What do the lampstands in the book of Revelation mean?
The book of Revelation refers to lampstands seven times in six verses (Rev. 1:12, 13, 20; 2:1, 5; and 11:4). The apostle John tells us that he saw the lampstands for the first time after he turned to see who was speaking to him.
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. (NASB) Rev. 1:12-13
There are symbols here that we want to explore. The first is the reference to “son of man.” The other symbol is the seven golden lampstands.
Son of Man
The one who was speaking to the apostle looked like a “son of man.” The expression refers to Jesus Christ (see the study “Glimpses of God“). “Son of man” was a common phrase that Jesus used for Himself while He walked among us. Here are a few examples,
Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (NASB) Matt. 8:20
For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. (NASB) Matt. 16:27
As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” (NASB) Matt. 17:9
. . . just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (NASB) Matt. 20:28
But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. (NASB) Matt. 25:31
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. (NASB) Luke 19:10
This means that Jesus Christ was standing in the middle of the seven lampstands.
Lampstands (Rev. 1-2)
What is the meaning of the lampstands? We discover the answer at the end of the chapter.
As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (NASB) Rev. 1:20
Here we discover that the seven lampstands are symbolic of seven churches. The seven churches are listed in Revelation 2-3. They are churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The seven stars appear to be the pastors of the seven churches.
Lampstands (Rev. 11)
But the meaning of the two lampstands changes in Revelation 11.
And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. (NASB) Rev. 11:3-4
This is a reminder that we must read the context in order to understand what is occurring. In Rev. 11 the two lampstands refer to the two witnesses that God will send during the last half of the tribulation period.
The lampstands were symbolic of spiritual light shining out to a spiritually dark world. Churches are supposed to be examples of holiness and so are the pastors, priests, prophets, and God’s men and women. Let’s be examples of holiness! Let’s love our God and tell others about Jesus Christ. That is our mission.
Suggested Links:Salt and Light
Glimpses of God
Illusion of Freedom