Everybody that seriously studies the Bible will tell you that it interprets itself. In this case, you don’t have to look very far for the interpretation: Jesus tells you right in verse 20 that the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. When I get to verse twenty, I’ll worry about what that means. In the meantime, we can talk about them being in His right hand.
The right hand is always significant in the Bible
Psalm 110:1 - ...The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
Also Matthew 22:44, Mark 12:36, Luke 20:42, and Acts 2:34.
Mark 16:19 - So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
Matthew 25:34 - Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
God’s right hand is a place of protection.
Psalm 17:7 - Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them.
Psalm 20:6 - Now know I that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.
Isaiah 41:10 - Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
It’s impossible to imagine a better place in all the universe than to be resting in the right hand of God. These angels (aggelos - can be translated as a messenger, an envoy, or “one who is sent) are obviously of tremendous importance to God.
I can imagine John looking at them in Jesus’ hand (either a really big hand, or pretty small stars), wondering what they mean.
Now, this I have a harder time visualizing. I’ve seen where a lot of artists have tried, and it always comes out a little bizarre, if not grotesque. Understanding what it means isn’t very hard:
Ephesians 6:17 - And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
And Hebrews 4:12 - For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Obviously, what came out of His mouth was the Word of God. (Really, how could it be anything else). Attributed to this Word is tremendous power and precision.
The Power of God’s Word
This is incredibly exciting stuff. The word “quick” (zaō) in Hebrews 4:14 does not mean fast. It means “ALIVE”, and “active”. Don’t forget, the entire Universe was created by God’s Word. It is infinitely powerful. And the best part is: it is available to you and me. That book we all call the Bible contains God’s Word, and all the power in the Universe.
Scoff if you want, but I challenge you to read the thing. Simply pray to God and read the Bible daily and I guarantee it will change your life. It changed mine.
But the word of God is not necessarily gentle. As I read it, the first thing that strikes me is all the things I’m doing wrong. If you read it with an honest, seeking heart, you start to notice that all the excuses you’ve been making for the things you do are not going to hold up in the light of God’s word. That’s why Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s Word is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. You can claim to be a Christian, but if you are not reading God’s word, you can continue to make excuses and not even realise how far you are drifting from the mark.
I make that mistake all the time. My life has been a really sad cycle of turning to God through prayer and study of His word, followed by times when I seem to run out of time for God, followed again by my crying out to God again when everything in my life falls apart and I find myself back in some self-inflicted crisis. God always bails me out, and I promise myself that I won’t allow myself to neglect Him and His word again. I’m praying for Him to help me keep that promise now.
So maybe we don’t need to try to visualize a sword coming out of His mouth. While we are told of things that Christ said when He appeared to John, we are not necessarily told of everything He said to John. John was a very holy man, but he was still a man. He was not perfect. The words of God may have cut John like a sword as He was made aware of just how far he was from the divine perfection of God. Something like what happened to Isaiah: (6:5) - Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Isaiah was a great man of God, too.
Countenance means visage or overall appearance. I was thinking the brightness represented holiness. There are a lot of references to the face of God shining on His people: Psalm 80:7 - Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. And Psalm 119:135 - Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes. And some others, not just in Psalms, but in Ezekiel 43:2 - And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory. ...and other places. In the New Testament, too: Acts 26:13 - At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
Then, I was thinking it represented righteousness: Matthew 13:43 - Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. Even kind of a contagious righteousness: Exodus 34:29 - And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. Angels also had this shine. When the Angel came down and rolled the stone away from Christ’s tomb: Matthew 28:3 - His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow , and Daniel said the angel that appeared to him had a face like lightning. Daniel 10:6 - His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude. In fact, there are a lot of similarities between the appearance of this angel and the Person in front of John.
But, I ran into a problem when I saw Ezekiel 28:17 - Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. This guy was neither holy nor righteous.
The Brightness has to mean something
I’m wondering if this incredible brightness isn’t also part of the uniform of Heaven. Genesis says that Man was created in God’s image. I wonder if Adam and Eve were images of light before they sinned. That perhaps the coats (kethôneth - “to cover”) of skins that God clothed them with was the skins that we consider our bodies that scientists are so happy to point out are of the same material and general structure as every other mammal. I understand that Genesis 2:7 says that God formed man from the dust of the earth, but into no other creature did God breathe life. Was it this God breathed life that was lost when Adam sinned? We really have no idea what the world was like in the beginning. We have only seen it in the state it took after Adam sinned.
I can’t resist pointing out here that there are 7 attributes in the description of Jesus here in the first chapter of Revelation. Get used to the sevens; they’re everywhere in this book.