The Light and the Lamp Stand
The Light and the Lamp stand
The Lord spoke, "He who has ears to hear let him hear" ( Lk 8:8; Mk4:23). In related passages he also said, "No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar, but on the lamp stand so that those who enter may see the light (Lk8:16). Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light" (Luke 11:33); "therefore consider how you listen. Whoever has, more will be given, but whoever has not, even that will be taken away from him" (Lk.8). He went on to say, "there is nothing hidden except to be revealed" (Mk4:22; Matt 5:14; Matt. 6:22).
Although these scriptures apply to us as individuals, they also have bearing on God's people corporately. When taken together, they are a composite of Jesus' teaching and parables concerning lamp stands, light and the body. What do all these passages have in common? Why did Jesus place these concepts together? Before these questions are dealt with, I think it would be helpful to provide some of the Old Testament background that the disciples and crowds were familiar with.
Old Testament lamp stand
Jesus used things that we can relate to in order to describe spiritual realities. In addition to the common household oil lamp there was a more significant lamp, the one made for the Tent of Meeting and the Temple . As seen in the book of Exodus, God commanded them to make a lamp stand and set it at the entrance of the tent of meeting. It was to burn oil continually (Ex 27:22). God also told them to build the lamp stand with 7 lamps according to the exact pattern shown to Moses (Nu.8:4). (Later, Solomon made lamp stands for the temple at Jerusalem, 2Chron 4:7.)
The light and the lamp were also spoken of metaphorically in the Scriptures. The disciples were familiar with the words in the Psalms and Proverbs speaking of God's word as a light and his teaching as a lamp (Psm 119:105; Prv. 6:23). Also, at times the anointed leaders of God's people who spoke the word of the Lord were referred to as lamps. (ref)
People of Light
It is in the background of this that Jesus gave the parable. Jesus declared that he himself was the Light of world, the incarnate Light (Jn 1:4). Not only did Christ teach God's wisdom and thereby illuminate men, but His life itself was their light. He was and is light personified.
In the gospels we hear Christ say, "a city set on a hill cannot be hidden." In the O.T. Jerusalem was the city set on a hill. This is where God's name and presence were to dwell. However, in the gospels Christ is now communicating that the Church, the spiritual body, is that city; "you have come to the new Jerusalem "(Heb.and Rev 21:23). God the Father and Christ are in the midst of it. The "you" Jesus refers to here is the church body, the ecclesia. The importance of this point is that he is referring to His actual dwelling place. His Spirit now dwells in the corporate Body. God is jealous for Zion. He is jealous that his dwelling would be a people where he could make his house.
Jesus introduces a great truth in these parables. It was to show his people their inheritance and that they, the church, are entrusted with the message of the gospel. Through the Church the mystery of God is made known, "There is nothing hidden except to be revealed" (Eph 3:10). He desires his light, his gospel, to be made known to all men (Eph 3:9). The vessel God uses is the church, both individually and corporately. This helps to define what the church really ought to be about . There is a continual message that the Lord has spoken through the generations. His Tent. His Temple. His Church. His House. His Body. God has desired a people that he would dwell with to transmit his radiance into a dark world. Jesus concludes by saying, "He who has an ear to hear let him hear."
Message in the Revelation
These concepts are echoed in the book of Revelation in Jesus' revelation to John. Here, Jesus expands on a deeper level regarding lamps and the lamp stand. In chapter 1 John is told that the 7 lamp stands are the 7 churches. This is a direct statement in which the Lord Himself is defining the meaning of something. Here, the Lord of the Church speaks to his church. In the gospels Jesus introduces a new concept beyond the O.T. representation with a fuller meaning that the light (the witness) is not meant to be hidden but put on a lamp stand. Then Paul and John further elaborate on this. John sees a vision of spiritual reality and is told the meaning of it. He is also told that the lamp itself is identified as the spirit of God. The lamp stand is a structure which holds the light. However, the lamp itself or the light is identified as the sevenfold Spirit of God.
The 7 lamps are the spirit of God. In Rev 6:6 the body of the lamb has 7 eyes. Obviously Jesus didn't physically have seven eyes. Yet in the supernatural imagery , the lamb as seen by John does have them . The eyes are identified as the 7 spirits of God, or as noted earlier, the sevenfold spirit of God. In the other part of John's vision seven are burning, holding up the lamp which is identified as the spirit of God. I believe this helps explain the statement where Jesus said the eye is the lamp of the body in a deeper way. The body is His church, which are the 7 lamp stands holding 7 lamps. The body of the Lamb has seven eyes. His spirit is the lamp of his body. These two meanings agree. The Spirit of God is represented as a seven fold Spirit. It is another way of communicating the same truth but from a different perspective and using different imagery.
In the church the light of God's spirit and the light of Christ are its eye, the focal point. The body of the Lamb and the Lamp stands are both representing the church. The eye is the lamp of His body. The true Church is a dwelling place of God, through the Spirit, in Christ.
I intentionally use the words, true church, because I think the warnings that Christ gave in these parables bring an exhortation and a distinction. Jesus said a man should be careful about how he hears, "Take heed, with the measure you use, it will be measured to you " (Mk4:25); "Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him" (Lk 8:17). God takes away something when it is not used. Jesus spoke a word of warning: "If you do not repent I will come to you and remove the lamp stand from its place" (Rev.2:5). If the church is not faithful to God's purposes and it is not built according to the pattern, then God removes the lamp stand. Jesus said: "Even what he has will be taken away " (Rev.2:7). Jesus admonishes the church when he says he who has an ear to hear let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. In the same way God takes away the lamp stand when the church is not shining forth the light. ("I know your works," Rev.3). If it is removed then the church no longer corporately represents him to the world. It can no longer be called a lamp stand in God's view. And when the eye is full of darkness, then the whole body, the church, is in darkness.
If anything but Jesus is at the center of the church, something from the kingdom of darkness which the people of God are supposed to be delivered from, then the whole body is full of darkness. His Spirit is the eye, yet he has placed eyes in the church- his body. Men are to be vessels of his spirit (anointed leadership,1Cor. 12) speaking his Word. But when they no longer function in this way, darkness is brought into the whole congregation.
The church is supposed to be a foundation of truth and a copy of the Jerusalem from above (Heb.12.22). It did not originate with men and it is not an earthly institution. It is not to be built nor administered according to the patterns of this world. Over the centuries religious denominations (seperations )and sects have multiplied. What many times started out as a beacon of light and life ,slowly succumbs to darkness and worldly corruption. There may be individual believers, but the lamp stand has been removed from the corporate body . Being alive in name, but spiritually dead (Rev.3). Thought of as rich in the eyes of men, but poor and having blinded eyes.
May we be a people that truly hear what he is saying to us, and wholeheartedly live out his light and life. God is jealous for his church.
1 Footnote: It seems that when God speaks in his word , it is to ultimately reflect his thoughts and infinite mind. There can be very complex links to other things that he has spoken ("How great are your thoughts oh Lord, How vast is the sum of them." cite)
2 Footnote : this may be different manifestations or attributes as in Isaiah 11; Spirit of wisdom might etc.