• | Chris McCann
  • Audio: Length: 28:42
  • Passages covered: Revelation 2:1,2,4-5,7,11,17, Revelation 1:12-13,16,20, Ephesians 2:8-9.

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Revelation 2 Series, Part 1, Verse 1

Good evening, and welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the book of Revelation.  Tonight is study #1 in Revelation 2, and we will read Revelation 2:1:

Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

Again the Lord is emphasizing, and reemphasizing, this statement that He holds the seven stars in His right hand, and He walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.  We saw this statement back in Revelation 1:12-13:

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…

And it said in Revelation 1:16:

And he had in his right hand seven stars

Then it said in Revelation 1:20:

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.

Here, God is giving us the definitions of these spiritual mysteries.  What do the seven stars represent?  They are the “angels of the seven churches.”  What do the seven golden candlesticks represent?  The seven candlesticks are the seven churches.

With this information, we come to chapter 2, and the Lord is beginning to address the seven churches, and He begins with the church in Ephesus.  But notice that it is addressed, “unto the angel of the church of Ephesus,” and this is what we were discussing in our last study.  The Lord is addressing these seven letters, which are really mini epistles, to each of one of the angels of these seven churches.  

Since the seven stars are the seven angels, and the seven stars were in the right hand of one like unto the Son of man, we saw that they must typify the elect.  Let us look at three reasons why this is true: 

  1. They are in Christ’s right hand, and the right hand identifies with God’s salvation. We have looked at several verses, and Psalm 37:7 especially points out that the right hand is the place where the Lord Jesus is seated, and it identifies with Him completely, and with salvation.
  2. There are seven stars that are in His right hand, and the stars typify the elect. The Lord says several times in the Bible that the stars of heaven in their multitude represent the “seed of Abraham,” or all those that would receive the blessing of God, His chosen people.
  3. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and another English word for “angel” that this Greek word can be translated as is “messenger.” The Greek word “ang'-el-os” can be translated either as “angel” or “messenger,” and the true believers are the messengers of God.

So with these three tie-ins, we can say these seven stars, or the seven angels of the seven churches, can typify the elect.  But the difficulty in coming to that conclusion is that when the Lord addresses each one of the angels of these churches, He has some very negative things to say at times, and things that cannot be applied to true believers. 

For instance, it says in Revelation 2:4-5:

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Here, God is indicating that works must be done, or else He will remove the candlestick out of His place.  That is, He will remove His light and His blessing, and that cannot be applicable to a true believer.  We know we do not stand in a “works relationship” with God, but we are saved by grace, and all sin is forgiven.  There is no transgression we could ever do that would cause God to remove His blessing from us.  And there are several other statements that would keep us from concluding that God is talking to the true believers.

And yet we find when we look at the angels of each of these seven churches, they are the “stars” in Christ’s right hand, so they have to typify the true believers.  So that is our problem.  How do we resolve this and understand what God is saying here?  The solution is the fact that the seven stars are “seven angels.”  It says, “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus,” and “ang'-el-os” is properly translated as “messenger.”  Actually, in many cases it should have been translated as “messenger.”  So a more proper translation would have been: “Unto the messenger of the church of Ephesus write…”  That is, God is giving a message to His messengers, the true believers.  And what are they to do?  They are to carry that message to the church at Ephesus, or the church at Smyrna, or the church at Laodicea, and so forth.  The “angel” or “messenger” of each of these churches is given the role of carrying the message to the church. 

What that means is that what God is saying to the messenger is not due to the messenger himself.  It is not the messenger’s failing, but God is looking at the church as a whole, and these seven churches represent the New Testament churches and congregations throughout the church age.  When He is making these declarations and commanding them to repent or He will remove their candlestick, He is speaking to all the churches.  We can know this because of what God says in Revelation 2:7, after speaking to the angel of the church of Ephesus, He says in Revelation 2:7:

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches

Here, God is saying it very directly, and even though the message was delivered to the “angel” or “messenger,” it is for the churches, and not just the church at Ephesus, but for all the churches.  And God repeats this statement, and it really becomes a refrain after each address to each of the seven churches.  Look at Revelation 2:11:

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches

Then look at Revelation 2:17:

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches

And it is repeated in verse 29, and so on, and right into chapter 3, so we can be sure that what the Lord is saying unto the angel of the church of Laodicea is not being spoken to the elect, except in the sense that the elect are part of the church.  But it is a message for the corporate church, the institution of the church, or the outward representation of God’s kingdom on earth, which are all the churches and congregations of the world.  That is why God can say that they are “lukewarm,” and He will spew them out of His mouth, or that they say they are rich, but they are poor, blind, and naked.  That cannot apply to a true believer, but it can apply to a congregation that is going away from the Word of God.  And God gives the message to His people to carry to the churches. 

Let us look at the rest of Revelation 2:1:

Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

Again, we have seen this in the previous chapter, and we covered all these statements, so we will just quickly go over them to remind us.  The one that is said to hold “the seven stars in his right hand” is the “one like unto the Son of man,” the Lord Jesus Christ.  The seven stars typify the elect, with the number “seven” pointing to the perfection of the elect.  They are those that have been purified.  They are in His right hand because the right hand of God identifies with salvation.  It goes on to say that He “walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.”  Christ entered into the midst of the churches.  Remember that Revelation 1:20 told us that the seven candlesticks are the seven churches, and the Spirit of Christ was in the midst of the churches from the beginning and throughout the 1,955 years of the church age.

It was only when the church age came to an end on May 21, 1988 that the Holy Spirit came out of the midst, and we read that language in 2Thessalonians 2.  But for almost two thousand years, Christ was in the church, and it was a proper and right place for the true believer to be, and there could be blessings to individuals and families that were part of a local congregation.

Let us continue on to Revelation 2:2:

I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

We are going to look at just the first part of this verse for now.  It says, “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil.”  Again, the Lord is speaking to the churches, and that is important for us to understand.  He is not speaking to an individual believer.

You know, we can sometimes get this confused.  The spiritual authorities, like the elders, pastors, and deacons, misunderstand the relationship between the (corporate) church and God, and they apply the relationship of God with an individual believer to the churches and congregations.  What I mean by this is that any person (a man, woman, boy, or girl) that is an elect individual is saved by the grace of God, as it says in Ephesians 2:8-9:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Here, God is describing salvation of an individual.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith.”  Of course there is error in understanding this doctrine among many theologians and those that teach in the churches and congregations.  They would say, “You are saved by grace through your faith.”  That is wrong.  Although it does not say it here, we know from the rest of the Bible that it is through the faith of Christ that we are saved.  We are justified, according to Galatians 2:16, by the faith of Christ, and not by our own faith.  If we attempted to get saved by our own faith, then that would be a “work” because God commands us to believe, so any attempt to obey a commandment of God is a work.  That is a definition of a “work.”  It is the attempt to do the will of God by keeping His commandments.  So we would not be justified because no man is justified by works, as Galatians 2:16 also says, but by the faith of Christ.  No man is justified by works, and that would mean that we cannot be justified by our own faith: “…not of works, lest any man should boast.”

So that is how an individual can stand before God.  No man can stand based on his own deeds, good works, or his own faith.  It is all by the faith of Christ, and the grace of God by which He bestows His mercy upon us. 

And when God saves an individual, all of our sins – past, present, and future – are paid for in full.  For example, if a person would commit five million sins, and a million of those sins are yet to take place, it means that when Christ paid for the sins of that person, He paid for all five million, even though that person committed only four million sins up to the point of salvation being applied to him.  All sin is forgiven.  All sin has been paid for, and no sin of any kind (great or small, in our eyes) could cause God to leave us, forsake us, or to return us to being under His wrath.  It is not possible.  We are clean.  We are washed.  We are forgiven.  We are purged from all iniquity in the eyes of God. 

This is the tremendously wonderful condition that the child of God finds himself in because of the mercy and grace of God.  It is “unmerited favour.”  Nothing we could do could ever cause God to favour us or save us, as far as good deeds go.  And nothing that we fail to do, or what we do contrary to the Law of God by transgressing His Law, could ever cause God to leave us or to remove His blessing from us.  This is the glorious condition of each child of God.  Of course this does not mean that we are going to sin at will and do whatever we want, and that we will not care about keeping God’s commandments. 

That is an idea that some wrongly get when they hear that all sins are forgiven, and an individual cannot lose his salvation, and they think they can just commit “spiritual mayhem.”  They think that because they have no real understanding of salvation.  They have not experienced it, and they do not realize the working of God’s Spirit within a person to will and to do of His good pleasure, as He moves him to keep His commandments.  They do not understand the love that the Spirit of God can provoke in individuals to do as they learn how great a sinner they are, and how deserving of eternal destruction they are, and then they discover what Christ has done in paying for their sins, and so kindly and graciously saving them.  And of course God’s Spirit moves the true child of God to desire to serve Christ out of love, and to obey his Lord.  That is the motivation of the true believer.  It comes from the new soul that God has placed within, and it comes from the Holy Spirit that indwells that person.   It does not come from some sort of mindset that we have to do the will of God, or we will lose our salvation.  It is not from the perspective: “I must do this to continue on the path to heaven.”  That is a sinful idea.  That is the mindset of a “works gospel,” and a true believer does not have that mindset.

Do you see the actual standing of the child of God as they stand before Him through the grace of God with all sin forgiven?  That standing has been “misplaced” by some theologians and leaders in the churches and congregations, and they have taken that standing that only applies to the elect, and they have misapplied it to the relationship between God and the (corporate) church.  The church is an institution, a body, like the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, and the Lutherans, and they have the idea, “Yes, we have our failings.  We do not do things perfectly.  We do not keep God’s Law perfectly.”  They admit to that.  They recognize that, although you would think they would then be studying and studying to find their imperfections in their doctrines, and correct it.  But correction is never made.  They never look at their confessions and creeds to see how they line up with the Bible, or how they can fix things to have a more perfect relationship with God.  But they do admit they are not perfect, but they have erroneous doctrines, especially when you point out, “Look, you have ten churches and each one teaches ten different things concerning baptism, the Lord’s Table, or concerning how an individual becomes saved, with this doctrine and that doctrine, so it is very obvious that at least nine of them are wrong.”  You cannot have ten different truths.  There is only one truth: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism…”   

So they are aware that the churches must have errors and false teachings in many different areas, and yet when the churches and congregations heard about the end of the church age…and why did God bring the church age to an end?  It was because He had given commandments to the churches that they were to keep, and be obedient to, but they failed to obey.  The Bible typifies these false doctrines and teachings as “high places” in the Old Testament, and the churches had their “high places,” or “idols,” that they worshipped, adhered to, and followed.  And the Lord gave them space to turn and repent from these things, but they did not.  So the true believers were sharing what God was opening up during the time of the Great Tribulation, like the church age having come to an end and the judgment of God being upon them as judgment began at the house of God; and that they must leave their churches and congregations; and that the Lord had loosed Satan to enter into the churches in order that he be used as an instrument of judgment upon the churches of the world.  But most of them said, “Oh, that is not possible.  What if we do have some false doctrines, or these things you call ‘high places’?  Do you not understand that we stand by grace?  God is a God of grace.  He is forgiving, merciful, and kind, and He has overlooked these things.  He would just encourage us to do better.” 

But what they have done is they have applied what is true of an individual child of God to the corporate body, and that is a great mistake.  It is wrong, and it is not true.  God holds the churches and congregations accountable to Him, and they do not stand by grace in His sight, but they stand by a “works relationship.”  That is, they are obligated and responsible to obey the commandments of God, the Gospel of the Bible, as we learn when we read Revelation 2:4-5:

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Here, God is threatening them.  “You had better obey me and do the things I command, or I will remove your candlestick.”  And that candlestick represents the light of the Gospel, the light of God.

We will discuss this further when we get together in our next Bible study.