Friday, April 5, 2013

The Seven Stars of the Apocalypse

Who or what are the Seven Stars of the Apocalypse? The question has nothing to do with fame, but only with the meaning words. As used in the Apocalypse, the word star (aster) has a range of meaning that can literally refer to those astronomical bodies that shine in the sky at night, or to meteoric bodies that fall to the earth; or figuratively, it can refer to Christ himself (when combined with the descriptor, morning) or to angels. The antecedent of the figure of the Seven Stars, however, is plainly stated in the text as being seven angels; therefore, the seven stars are seven angels.

That of course leads us to the question: what or who are the Seven Angels? The meaning of a word, once again, becomes paramount in finding an answer. The word translated in English bibles as angel can have varying meanings. In the OT, the Hebrew word translated angel (malak) can mean, rather innocuously, "messenger" or it can mean "angel" in the spiritual, heavenly sense. It is used about equally one way or the other, the context determining which meaning is used in translation.

In the NT, the Koine word translated angel (aggelo) has the same quality and specification in meaning as does "malak" in the Old. In the NT, however, context demands just about every occurrence of the word to be translated in the spiritual, heavenly sense. Perhaps that it why the English word, angel, which is borrowed, ultimately, from Greek, has as its primary meaning, "a heavenly, spirit being that serves God."

The use of the word angel in the Apocalypse is abundantly clear--over and over again it refers to spirit beings, the servants and messengers of God. Therefore, the Seven Stars are merely those angels tasked by Christ with attending to the Seven Churches to which he sends messages in chapters 2 and 3. Since the sevens here are representative of "the whole", one could justifiably infer that any locality with a body of believers would be likely to have such an angel attending them.

Though I really should be stating the obvious here, two widespread interpretive errors make that not the case at all. One of those errors interprets the angels as the human bishops of churches (or some permutation of the same). The other interprets them as human prophetic spokesmen of their age (or some permutation of the same). Either error misses the mark by ignoring the consistent and therefore obvious use the word angel  in the Revelation. So even though the angels in Anaheim are nothing but human, in the Apocalypse they're anything but.