Part 2: The Seven branched Golden Lampstand

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a lampstand of pure gold and hammer it out, base and shaft; its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms shall be of one piece with it. Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand–three on one side and three on the other… Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. In the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain that is in front of the Testimony, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come” (extracts from Exodus 25:31-32; 27:20-21).

The lampstand with seven lamps that was to be kept continually burning in the holy place of the tabernacle was symbolic of the light of the glory of God. It was, however, veiled behind the first curtain in the holy place where only the priests could enter to provide the consecrated oil to keep the lamps burning. The light of the menorah lit up the holy place, but it was not visible to those who were outside, signifying that although the people could draw near to worship, figuratively they remained in darkness awaiting the coming of the Messiah who would bring them into the light of God’s presence.

The apostle Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write, “God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal, lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:15).

Sin separates men from the presence of God: “…your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). The animal sacrifices merely served as “an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:3). As long as the temple was still standing it reminded the people that they remained in bondage to sin, awaiting the redeemer who would set them free from sin so that they may enter the presence of the Lord from which Adam and Eve had been banished ever since the transgression of God’s command.

It was revealed to Daniel that the temple would be destroyed after the coming of the Messiah. The destruction of the temple in 70 AD serves as a testimony that Jesus is the Messiah who came at precisely the appointed time. His existence was from eternity, but, as was revealed to Daniel, after his incarnation he would be glorified as “the Son of Man.” Daniel saw in a vision one, “like a son of man,” being led into the presence of the Ancient of Days to be given authority, glory and sovereign power (Daniel 7:13-14).

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth(John 1:1-9, 14).

Just as the figurative light of God’s presence, the seven-branched Menorah, was behind the veil of the temple, Jesus came from heaven with the light of his glory veiled behind mortal flesh. In order for his glory to be revealed to mankind the veil had to be torn. This is precisely what happened when Jesus was crucified to atone for the sins of the whole world:

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:37-39).

The writer to the Hebrews interprets the curtain as symbolic of the body of Christ:“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body”(Hebrews 10:19).

The true Light of the world had come and his glory would henceforth be revealed throughout the earth. The way into God’s presence had been disclosed. Jesus is the way and we come to the Father only through him. He entered the heavenly tabernacle as our high priest to make atonement for our sins with his own blood:

“But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:12-14).

From that time true worshippers were no longer required to go up to the temple in Jerusalem to worship because the earthly shadow was made redundant when the reality was unveiled. The symbolic light of the Lord that was hidden behind the curtain of the temple would shine within their hearts. The Apostle Paul wrote, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). The glory of the invisible God has been revealed through the Son: “He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3).

Israel was called to spread the light of the knowledge of God to the nations. Jesus said:

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 cf. Luke 8:16-18).

The faithful of Israel fulfilled this calling by taking the good news of the Messiah to the ends of the earth. The Law of the Messiah, the Word of God, has indeed gone out from Zion to the ends of the earth (cf. Isaiah 2:3) and many nations have been brought into the light of the knowledge of God:

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isa. 60:1-3).

The light now shines throughout the world wherever people gather to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. The glory and light of the Lord, which was symbolically represented by the seven lamp menorah in the temple, now illuminates the temple built of living stones. As was shown to the apostle John in the book of Revelation the lampstands represent the churches of Jesus Christ who hold forth the light of the good news of the Messiah. The oil which keeps the lamps burning is the Holy Spirit – His word is a lamp unto our feet. Without oil the lamps will soon go out. As a royal priesthood we are to trim our lamps and ensure that there is always enough oil to keep them burning brightly.

It was the duty of the priests to keep the lamps burning continually from evening to morning. Jesus is pictured as walking among the seven lampstands. He issues a stern warning to those who become complacent that he will remove their lampstand (Revelation 2:5). This echoes the warning given in the parable of the foolish virgins.

On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” 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. His head and hair were 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 out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:9-20).

It was revealed to Daniel that when the Messiah came the faithful would shine forth as the light of the world, but, conversely, the wicked would continue in their wickedness:

“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever . . . Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand” (Daniel 12:3, 10).

Just as God separated the light from the darkness at the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:3), he is continuing that process through the preaching of the gospel, separating those who come into the light of Christ from those who remain in darkness, blinded by the god of this world:

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:19-21).

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).

You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

Jesus is the word of God who became flesh. His word is spirit and life (John 6:63). It gives light to those who receive it. Those in whom his Spirit dwells reflect his glory and light as was typified by the sanctified olive oil that kept the lamps burning:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor. 3:12 – 4:4).

There is an irony in the fact that many unbelieving Jews continue to celebrate Chanukah, which commemorates the rededication of the temple following the Maccabean revolt against the pagan rule of Antiochus. Although there was only sufficient oil for one day the lamps were miraculously kept burning for eight days, giving the priests enough time to procure fresh supplies of sanctified olive oil for the lamps.

However, it is also recorded that forty years before the destruction of the temple the lamps in the temple refused to burn even though the priests cleaned out the oil pipes and provided fresh, consecrated olive oil.
A bad omen was recorded by Rabbi Kimchi concerning the temple, the day of Atonement and the menorah (Talmud Babylon, Yoma 39b): “Our Rabbis have handed down the tradition, that forty years before the destruction of the Temple, …the western lamp refused to burn; the doors of the sanctuary also opened of their own accord, until R. Johanan the son of Zacchai reproved them. He said: ‘O sanctuary, sanctuary! Why dost thou trouble thyself?’”

It is all very well to celebrate the miracle of how the lamps were made to burn miraculously for eight days on the provision of one day’s oil, but it would be more pertinent to ponder the reason why the lamps were just as miraculously snuffed out forty years before the destruction of the temple even though there was no shortage of oil.

This happened in the year 30AD, the year in which most scholars agree Jesus was crucified. The symbolic light of the menorah was extinguished because the true Light had come into the world and the veil of the temple was torn apart to allow the light of the Messiah to shine forth throughout the world. It is no longer the consecrated olive oil which keeps the lamps burning, but the glorious Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth and makes us shine forth with the glory of Christ.

We celebrate the far greater miracle that we have been called out of darkness into the light and glory of the Lord. We do not mourn the destruction of the earthly temple because its glory has long been eclipsed by the glory of the temple that the Messiah is building made of living stones which the earthly temple foreshadowed.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:8-14).