Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. 18 “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. 19 “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. 20 “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches. (Rev 1:12-1 NKJ)
The key to understanding this text is found in the word mystery (20) The word means hidden things, secret, mystery. Generally, mysteries, religious secrets, confided only to the initiated and not to ordinary mortals. Things that can only be understood by the interpretation that comes from the Lord, and the Spirit.
The lampstands represent the seven church congregations mentioned in chapters 2-3, and the seven stars are the angelic messengers attached to each church. Like a lamp, each congregation is meant to shine the light into the neighborhood, community and the world. The angelic messengers show that the Word that comes forth needs to be fresh, sharp and spiritually alive, and spiritually discerned. As we’re told later, the spiritually discerning church hears what the Spirit is saying.
So why the mystery? Being a Christian in Asia Minor, ruled by the Roman Empire was dangerous, oppressive and anti-Christian. The emperor of that time, Domitian, persecuted Christians without mercy, and even though Nero, the Beast, was dead, they feared his reincarnation. John knew that many of the believers would have been familiar with apocalyptic writings and understood his ‘Revelation’ code.