What are the seven lampstands / candlesticks of Revelation?

The book of Revelation describes a vision given to the apostle John. It opens with an incredible encounter between Jesus and the apostle. In part, John writes, "Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 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" (Revelation 1:12–13). Jesus explains the opening scene of John's vision to him. "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" (Revelation 1:20). So the lampstands (or "candlesticks" in some translations) represent seven churches. What are these seven churches?

In Revelation chapters two and three, Jesus tells John to write letters to each of the churches encouraging them in their faith and warning them of their sins and need for repentance. The seven churches are identified by name and include the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Many scholars believe the churches can be viewed from three perspectives. The first perspective is that they literally refer to those churches at the time John was writing Revelation. The second perspective is that each church refers to a specific era of the Christian church throughout history. Finally, the third perspective is that the churches symbolize the Christian church as a whole, not bound by place or time.

The lampstands not only represent the church as it is in the world, but also God's ultimate design for the church when it has been fully redeemed. There are seven lampstands. Seven is a symbolic number in the Bible demonstrating completeness or perfection. Jesus is walking among the lampstands and holds the seven stars in His right hand. Many scholars believe the reference to the stars as angels means that the angels are messengers; this could then imply that Jesus is protecting and guiding the church leaders. The lampstands are gold. Gold denotes value and purity. The church is extremely valuable to God and because of Jesus' death it is pure in His sight. The lampstand carries light. Jesus is the light and the church brings His light into the world.

Interestingly, the symbol of a lampstand is found in other places in Scripture. In Exodus when God gives instructions for the structure of the tabernacle, He describes a lampstand with seven branches that will be in the Holy Place (Exodus 25:31–39). Today this is known as the Jewish menorah. At that time, the Israelites could not directly access God, but had to perform animal sacrifices to atone for their sins and ask the priest to pray for them. God's light was only available to the Israelites and still they were removed from His presence. In John's vision there are seven different lampstands and Christ is walking among them. Now the light of God is available to all people everywhere and they have direct access to His presence.

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). Ultimately Jesus is the light of the world and as the church we are called to be His lampstands. In Matthew 5:14–16, Jesus says, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

Related Truth:

What should we learn from the letters to the seven churches in Revelation?

Who is Jesus Christ?

What is the definition of the church?

What does the Bible say about the mission of the church?

God is light – What does that mean?

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