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.
14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire,
15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.
16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (see ESV below).
Jesus Christ appears here as Priest-King of his people. In a previous section (Rev. 1:4-8) he appeared as King-Priest. The difference is in emphasis ( see NT use of OT below).
The True Temple in Heaven
Jesus as Priest-King appears here in a temple setting. The temple is in heaven. Note Hebrews 8:1-7 (link to read these verses).
Moses saw on Mt. Sinai the temple in heaven and was told to erect a Tabernacle “according to that pattern” he saw there. In the Revelation, references to the temple are to this temple in heaven, not a past structure or future structure in Jerusalem.
Christ Tends to His Churches
Christ is seen in John’s vision as tending to the seven lampstands. These Lampstands are representative of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor mentioned in Rev. 1:11 (Click link below to read this passage.)
Why Seven and not more? There were other churches in Asia Minor. “These seven churches represent the entire Church throughout [all ages of the church].” (see Hendriksen, pp. 52-53, below).
Single Seven-Branched Lampstand in the OT Temple
In the OT, the Lampstand was a single, seven-branched stand (like the one pictured to the left). Israel was one and drew all nations into it. Zechariah 4:2-6 is the background for this part of the church. In the NT, the Church is dispersed into the world and draws all men into its several assemblies, hence the seven lampstands. (Click on the link to read Zechariah 4:2-6.)
In Zechariah’s vision the seven lamps (4:2) seem to represent the power of the Spirit (4:6) which will give the people of Israel (the lampstand on which the lamps sit) the power by which to rebuild the temple. The Jews understood the light that came from its lamps to represent the presence of the Lord (Num. 8:1-4). Click on link to read this passage.)
John’s Seven Lampstands in the New Testament Era
John sees seven lampstands, each representing one of the seven churches and all together representing the universal church. The church, as the continuation of true Israel, is likewise to draw its power from the seven lamps, which represent the Holy Spirit (Rev. 1:4; 4:5), as it seeks to build the new temple of God. (see Beale, (p. 47), below).
It is obvious much of Revelation One is set against the backdrop of Roman Religion. Asia Minor saw Augustus as Pontifex Maximus (state chief priest) depicted everywhere in statues throughout their cities.
Christ reveals Himself as the High Priest of His people in fulfillment of the Old Testament Priest-King Melchizedek. Romans were used to seeing statues change heads. Each new Emperor’s head was placed on the Imperial Statue of Caesar.
I once thought, like most tourists, that statues in ancient Greek cities had been vandalized and their heads were lopped off by pillagers. At Corinth, where there are many statues, mostly headless, the docent told us statues were carved in a general way, stockpiled, and the head carved from the patron’s image who would buy it. We can see how this worked well with Imperial Statues. Caesars changed frequently and the head alone needed replacing.
How wonderful that Christ is a Priest forever! Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Old Testament Fulfilled in Rev. 1:12-20
Justice is two fold: (1) retributive — judgment upon the wicked; (2) remunerative — reward of the righteous. Government notoriously fails in both when the Christian revelation is not the basis of all its laws. Government programs impoverish the very persons intended to benefit. The real beneficiaries of the nanny-state are the government elite and its paid cronies. This was true of Rome and it’s true of 21st Century Western governments in a socialist mode.
Have we perhaps been treated badly? Have persons at work maligned us? Have neighbors taken advantage of us? Have we been defrauded in business? God is the ultimate Judge and one who metes out punishment for all injustices suffered by his people! The revelation of Christ as Priest-King-Judge gives us hope to carry on in the face of mistreatment in this world. I Peter 2:16 — “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 20 …if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
More next time on the details of the vision of Christ.
Beale, G. K.. Revelation. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.
ESV. English Standard Version of the Bible accessed from https://www.biblegateway.com
Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
NT use of OT. (2007). “Revelation” from Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. ed. by G. K. Beale & D. A Carson. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. This is an excellent resource for interpreting OT images in the Revelation.
© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved