When I awoke this morning, thoughts and images of Jesus as pictured in Revelation 1 were going through my mind. I was thinking about and picturing the risen and glorified Jesus standing in the midst of 7 golden lampstands and holding 7 stars in His right hand.
Since John who saw that revelation of Jesus while he was exiled on the island of Patmos (for his Christian testimony) was Jewish, I was picturing the 7 lampstands as a menorah. A menorah is 7 golden lampstands that all branch out from a single base. It was part of the holiest furniture in the ancient Hebrew tabernacle and later in the temple.
Jesus tells John the “mystery” of the stars and lampstands. He says that the 7 stars are the messengers (angeloi in Greek which can be translated as messengers or angels) of the 7 assemblies and the 7 lampstands are the assemblies (ekklēsiōn in Greek).
As I lay in bed, I kept wondering about the 7 angeloi (messengers) “of” the assemblies. It doesn’t say that they were messengers (or angels) “to” the assemblies, but “of” the assemblies. They were part of the assemblies. (Later I checked about 25 translations and they all said “of” instead of “to.”)
As I thought about the 7 stars and messengers, I thought about the star of Bethlehem. It was a messenger of Jesus, a sign that lighted the way to Him and was followed by the wise men from the East. It proclaimed the birth of Jesus and the presence of the body of Christ. A messenger “to” is a delivery person, but a messenger “of” is a sign. What is the messenger (sign) of an assembly of the body of Christ?
A star is a heavenly light. Jesus had told His followers, “You (plural as in y’all or you guys) are the light of the world.” He also told them that He would build his ekklesia (assembly in English). An ekklesia was the open, interactive governing body of an ancient Greek city-state. Jesus applied ekklesia to a gathering or assembly of members of His body. Perhaps the messenger of (not “to”) an assembly of the body of Christ is the light that shines from their coming together with Christ in their midst.
Although each of the 7 letters in chapters 2 and 3 seem to be addressed “To the messenger of the assembly” in a particular city, when you read each letter it’s obvious that it is being sent to a group of people, not to an individual person or angel. The letters critique how effective each assembly of the body of Christ has been as a messenger or sign or light to the world–how well they have shined like a star to announce and demonstrate the presence of the risen Jesus in their midst.
I found three instances in the New Testament where the Greek word for “to” (τῷ) is translated as “for” instead of “to.” If we use that translation, the letters in Revelation are introduced as, “For the messenger (light) of the assembly.” If like the Star of Bethlehem, the messenger (star) is the light that shines from the assembly, that would mean the letter is what it appears to be–an evaluation or critique from Jesus about how well that particular assembly of the body of Christ is reflecting and shinning His light to the world.
What would Jesus say to evaluate how well the light of the world shines out of the assembling of the body of Christ in your city? What messages is the gathering of Christians in your city sending out?