ARE THE “ANGELS” OF THE REVELATION REALLY “PASTORS?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
“Aggelos” appears 76 times in the Greek version of the Book of the Revelation. While most commonly rendered “angels,” scholars want to make eight exceptions. They argue that 68 references are to spirit-beings. Allegedly, the other eight references are not angels but rather “pastors” or “messengers.” Why do they say this? Are they correct? Why does it matter that we settle this? “For what saith the Scriptures?”
According to Strong’s Greek Concordance of the Bible, the King James Bible’s underlying Greek New Testament contains 186 instances of the word “aggelos”—rendered “angel” 179 times and “messenger” seven times. Never once is it translated “pastor.” While most often referring to spirit creatures, there are some exceptions: “aggelos” is the role of John the Baptist as “messenger” of God (Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27), it applies to the “messengers” of John (Luke 7:24), it describes the “messengers” of Jesus (Luke 9:52), and it applies to the Jewish “messengers” sent to Rahab in Jericho (James 2:25). Finally, “aggelos” is rendered the “messenger” of Satan that afflicted Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7—this would be a malady rather than a spirit-being or human.
To repeat, “aggelos” is used 76 times in the Greek version of Revelation. Most scholars favor it be translated “pastors” or “messengers” in eight particular instances. This alteration of the text makes it easier to teach that these beings are humans as opposed to angels. Therefore, they claim “angel” in our King James Bible should really be “messenger” or “pastor” in Revelation chapters 1–3. Let us read those eight verses:
- Revelation 1:20: “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”
- Revelation 2:1: “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;….”
- Revelation 2:8: “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;….”
- Revelation 2:12: “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;….”
- Revelation 2:18: “And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;….”
- Revelation 3:1: “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.”
- Revelation 3:7: “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;….”
- Revelation 3:14: “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;….”
Dr. C. I. Scofield, in his eponymous study Bible, has placed a footnote at the word “angels” in Revelation 1:20: “The natural explanation of the ‘messengers’ is that they were men sent by the seven churches to ascertain the state of the aged apostle, now an exile in Patmos (cf. Phil. 4. 18); but they figure any who bear God’s messages to a church.”
While we will always appreciate Brother Scofield’s diligence in disseminating dispensational Bible truths via his study Bible, we must respectfully disagree with him concerning the “natural explanation” of those “angels” of Revelation’s seven churches. If we attempt to make these seven churches part of the Church the Body of Christ, we will seek to make the passages in Revelation fit with God’s current dealings with us. Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, are totally silent about any angelic beings leading any local assemblies of the Body of Christ. If we make Revelation’s seven churches part of the Body of Christ, and most do (as Dr. Scofield), then we will naturally disagree with Revelation when it mentions “angels” leading seven local churches.
Another theologian commented on the word “angels” in Revelation 1:20: “The word lit. means ‘messenger.’ Although it can mean angel—and does throughout the book—it cannot refer to angels here because angels are never leaders in the church. Most likely, these messengers are the 7 key elders representing each of those churches.” Notice how he argued “angels” should be “messengers” because angels never lead the church. Why? Like many, he is forcing these seven churches of Revelation to be the Church the Body of Christ. This is completely unsound theology, non-dispensational Bible study. Furthermore, he admits that the word “aggelos” is translated “angel” throughout the Book of the Revelation. Still, he wants to make the eight exceptions (change the word from “angel” to “messenger”) in order to keep his pet theological position!
As always, dear friends, the safest method to handle the Bible is to leave the King James Bible text alone. If we must alter God’s Word to fit our theology, then our preconceived ideas mean more to us than God’s Word. We have mixed-up priorities and misplaced loyalties! Beware, beware, beware!! Unless we turn back from this wayward path, we are sure to be further deceived! (The Bible says this, but it really means that. “Angel” is not “angel;” “angel” means “pastor.” If that is the case, how will we ever get anything out the Bible? Whether this or other topics, will be “spiritualizing” it instead of taking it literally.)
In Scripture, “stars” and angelic beings are closely related (Job 38:7; Daniel 8:10 cf. Revelation 12:4). As we saw earlier, Revelation 1:20 says the “stars” of the seven churches (verse 16) are “angels.” Such is not the language of human messengers of God. In keeping with Bible terminology, “stars” and “angels” are linked. People and stars, however, are never associated with each other in Scripture. If we can understand this, we will have no problem with leaving the Bible text alone in the opening chapters of Revelation. While Paul’s epistles are silent about angels ministering to us today, angelic beings have played and will play a very important role in the nation Israel’s program. This is how we should approach the Book of the Revelation.
Angels served in Israel’s history concerning Divine revelation, particularly regarding prophecy. For example, when the Prophet Daniel asked God in prayer for wisdom concerning his end-times prophecies, God sent the Angel Gabriel to give him “skill and understanding” (Daniel 9:21-27). This is repeated in Daniel 10:21: “But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.” Gabriel illuminated Daniel concerning the Bible. Also, we see an “angel” “shewing” the Apostle John in Revelation 22:8 various prophecies that comprise that Book. Zechariah the Prophet received Divine insight into prophecy from angelic beings (see the Book of Zechariah, chapters 2 through 6). The Prophet Ezekiel had visions of angels and their roles in God’s program for Israel.
Using all of this background, we can see why Almighty God would have literal angelic beings in Revelation chapters 1–3, rather than mere human messengers. Whether in John’s day (history to us) or Daniel’s 70th Week (yet future from us), God has one angel leading each of the seven main assemblies in Asia (that is, Asia Minor, modern Turkey). The letter to each church is written specifically to the angel leading each church. These angels are commissioned to take the doctrine and illuminate the Jewish believers in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
If we consider all that the Bible says about angels and prophetic understanding, there is no other way for us to interpret this matter. As the Book of Hebrews, chapter 1, verses 13 through 14, states concerning Israel and the end-times: “But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Indeed, angels will have a ministry to Israel yet future!
» Is the Ephesian church of the Revelation the same group as those in the Book of Ephesians?
» Do we live in “the Church Age?”
» Should “church” be changed to “called-out assembly” in Acts 7:38 in the King James Bible?