By Ray Jewell
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. – Revelation 1:12-18
First a note about the number seven. In the first chapter alone there are several sevens: seven churches, seven spirits or sevenfold Spirit, seven golden lampstands, seven stars. Eleven times seven is used in the first chapter. 31 times the number 7 is used throughout the Apocalypse. Should this number be taken literally. Yes simply because I think there were actually seven churches this letter was sent to. But why seven why not eight or even six? Seven is considered the “perfect” or God’s number as opposed to six (especially 666, the sign of the beast). But it is not so much a meaning that can often be ascribed to the number, but in the sense of completion and that what is going to happen is a sure thing. In other words, the number seven conveys the idea that what is being reported here is really going to happen.
The use of the phrase seven lampstands brings to mind the menorah, the seven branched candlestick that has been a part of Hebrew worship since the creation of the tabernacle in the wilderness wanderings. (See Exodus 37:17-24).
“The number seven, based on a seven day week, usually means a complete cycle, or a finished process—perfection.
The light of the seven branched lampstand represents the light of the word of God being sent out in all directions to light the path of others. You can look at it as the people of Israel, led by the priests and Levites studying God’s word and being an example to others (which they failed) or you can see it as the complete dedication of one person (ourselves) to this purpose.”
It is most appropriate to “look at it [the menorah] as [a symbol of] the people of Israel, led by the priests and Levites studying God’s word and being an example to others.” This is the first allusion to the Old Testament and the covenant people of God being brought to bear on the church. The seven lampstands shows the continuity of the people of God from the first covenant with Israel to the second covenant under Jesus Christ as the Messiah. I prefer using the term “people of God” to describe those of faith in the Hebrew Bible as well as those of faith in the New Testament.
Once again, though, it is the figure of Jesus Christ that takes center stage here. It is a frightening, awesome image that John portrays of one “looking like a son of man” (see Daniel 7). This is Jesus, in all of His power, glory, and fearsome attire, ready to return to do battle for the last time. The full description found here is broken up in seven ways in chapters 2 and 3. Each item is important, they signify something, which we will look at with each one of the churches mentioned.
How would you respond if you saw this image? We will speak to that tomorrow.
Until next time,
TO THE GLORY OF GOD!