On Sunday, February 4th, I mentioned at the beginning of the sermon that there wasn’t going to be time for a Q&A, but that people could still tweet questions and I would answer them here. Of course that’s not as much but I did get one:
Each letter to the seven churches is addressed to “the angel…” Who is that and what is the significance?
Good question! The word “angel” means “messenger” in the common tongue of the day. The NASB translates the Hebrew word Malak as: ambassadors (2), angel (101), angels (9), envoys (1), messenger (24), messengers (76). The NASB translates the Greek word Aggelos as: angel (86), angel’s (2), angelic (1), angels (80), messenger (4), messengers (3). Typically, the textual context clues the translators in on whether the messenger is human, but sometimes the context could go both ways.
We know that heavenly Angels were often assigned particular nations. In Daniel 10, Gabriel is pinned down by the “Prince of Persia” (not a video game, but a very real, very powerful, demon) and is rescued by Michael the Archangel of Israel. It’s not hard to imagine that post-resurrection angels will be assigned to churches. After all they longed to look in on our gift of grace (1 Peter 2:12) and overlook our worship (1 Corinthians 11:10). Added to the fact that heavenly angels play a big role in the entire book of revelation, it’s entirely possible that 7 heavenly angels were assigned to these 7 churches.
On the other hand, church tradition is that they were the seven pastors (or Bishops) to those seven churches. In that tradition, Timothy, who would have been an old man in 90AD, was the “angel” to the church at Ephesus. (An intriguing concept)
Both the grammatical and textual context leave it an open question as to whether it was a human or heavenly angel, but the significance in either case is that they were granted authority and responsibility for the church to which they carried their message. The important question for us is, in what way am I (is our church) similar to each of the seven churches in Revelation 2&3?