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Lowell Brueckner

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Revelation 1:12-13, 19-20


12. Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,
13. and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.
19. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.
20. As for the mystery of the seven stars that 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 are the seven churches.

The golden seven-fold candlestick

Before we begin to comment, we want to try to picture the scene that John saw, as he turns to face the One, whose voice was like a trumpet. He sees, first of all seven golden candlesticks and in the middle of these candlesticks, one like a son of man. He wears a long robe with a golden sash. His hair is like white wool or snow, and His eyes are like a flame of fire. His feet are like burnished, refined bronze, and His voice is like the roar of rushing water. He holds seven stars in His right hand and a sharp, two-edged sword comes from His mouth. His face shines like the sun on a clear midday.

This is not something easy to imagine, but we don’t need a vivid imagination, because what is important is the ability to catch the significance of John’s vision. We ask the Spirit of God, who opens the scene to John, to help us see the things that He is providing for all those, who delve into this book. Our first priority is to see Christ with the eyes of our heart, as He is depicted here, and also view the seven churches.

There is no question that the Son of Man is Jesus Christ glorified and the reason that John describes Him with the indefinite article, ‘a’ son of man, is simply to say that He appears here in human form. However, we must see something beyond the Carpenter from Galilee in this book and we will concentrate on every aspect of His glorified characteristics. Before we go into those details, we want to consider the seven golden candlesticks and Christ’s position in the middle of them.

A few verses later, Christ reveals the mystery, that is, the hidden, symbolic meaning of the candlesticks, as well as that of the seven stars in His right hand (v,20). The stars are the angels, that is, the messengers, of the seven churches, which are symbolized by seven candlesticks. Already we have a clear interpretation of two elements in the vision. I explained in the introduction that the word angel means messenger and can refer either to a heavenly or an earthly being. In keeping with the book’s symbolism, it is quite clear that Christ is presenting the chief messenger or pastor of each church as an angel. This is obvious, because there is no reason to write messages in human language to heavenly beings. These men are given the serious responsibility of relaying a message from the Lord to their members.

Though the churches are literal, it is clear that there is symbolism involved that we must try to understand. Bible symbolism is consistent and will be interpreted by the same symbolism in other Scriptures. No one is authorized to form his own interpretation of Scripture, any more than he is authorized to write it. These seven churches have been mentioned twice already in this chapter and each time, I made a few comments about them. The number seven adds to the symbolism and it is an interesting fact that John is writing to seven churches, when actually there were more churches in the Asia Minor area, which are not included.

Therefore, we must go to the biblical meaning of the number seven, which is used frequently throughout the book. The number symbolizes perfection in the sense of completeness (for this definition of perfection, see Ephesians 4:13, Colossians 4:12, and 2 Timothy 3:17, for instance). When it appears, it means that nothing can be added to the substance, which it defines, therefore it represents the complete church here.  This is a book of prophesy, so it speaks of the future church, as well as the church in John’s time (v.19). It is formed by all the saints of all ages to the end of time.

Consider the symbol of candlesticks for this seven-fold church. There is nothing like this in the New Testament; nowhere is the church referred to as a candlestick or candlesticks. If we are to find a biblical counterpart to a seven-fold candlestick, we must get help from the Old Testament; and there we will find plenty of help. We have a candlestick described in detail in the book of Exodus and it is often referred to throughout the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses) and a few times in the historical books. We even find a golden candlestick in the book of the minor prophet, Zechariah.

A golden candlestick was a main feature, first in the tabernacle in the wilderness, and then in the temple. It provided light within the structure and was tended by priests, so as never to be extinguished. It became a symbol of the people of Israel to this day. I noticed there was a candlestick depicted on the front of the speaking stand used by Benjamin Netanyahu. The Old Testament candlestick was pure gold, molded as one piece. There was a central stick with a cup, shaped like an almond blossom, on top to hold the oil used for fuel. From that stick six others branched, three on each side with their cups for fuel… a seven-fold candlestick.

Here in the book of revelation, we have seven candlesticks, representing the people of God, who are from the province of Asia Minor and located in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The cities form a rough circle with space in the middle. They are not physically connected, but Jesus Christ is positioned in the space in the middle (as in the illustration above).

The nation of Israel was bound together by federal law and its boundaries were clearly defined. It held all the organized features that any physical nation must have. They were unified and ruled by a central government, which governed over all the tribal areas. However, the church is a spiritual body. See how Peter describes it: “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 P.2:5, 9).

The candlestick in the temple in Jerusalem symbolized the people of God, the nation of Israel, but the golden candlesticks in Revelation symbolize this spiritual body, called the church. It is of pure gold of the highest quality, imported from heaven. God has supplied the material and molded its features, to make it beyond compare with anything on earth. It is bought with the precious blood of Christ and God watches over it like the apple of His eye. Its members are born of God and are of royal blood, children of the King.

The branches are seven, yet they are one, unified in the Spirit. They are not held together by a central stick, but Jesus stands in the middle and He is the unifying force. He is the Head of the church. The branches are not physically connected to each another, but the power that unifies them, is greater than the properties of any metal. There is no central government, but there is a central Person, who rules in love and righteousness.

He holds the messengers in his right hand. There is no curriculum, no program, and no organized structure. The messengers are compelled to be divinely led, as they are in these chapters, receiving their message, as they hear it from their Lord and Master. They are in His right hand and no man controls their movements. They answer only to Him.

In the following chapters 2 and 3, we will consider each church and its characteristics. We will see how they relate to Christ and how they are seen from His viewpoint. We will look at each one from a prophetical standpoint, to see where they fit in, as the church develops through the centuries. When we come to chapter 11, we will have to consider again the subject of candlesticks and we will see a close resemblance to Zechariah 4. From that chapter, we come to the great principle, through which God’s program advances: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zech.4:6).

The white robe and the golden sash

Before we end this article, we will look at the first features that John gives us of Christ. We are to know Him now, not by sight, but by faith. The eyes of faith penetrate beyond the physical and can look into the invisible wonders of the glorified Son of Man. Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they will “transform us into the same image” of Christ (2 Co.3:18).

John sees the robe of the Son of Man, as he saw it on the Mount of Transfiguration, brilliant in light, whiter than new-fallen snow, gleaming under a sunny sky (Mt.17:2; Mk.9:3; Lk.9:39… see especially Amp. N.T.). Such is the glory of errorless, unfaltering, unfailing righteousness, for which there is no place or possibility of wrongdoing. The seamless Galilean robe has been stripped from Him and given over to covetous soldiers. He will never wear it again. In its place, the crucified, risen and ascended conqueror pulls the eternal robe of his matchless righteousness over His shoulders. There is no spot upon this garment and no flaw in its design. Jesus Christ stands alone in the Holy of Holies as a citadel of the uncompromising righteousness of God.

There will be no nakedness in heaven. Jesus was clothed with a white robe that reached to His feet. Angels, appearing in the Bible, are mighty, powerful, shining personalities and are always fully clothed. Ezekiel noted the linen clothing of an angel assigned to mark the foreheads of those grieved with abominations in Jerusalem (Ezek.9:2). Daniel twice mentioned a heavenly being, clothed with linen (Dn.10:5, 12:6). Angels attended the resurrection of Christ, clothed in shining raiment (Lk.24:4) and the Roman centurion, Cornelius, was confronted by an angel in dazzling apparel (Ac.12:30).

It is important that people learn the shame of nakedness in order to comprehend the unworthiness of an undressed soul, unprepared for heaven. Do you remember the parable Jesus gave of one expelled from a wedding feast, because he entered without the proper garment? Jesus left no question as to the eternal implications of His story: “Cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt.22:13). Only those properly attired will enter heaven.  

Each of us needs to be sure that we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. It is the only way that we can approach the Holy of Holies, where no unrighteousness is tolerated. The Lord, whom we serve and who rules our lives, “leads us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Ps.23:3). We must never entertain the thought that He will smile upon sinful practices. He is never the minister of sin.

We are to glow! The righteousness of Christ has a supernatural element to it, gleaming and flashing with light. It carries an awesome beauty. As we gaze fixedly upon Him in faith, His beauty will overwhelm our souls and find expression through our lives. A watching world will be arrested by such a demonstration.

Then, we have a perfect emblem of regal priesthood in the golden sash of Christ. He brings us into heaven itself through His person. We are found in Him, directly and personally identified with Him, who is the faithful High Priest after the order of Melchizadek. Isaiah prophesied, “Faithfulness is the girdle of his reins” (Is.11:5). Christ is bound to faithfulness by His eternal, godly nature. Wavering, faltering, instability and fainting are foreign to Him. He cannot fail. There is nothing lacking in His omnipotence that would give occasion to failure. There is nothing weak in His will to impede motivation. There is no lack of wisdom to carry out all divine purposes. It is no wonder He kept all His disciples and not one of them was lost. We have every assurance that His faithfulness works faultlessly on our behalf.

He is able to keep that which is committed to Him. He picks us up and imparts His resources. As we follow, He leads us and supplies our every need. We are helpless as sheep, cut off from all earthly supply and defense. He shepherds us and keeps us from the best of men’s devices and their attempts to take His place in caring for us.

The Christ, presented in the Apocalypse, is not to be reduced to a figurehead. Jesus is girded for action in the midst of His church. He is not a silent guest, but is Lord and Head over it. When He said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Mt.18:20), it was more than a comforting promise. It was an exciting assurance of divine intervention and action among His people, far exceeding and more heroic than the achievements witnessed in an Olympic arena. The revelation of the person of Christ to us always has an effect in us and will find expression through us in a practical way.

His sash is not an adornment, but it highly useful. It guarantees faithful high priestly ministry towards us and effective service through us. In Bible times, when someone had a task to perform, he fastened his sash, drawing his loose-fitting robe tightly about him, to provide more freedom of movement. The matchless faithfulness of our Lord moves among us to carry out His purposes in our lives. Let Him have His way in your life.
His power can make you what you ought to be,
His blood can cleanse your heart and make you free;
His love can fill your soul and you will see,
‘Twas best for Him to have His way with thee.
                                                          Cyrus S. Nusbaum


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