In Revelation 1:10-11, we find that John heard a voice saying, Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea. God gives us messages not only for ourselves but also for others. When God speaks to us, it is a good habit to write down what we hear, as John was commanded to do here (Rev. 1:11). He might otherwise have forgotten what God had spoken to him.
The message, in this case, was for the seven churches in Asia. What was known as Asia then is today a small part of Turkey. All these seven churches were located within a radius of 75 miles of each other. But notice that even though they were so close to each other, they were still NOT collectively called The CHURCH in Asia. They were called The CHURCHES in Asia. This is a small point but a very important one, nevertheless. The church in Asia would have meant that these churches had become a denomination with a central headquarters. But the churches in Asia indicate that each church was a local church directly under the headship of the Lord.
The church is a work of God, built by Christ. But denominations are the work of men. All the teachings and the writings of the apostles make it clear that the will of God is for each church to be directly under the headship of Christ, and not part of a denomination. There was no bishop or superintendent in charge of these seven churches to whom John could send these letters for distribution to the churches. Each letter had to be sent individually to the messenger of that church - for each church was an independent unit. The Lord had given apostles to the church. John himself was one of them. But the Lord had not appointed any bishops or superintendents. There is no such thing, for example, as The church in India. There are churches in India, and these are built by the Lord in different localities, each one directly under His headship.
Satans final aim is to build his counterfeit world church, Babylon. And his first step towards that goal was to group churches into denominations, many centuries ago. He knew that the task of building Babylon would have been impossible otherwise. We should not be ignorant of Satans schemes.
The seven golden lampstands symbolise the seven churches (Rev. 1:20). Under the old covenant, the temple had ONE seven-branched lampstand. This was because all the tribes of Israel were branches of one denomination with its central headquarters and leaders at Jerusalem.
But it is different under the new covenant. There are seven different lampstands, each completely separate from the other. The reason, as we saw above, was because each church was independently under the headship of Christ, although in fellowship with the other churches, through the Head.
The church being called a lampstand indicates that, in Gods eyes, its primary function is to give light. The lampstands being golden indicate the Divine origin of a true church. It is built by the Lord and not by men.
A lampstand is not meant to be a mere decoration. Neither is a church! The light that every church should hold forth is Gods Word, which alone is a light for our path in this dark world (Psa.119:105). Instead of holding forth that light, when so-called churches begin to major on running schools and hospitals and on doing social work, we can be sure that they have strayed from Gods primary purpose.
When John turned around to see who was speaking, he saw Jesus (Rev. 1:12, 13). But he saw Him in the midst of the churches. It is through the local church that the Lord seeks to reveal Himself and to speak to others.
The first dwelling-place of God mentioned in the Bible is the burning bush that Moses saw in the wilderness (Deut.33:16). Like John at Patmos, Moses also turned aside at that time to see that marvellous sight. And thats when God spoke to him (Exod.3:3).
Today, the church is Gods dwelling place. God desires every church to be aflame with His Spirit like that burning bush was. When people look at a local church, they should be able to see the life of Christ revealed through the members of that church. Then God can speak to people through the church.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon