And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks, one like unto the Son of man.…
— Revelation 1:12,13
When the apostle John was exiled on a barren stretch of rock called the Isle of Patmos, Jesus appeared to him without warning and began to reveal mysteries concerning the role of the Church in these end times. Today and tomorrow, I want to focus on one feature about this divinely granted appearance: What were the “golden candlesticks” that Jesus spoke about? The answer to that question is not just an intellectual exercise. It’s a very important truth to grasp in order to better understand Jesus’ heart and to grow in your ability to see as He sees and to love what He loves.
In Revelation 1:10, John stated that suddenly he heard a great voice speaking to him. Captivated, John quickly turned to see its source. He wrote, “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candle- sticks, one like unto the Son of man…” (Revelation 1:12,13).
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Notice that John said Jesus was standing “…in the midst of seven golden candlesticks….” Revelation 1:20 reveals what this symbolism was supposed to convey: “…The seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” According to this verse, the seven golden candlesticks that John saw in verse 12 and 13 specifically represented seven functioning churches that existed in the Roman province of Asia during the time the apostle John was prisoner on the Isle of Patmos. Yet the message Jesus was about to deliver to John not only was intended for these specific congregations, but also to the Church as a whole in every age.
The word “golden” in Revelation 1:12 is the Greek word chrusos. This Greek word was used throughout Scripture and other ancient literature to denote the precious metal gold. It described gold, gold coins, gold jewelry, gold fabric, and other items that were fashioned of pure gold.
In the ancient world, there were two kinds of gold — gold that was absolutely pure and gold that was an alloy, meaning it had been mixed with other metals such as silver. Pure gold was considered to be the highest quality and most desirable form of the metal. Varieties that had been mixed with other metals were considered to be less valuable and of a lower grade. The Greek word chrusos — the same word John used in Revelation 1:12 to describe the “golden candlesticks” — referred to pure gold of the highest quality.
Raw gold is typically discovered encased in rock. Once the gold-bearing rock is removed from the earth, it must be crushed in order for the gold to be extracted. After the rock is crushed, water is forced over the broken fragments to wash away everything except the raw gold itself. With the rubble removed, the gold is exposed and then placed into a fiery furnace. There the blazing hot temperatures melt the gold into liquid form and bring all the impurities hidden in the metal to the surface where they can be scraped off by a refiner who oversees the whole process. The heat is turned up again and again, and with each increase in temperature, more impurities are brought to the surface where they can be scraped away.
If the impurities in the metal are not removed, they will become a defect that decreases the strength of that batch of gold. Intense fire is necessary to remove these impurities, and the refining process requires time, patience, and many degrees of blazing hot temperatures. If the process is carried through to completion, however, the result is a soft, pliable pure gold that a gold worker can beat and shape into an exquisite object. From beginning to end, this is a lengthy, tedious, expensive, and complicated process.
Because of the great cost in producing refined gold, it was associated with kings and royalty. Even the cups, bowls, and plates used on a king’s table were frequently made of the pure gold. Today in the Moscow Kremlin Palace Museum, not far from where my family lives, there is a vast collection of cups, bowls, plates, saucers, and platters made of pure gold that were once used to serve food and drink to the Russian royal family. Only pure gold would do for magnificent kings and their royal families.
When ambassadors or heads of state came to visit mighty kings in ancient times, they always came with a gift to present to the king. Of all possible gifts, the greatest honor was to bring a gift made of pure gold. Giving a gift of pure gold demonstrated honor and respect and showed one’s appreciation of the ruler’s great worth.
Unlike silver, gold does not tarnish, rust, corrode, or corrupt with time. Gold coins might lie buried in the earth or at the bottom of the sea for hundreds or even thousands of years, but when they are discovered, they appear as brilliant as the day they were lost. Thus, because of its incorruptible nature, pure gold became a symbol of enduring value.
In both Old and New Testament times, there was nothing more valuable than pure gold. Therefore, God’s use of the word “golden” (chrusos) to describe the Church conveys a very important message about what He thinks about the Church of Jesus Christ — and, therefore, what He thinks about you and every one of your brothers and sisters in Christ!
First, because the word chrusos describes gold of the highest purity, we see that the Church is pure gold in the eyes of Jesus Christ! Like a miner who goes deep into the earth to extract rock that contains gold, Jesus stepped into the darkness of sin in the human race to extract the Church from this lost world. The Gospel was preached; the lost were convicted of sin, and the Word of God, like rushing water, poured over the souls of the redeemed to remove rubble, wreckage, and waste from their lives. Since the birth of the Church 2,000 years ago, Jesus, our Great Refiner, has been washing the Body of Christ with His Word and overseeing the purifying and refining of His precious Church!
The specific seven churches in the book of Revelation that Jesus referred to had some very serious problems, many of which are the very same problems we see in the Church today. In fact, the book of Revelation tells us:
- They left their first love (Revelation 2:4).
- They were spiritually fallen (Revelation 2:5).
- They had false doctrine (Revelation 2:14 and 2:20).
- They had the compromise of the Nicolaitans in their midst (Revelation 2:6 and 2:15). (For more information on the Nicolaitans, see page 631 in Sparkling Gems 1.)
- They had works that were weak and ready to die (Revelation 3:2).
- They had works that were incomplete (Revelation 3:2).
- They struggled with staying on fire for the Lord (Revelation 3:15).
- They were lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).
- They were strongly rebuked by the Lord (Revelation 3:19).
- They were told to repent of wrong attitudes and actions (Revelation 2:5; 2:16; 3:3; 3:19).
- They were far from perfect!
You may feel disheartened by what you see or know about the church where you attend or some of the people who attend with you. Perhaps your emotions are trying to convince you that the situation is hopeless and your church family will never turn around for the better. Or perhaps the devil is attempting to dissuade you from further involvement by whispering negative thoughts in your ear about the sad condition of your church. Although it’s true that there is room for change in any church, you must never forget that Jesus died for His Church and there is nothing in the world more precious to Him than the Body of Christ — including your local congregation. You may see problems, but Jesus sees the Church only as pure gold.
The Church has always had imperfections; this is nothing new, for only God is perfect. When we finally see Jesus face to face, we will be transformed into His image and become just like Him with no imperfections. However, until that time, Jesus will keep working as our Great Refiner — washing us with the water of His Word and putting us through His purification process to make us pliable and usable in His hands! The work of purification and refinement goes on!
Peter was referring to this very same principle when he wrote, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver or gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18,19). This verse emphatically tells us that Jesus gave His own blood to purchase the Church. The Church may still be in the process of purification and refinement, but we must never forget that Jesus gave His life for it. He loves His Church, and we must love it too. To Him, it is pure gold — worth more than anything else in the whole world — and we must also learn to see it as pure gold and precious.
Therefore, whenever you are tempted to be discouraged about the state of the Church at large or about certain things that bother you in your own local church, proclaim to yourself: Regardless of what I see, feel, or know, Jesus died for the Church, and it is golden to Him. Therefore, the Church at large, and my local church in particular, are golden to me — and NOTHING is going to tarnish my view of it!
Make that confession the next time you feel tempted to speak negatively about a fellow believer or the Body of Christ. Always remember: Our Great Refiner is still continually in the process of purifying His Church — so just make sure your focus is always on loving the Body and allowing Him to purify YOU.
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I am so thankful that You saved me and made me part of Your Church. I now realize that even with all of our imperfections and weaknesses, You see us as golden and precious. Help me to treasure Your Church and Your people just as You do. Help me to truly love the Church, to serve Your people from my heart, and to give my time, talents, and gifts for the benefit of my brothers and sisters in Christ. From this moment forward, help me refrain my tongue when I am tempted to criticize the Church. And help me to become more and more aware that there is nothing in the world more precious to You, Father, than the Body of Christ! You died on Calvary for the Church, and I know I can’t grasp how deeply You love those whom You have redeemed with Your own precious blood. But I ask You to help me see Your Church through Your eyes and to love Your people with Your love more and more in the days to come.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I love and cherish the Church of Jesus Christ with all of my heart! Jesus died for her; He sent His Spirit to indwell her; and there is nothing in the world more precious to Jesus than the Church. Rather than criticize or judge others, I will seek to undergird and strengthen those who may be weakened from attacks by the enemy. Instead of judging others, I will inspect my own heart to see how I may become a purer example of Jesus Christ. I will no longer dwell on the imperfections that I see; instead, I choose to focus on the unchanging truth that the Church of Jesus Christ is golden to God and therefore golden to me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you ever been tempted to be negative and critical of the church you attend? Do you ever hear yourself speaking negatively about the Church at large?
- When you spoke negatively about the Church, did you ever notice that your heart was grieved by what you were saying? Were you ever aware that you were grieving the Holy Spirit by being so negative about the Church that Jesus loves so much?
- Now that you’ve gained a better understanding about how precious the Church is to Jesus, how will your attitude and conversation about your own local church and the Church at large be affected?