The Angels of the Seven Churches (Rev 1:20) -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 091:364 (Oct 1934)
Article: The Angels of the Seven Churches (Rev 1:20)
Author: Anonymous

The Angels of the Seven Churches (Rev 1:20)


[Editor’s Note: This paper is a valuable contribution to the study of authority in the early church. It is written by a widely-known pastor and scholar who prefers to write anonymously.-H.C.T.]

In approaching a book like Revelation, which is so full of symbols, the mind is not always quick to see the real and historical allusions to persons and things which, upon close examination, may be clearly there. Dr. Ramsay1 has done much to establish the historical setting for the language used in the letters to the seven churches. Others, too, have contributed to the historical background. A careful reading of such books will show how much is left to be done if the Revelation is to be brought within the range of proper understanding. In the absence of fuller light it is not to be wondered at that we have had given to us the most fanciful and incredible interpretations of this book. No one who attempts to get an understanding of its meaning can fail to find himself led away by its symbols from clear historical allusions.

It is not impossible that the word ἄγγελος comes in for its share of this very thing. The word appears in practically every chapter in the Revelation2 and clearly seems to point to heavenly intelligences or to some symbolic relationship between heaven and earth in spiritual matters. Along with our natural propensity to associate the word “angel” with heavenly intelligences it is

easy to see how much of our thinking about ἄγγελος has had a very definite coloring. In each of the letters to the seven churches the title of address is “To the angel of the church, write.” Some consider that the Guardian Angel is here referred to; others that this is “a personification of the powers, character, history and life and unity of the church, the angel representing the Divine presence and the Divine power in the church.”3 Others still consider the angels to be the Bishops in the churches4 or special messengers from the churches then visiting John in his exile, etc. After a rather extended discussion of the matter Dr. Ramsay says: “It is therefore vain to attempt to give a rigidly accurate definition of the meaning which is attached to the term “angel” in these chapters. All that concerns the angels is vague, impalpable, elusive, defying analysis and scientific precisions.”5 One hesitates to ve...

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