New Defender's Study Bible Notes
1:20 seven stars. This verse beautifully illustrates the principle of literal interpretation: when symbols are used, their meaning is explained. Thus, the candlesticks (or “lampstands”) symbolize literal churches, and the stars symbolize literal angels. If Christ had meant “pastors” or “elders” of the churches, He could easily have made this clear by using the appropriate word. “Elder,” for example, is used twelve other times in Revelation, so it would be used here if Christ meant the meaning to be “elder.” Nowhere else in the Bible are pastors called angels.
The word “angel” (Greek aggelos) can mean “messenger,” but is only used very rarely of human messengers, and then only if the context requires. The context here certainly does not require any such meaning. In fact the word “angel” occurs sixty-seven other times in Revelation, always with the necessary meaning of heavenly angels. Therefore, this is bound to be Christ’s intended meaning here. The idea that angels are assigned to guide individual churches should not be so surprising in light of such Scriptures as Hebrews 1:14; Acts 12:15; I Corinthians 11:10; Ephesians 3:10; I Peter 1:12; and others. Pastors and elders may come and go, but the angel of the church can continue as long as the church lasts. Just how they manage to convey Christ’s messages to His churches may not be understood now, though “some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2), but we can be confident they have ways and means.