that time. As you can see, none of those churches actually exist today. Nothing but ruins remain.
In another way, there are still Christians all around us that have the same personal spiritual problems the Lord spoke to these churches about. That’s why the Lord said, “he that has an ear to hear, let him hear.” The admonition isn’t only for those churches who want to hear. It’s for any Christian who has ears to hear. It’s for the servants of the Lord to hear whatever time period they live in or wherever they live.
The next time you read the letters to the seven churches, think about the problems we have as church members and servants of Christ today. These letters are much more than advice to seven churches.