THE SEVEN-BRANCHED LAMPSTAND
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-4-59 7:30 p.m.
In our preaching through the Bible, we are in the Book of Hebrews; and there the author follows the furnishings of the tabernacle, and he uses them as types, as pictures that God gave to His children in order to teach them the deep spiritual things of heaven. And this morning we spake of the table, the showbread, the manna of heaven; and tonight, The Seven-Branched Lampstand. Will you turn with me to the twenty-fifth chapter of Exodus? Exodus chapter 25, begin at the thirty-first verse, and we read to the end of the chapter; Exodus chapter 25, verse 31, reading to the end of the chapter. Exodus 25:31, now together:
And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knobs, and his flowers, shall be of the same.
And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side:
Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knob and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, with a knob and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the candlestick.
And in the candlestick shall be four bowls made like unto almonds, with their knobs and their flowers.
And there shall be a knob under two branches of the same, and a knob under two branches of the same, and a knob under two branches of the same, according to the six branches that proceed out of the candlestick.
Their knobs and their branches shall be of the same: all it shall be one beaten work of pure gold.
And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it.
And the tongs thereof, and the snuffdishes thereof, shall be of pure gold.
Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these vessels.
And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount.
There has never been the preparation of a sermon that has meant more to me than the preparation of this sermon tonight, The Seven-Branched Lampstand.
They didn’t have any candles until modern centuries, and where you find in the Bible “candlestick,” it ought to be “lampstand”: an oil lamp with a wick falling out of the spout, the only kind of a lamp that the ancient people knew. The seven-branched lampstand is one of the most impressive and meaningful, significant, typical of all of the furnishings of the tabernacle. It made a great impression upon all who ever looked upon it. In the Arch of Titus that I mentioned this morning, you will find in bold relief on one side that seven-branched lampstand, made out of pure, solid, beaten gold, all of one piece. When Titus destroyed the city in [70 AD], the lampstand was taken and held aloft, as you see it there depicted in the frieze sculpted on the arch, held aloft by the slaves and carried through the great triumphal procession in the city of Rome. Then it was deposited in the temple of Peace by the Roman Forum, where it stayed for over four hundred years. Then Genseric overran Rome and carried it as a prize to Carthage. Then Belisarius recovered it from Carthage, took it to Constantinople, later placed it in the church at Jerusalem, where it remained until 533 AD and then disappeared from human history. It is a perfect and a beautiful, a magnificent type of the light of God in the glory of Jesus Christ. The hymn that begins the Gospel of John has sometimes been described as “the hymn to the Logos as the light of the world.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with,In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God” [John 1:1-2]. Then it continues:
In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness overwhelmed it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light. He was not that Light, but came to bear witness of the Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
Or in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, when Jesus says at the Feast of Lights, “I am the light of the world” [John 8:12], or in the second Corinthian letter, 4:: “For God, who commanded the light to shine 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,” seven lamps – the seven-branched lampstand, the picture of our Lord, the light of the soul, of the home, of the church, of heaven, of the glory that is to come, and of our present world – seven of them typifying all adequacy in guidance and direction. Seven is the perfect number of God.
It was made out of pure gold; out of beaten gold, out of one slab of gold; hammered out of one piece of gold [Exodus 25:31]. Everything is so different when we come into the Holy Place. Outside we enter through gates of brass [Exodus 38:19-20]. There before us is an altar of brass [Exodus 27:2]; just beyond is the laver of brass [Exodus 30:18]. The whole sacred enclosure is surrounded by standards of brass [Exodus 27:10]; brass, the burning judgment of God upon our sins, washing away, expiating, cleansing the iniquity of our souls. But when we enter the door of the tabernacle, the sanctuary itself, there in the Holy Place, there in the Holy of Holies, everything is made out of gold, pure gold; either solid gold, like the lampstand [Exodus 25:31], or the mercy seat with its overshadowing cherubim [Exodus 25:17-18], or made out of acacia wood covered with pure solid gold [Exodus 25:23-24]. A picture, of course, of the deity of our Lord; we have now come into the sanctuary where God’s name is named and where we worship in spirit and in truth [John 4:24].
It was made out of beaten gold; on the anvil, hammered and hammered and hammered until it took the beautiful form [Numbers 8:4]. So the life of our Lord: out of the sufferings of our Lord, out of the sacrifices of Christ, out of His cross, in the blood and tears of His anguish, and in the sorrow and travail of His soul, God made the church. As Eve was born out of the side of Adam, riven and open [Genesis 2:21-22], so the church comes out of the sufferings of our Lord [Ephesians 5:25]. The lampstand is made on the anvil, stroke after stroke, hammer after hammer, beat after beat, until finally it emerges, the seven-branched lampstand of the light of Christ [Exodus 25:31].
You notice also that the central standard, the one preeminent shaft in the center, is one with the three, the six branches that come out on the two sides [Exodus 25:32]. That is, Christ and His people are one and the same:
Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?
And Saul answered and said, Who art Thou, Lord?
And He said, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutes.”
Christ and His people are the same. That seven-branched lampstand was hammered out of one piece; and those branches are not attachments, they are not accouterments, they are not addenda, they are not additions, but they are of the same substance; integral component with the central standard itself [Exodus 25:31]. Christ and His people are one [John 17:21-23].
Another thing, the branches number six [Exodus 25:32]; and six in the Bible is an imperfect number. When the branches are separated from the central standard, they are nothing; they are incomplete. But when the branches are in their place in Christ, they number seven. The branch life is the glorious life; it’s the fruitful life. Our Lord says, “He that abideth not in Me is as a branch that is cast forth; it withers and dies. But he that abideth in Me beareth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing” [John 15:5-6]. The meaning of the branch is found in its integral attachment to that central standard. And the six make seven, the perfect number, when they are joined to Christ. Apart from Him, we are nothing, our church is nothing, our testimony is nothing, our life is nothing; but with Him we are complete in all things [Colossians 2:10].
Do you notice how beautifully this candlestick is wrought? Far and away it is the most elaborate of all of the pieces of furniture of the tabernacle. Beautifully wrought, every lamp is on a bowl made out of almond blossoms, every knob is a bud, and every flower is a lily. And as the lampstand was beaten on the anvil until finally it took its shape, there were the knobs and the buds and the flowers, and the knobs and the buds and the flowers, until finally it opened up at the top in a beautiful open almond blossom on which the lamp was placed [Exodus 25:33-36]. The religion of Christ is a sweet and fragrant and beautiful and fruitful religion. And those knobs, and buds, and flowers, and almond blossoms were not only on the central standard – Christ preeminent [Colossians 1:18] – but they were also on the branches. We are to be fruitful unto God [John 15:5]; beautiful in our deportment and life, honoring our Lord, our Savior, shedding abroad the light of the Son of God in the earth [Matthew 5:14-16].
Do you notice the flower that they chose, an almond blossom? [Exodus 25:33-34] How meaningful that is, and representative of our Lord. When the rebellion of Korah developed in the camp of Israel, these men who sought to displace Aaron and the high priesthood and the Levitical family [Numbers 16], they had a sign by which God chose the high priest: each one brought a rod, and Aaron brought his rod, and they set them up before the Lord; and the rod that budded and flowered and bore fruit unto God, he was declared God’s high priest and mediator. And when the rods were placed up before the Lord, the next day the rod of Aaron had budded; and on it, on that dry stick, on that dry branch, on that dry rod there were buds and fruits and flowers, almonds, almond buds, almond fruits, almond flowers. The dead, dry stick bore fruit and flowers unto God. That was God’s declaration that Aaron was His high priest and mediator between God and man. And that rod was placed in the ark of the covenant, to be kept sacred as a witness to the children of Israel [Numbers 17:1-10; Hebrews 9:4].
That is a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was declared the Son of God, established the Son of God in His resurrection from the dead [Romans 1:4]. He was dead, a dry branch, a dead stick. Like any other man is dead, He was dead. Among the thousands of the millions of the earth that died, our Lord died [Matthew 27:45-50]. And He was buried [Matthew 27:57-61]; and in that vast cemetery that is the earth, there lay our Lord, as all the others who have died. But God in heaven raised the Lord Jesus from the dead [Acts 2:24, 32], and declared that He is the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead [Romans 1:4]. That’s the great testimony of Paul in the epistle of Romans: He was already the Son of God from eternity [Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20]; but the resurrection from the dead declared Him to be the Son of God, established Him to be the Son of God [Romans 1:4], like the budding of the almonds established Aaron and pointed Aaron out as the mediator between God and man [Numbers 17:3-10]. So the seven-branched lampstand is a picture of Jesus, God’s Son, declared to be the Son of God by the budding of the almonds, the flowers and fruits of the almond tree. The branches of all of that seven-branched lampstand is almonds, flowers, and buds, and fruit [Exodus 25:31-34].
Now of course the lampstand was a place that held up the seven lamps that lighted the sanctuary of God [Numbers 8:2-3]. And the oil that filled those seven lamps was to be made out of pure, beaten olive oil [Exodus 27:20]. And oil in the Scriptures is always a type of the Holy Spirit of God. Isaiah 61:1-2, when the Lord Jesus quoted it, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me” [Luke 4:18], oil of anointment, the Spirit of God. And Zechariah saw a vision of that seven-branched lampstand:
And the angel that talked with me came again, and asked me, What seest thou? And I looked, and behold the lampstand of gold, with the bowl on top, and the seven lamps, and pipes leading into the lamps, and two olive trees leading into the pipes that fed the lamps. And I answered and spake to the angel, What are these? Then the angel that talked with me answered and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered and said, This is the word of the Lord, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.
The oil that fed the lamps is the Spirit of God, feeding the light that illuminates our darkened world. Now that is a marvelous interplay: the seven-branched lampstand – our Lord Jesus – and the oil – the Holy Spirit – that burns in the lamps. The seven-branched lampstand sustains the Spirit, holds up the Spirit of God; but at the same time, the light flowing over the lampstand reveals the beauty and the glory of the seven-branched lampstand. So it is when our Lord speaks of the Holy Spirit of God. He says, “I send to you the Promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit of God” [Luke 24:]. And Jesus sustains, undergirds, the work of the Holy Spirit of God in the earth. And at the same time as Jesus sustains the Spirit of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit in the earth, the Holy Spirit also does something for Christ: the light of the lamp revealed the beauty of the candlestick [Exodus 25:37; Numbers 8:2]. “So when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will not speak of Himself; He shall glorify Me. For He shall receive of Mine, and show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and show it unto you” [John 16:13-15]. So the two have an interplay there together: the seven branch golden lampstand holds up the Spirit of God, the lamps of oil [Exodus 25:37]; and at the same time, the lamps of oil fall upon the lampstand and reveal its glory and its beauty [Numbers 8:2]: Jesus in heaven, sustaining the work of the Holy Spirit of God in the earth [John 14:16], and the Holy Spirit of God in the earth revealing to us the glories and the beauties of the lampstand of Jesus our Lord [John 16:13-14].
Do you notice that the light burns in the sanctuary? [Exodus 25:37]. The only light, there’s not any window; it’s in darkness except for the light of the seven-branched lampstand. And the priest that ministers before God ministers in the light of heaven. He does his work in the divine glory. He does not work under the light of reason, or under the light of nature, or under the light of philosophy, or under the light of the Golden Rule, or under the light of philanthropy, or under the light of good works, or humanitarianism, or altruism. But he does his work, and he ministers in the divine light of the seven-branched lampstand. There is no other light in the service and ministry of God. So it is when we come to God: we come by a divine intuition, by the mystery of a divine enlightenment. As Paul would say, “The natural man knoweth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he receive them, for they are spiritually discerned” [1 Corinthians 2:14]. We don’t come to know God by the light of intuition, or of reason, or of nature, or of philosophy, or of the world; but we come to walk in the glory of God in the light of heaven, all of those glorious mysteries that He reveals to those who open their hearts to Him.
Do you notice that the light shines only in the sanctuary? [Exodus 40:24]. No other place. Outside it does not shine, only in the worshipful presence of God. There is a darkness in the world where the light of Christ does not shine. Over the radio as I drive through the city visiting, listening to the radio, I hear often now an advertisement inviting the American people to come to India and visit India. I hope you go! There is a country where the light of Christ has not fallen. I was impressed among many, many other ways, I was impressed first in India [that] there’s not any Sunday: every day is like every other day, and they succeed one another in an endless wearisome succession. Oh, how I missed Sunday in India! I hope you visit Africa some time. The institution of polygamy is one of the darkest that I have ever seen in any of the habits and customs of the nations and peoples of the world; where the light of Christ has not fallen. Or any place of gross, crass materialism, like in Russia or in China, or even in some circles in the United States, where the light of the love and mercy and grace of God does not fall, there men find themselves in grossest darkness. The light is in the sanctuary; it is in the presence of God, and only as the light falls upon a darkened humanity do we ever come into the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, and that in the face of Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 4:6].
Do you notice the branches [Exodus 25:32-36], and how our Lord speaks of our being the light of the world? “Ye are the light of the world . . . Men do not light a candle,” and there it is again, “a lamp, put it under a bushel, but on a lampstand . . . Let your light so shine . . . that men may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven” [Matthew 5:15-16]. And that was the scene in the first of the Revelation: “I turned to see the voice that spake unto me. And being turned, I saw the seven-branched lampstand” [Revelation 1:12], “The stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven lamps which thou sawest are the seven churches” [Revelation 1:20]. We are to burn and to shine for our Lord, as He burns and shines in a darkened world [Matthew 5:14-16].
One of the strangest things I ever ran into was in Eastern Oklahoma, in our association. The snuffers are trimmers and the snuffdishes is to – the little golden vessel. When the priest trimmed the lamps, he carried a little snuffdish and then had a snuffer, a trimmer, in order to make the light shine brilliantly [Exodus 25:38-39]. That is a picture that God would want us to see. We are to shine for the Lord, and the Lord trims us, and He uses His snuffers, His trimmers, and His snuffdishes to catch all of that old debris and accumulation of worldliness that we all pick up as we walk through this journey. And snuff is the charred remains of the wick that has burned. Well, the missionary in our association, Brother Moore, was up preaching. And as the old story goes, he quit preaching and got to meddling, and he got to working on those people about dipping snuff, and said it was a nasty habit, and he wanted them to quit it. They were way out there in those Arkansas hills and those Cookson Hills, the Ozarks. And when he got through, one of those brethren got a hold of him and just tore him apart, and said, “You’re not preaching the Bible. You’re not preaching the Word of God; for they dipped snuff in the Word of God.” And the missionary amazed, said, “Where in the world did you ever get that they dipped snuff in the Word of God back there. Tobacco is an American discovery; never heard of it till they came and found the American Indian. Where you get the idea?” Why, he turned over here in the Bible, and said, “Look there: see these snuffdishes? [Exodus 25:38]. You couldn’t have snuffdishes,” he said, “without snuff.” Well, that’s a good interpretation to all of us who like it, you know.
We are to be trimmed. We are to be made to shine more brilliantly by the cutting of the Lord, the scissors of the Lord, the trimmers of the Lord; “For,” He threatened in the first church to which He addressed this letter, “I have somewhat against thee . . . Remember from whence thou art fallen, and do the first works, and repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy lampstand out of his place, except thou turn” [Revelation 2:4-5]. God does not say there, “I will extinguish the light,” but He does say, “If you are not true, I will take the lampstand away from you and give it to somebody else who will hold it high and let it shine.” So God does with us: if we shine for Him and work for Him, God blesses us with the oil of the Spirit and the two olive trees; but if we forget, and are unfaithful, God takes away our light, our lamp, gives it to somebody else who will bring forth the fruits thereof [Matthew 21:43].
Oh, I have just begun. I close with this little word: the seven-branched lampstand was before the veil, outside of the holy sanctuary of God [Exodus 27:21]. That sanctuary, that Holy of Holies – where the ark and the cherubim – that’s the heaven of heavens, where God is [Hebrews 8:5], and where the Lamb is the temple and the light thereof. In this dispensation, in this day, in the time in which we live, Christ walks among His seven lampstands. “I saw in the midst of the seven lampstands One like unto the Son of God,” Christ among His churches, walking among His people; the Lord looking and seeing and observing in the midst of the seven lampstands [Revelation 1:13]. “For the seven lampstands which thou sawest are the seven churches” [Revelation 1:20]. That’s in this age, this dispensation, this hour, this time. But there is coming an ultimate day and an ultimate hour when the lampstand will be in the Holy of Holies of God, and once again, it will be as it was there in the sanctuary in the tabernacle [Revelation 21:22-24]: Christ and His people, the central standard and the branches, all just one again [John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:17]. Now it is this independent church, and this independent church, and that independent church, and that group over there [Revelation 1:20], and the Spirit of Christ we pray among them, and His brethren lost, and unbelieving, and unrepentant, and outside [Romans 11:11-24], but someday there will be one lampstand as it was in the church of Israel [Revelation 21:12-14], and the congregation of the Lord; and there will be Christ and His brethren and the Christian people, all one in Him [John 17:21-23], as ultimately the central branch and the six branches are ultimately one in the seven-branched lampstand that represents Christ and His people [Exodus 25:31-40].
Oh, blessed and hallowed day when it comes, when there’ll be no East and West, when there’ll be no North and South, when there’ll be no bond and free, when there’ll be no Jew and Gentile; but we’ll all be brethren in the presence of God, as the seven-branched lampstand is one, Christ and His people; the glory and the light of this world and the world that is to come [Numbers 8:2-3].
Now while we sing our song, in this balcony round, somebody you, to give your heart in trust and life to Jesus, would you come? Or a family you, to put your life in the fellowship of the church, would you come? As the Spirit of God shall open the way, shall say the word, shall make the appeal, will you come and stand by me? Somebody you, or a family you, as God shall direct and say; if you come because of what a man has done, it is nothing, but if you come because the Spirit of God leads you, it is everything. If God bids you here, will you come? While we stand and while we sing.
I. The lampstand
Beautiful type of the light of God in the glory of Jesus Christ(John 1:1-9, 8:12, 2 Corinthians 4:6-8)
the number of perfection
Everything needed for guidance and direction
out of pure gold – one solid slab
elaborately constructed of all vessels in sanctuary
out of one piece until it took the beautiful form(Exodus
Out of suffering of Christ, God made the Church(Genesis
2:21-22, Ephesians 5:30-32)
Central standard, shaft, with three branches on each side
a. Christ and His
people are one(Acts 22:7-8)
b. Branches an
imperfect number – cannot stand alone(John
branch as well as main shaft beaten into shape of almond blossom, with knobs,
buds and flowers(Numbers 17:1-10, Romans 1:4)
II. Oil for the lamp – pure, beaten olive
A. Oil a type of the
Holy Spirit(Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 4:18, Zechariah 4:1-6)
B. The two – the golden
stand and the pure oil
sustains and undergirds the work of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit reveals
the glories of Christ(Luke 24:, John 16:13-15)
was no other light(1 Corinthians 2:14)
divine light shone only in the holy place(2
III. We the light(Matthew 5:14-16, Revelation 1:12, 20)
burn brilliantly, priest trimmed the wick
Failure to shine brought the warning of Christ(Revelation
IV. The lampstand stood “without the veil”
Holy of Holies is the heaven of heavens, where God is
In this dispensation, Christ walks among His seven lampstands(Revelation 1:13, 20)
coming when the lampstand will be in the Holy of Holies