Among the Lampstands
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” Hebrews 9:24.
“The sanctuary in Heaven is the very center of Christ's work in behalf of men.” GC 488.
This week we are introduced to Christ’s High Priestly ministry in the Heavenly sanctuary and begin to look at His messages to the seven churches. An appreciation of the sanctuary and the truths it contains is vital to understanding this last book of the bible because the Revelation of Jesus and its prophetic messages occur within the context and setting of the sanctuary. It was in the very heart of the Heavenly Sanctuary where sin originated, and it is here that sin is addressed, dealt with, and finally eradicated. The sanctuary speaks to us of the self-sacrificing love, justice, and mercy of the triune God. (I recommend the reading or rereading of The Consecrated Way by A. T. Jones for a clearer understanding of Christ in relationship to the sanctuary.)
When studying the plan of salvation believers often see the courtyard ministry of Jesus as the end all, but consider this amazing statement: “The intercession of Christ in man's behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in Heaven. We must by faith enter within the veil, “whither the forerunner is for us entered.” [Hebrews 6:20.] There the light from the cross of Calvary is reflected. There we may gain a clearer insight into the mysteries of redemption. The salvation of man is accomplished at an infinite expense to Heaven; the sacrifice made is equal to the broadest demands of the broken law of God. Jesus has opened the way to the Father's throne, and through His mediation the sincere desire of all who come to Him in faith may be presented before God.” GC 489.
It is my prayer, that as we study the book of Revelation, we find in its pages light radiating from Calvary, that clarity will replace confusion and blindness, that we allow His righteousness to replace our own filthy rags, and that we more fully appreciate what our salvation has cost Heaven. With this in mind let us explore some of this week’s lesson.
As we study this book, we find each key word and phrase rich with meaning. Each helps us gain a greater understanding of the whole. Many words and phrases reoccur in Revelation. Take for example some of the key phrases in John’s opening words that supply the background of the vision - the tribulation (2:9-10, 7:14) and kingdom and patience (1:9, 2:2-3, 2:19, 3:10, 13:10, 14:12) of Jesus Christ; the word of God (1:2, 1:9, 6:9, 19:13, 20:4) and the testimony of Jesus Christ (1:2, 1:9, 12:17, 19:10); in the Spirit (1:10, 4:2, 17:3, 21:10). Revelation also contains numerous allusions to other bible passages. “In the Revelation all the books of the Bible meet and end.” AA585. The author of the quarterly makes the following statement about the Lord’s Day: “Revelation 1:10 clearly suggests that the apostle John received the vision on the seventh-day Sabbath. Although looking with anticipation toward future events, even to the second coming of Christ (compare with Rev. 1:7), which is called “the day of the Lord” (Isa. 13:6–13; 2 Pet. 3:10), John was talking about the time at which he, himself, had the vision of these future events, and that was on the Sabbath—the “Lord’s day.” Creation, Creator, and worship, are key themes in Revelation. This book is replete with sevens, the Creator’s number. In the very heart and center of Revelation the everlasting gospel proclaims to the world, “Worship Him that made Heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Revelation 14:7. Thus our attention is directed to the fourth commandment. The book concludes with the earth experiencing rest and recreation. Finally, the redeemed are at rest in the New Jerusalem and New Earth, dwelling with God and the Lamb. How fitting it is that John received The Revelation on the Sabbath.
As the book of Acts is a sequel to Luke so Revelation is a sequel to the Gospel of John. For over three years John had beheld “the glory that dwelt among us” John 1:14. Yet when John turns and sees the glory of the Son of Man in the midst of the lampstands John’s reaction is akin to Daniel’s in Daniel 10. “John had seen Christ in human form, with the marks of the nails, which will ever be His glory, in His hands and His feet. Now he was permitted again to behold his risen Lord, clothed with as much glory as a human being could behold, and live.” YI April 5, 1900. Many comparisons can be drawn between John and Daniel. Their descriptions both point to the same divine-human being. (Daniel, of course encounters the Christ before His incarnation.) Both are aged men when they receive visions of the Christ. There is textual evidence that our Lord appeared to Daniel also on the Sabbath. (See Daniel by William Shea p. 234.) Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed while each was alive. The first kingdom, Babylon, destroyed the city and the first temple during Daniel’s exile. John lived to realize the destruction of Jerusalem and the second temple by Rome, the fourth kingdom. Both books contain prophetic outlines that begin with each prophet’s day and foretell major events that would have a direct bearing on the Israel of God. The repeat and enlarge prophecies culminate with the establishment of God’s everlasting kingdom. The books share similar literary structures and contain complementary material. The enemies of both prophets unsuccessfully tried to kill them. “In exiling John, the enemies of truth had hoped to silence forever the voice of God’s faithful witness; but on Patmos the disciple received a message, the influence of which was to continue to strengthen the church till the end of time.” AA581. History bears out again and again how God overrules evil for the accomplishment of His grand and glorious purposes.
As we proceed through the study of this book it is of great interest to observe Jesus’ movement through the sanctuary, the transition markers, and the way He is portrayed at the different sanctuary locations. Walking among the lampstands, speaking to the churches, He is the Son of Man. He identifies with each and every church. He knows the internal and external threats each church faces. “I know.” He knows by personal experience. He has experienced the lot of humanity and every temptation common to man. His overcoming encourages and empowers. It is true Jesus is ministering in the true tabernacle in Heaven since His ascension. However, the emphasis in chapters 2 and 3 is that Jesus, through the agency of His Holy Spirit, is very much walking in the midst of His people on earth. (Not till chapter 4 is John taken up into Heaven.) “Christ is in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, walking from church to church, from congregation to congregation, from heart to heart. He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. RH May 26, 1903.” The Son of Man’s heart is with His people, and each promise points to a glorious future when He will dwell with His own.
Imagine this. You live on a planet that has never sinned. You are sent as a representative to a meeting in Heaven (Think Job chapters 1 and 2). You converse with representatives from other worlds. But who is this new representative from planet Earth? Is it really the Creator God, the Son of God, the last Adam, the Son of Man! Jesus’ words and John’s description convey to us His person, victory, and authority, but do we realize that everything about His divine-human person is ours? As we begin to grasp this overcoming will cease to be unattainable. He owns overcoming and it is His gift He delights to give!
Jesus Christ is depicted as High Priest walking among the lampstands, but let us not miss the voice of the Heavenly Bridegroom, the Divine Lover. To Ephesus He says, “You have left your first love.” Smyrna is encouraged to “Be faithful.” Pergamos and Thyatira are warned against sexual immorality. Sardis doesn’t live up to her name. The Bridegroom may come as a thief and surprise her. However, there are the worthy who will walk with Him in white (wedding garments). Overcomers in Philadelphia are promised a future, a home with their bridegroom and His Father in the royal city. He is coming quickly! For Laodicea the Lover is on the outside knocking for admittance (Song of Solomon chapter 5). He wants to share His throne with them! They must consent to the marriage, however.
John’s encounter with Jesus reminds me of that last supper. John is leaning on Jesus’ breast, listening intently to Jesus’ parting works before Gethsemane, before His crucifixion and the disciples’ bitter disappointment. Their master comforts them. He tells them that though His departure would cause them sorrow it would be superseded by joy. He promises the gift of the Spirit. He will not leave them comfortless. And the separation is temporary. The bridegroom wants to be reunited with His family! We are His flesh and blood! In Christ’s prayer in John chapter 17 He prays, “Father I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24.
In the Gospel of John Jesus always refers to His Heavenly Father as “My Father”, or “The Father.” That is until after His resurrection when Jesus says to Mary, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God and your God.” John 20:17. In commenting on this passage Ellen White has the following to say: “Jesus refused to receive the homage of His people until He knew that His sacrifice had been accepted by the Father, and until He had received the assurance from God Himself that His atonement for the sins of His people had been full and ample, that through His blood they might gain eternal life. Jesus immediately ascended to Heaven and presented Himself before the throne of God, showing the marks of shame and cruelty upon His brow, His hands and feet. But He refused to receive the coronet of glory, and the royal robe, and He also refused the adoration of the angels as He had refused the homage of Mary, until the Father signified that His offering was accepted. He also had a request to prefer concerning His chosen ones upon earth. He wished to have the relation clearly defined that His redeemed should hereafter sustain to Heaven, and to His Father. His church must be justified and accepted before He could accept heavenly honor. He declared it to be His will that where He was, there His church should be; if He was to have glory, His people must share it with Him. They who suffer with Him on earth must finally reign with Him in His kingdom. In the most explicit manner Christ pleaded for His church, identifying His interest with theirs, and advocating, with a love and constancy stronger than death, their rights and titles gained through Him. God's answer to this appeal goes forth in the proclamation: "Let all the angels of God worship Him." Every angelic commander obeys the royal mandate, and Worthy, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain; and that lives again a triumphant conqueror! echoes and re-echoes through all Heaven. The innumerable company of angels prostrate themselves before the Redeemer. The request of Christ is granted; the church is justified through Him, its representative and head. Here the Father ratifies the contract with His Son, that He will be reconciled to repentant and obedient men, and take them into divine favor through the merits of Christ. Christ guarantees that He will make a man "more precious than fine gold, even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir." All power in Heaven and on earth is now given to the Prince of life; yet He does not for a moment forget His poor disciples in a sinful world, but prepares to return to them, that he may impart to them His power and glory. Thus, did the Redeemer of mankind, by the sacrifice of Himself, connect earth with Heaven, and finite man with the infinite God.” 3SP 202, 203.
The first church Ephesus is rebuked because she left her first love. The last church is told, “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten.” May our study of Revelation direct our eyes “to His Divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family.” TM 91, 92. “Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts.” AA12.
~ Martha Ruggles