19 Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. 20 As for 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 assemblies, and the seven lampstands are the seven assemblies.
In verse 19 John is told to write three things: 1) the things he saw, 2) the things which are, and 3) the things which will take place after these things. This is the very first clue that we as readers of the Letter of Revelation get about the possible structure of John’s composition. There will be others too and we will address those as we come upon them in the text.
In verse 20 the Son of Man explains to John and by extension to his readers that the symbolism of seven stars in his hand and seven lamp stands among which he was seen walking earlier (Rev.1:12-13) is intricately connected with the seven Jesus-believing assemblies in Asia Minor and their angels/messengers.
There is often a confusion about the word “angel” in biblical texts and Revelation is not an exception. Angels are always seen as heavenly beings. Thus every time the word angel comes up in biblical context the presence of supernatural heavenly beings is assumed (usually looking the way we’ve been thought they look). But in Hebrew the word MALACH also means a human messenger. The same is the case in Koine Judeo-Greek’s meaning of ANGELOS.
Can one make a case for human messengers/angels delivering and reading letters to their congregations? Yes. On the other hand apocalyptic literature is rich with heavenly messengers delivering messages to humans. This is a common feature of this type of Jewish literature. John writes within this apocalyptic genre.
Just like verses in John’s Revelation in the book of Jubilees Jacob receives seven tablets from an angel. He reads them and discovers in these seven tablets information about the future of his family and things to come in general. We read in Jubilees 32:20-21:
“And He finished speaking with him, and He went up from him, and Jacob looked till He had ascended into heaven. And he saw in a vision of the night, and behold an angel descended from heaven with seven tablets in his hands, and he gave them to Jacob, and he read them and knew all that was written therein which would befall him and his sons throughout all the ages.
As other apocalyptic Jewish books John’s letter of Revelation includes prediction of the future events that are meant to be a comfort in the time of discouragement and persecution especially. At the time of brutal persecution of followers of Jesus by the Roman government the true King of Israel Jesus, the Son of Man and the high priest of heavenly tabernacle affirms that all those who trust in him can be confident in their future. Christ holds them in his right hand of strength and authority. They have nothing to be afraid of. Their future is secure.
(The image used in this post is part of Jerusalem Wall of Life mural – www.jerusalemwalloflife.org)