But Why Candlesticks?
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks.
— Revelation 1:12
As we saw in yesterday’s Sparkling Gem, there was no commodity in the ancient world more valuable than pure gold. In fact, the desire to obtain hoards of gold was the root of countless wars and brought ruin upon many civilizations because it fueled man’s lust for wealth and power. Therefore, it is very significant that gold would be used to symbolize the Church in Revelation 1:12, when John witnessed “seven golden candlesticks” in his vision of the exalted Christ. This was God’s way of conveying the immense value He places upon the Church of Jesus Christ!
However, there is another very important element of symbolism in Revelation 1:12 — it is the identification of the Church as a “candlestick.” Today I want focus on this word to see why the Holy Spirit chose it to depict the Church.
The word “candlesticks” in this verse is the Greek word luchnos, which refers to an oil-burning lamp rather than a wax candle as are commonly found in homes today. Such lamps were fashioned of earthen clay with a reservoir to hold oil and a wick that gave light in darkness once it was lighted.
Once when I was traveling in Israel, I came across a store that was filled with wonderful antiquities — rare archeological pieces that had been unearthed from locations across the Middle East. In that store, I saw pristine coins from the Roman Empire, small statuettes from Persia, aqua-green colored effigies from tombs in Egypt, and broken fragments of Greek and Roman idols, among numerous other treasures. In one large glass case, I noticed a large collection of ancient oil-burning lamps that had been discovered in archeological excavations across Israel.
In today’s world, we are fortunate to have electricity and lights nearly everywhere, but in the ancient world, oil-burning lamps were a very important part of life. From the smallest house to the greatest palace, every residence depended on oil-burning lamps for light at night. Every house, apartment, store, and place of business in the ancient world had at least one and often many small oil-burning lamps to give light in darkness. Oil-burning lamps were also used in certain religious rituals, such as the seven-branched golden candelabra used in the Jewish temple, which was a fabulous creation of seven oil-burning lamps.
Because the ancient world depended on oil-burning lamps to illuminate darkness, the image of the Church as an oil-burning lamp (luchnos) in Revelation 1:12 is especially significant. Jesus was making an important declaration about the Church and its role in this world. Let’s take a moment to study the characteristics of these lamps in order to fully appreciate this powerful message about the Body of Christ.
The first fact to note is that oil-burning lamps during New Testament times were made from fragile, brittle earthen clay. Paul referenced this material in Second Corinthians 4:7 when he wrote, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” The phrase “earthen vessels” in this verse is a translation of the Greek word ostrakinos, which was used to describe small, cheap, easily broken pottery that was crafted from inferior materials.
This kind of pottery was weak, fragile, and valueless, and it often had noticeable defects. Because of the cheap, disposable nature of this “bargain-basement” pottery, it was rarely if ever found in wealthy homes. Rather, it was purchased by people in lower-class neighborhoods who couldn’t afford to buy better merchandise. Over time, this word ostrakinos eventually came to represent anything inferior, low-grade, mediocre, shoddy, second-rate, or substandard. This is exactly the type of shoddy, fragile clay that Paul was referring to in Second Corinthians 4:7. Therefore, since the oil-burning lamps (luchnos) in New Testament times were made from this same material, we see that the Church is made of people who tend to be fragile, frail, and imperfect. However, this is not the full story!
The second key point to note about oil-burning lamps is that they contained oil. This is important because it reveals that the Church of Jesus Christ is the container of the Holy Spirit on planet earth! Even though we may be fragile and seem inferior or imperfect, the fact remains that God has deposited His Spirit inside the Church! We contain an endless supply of the oil of the Holy Spirit!
Furthermore, these oil-burning lamps also had wicks that ran deep into the oil reservoir and soaked up oil until they were completely saturated. These saturated wicks could then be ignited to burn and give light. In the Church today, each of us is like one of those wicks! We as believers are permanently placed in the Body of Christ, where we soak up the oil of the Holy Spirit. God’s plan is for every believer to be so saturated with the Spirit that we can be set ablaze to shed light into the darkness of a lost and dying world, just as a lamp lights up a room. And the amazing news is that the Church has a whole reservoir of the Spirit, so it’s possible for every believer to be drenched with the oil of the Holy Spirit!
It is a fact that God has fashioned the Church to shine His light into darkness, and that is what we must do regardless of where we live or work. If we succumb to the devil’s attacks in our Church — allowing Him to trample on the lamp, drain the oil, and put out the fire of the Spirit — it will snuff out God’s light in our world! That is why the devil hates the Church and wants to extinguish its flame!
As we blaze with the Spirit’s fire and preach the uncompromising Word of God, a piercing light shines forth into the darkness that surrounds us. Imagine how dark the world would be if there were no Church, no preaching, no declaration of the Bible, and no movement of the Spirit. It is no wonder why the devil hates the Church! We are his greatest threat!
In Second Corinthians 4:4, Paul spoke of the Church shining light into the lives of unbelievers, saying, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” By burning with the oil of the Spirit and shining light in the world, we can hinder the work of Satan in this world and cause men who are blinded by darkness to see the light that can set them free!
The Church is the “oil-burning lamp” of God in the world. Therefore, don’t let the devil extinguish your light or talk you into giving up on the Church! Satan is terrified of the Body of Christ because he knows it is his greatest enemy in the world. Don’t ever forget this, regardless of what you see, hear, or feel about the Church. And remember — you are a member of the Body, and the devil is terrified of you! So make the decision today to let the Holy Spirit set your heart afire. Then guard that flame and don’t let anything snuff it out, so that you and the local body of believers God has placed you in can keep shining the light of the Gospel to those who are lost in darkness!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I thank You for sending Jesus to give His life and His blood to purchase the Church! You have graciously filled me with the oil of the Holy Spirit so I can bring the saving light of the Gospel to those who sit in darkness. Set me ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit so those who are blinded by Satan can also come to know the boundless love and power of Jesus Christ!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that as a believer, I am permanently placed in the Body of Christ, which is the Church. God’s plan for me is to be saturated with the Holy Spirit, just as a wick would soak up oil, so that I can be set ablaze to shed light into the darkness of a lost and dying world. Even though I may seem fragile or imperfect, God has chosen to deposit the power and preciousness of His Holy Spirit within my earthen vessel so I can shine brightly to the glory of God! Therefore, I walk with confidence in life, knowing that the devil is terrified and Jesus Christ is glorified as I shine bright with the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit within me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Are you burning with the fire of the Holy Spirit as God intends? What evidence lets you know that you are alight with the Spirit’s flame?
- Was there a time in your life when you burned with the Spirit more brightly than you do now? If you answered yes, when was that time, and what caused your fire to dim over the years?
- If you met someone who no longer burns with the Spirit’s fire as he or she once did, what steps would you recommend that person take in order to reignite that lost fire?