What is the connection between the lampstand and the end of times? Why does a lampstand appear in visions and prophecies of the end times? Many visions of the end times are recorded in the book of Revelation and in the book of Zechariah in the Old Testament ; furthermore, it is very obvious that some of these visions are similar. The lampstand is mentioned in both books. Comparing both passages will help us to better understand this mystery.
The purpose of Revelation is not to document the events of the end of the world but to document how the Kingdom of God is being built. The prophet Zechariah also saw the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven, so at that time he used this vision to encourage the people to rebuild the temple. Actually, God’s entire plan of salvation is related to the Kingdom.
因有一嬰孩為我們而生…… 政權必擔在祂肩頭上…… 祂必坐大衛的寶座。( 以賽亞書九章)
For to us a child is born…the government will be on His shoulders…He will reign on David’s throne. (Isaiah, Chapter 9).
Christmas is not about a baby or about presents, but about announcing the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven. People always think that a kingdom must have an army, a king and a territory. That is what Catholics and Jews are looking for. Jesus taught the people how to pray saying: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In order for the Kingdom of Heaven to expand, we need to see how many people do God’s will and obey God’s command . The establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven is a very important matter.
THE BLUEPRINT OF THE KINGDOM
12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands.
2 He asked me , “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it.” (Zechariah Chapter 4)
It might seem that these two visions are different. Revelation mentions seven lampstands; Zechariah saw a lampstand with its bowl on top like the one in the sanctuary. Actually, what is mentioned in Revelation is not a lampstand but seven lamps. Like what Jesus said : “No one, after lighting a [lamp], puts it away in a cellar or under a basket.” In fact, what John saw was seven lamps, not the lampstand.
Exodus 37 describes what the lampstand in the Tabernacle looked like. It said that on the top of the lampstand were seven lamps. Each lamp was made of a little bowl; the lamp did not burn the oil directly, it used a wick to draw the oil. The wick burned and gave light. Without the oil the wick will burn out very soon, so the little bowl on top of the lampstand was call a lamp.
THE SYMBOL OF THE LAMPSTAND
The lampstand is a symbol. A symbol uses something visible to convey a spiritual truth; usually the symbol is a simple object. The vision that Zechariah saw was more detailed. This kind of vision was like a chart. If I wanted to describe the poor people of the world, I would take some photographs of their food, the places where they sleep and what they do in order to show how they live. But if I wanted to show how many poor people are in the world, I would draw a chart showing that 70% of the world population does not have warm clothes to wear and go hungry all the time; although some claim to be poor, according to the world population statistics they are still considered rich.
Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” could not fully show the extent of the global warming by just showing how pitiful the polar bears looked floating on pieces of melting ice; he needed a chart to prove his theory. The great statue that the prophet Daniel saw was also a symbol to convey the great changes that would occur during the different eras.
In fact, the vision of the lampstand is similar. If the apostle John would have seen missionaries preaching among uncivilized groups of people, he would not have been able to tell how much the Kingdom of Heaven was growing. Of course, if it were today, we could show him a map of the world, but in his days, he did not know what a map of the world looked like and even if he saw it, he would not understand it. That is why God showed him the vision of the lampstand.
The two visions emphasized different details which complement each other.
THE KINGDOM AND THE MYSTERY
20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this.
｢奧秘｣，有英譯本翻作｢秘密｣，像是說，神不想人知道這些事。其實奧秘不是秘密。保羅的話( 以弗所書3:5-6) 可說明奧秘不是秘密：
Some English versions of the Bible translate the word “mystery” into “secret”, as if God wanted to keep some things from the people. Actually , mysteries and secrets are not the same. Paul’s words (Ephesians 3:5-6) say clearly that a mystery is not a secret:
“ the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.”
What is this mystery he is speaking about? “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” Both Gentiles and Jews will obtain salvation. He is not giving a definition of the mystery. He is just speaking about things that the generations before did not know about.
Mysteries are things that are not easy to understand, things that you cannot use your mind to comprehend; you need to use your heart to discern them. Every time that the prophet Zechariah did not understand a vision, he would ask about it. Then the angel will explain the meaning of the vision to him; John did the same thing. Jesus’ disciples did the same thing. The Lord does not explain every single detail. He wants people to use their own heart to comprehend and to discover what is important .
If you do not try your best to understand it or have not reached that degree of understanding, the Lord will not reveal it to you either. The revelation of God requires a keen spirit to seek it; you need to ask questions to understand it.
The prophet Zechariah said: “Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep.” In other words, we have to have an alert mind, to understand God’s Word. Zechariah was concerned about the rebuilding of the temple, John was concerned about the expansion of the Church. Their concerns were different; therefore what they received from the Lord was different.
THE KINGDOM AND THE CHURCH
10 誰藐視這日的事為小呢？這七眼乃是耶和華的眼睛，遍察全地，見所羅巴伯手拿線鉈就歡喜。( 撒迦利亞四章)
10 “Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the LORD that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel ?”( Zechariah Chapter 4 )
At the beginning of every construction project, a surveyor will use his leveling instrument (plumb line) to gather information for the future construction site; at that time the large machines are not needed yet, the scene does not look spectacular and there are only a few workers. When people see a plumb line in the hand of a person, they might think that it is just a small thing; but not in God’s eyes. In God’s heart the expansion of the Church, the Kingdom of Heaven, is a major event.
These seven lamps are the seven eyes of the Lord, walking back and forth throughout the earth.
多數人對這話的解釋是：神的眼目遍察全地。神的眼目當然能遍察全地，但這裡說的是七盞燈，是指全地教會。教會要在全地走來走去，或走遍全地( ｢遍察全地｣應該翻作｢走遍全地｣) 。教會當往普天下去擴展天國，到地極去傳揚福音。這些燈不是擺著不動，是要走遍全地的。
Most people explain this verse as: God’s eyes observing the whole world. Of course, the eyes of God are able observe the whole world; but here, the seven lamps are the Church of the whole world. It is saying that the Church is moving back and forth all over the world, (not just observing it but moving to and from). The Church is moving all over the world to expand the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who are going all over the world to spread the Gospel are the people . These lamps are not stationary; they are moving all over the world.
In the 18th century, a very enthusiastic young man named William Carey, who later became the founder of the British Baptist Missionary Society, stood up before a congregation and said: “Many people in Asia do not know the Lord. We must go and preach the Gospel.” An elder said to him: “Young man, sit down, when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid or mine.” That elder was wrong; the Kingdom of Heaven needs the Church to expand . The church is the lampstand moving all over the world.
The work in the beginning might seem very insignificant, but it is a happy occasion for the Kingdom of Heaven. God rejoices, the Spirit of God rejoices, the Church rejoices; do not despise the small things. A small amount of wind and clouds can bring tremendous changes. There was a drought for three years and six months, the prophet Elijah prayed for rain, when he saw a cloud as small as a man’s hand, he told the people to quickly run away before the storm started. A small member of the church, a small change, he goes to church every Sunday, prays continually, becomes very fervent, transforms into a major event. In God’s eyes something small can become a major event. The small plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand, the small stones in David’s hands, the five breads and two fish from the boy’s hand, can all become great things.
7 大山哪，你算什麼呢？在所羅巴伯面前你必成為平地。他必搬出一塊石頭安在殿頂上。人且大聲歡呼，說：｢願恩惠、恩惠歸與這殿。｣( 撒迦利亞四章)
7 What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’” (Zechariah Chapter 4)
撒迦利亞第四章有兩塊石。｢線鉈｣plummet stone 可以稱為｢墬子石｣，指開始動工之時所用的石。｢頂上的石｣乃是最後放上去的石頭，那是最後的工作，所以大家歡呼說：｢願恩典、恩典歸它。｣再沒更大的喜樂，比神的子民親眼看見天國建造完成所得的喜樂。開始動工之日早已過去，現今我們在等候大工告成之日。
There are two stones in Zechariah chapter 4. The plummet stone can be called a building stone, used at the beginning of the construction project. The capstone is the stone that will be laid on top on the day that the construction work is completed. Everyone shouted: “Grace, grace to it!” There is no greater joy than that of God’s people seeing with their own eyes the construction of the Kingdom of Heaven. The day when the construction started has already passed, now we are waiting for that wonderful day when the work will finally be completed.
THE KINGDOM AND THE HOLY SPIRIT
6 他對我說：｢這是耶和華指示所羅巴伯的。萬軍之耶和華說：不是倚靠勢力，不是倚靠才能，乃是倚靠我的靈方能成事。｣( 撒迦利亞四章)
6 So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah Chapter 4)
Building the Kingdom of Heaven is not like doing business; it does not depend on manpower or financial resources. The most important thing is to rely on the Holy Spirit. The vision of the lamps demonstrates that without oil the lamps will not give light. Without oil the fire from the wick will quickly be extinguished. Half of the wick is immersed in the oil, as long as a part of the wick is exposed, it will be bright. People see the wick burning but actually the oil is the most important element. “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts.
Business people need vision, talented personnel, financial resources, and plans for development. But, for the Kingdom of Heaven to expand, it requires the work of the Holy Spirit. It needs the inspiration, guidance and enthusiasm from the Holy Spirit. When does the oil give light? The minute the wick is burning. When does oil stop flowing? The moment the wick stops burning. When a person stops having an ardent heart for the Lord, the oil from the Holy Spirit will not continue to flow; when the Church is lukewarm, the Holy Spirit will not be active.
People need to have faith and zeal; God will use those who are fervent and ready for action. They must be willing and prepared to remove any obstacles, to roll up their sleeves and get to work like Zerubbabel; not just talking about it. God wants to use faithful people who are not afraid of hardships. “What are you, mighty mountain? I will level the mighty mountain to the ground; I will remove that mountain to build the holy temple of God.” When the Israelites saw Goliath, the giant, they thought that it was going to be very difficult to deal with him. Little David also saw the giant but he thought that it was going to be very difficult to miss such a huge target as the giant’s head. A person with faith and zeal is someone whom the Holy Spirit will provide oil continuously; such person will be greatly used by the Lord.
God will use and choose people from all eras. What kind of a person does God choose to use? Some people say it is like fishing with a net in a pond, going for the fish that is most alive and kicking. When the fish jumps out of the water, the fisherman will use the net to scoop it up. God’s hand is also moving on top of the water, whoever jumps out of the water will be chosen, and used by Him to become a pillar in the Kingdom of Heaven . Many, though, are content with living under the surface of the water and as a result of that, God will not use them.
More than a hundred years ago in New York, God used Dr. AB Simpson to teach his congregation to pray saying: “Lord, use my children, so they will be willing to become missionaries, help me to offer myself to the missionary work without any reservations.” The results were that God used him and his congregation greatly.
撒迦利亞問說：｢這兩根橄欖枝在兩個流出金色油的金嘴旁邊，是什麼意思？｣他說：｢這是兩個受膏者( 油之子) 。｣
Zechariah asked the angel: “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” He replied: “These are the two who are anointed.”
這裡的翻譯不大對。平常｢受膏者｣是Meshiah 彌賽亞，這裡說的是sons of oil ｢油之子｣。而且希伯來文的油字分得很精細，就像中文有｢米｣與｢飯｣之分，是很多其他文字所沒有的。這裡用的油字，不是膏抹時用的膏油，乃是指新鮮流出來的油。這代表神要使用的人，是充滿新鮮活潑的聖靈，是不斷有聖靈供應的人。The translation here is not very accurate. Usually the anointed one refers to the Messiah; here is “sons of oil”. The meaning of the word “oil” in Hebrew is very clear. Like the words used for uncooked rice ｢米｣ ( Mǐ ) and cooked rice ｢飯｣ ( Fàn ) in the Chinese language. Many other languages don’t have these differences. The word “oil” used here is not the oil used for anointing, but the fresh oil that is pouring out. It represents the people that God uses, filled with the Holy Spirit , fresh and full of live, continuously flowing through them.
Thus, the vision of the lampstand is a blueprint of the Kingdom of Heaven. Clearly, the Kingdom of Heaven is established by the Church moving back and forth, shining all over the world, testifying for the Lord. The Holy Spirit has been assisting the Kingdom of Heaven in completing this great task. We must rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit. The end times are the most difficult times because of the absence of the Holy Spirit. We are proud of our material possessions, we have an abundance of human resources and wealth, we have many people in the church with doctors and master’s degrees, we have many talented musicians, and we have a lot of sophisticated equipment. Actually, what we really need is the Holy Spirit. “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”