Vision 1 Christ in the midst of the Churches
Within this first vision is a very beautiful picture of Jesus Christ and His Church. Remember we are trying to see what John saw. You have seen, I am sure, pictures or models of the candlestick which was in the Temple. It has seven branches with seven lampstands on top of each branch. All of the arms of the lampstand join to a central stem, so every one of the six come to the side of the stem and the seventh, the one in the middle goes into the top of the stem, but all join to the stem. John said, I saw this One and He stood in the midst of seven candlesticks or lampstands. I am proposing to you, because I have tried to get into John’s head that he saw Jesus in that glorious picture and that Christ was the central stem and all seven lampstands all connecting directly to Jesus.
Jesus later in the chapter gives us the interpretation to that first Vision. It is almost to get us started. It is going to be a whole book of symbols but this is the first one and he tells us what it means. He said the seven lampstands are the seven churches and so you have at the center, the glorified ascended Jesus and vitally united to Him you have the seven churches. So not only is He the Lord of the Church, but also the Life of the Church for out from Him is going the life of those churches.
It tells me there is only one candlestick there – it would be absolutely ridiculous to say that there were seven. There is one. Ah yes, one, yet seven, seven yet one. And so it is, he was writing to seven distinct local churches. There were 7 of them, yet they only made up the one total expression of the body of Christ in that part of Asia. And so wherever you find a local body of believers, they are the light of that area. They are a distinct entity, yet because they are connected, vitally, mystically to the risen Christ. They form a part of the one whole body of Christ , all over the world. Take it further. I think it very interesting in that symbolic picture that not one church was jointed to another church.
Every church is described as a light-bearer, but when John saw Jesus he saw him as the Sun shining in all its strength. When he saw the Church he saw it as a candle or lampstand flickering light in the darkness. Sun is for the daytime. Candles or lampstands are for night-time. When you and I look at Jesus Christ, we see Him as the Lord Jesus Christ, ascended in all the Sun of Righteousness risen. The Church only sees Him as the Sun/Son, but as far as the world is concerned they have not seen that, nor will they see that until they come into the Church. The only light they see is the Church, so the Church is depicted as a light in the darkness.
Do you remember the words of Jesus Matt 5:13-16 when He spoke to His disciples, He said, ‘You are the light of the world’ and the Greek there is intense, emphatic, and so could rightly be translated ‘you and you alone are the light of the world’ That is an awesome, solemn thought, ‘you and you alone are the light of the world’ They do not see the ascended Christ.
Not one unbeliever saw Jesus after He was risen. Only the believers saw Jesus after He was risen. The unbelievers only saw the Church in action. All the religious and political officials could say is, ‘By what Name do you do these things?’ and ‘We command you never again to speak about the resurrection or about this man named Jesus’. The Church had seen Him, but the world was threatened because there was a light flickering rather strongly in Jerusalem, that gave them the distinct impression that that Church had seen more than they had seen. The world will never see the beatific vision of Jesus, that you and I have seen, our spirits know that we know that we know. Therefore, we walk out into the world and we act in such a fashion, we speak in such a way there follows us certain signs and unbelievers get the distinct impression that we have seen the Sun and the result is that we are a candle in the darkness.
Of course once you are a light in the darkness, the result is darkness hates lights. If you spend two days in intense darkness and someone turns on the lights on it is going to hurt your eyes. And for the people who have been in the darkness, and the light comes on, suddenly that hurts. If you have ever been in a deep underground cave and they extinguish all the lights, now you know for the first time what real darkness is and then they ask one person to strike a match, it is amazing how one little match can give so much light. It seemed all the lights came on when one little match was lit in that deep dark cavern.
One person with Christ living in them in the world seems like all the light of God has been turned on and from that one light there rises from within the darkness a hatred of the Church. The world’s hatred of Christ is taken out on us. That is why Jesus said you are going to be persecuted for my sake, you are going to be thrown out of the synagogue, you will be put to death for my sake, because if it was not for Him we would not be touched. This is the idea behind Jesus’ confrontation with Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9, ‘Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?’ Saul was not really touching the Christians he was touching the Christ he saw in the Christians.
This vision is the peculiar message of Jesus to His Church. The rest of the book will deal with the world too. This, the first introductory Vision is Jesus talking to a Church that has been beaten up, losing their jobs, thrown out of their homes and living in caves, dying for the sake of the Gospel, banished to islands.. You are hurt, you are beaten you are persecuted. Of course, you are lampstands in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t like you. Understand the honor, understand the dignity that is yours, for they would never touch you except you were not mystically united to the central stem of the candlestick who is none other than the Sun shining in all His righteousness.