John Fesko Writes:
We clearly see all of this imagery—light associated with the presence of God—the tabernacle (or temple), the lampstand, and the people of God shining forth the light of Christ all come together in the book of Revelation. The apostle John writes that when he first saw his vision he saw seven golden lampstands and one like the son of man, Jesus Christ, was standing in the midst of them. Jesus told John: ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades’ (Revelation 1:17–18). John then tells us the significance of the lampstands, in that they were ‘seven churches’ (Revelation 1:20).
Here John sees a vision of Christ in the heavenly temple, standing in the midst of seven lampstands. Christ holds seven stars in one hand, his face was shining like the sun, and he was tending to the seven lampstands. I believe we find the same collage of imagery that we saw with the lampstand in the tabernacle repeated here in Revelation. Notice that there is the presence of Christ, there is mention of the lampstands, the stars and the sun, and of course the setting is the heavenly temple bathed in the light of Christ. At the same time, notice that John identifies the lampstands as representing the seven churches to whom he was to write. So, then, as I said at the beginning of the chapter, we must always remember that when we look at the tabernacle we are looking at a shadow picture of Christ and the church.
In this case, the Bible itself clearly identifies the church with the lampstands. The picture in the book of Revelation is strikingly similar to the picture we see in the tabernacle in the book of Exodus. Just as the high priest, Aaron, would enter the tabernacle and tend the lampstand, seeing that it was illumined both night and day, here we see Christ tending to the seven lampstands, the church, seeing that they stay illumined with the light of his glory both night and day. What we must realize, however, is that we in the church are faced with a significant question, namely: Will we shine forth the light of the glory of Christ before the world?
Christ likened the good works of the church to the light of a lamp. Do we desire, then, to do good works, not so we can merit our salvation, nor to please men? Rather, do we desire to do good works, to be obedient to the law of God, so that the world around us sees the light of the glory of Christ? What will the world see when it peers into the church? Will it see sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like, the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19–21)? In many quarters of the church this is precisely what the world sees, for the church has been conformed to the patterns of this world rather than transformed by the renewing of their minds through the light of the gospel.
Instead, if we abide in Christ and the Spirit produces his fruit within us, then the world will look in the church and see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). If our chief desire in life is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever, then our desire will be to shine forth the light of the glory of Christ before men by our good works. When we are insulted, we turn the other cheek. When faced with temptation, we flee. When we see others in need, we respond spiritually and physically, with prayer, love, comfort, and the provision of food, money and clothing. is is the light that Christ has called us to shine forth as a lampstand of his glory.
I cannot help but wonder whether the seven lights on the lamp, which reminded the Israelites of the time structure of the world— seven days, seven years, seven sabbatical years ending in Jubilee—is also captured in the church’s activity. We, the church, the seven lampstands, continue to mark the passing of time as we gather together for worship in the presence of Christ each and every Lord’s Day. Even in our regular worship if the church truly observed the Lord’s Day, as a day dedicated solely to Christ, the world would take notice. At the same time, we should realize that Christ will not suffer churches who do not shine forth the light of his glory. Christ had John write a warning to the church at Ephesus: ‘But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent’ (Revelation 2:4– 5). Christ can and does remove those churches, those lampstands, that do not shine forth the light of his glory.