“And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And, being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks.” —Revelation 1:12.
“John hears a voice—a great voice, a voice like a trumpet—behind him, not above, nor before. Dwelling, if tradition be correct, in the southern extremity of the island, on a steep cliff, and looking over the Aegean, he would have his back to the continent of Asia, and, of course, to the Churches there. The voice he heard makes him turn round, and look to the north-east, where the cluster of the seven Churches lay, the churches with which he was specially connected. The first thing meeting his eye is seven golden candlesticks, or lamp stands, as if just somewhere in the region where he might have expected to see the Churches. What a vision in that lonely, barren island! It would seem as if he had been transported back to Jerusalem, and brought into the sanctuary, or as if the golden relics of that now ruined sanctuary had been transported by some angel hand, and placed upon the desolate rock!”
“Let us seek to gather something from this vision. What did the Holy Spirit mean by it? What does it teach us? We are told that ‘the seven candlesticks are the seven churches’ (ch. 1:20). This much is plain. Seven Churches, which he knew well, had just been named to him, and he is told that these golden lamp stands are meant to represent or symbolize these churches.”
“With these ‘golden candlesticks’ we must connect the ‘seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God’ (ch. 4:5). Not that these two sets of lamps are the same. In the one case we read of ‘lamp stands,’ in the other of ‘lamps;’ in the one case it is the Churches that are described, in the other it is the Holy Spirit. Still, they are connected. The former get their light from the latter. It is by the Holy Spirit that the seven Churches are made ‘burning and shining lights.’ “
“The ‘stars’ (verse 20) are not, as some have supposed, the flame of the lamp. They are quite different, as we shall see. Of the New Jerusalem, the Lamb is the light; but in His absence from this world just now, the Holy Spirit, in His sevenfold fullness, and with His sevenfold gifts and sevenfold illumination, gives light, by lighting up the churches. They owe all their light to Him. As He came down at Pentecost under the emblem of fire (Acts 2:3), so does He abide upon the Churches still. In the upper chamber this fire ‘sat upon each’ of the disciples, and so it sits still. It is the Pentecostal fire that kindles these seven lamps, and maintains their heavenly brightness; for that brightness is not human nor angelic—it is divine. It is light communicated by the Holy Spirit—a spark or flame from the Shekinah glory; the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Let us look at this more in detail.”
“SEVEN. In the temple the candlestick was one, the branches seven. In this symbolic scene it would rather appear that the seven were quite separate form each other—possibly with the view of intimating that the Churches throughout the world, though all of gold, were to be separate; and if so, then there is here a most vivid protest against the pretended unity of Rome. The number seven is the number of—”
(1) PERFECTION. As the one sunbeam is composed of seven parts, and thus perfected into whiteness—so seven is the divine number of perfection, or completeness.
(2) VARIETY. Not absolute uniformity, but variety; the variety which is needful for perfection—the manifold gifts of the one Spirit, sent from the one Christ.
(3) UNITY. Seven is oneness; oneness with diversity—one body, many members; one household, many members; one temple, many stones; one loaf, many crumbs; one sky, many stars.
(4) Covenant-CERTAINTY. Seven is the covenant number. The seven lambs at Beersheba were for covenant; and that place means ‘the well of the seven,’ or the ‘well of the oath’ (Genesis 21:31). The Churches are the Churches of the everlasting covenant—the covenant between the Father and the Son—’ordered in all things, and sure.’
1. What HONOR belongs to the Churches! They are made of heavenly gold, the gold of the sanctuary. All splendor is theirs; untarnished beauty and glory.
2. What RESPONSIBILITY rests upon them! It is special responsibility to the Son of man, who walks in the midst of them; the responsibility of being what He would have us to be, and what He represents us in this emblem as really being—’golden Churches;’ the responsibility of being holy and consistent—of reflecting the image of our Lord; of being lights in the world.
To the Churches, the Son of man is saying, ‘Let your light shine! Hide it not. Raise it aloft, that it may send its radiance wide and far. Let nothing dim it; let nothing intercept it. The world is dark. The night is gloomy. The light shines in the darkness. There is no other light but this for a dark world.’
The day is coming, the time when these lamps shall be needed no more. For God uses these lamps as a symbol of his diviine perfection in fulfilling prophecy before the altar and throne, where the true power of God dwells…Until then, shine on, shine on, O church of the living God! And in proportion to the darkness of the last days, let your light blaze out in heavenly splendor!