The seven golden candlesticks in the book of Revelation speak volumes about who we as believers are in our Lord Jesus Christ. Anyone who has spent considerable time in God’s holy word, the Bible, can see symbolism throughout it that speaks in poetic language of how the Lord sees his church and Revelation presents some of the richest symbols, including the candlesticks.
12And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle… 20The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. Revelation 1
When we see the words candle and candlestick today, we often think of a long metal stand with a wax candle inserted at the top of it, but that’s not what these were. In the first century, a candle was an oil lamp like those pictured to the left that was placed on a lampstand, or candlestick, that supported it.
It is believed by some that each candlestick was a menorah, but Revelation isn’t specific about that. However, that would make sense based on the fact that the menorah in the tabernacle and Jewish temples was an example and shadow of heavenly things [Hebrews 8:5]. What is specifically mentioned is that there were seven of them and they were made of gold.
Now I’ll explore what the candlesticks represent.
Seven candlesticks: The seven churches of Asia. Here’s something interesting to note–all seven of the churches are in modern day Turkey. Since Revelation is about the end times, could it be that the location of these churches have some significance? Something to think about since Turkey will be a major player in the last of these last days. In the broader sense of the symbol, they represent the whole church, since seven is the number of completion and perfection. Seven is also the number of godly rest [Genesis 2:2-3], speaking of how we should rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him [Psalm 37:7]. Candlesticks give light just like the church is called to be the light of the world [Matthew 5:14].
Each candlestick being separate: Each congregation must answer to Jesus for themselves, for their own accomplishments or lack thereof. Jesus is the only head of each individual church, as opposed to them answering to some leader in another headquarter city somewhere else.
Jesus in the midst of the candlesticks: Symbolic of the fact that our Lord is in the midst of his congregation [Psalm 22:22].
Gold: This speaks of the purity we have when God allows trials in our lives to improve us [Job 23:10] and when we embrace Christ’s doctrine [Revelation 3:18] to purify our hearts. It also symbolizes liberty and exaltation we receive through the Holy Spirit [Psalm 68:13]. Gold sparkles when it reflects light as the church should sparkle as we reflect God’s character. Finally, it represents works that please God [1 Corinthians 3:12-15], which explains why God threatened to remove Ephesus’ candlestick from its place since their works no longer pleased him.
Oil in the lamps: This is why it’s important for us to understand the difference between candles of today and candles, or lamps, spoken of in the Bible. Wax candles burn by self-consumption when the wax melts and enters the wick. Wax candles are eventually thrown out because the wax and the wick runs out. With the oil lamps, oil has to be poured in from an outside source for it to burn. These lamps can be used over and over, filled and refilled; they can have their wicks and oil replaced to be used indefinitely. The oil used for worship was 100% pure olive oil, symbolic of the Holy Spirit who is poured into his church by Jesus, the light of the world who stands in our midst to make us lights. The oil of the Holy Spirit is the anointing in us to break yokes [Isaiah 10:27] and to minister to others for the glory of God.
If the seven candlesticks were truly menorahs then the following applies:
Each candlestick having seven lamps: According to Revelation 4:5, the seven lamps are the seven Spirits of God which are given to God’s church. These seven spirits are listed in Isaiah 11:2. The seven lamps each candlestick has also refer to the seven basic principles of Christ’s doctrine as mentioned in Hebrews 6:1-2.
–Harry A. Gaylord–