The Seven Golden Lamps
"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
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
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.
I. The CANDLESTICKS. It is not so much to the light
as to the utensil or stand for holding it that his attention is turned; for
the light of these lamps is not from themselves, or from any earthly source,
but from Him who is 'the light of the world,' and who said to His disciples
as His representatives here, 'You are the light of the world.'
'Among whom you shine as lights in the world'
(Philippians 1:15), says Paul, adding, 'holding forth the word of life.'
The individual saint is a 'light;' a Church is a 'light holder' or 'lamp
stand.' The saint personally, and the Church or body of saints, is
placed 'in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation,' and, like 'the word
of prophecy' (2 Peter 1:19), 'shines as a light in a dark place, until the
day dawn and the day-star arise.'
Israel, for ages, was the world's only light—a light
confined within narrow boundaries—not diffused over earth, nor set upon a
hill. Of this the one seven-branched candlestick in the tabernacle and
temple was the symbol. That lamp stand was doubly shut in—first, by the
outer curtain, or wall of the house; and, secondly, by the inner curtain, or
wall of the holy place. But these curtains have been torn in pieces, these
walls thrown down; and now that lamp stands in uncurtained, unhidden
splendor, shining out over all the world.
Take the lamp as meaning, in the first place, CHRIST
Himself, the light of Israel, and of the world. This is true. He was 'a
light to enlighten the Gentiles;' "His life was the light of men.' Take it
again as meaning ISRAEL, who was so long earth's only light. This is true;
for Israel, when her exclusive privileges passed away, gave forth her light
around. Take it as meaning the CHURCH, or Churches, or saints of God. This
is also true—they shine out as lights over all the world—not over Israel's
valleys and hills alone, or her cities and villages, but over all earth's
wide expanse, over all kindred's, and nations, and tongues, and peoples.
Christ is the world's light; the church is the world's
light; each saint is the light of the circle where he dwells and where he
II. The MATERIALS of which the candlesticks are made.
They are of GOLD. Generally in scripture gold symbolizes the holy, the
perfect, the divine. 'Be holy, for I am holy;' 'be perfect, as your Father
who is in heaven is perfect; 'partakers of the divine nature;' 'as we have
borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the
heavenly,'—these are some of the passages which help to illustrate the
meaning of 'gold.' The Churches are 'in God the Father, and in Christ Jesus,
our Lord.' They are not from beneath, but from above; they are not of the
world, even as Christ is not of the world. They are composed of men born
from above. With divine glory they shine; with divine beauty they stand
forth before the world, 'perfect with the loveliness which God has put upon
them,' and representing the surpassing and all-precious excellence of Him in
whose beauty they are beautiful, and in whose perfection they are perfect.
How noble the lesson which we are thus taught! How holy
and unworldly ought the Churches to be, and each saint in them! As gold
cannot rust, so neither ought they to take on the world's rust or
defilement, but to stand in the midst of it as a witness against its evil;
'holy, harmless, and undefiled, separate from sinners;' 'unspotted from the
world.' If the iron and clay cannot mingle, how much less the gold and the
clay! What a rebuke to the Churches—'How is the fine gold become dim!' Where
is the church now that could claim the symbol, and say, 'I am a golden
The furniture of Israel's two inner sanctuaries was all
of gold; the candlestick of the holy place was of gold—thus in all past ages
foreshadowing the true character of a church and of a saint. Golden
Churches! Golden men! Golden witnesses for Christ and His truth! How far the
church of God in the past centuries, since John wrote, has fulfilled the
description, ecclesiastical history can tell. The age of gold was not a long
one; and then followed the silver, the brass, and the iron. How much of gold
is to be seen in the churches of our day? It does cheer one to know that the
Lord still counted such imperfect churches as Ephesus and Pergamos, or such
backslidden ones as Sardis and Laodicea, as represented by gold. The grace
of our Lord is exceeding abundant. He prefers to praise rather than to
blame. His love and patience are boundless; His desire to discover the least
'good thing' in His people is sincere and earnest.
And this truth is of itself a gospel for the declining
churches of the last days. While the sight of the golden candlesticks
rebukes, it encourages amazingly. It humbles, yet it cheers. The love of
Jesus cannot fail. The efficacy of the cross, as covering, with its atoning
shelter, all who have consented to accept that shelter, cannot change; the
backsliders shall be saved, but it will be 'so as by fire.' Lowest of all,
it may be, will the 'orthodox' Churches of the last days be found, who had
the name, and the form, and the profession—but not the love, or the
holiness, or the power.
III. The NUMBER of the candlesticks. 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. 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!