Seven Golden Lampstands
"And I turned to see the voice that was
speaking with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands."
The above verse is introduces us to a symbol the Lord used in a vision given to the aged apostle John. The previous verse had mentioned seven congregations located in Asia Minor. The Lord uses seven golden candlesticks to represent these churches. John writes: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a sound of a trumpet, saying, 'Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea." (Revelation 1:10-11; see also verse 20).
I would like to notice some points from the seven golden lampstands the Lord used to symbolize these local churches. The second and third chapter goes into great detail about the successes and failures of these seven churches. We will notice a thing or two in that regard, but for the most part we'll simply notice some characteristics of the local church from the lampstand symbol.
The Churches Were Visible
Unfortunately today the word "church" is often used to describe other things than that which the lampstands symbolized. So often, people use the word to refer to a building which was built for the purpose of worship. But the word never meant that in the Bible. God has something completely different in mind when He uses the term "church" in the Scripture.
So, the seven golden lampstands do not represent seven buildings, at least not the kind made with brick, wood and stone. Concerning the church in Jerusalem, the Bible says, "And fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard these things." (Acts 5:11). We are fairly certain that we are not talking about a building here! "And the news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem..."; "And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church..." (Acts 11:22; Matthew 18:17). These verses would be rather funny if the word "church" meant a building.
The word "church" refers to people. In the universal sense, specifically those people who have obeyed the gospel by faith (Ephesians 1:22,23). In the local sense, as the word is used in our text, the word "church" refers to a local body of believers who are in fellowship together in work and worship (Romans 16:16; 2 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 16:10).
One more thing: a local church can cease to be recognized by the Lord as His due to ongoing sin without repentance. Jesus told the church at Ephesus "...or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place - unless you repent." (Revelation 2:5; see also 2:16 and 3:3).
Two Sides to the Church
There are two sides to the church. There is the Divine side and the human side. The Divine side, the Head of the church, is perfect. But the human side, the members of the body, are less than perfect. But the better they listen to the Head, the closer to perfection they get.
There were seven golden lampstands. Why seven? In ancient thought, the number seven stood for perfection. There are no improvements to be made to the church on the Divine side. The Law of the Lord is perfect. His design for the local church is just as He wants it to be. There is no innovation we can or should make. The Lord has already claimed all authority (Matthew 28:18-20).
However, on the human side, there are improvements we can make. We can grow in the character traits of discipleship; in love, joy and peace (see Philippians 3:12-14). A problem exists when someone is intent on trying to make improvements on the Divine side and fails to see that it is on the individual side where improvements are necessary. The Divine side is fine, thank you. Keep your hands off (Galatians 1:11,12; Acts 2:42)!
The Church Is Precious
The lampstands are gold. This would symbolize something of great value. Perhaps a case can be made for purity as well. We recall how the church at Corinth was rebuked for allowing impurity within it to go on without action (1 Corinthians 5:2-8).
As Jesus walked amid the seven lampstands in our text (Revelation 1:13-20), one of the ways in which He identifies Himself is "Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last, the living One; and I was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades." (Revelation 1:17b-18). It was in His death that He purchased the church with His blood (Acts 20:28).
The Church Holds The Light
"... the church of the living God, the pillar and support of truth." (1 Timothy 3:15).
The word of God is the truth which is spoken of here (John 17:17). The word of God is that which directs us to Christ, the "light of the world" (John 3:19-21; 8:12). A church can only be the lampstand God intends it to be if it will hold forth the light God has given. To substitute the traditions, creeds and doctrines of men for the doctrine of Christ will only bring darkness(2 John 9). This is why it is so important to preach the word faithfully in season and out of season. It is the right thing to do. The world needs the Light.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 9.7, July 2002