The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
Rev 1:20 stars = angels; candlesticks = churches
stars are the angels...candlesticks...are...churches This is the explanation of the vision. The seven stars are seven angels of seven churches (represented by candlesticks), an angel for each church as we learn in the next chapters. Later, a star does what we would expect an angel would do, but is not expressly called an angel, i.e. he is given a key and then opens the bottomless pit (Rev 9:1-2)
The candlesticks are made of gold, signifying the value that God places upon His churches.
Notice the deliberate distinction between a star and a candlestick, between an angel and a church. The stars/angels are in Jesus' hand, but He walks among the candlesticks/churches (Rev 2:1). We, therefore, should not confuse the two figures of speech or combine them into one. The star is not a lampstand, nor is the angel a church. This will be critical when interpreting Revelation two and three. In the next two chapters, Jesus addresses the seven angels, one at a time, but then calls upon the churches as a group to listen in to each evaluation and be instructed, as if to say, follow this about these leaders, but not that.
But there is a connection between the figures of star and candlestick; both are lights.
To human eyes, however, the star was many times less powerful than a candlestick. A star could never supply enough light to read by.
Could it be that there is a strong lesson here? Jesus walks among the candlesticks with the stars in His right hand, intending for the stars to be the link between Himself and the churches.
Jesus could talk directly to the churches, but chooses rather to communicate through His angels. (Cf. Mt. Sinai ) Putting it differently, Jesus is "the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9); "his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength" (Rev 1:16). He then ignites each of His stars ("Ye are the light of the world" - Mt 5:14), who in turn ignites the church to become a candlestick ("lighthouse") to the community. Understood this way, the star by itself would not be able to accomplish what the whole church can do under his influence.
Therefore, the message for each pastor and church is, "Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee" (Is 60:1-7).
Admittedly, most interpreters, teachers and pastors consider each paragraph to be a message the angel is to give to his church, not a message primarily given to the angel and about the angel. There are several reasons to look upon these messages as evaluations of the leadership, not evaluations of the churches themselves. See the note entiled, "Angel = a human messenger.