“Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 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. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 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. 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. 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. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. 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.”Revelation 1:12-20
In this awe-inspiring revelation of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, His church is represented by a golden lampstand. Obviously, this is a reference to the seven-branched golden lampstand that stood in the sanctuary of the Old Testament temple. This temple was an image of the New Testament church of God. How perfectly God has represented it here in this image! The gold represents purity and the high value of the church in the eyes of God. Such a lampstand only serves its purpose when filled with oil and fire, the symbols of the Holy Spirit and God’s love.
In Matthew 5:14-16, Christ gives His followers the task of filling the world with His light. They can never do this on their own; they need the fullness of the Holy Spirit and must be filled with His love. Because it is God who brings this about in His church, He alone should also receive the glory for it. “So let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Yes, His church and God’s kingdom are always about Him!
How poignant is this thought of a candlestick!
When John received the revelation of Jesus Christ, he heard a voice behind him so powerful that he compares it to a trumpet. When he turned to look for the voice, he saw seven golden lampstands and in the midst of them Jesus, whom he can only describe in the most glorious images known to him! In verse 20, the golden lampstands are described as local churches. But they only fulfill their purpose when Jesus walks in them. He stands in the center. It is His church that He has purchased and continues to build until the dawn of eternity.
Jesus is the light of the world, and from His church this light must shine out into the darkness of the world! Back in his day, Isaiah already proclaimed it: “The people who walk in darkness see a great light; and on those who dwell in the dark land it shines brightly” (Isaiah 9:1). The light of the church does not consist in human radiance. Neither the abilities of the members nor outstanding programs illuminate the darkness. Nor is it an atmosphere in the congregation that gets people excited. No, it is rather a silent light that ignites deep within the human heart the desire for truth, for love, for God. It is a light that goes from heart to heart, that brings one soul after another into a pure and satisfying relationship with God. This golden candlestick is meant to illuminate hearts and lives even today, igniting them with divine fire.
The golden candlestick symbolizes life from God
Immediately following the presentation of Jesus in Revelation as the One who walks among the golden candlesticks are letters to seven local churches. In each letter, Jesus introduces Himself to the congregation with an appropriate greeting. In the very first letter, addressed to the church at Ephesus, the Lord uses the image of a candlestick as a greeting: “This says he who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” (Revelation 2:1). Considerable praise of many good works now follows. Then He addresses the qualities of the “angel” (preacher) and the church, but points out that they had left the first love. This love is just the fire that gives light to a candlestick! How shall the light be spread into the darkness? Through love! The greatest commandment is to love the Lord God above all things, and one’s neighbor as oneself. Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Without the fire of God’s love, there is no life from God. The same is true of the oil of the Holy Spirit.
But the Lord goes one step further with His church. To the church at Ephesus he says: “Remember from what you have fallen, and repent and do the first works. But where you do not, I will soon come to you and cast away your lampstand from its place, where you do not repent” (Revelation 2:5). He still gives some time for reflection and grace, but if the church does not repent and rekindle the love on the lampstand, the Lord will come and execute judgment. How terrible this judgment would be!
A church is in danger of bringing God’s judgment upon itself when the oil of God’s Spirit stops flowing and its love for God grows cold and it becomes lukewarm. Who can then raise it up again? All human propping and organizing is of no help! Jesus has to set up the lampstand and acknowledge it. But He gives the fallen church room to repent. He wants to help her so much, therefore this serious appeal: Repent!
Only when the church enjoys the presence of God, can it fulfill its function as a golden lampstand. May God keep us in the condition that John saw in the description quoted at the beginning: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in the midst of the church!
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