We get some interesting queries from readers. This was a difficult one, concerning the angels of the seven churches of Revelation. Are they men, or angels? Messengers or pastors? Opinions vary and I have tried to provide a Biblical answer, but on this one I would not be dogmatic, so what follows after the query is just my personal opinion.
Hi Mr. Franklin, I am from Nicaragua, Central America. I have had the chance of reading two of your books recently (Cults and Isms; True or False? and Goodbye America, Goodbye Britain) and found them very interesting in the way that they expose the world´s events unfolding before our eyes and how those events being fulfilled back up the many prophecies written in the Bible, the Word of God. Be the Lord Jesus continuing giving you wisdom and patience to keep on doing the job he en-commended you to do.
Now, I want to take advantage of this opportunity to ask your interpretation to a statement used by many pastors in my country. What they do is that they quote Revelation 3:1 on which we read: And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. (From King James Version).
Based on this verse they state that a pastor is an angel, the angel of each local church, (and just to give you an idea: in a single neighborhood in Nicaragua you might count 50 churches of different denominations). Therefore, they say, since they are the angels of the church they cannot be in any way questioned for their teachings from the pulpits or on any decision taken within the church.
From my point of view, an angel is an spiritual being not physical, so I am a bit confused about this. I would really appreciate an answer from you on this topic. By the way, I really loved your article on Judging and its five different meanings using the corresponding Greek words, that was very helpful. Thanks God for your ministry and thank you for your time and patience. God bless you. DOUGLAS DOLMUS
Greetings, Douglas. Many Bible scholars struggle over this statement. What is meant by "the angel of the church"? Pat recalled that when a house group discussed this, with some serious Bible scholars present, no definite conclusion could be reached. Therefore what follows is Bible-based, but nonetheless just opinion.There are several viewpoints.
The word in the Greek for "angel" could also mean "messenger," which some would say means the pastor of the church. However, there is no scriptural basis for concluding that the angels are pastors. William MacDonald in his Believer's Bible Commentary, which we recommend, says that some say the angels were angelic beings who represented the churches, just as angels represent nations (Dan. 10:13, 20, 21.)
MacDonald continues: "Still others say that they were human messengers who picked up the letters from John on Patmos and delivered them to the individual churches. The same Greek word (angelos) means either angel or messenger, but in this book the first meaning is very prominent. Although the letters are addressed to angels the contents are clearly intended for all in the churches."
Elsewhere in the New Testament this word in the original language does mean "messenger" rather than "angel" — but it does not have that meaning anywhere else in Revelation. Outside of chapters 2 and 3, it definitely refers to an angel — a heavenly being.
In the New Testament no church is governed by one human leader. Leadership in the early church was plural — elders — and it was later that men placed churches under the authority of a single leader. So it seems unlikely that these letters in Revelation are directed to a single human "messenger" or pastor.
The world today has in the main forgotten how it should be governed: by a plurality of elders, as our own small fellowship is. Pastors have assumed far too much authority and it is not Biblical. Neither should they necessarily be the preacher: our own fellowship has four or more speakers on Sundays, of which I am one. However, I have no church authority: the two things do not necessarily go together. The whole point of the cross was that the veil of the temple was torn in two, signifying our access to God via the Lord Jesus Christ. The priestly class was - or should have been - abolished. All believers are priests, charged with spreading the word.
I have some practical problems with the idea that the messages for the churches were given to angels, however. How, then, would the church get the message? An angel would not reveal himself in front of the congregation and read it out, one imagines. So, after considering the options, it seems likely to me that the angels were human messengers sent to each church, with a message to be read out. Some would have been more welcome than others!
Finally, we are told to judge the scriptural teaching of all preachers, however exalted, as you will have seen from Pat's article on judging, taken from one of our books. So if the pastors in your country are claiming they cannot be challenged, they are indeed way off-beam and should be challenged immediately. They are teaching error. This should be done in the right spirit, but in a live church it would not be unusual for the preacher to have some of his teaching questioned by the church, after he had finished his message. I hope this helps. Do you have any Bible commentaries? With our best regards and love in the Lord, Alan.