The golden candlestick was an article of furniture in the tabernacle and temple of Israel. Both the tabernacle and the temple were built after the same pattern—they were divided into three main sections, the outer court, the holy place and the holy of holies. Each section of this building had its articles of furniture, and the candlestick was founds in the holy place.
We learn the description of the candlestick fromExodus 25:31-40. From this passage we may describe the candlestick as being a tube or pipe with arms or branches coming out of it near the top. These arms were set in a row and their tops were even. They were graduated in such a way however, that each arm came from the central tube and formed a quarter circle. There were six such arms—seven places in all for the lamps to be placed. The tops were so formed that lamps could be fitted in them in which oil could be burned. The candlestick was made of one talent of pure gold and decorated with “knops and flowers.” Because the tops of the candlestick were almond shaped, it is sometimes said that the whole article of furniture resembled an almond tree with the major pipe representing the trunk, the branches decorated with knops or fruit and flowers or buds. And there are some who maintain that this almond tree was typical of spiritual wakefulness and alertness—the ardor of Jehovah and the haste with which He accomplishes His purpose. This explanation is based upon Jeremiah 1:11, 13. It is perhaps difficult to determine whether this explanation is correct or not.
Even as the temple, so also the candlestick had a history. In the original tabernacle which Moses built there was one. It was on the south side of the holy place over against the table of shewbread. If one would enter the holy place from the east, the altar of incense would be directly before him against the veil which divided the holy place from the inner sanctuary. To the right would be the table of shewbread, and to the left, the golden candlestick. When Solomon built his glorious temple on the heights of Zion, then he put ten candlesticks in the holy place instead of one. And they were moved closer to the veil with five on each side of the altar of incense. This temple with the candlestick was, destroyed at the time of the Babylonian captivity. When the temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel, one candlestick was again placed in the holy place; but this candlestick was taken away by Antiochus Epiphanes who sacked the temple and polluted it. It was later replaced by Judas Macabeus, the one shining light in Israel’s dark history between Malachi and Christ. Later Herod built a new temple and put one candlestick in the holy place; but this was taken away by Titus when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D.
There is one other candlestick mentioned in Scripture. And that is the candlestick which the prophet Zechariah saw in his vision recorded inZechariah 4. This is the candlestick of the new temple which God would build when His promise would be fully realized in the day of Jesus Christ. This candlestick was similar in all respects to the one which had been in the temple, except for the fact that it had a bowl above it; and the bowl was connected to the bowls of the arms of the candlestick by forty-nine pipes—seven pipes to each branch of the candlestick. Furthermore, this bowl was connected to two olive trees by two golden pipes, so that the oil of the olive trees flowed directly into the bowl and then into the candlestick where it was burned.
The candlestick in the tabernacle and temple was lit at the time of the evening oblation and burned all through the night until the morning when the oil presumably was gone. Then it was not again lit until the oil was replenished in the evening by the high priest. Thus we read in I Samuel 3:3, 4: “And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep; That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I.”
The question is now, What is the significance of this golden candlestick?
The temple itself was also a type of a spiritual reality and had significance for Israel’s ecclesiastical life. For it was in the most holy place that the Lord dwelt between the wings of the cherubim of the ark of the covenant. The Lord dwelt in the midst of His people. And when He came into the midst of His people, then He gathered His people into His covenant fellowship under one roof to commune with them and tell them the secrets of His eternal purpose. But the people could not enter into the temple. They had to remain in the outer court; so that if they desired to meet with Jehovah their God, they had to come with sacrifices so that blood could be shed to cover their sins and make it possible for them to commune in God’s tabernacle with Jehovah. The temple was the place where these sacrifices were made. And the priests always had to stand between the people and God in order to make intercession for them. Besides, the priests themselves were not holy, but very wicked. And so once a year the high priest had to enter into the most Holy Place with blood to pour upon the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant for an offering for the sins of the people and of the priests.
But this all was a picture of a profound truth. Christ is the temple of the Lord. And He is the temple because He is God and man united in the person of God’s eternal Son. It is in Him therefore, that the covenant of grace, the closest possible union between God and man is established. And He realized that covenant by making the perfect sacrifice for sin and carrying His own blood into the holy presence of God. And therefore in Him the covenant of God is realized with the elect who are chosen in Him from before the foundation of the world. And when the elect church of Christ is engrafted into His body by faith, then the temple of God—the perfect and glorious realization of God’s everlasting covenantof grace is realized. There the temple signified the body of Christ with the church of all ages as His body. And apart from this temple, the candlestick could never be understood.
For each article of furniture in that temple signified the church from a particular point of view. And the question is, What is the point of view of the candlestick?
The oil which burned in the candlestick was typical of the Holy Spirit, as oil always symbolized the Holy Spirit in Scripture. Those who were anointed with oil in the old dispensation—the prophets and priests and kings—were anointed as a sign of the Holy Spirit which qualified them to perform the duties of their office, and ordained them so that they had the right to function. To quote but one text to substantiate this is perhaps sufficient. In Isaiah 61:1, the prophet refers to the work of Christ to which He was ordained and qualified. And Christ later quotes this same passage in the synagogue of Nazareth as fulfilled in Himself. It reads: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.”
Besides this, light has also symbolic significance in Scripture. It is probably impossible to discuss this in detail, but a few general remarks may be sufficient. The light of the sun which sends its rays upon our planet serves its purpose in this creation. It is first of all the means of heat and therefore also of life. Without the warming rays of the sun, life could not exist. Besides, it is the light of the sun that makes it possible for man to stand in contact with the creation about him. If there were absolute darkness, he could not know anything at all. For it is by means of the light of the sun which is reflected from the various parts of the creation and which enters his eye that he can know the things of this world in which he lives. When light strikes a tree and is reflected from it, entering into man’s eye, he knows the tree because he sees it.
There is however, a spiritual reality which corresponds to this natural phenomenon. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all—and the light that in God, the radiation, profound and glorious, of all the infinite perfections of His divine being. He is light because He is infinitely holy and good, because in Him there is no imperfection or incompletion, because He is all His infinite attributes from eternity to eternity. But He has chosen to reveal Himself. He has chosen to reveal His own infinite perfection and shining light. And the highest revelation of God is in Jesus Christ, for He is the light of God which was sent into a world of darkness and sin. He is the “brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.” He is the full revelation of the infinite grace and goodness and perfection of His Father. Revelation is in Jesus Christ. Revelation is in Jesus Christ through the work of Christ performed on this earth—through His suffering and death and burial; but also through His resurrection and ascension and the glory which He now possesses and will possess when His kingdom is fully realized.
Therefore darkness is always spiritual depravity. Darkness is the inability to know the things of God or of His Christ. Darkness is spiritual corruption of the heart and of the mind so that the natural man cannot possibly see the kingdom of heaven. When man fell, he became dark. He lost the ability to know the revelation of God. He lost the light which was within Him and He could not perceive any longer spiritual things. Darkness is therefore also moral and spiritual corruption and degradation. It is the state of the sinner in the depths of depravity and the condition of evil. In short, it is the loss of the image of God—true knowledge, righteousness and holiness.
But nevertheless, God continues to reveal Himself. And He reveals Himself to His church throughout all the ages of time. He causes His light to shine in the world of sin and darkness which cannot perceive the light of God’s holiness. But very little good that would still do if man remained in his depraved state. So God also causes that same light of His holiness and infinite perfection to shine in the hearts of the elect enlightening their minds and their hearts. He does so by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, for all revelation of God is always in the Son and through the Spirit. But this Spirit He “powerfully illuminates their minds . . . that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God.” Canons III and IV, 11. He renews their hearts so that they are given the righteousness and holiness of Jesus Christ their Lord. In short, He causes His light to shine in them and renews in them the image of the only Son of God. And then He brings to them the light of His gospel so that they receive the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ. They receive the light of revelation so that God is revealed in Jesus Christ, but also in His elect church which becomes the body of Jesus Christ by faith. And thus they live spiritually and walk in the world of sin and darkness revealing the perfections of their God which He has wrought within their hearts. And when finally that church is brought to heaven and all darkness is banished into hell, then the redeemed and glorified church in Jesus Christ shall be the perfect and full revelation of God to His glory forever and ever. It is all the revelation of God in Jesus Christ that God may be glorified when His perfections are realized in the culmination of His everlasting covenant. For knowing God, the elect live unto all eternity. Light is knowledge and life and holiness and righteousness.
Let me quote a few Scripture passages. In John 1:1-5we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” And again in verse nine of the same chapter: “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Or, as proof of the revelation of the Light through the gospel, we may well refer to II Corinthians 4:4-6: “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. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shille out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of, God in the face of Jesus Christ.” This is a most beautiful passage of Scripture to prove what I have just said. Besides, we may turn to Ephesians 5:8 where we read, “For we were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of the light.”
But to return now to the golden candlestick, we find that the candlestick signifies the church from the point of view of the light of God. In the midst of a world of darkness they are the body of Christ and therefore the revelation of God in Christ of all the glorious virtues of their Father. And this is realized in the eternal covenant which God has established in Christ with His elect. For they know God, for. God has revealed Himself unto them by the Spirit of Christ and the gospel of the light. And knowing God, they live. “For this is eternal life: that they may know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3. And living, they enjoy the blessings of God’s eternal fellowship and communion. And thus they shine as a light which cannot be hid in the midst of darkness. They are shining light of the glory of their God in the image of Jesus Christ. And in the age to come, they shall shine forever in the kingdom of their Father when the sun of righteousness shall come to take them home into the blessings of God’s eternal tabernacle. Then shall they know God and live in perfect righteousness and holiness. And the revelation of God to His eternal glory shall be perfectly realized.
This is the glorious vision also that Zechariah saw as recorded in the fourth chapter of his prophecy. The candlestick which he saw in his vision was fed directly by two olive trees. There was a day when the priests had to fill the lamps. But in the perfect temple of God this is no more necessary. The oil flows directly into the candlestick through the pipes. Therefore the two olive trees represented according to the angel, Zerubbabel who was the governor and who stood in the royal line of David, and Joshua the high priest of the line of Aaron. But this vision was fulfilled when the two offices of Zerubbabel and Joshua were united in the BRANCH, Jesus Christ. For as the oil is a symbol of His Spirit, so also does the Spirit of God flow through Jesus Christ and into the church in order that they may shine to the everlasting glory of God the Father! And therefore the interpretation of this vision is, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit saith Jehovah of Hosts.” All that the candlestick pictured in this age and in the age to come is accomplished not by might, not by power, but by the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The church is gathered, redeemed and perfected, the covenant of God is realized, the full glory of God is revealed and all is accomplished not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of Jesus Christ!