Verse 20. "The mystery" - That is, the allegorical explanation of the seven stars is the seven angels or ministers of the Churches; and the allegorical meaning of the seven golden lamps is the seven Churches themselves.
1. IN the seven stars there may be an allusion to the seals of different offices under potentates, each of which had its own particular seal, which verified all instruments from that office; and as these seals were frequently set in rings which were worn on the fingers, there may be an allusion to those brilliants set in rings, and worn epi thv dexiav, UPON the right hand. In Jeremiah xxii. 24, Coniah is represented as a signet on the right hand of the Lord; and that such signets were in rings see Gen. xxxviii. 18, 25; Exod. xviii. 11; Dan. vi. 17, Haggai ii. 23. On close examination we shall find that all the symbols in this book have their foundation either in nature, fact, custom, or general opinion. One of the cutchery seals of the late Tippoo Saib, with which he stamped all the commissions of that office, lies now before me; it is cut on silver, in the Taaleck character, and the piece of silver is set in a large gold ring, heavy, but roughly manufactured.
2. The Churches are represented by these lamps; they hold the oil and the fire, and dispense the light. A lamp is not light in itself, it is only the instrument of dispensing light, and it must receive both oil and fire before it can dispense any; so no Church has in itself either grace or glory, it must receive all from Christ its head, else it can dispense neither light nor life.
3. The ministers of the Gospel are signets or seals of Jesus Christ; he uses them to stamp his truth, to accredit it, and give it currency. But as a seal can mark nothing of itself unless applied by a proper hand, so the ministers of Christ can do no good, seal no truth, impress no soul, unless the great owner condescend to use them.
4. How careful should the Church be that it have the oil and the light, that it continue to burn and send forth Divine knowledge! In vain does any Church pretend to be a Church of Christ if it dispense no light; if souls are not enlightened, quickened, and converted in it. If Jesus walk in it, its light will shine both clearly and strongly, and sinners will be converted unto him; and the members of that Church will be children of the light, and walk as children of the light and of the day, and there will be no occasion of stumbling in them.
5. How careful should the ministers of Christ be that they proclaim nothing as truth, and accredit nothing as truth, but what comes from their master! They should also take heed lest, after having preached to others, themselves should be cast-aways; lest God should say unto them as he said of Coniah, As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah, the son of Jehoiakim, were the SIGNET UPON MY RIGHT HAND, yet would I pluck thee thence.
On the other hand, if they be faithful, their labour shall not be in vain, and their safety shall be great. He that toucheth them toucheth the apple of God's eye, and none shall be able to pluck them out of his hand. they are the angels and ambassadors of the Lord; their persons are sacred; they are the messengers of the Churches, and the glory of Christ. Should they lose their lives in the work, it will be only a speedier entrance into an eternal glory.
The rougher the way, the shorter their stay, The troubles that rise Shall gloriously hurry their souls to the skies.