Revelation 1:12
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
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(12) Seven golden candlesticks.—Comp. the vision in Zechariah 4:2-11. It has been observed that there is a difference in the two visions. In Zech., as in Exodus 25:31-32, the seven branches are united, so as to form one candlestick; here there are said to be seven candlesticks; and from this supposed difference it is argued that we have a hint of the variety of the Christian churches, as distinguished from the singleness of the Jewish church. But is it not more probable that what St. John saw was the old familiar seven-branched candlestick, identical in form with that which has been rendered familiar to all by the Arch of Titus, but that as the mention of the seven churches was then fresh in his mind, his eye fell rather upon the seven limbs and seven lights than on the whole candlestand, especially if, as Prof. Plumptre suggests, the figure of the Christ concealed part of the main stem? Thus to his view the separate individuality of the churches, and their real union in Him who was the Light, would rather be symbolised. Thus, too, the external teachings of the earlier symbols are not disturbed: the new revelation illumines the types and shadows of the older. “These symbols were intended to raise them out of symbols; the truths were to throw light on the parables, rather than the parables on the truths. Men were to study the visions of an earlier day by the revelations of that day” (Maurice, Apocalypse, p. 22).

Revelation 1:12-16. And I turned to see the voice — That is, to see him whose voice it was; and being turned, I saw — It seems the vision presented itself gradually. First, he heard a voice, and upon looking behind him he saw the golden candlesticks, and then, in the midst of the candlesticks, which were placed in a circle, he saw one like the Son of man — That is, one in a human form. As a man, likewise, our Lord doubtless appears in heaven; though not exactly in this symbolical manner, wherein he presents himself as the Head of his church. He next observed that our Lord was clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt with a golden girdle — Such the Jewish high-priests wore. But both of them are here marks of royal dignity likewise; girt about at the breast — He that is on a journey girds his loins. Girding the breast was an emblem of solemn rest. It seems that the apostle, having seen all this, looked up to behold the face of our Lord, but was beat back by the appearance of his flaming eyes, which occasioned his more particularly observing his feet. Receiving strength to raise his eyes again, he saw the stars in his right hand, and the sword coming out of his mouth: but upon beholding the brightness of his glorious countenance, (which probably was much increased since the first glance the apostle had of it,) he fell at his feet as dead. During the time that St. John was discovering these several particulars, our Lord seems to have been speaking. And doubtless even his voice, at the very first, bespoke the God; though not so insupportably as his glorious appearance. His head and his hairs — That is, the hairs of his head, not his whole head; were white as white wool — Like the Ancient of Days, represented in Daniel’s vision, chap. Revelation 7:9. Wool is commonly supposed to be an emblem of eternity; as snow — Betokening his spotless purity; and his eyes as a flame of fire — Piercing through all things: a token of his omniscience. And his feet like fine brass — Denoting his stability and strength; as if they burned in a furnace — As if, having been melted and refined, they were still red hot; and his voice — To the comfort of his friends, and the terror of his enemies; as the voice of many waters — Roaring aloud, and bearing down all before them. And he had in his right hand seven stars — In token of his favour and powerful protection. And out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword — Signifying his justice and righteous anger, continually pointed against his enemies as a sword: sharp, to stab; two-edged, to hew. And his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength — Without any mist or cloud.

1:12-20 The churches receive their light from Christ and the gospel, and hold it forth to others. They are golden candlesticks; they should be precious and pure; not only the ministers, but the members of the churches; their light should so shine before men, as to engage others to give glory to God. And the apostle saw as though of the Lord Jesus Christ appeared in the midst of the golden candlesticks. He is with his churches always, to the end of the world, filling them with light, and life, and love. He was clothed with a robe down to the feet, perhaps representing his righteousness and priesthood, as Mediator. This vest was girt with a golden girdle, which may denote how precious are his love and affection for his people. His head and hairs white like wool and as snow, may signify his majesty, purity, and eternity. His eyes as a flame of fire, may represent his knowledge of the secrets of all hearts, and of the most distant events. His feet like fine brass burning in a furnace, may denote the firmness of his appointments, and the excellence of his proceedings. His voice as the sound of many waters, may represent the power of his word, to remove or to destroy. The seven stars were emblems of the ministers of the seven churches to which the apostle was ordered to write, and whom Christ upheld and directed. The sword represented his justice, and his word, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, Heb 4:12. His countenance was like the sun, when it shines clearly and powerfully; its strength too bright and dazzling for mortal eyes to behold. The apostle was overpowered with the greatness of the lustre and glory in which Christ appeared. We may well be contented to walk by faith, while here upon earth. The Lord Jesus spake words of comfort; Fear not. Words of instruction; telling who thus appeared. And his Divine nature; the First and the Last. His former sufferings; I was dead: the very same whom his disciples saw upon the cross. His resurrection and life; I have conquered death, and am partaker of endless life. His office and authority; sovereign dominion in and over the invisible world, as the Judge of all, from whose sentence there is no appeal. Let us listen to the voice of Christ, and receive the tokens of his love, for what can he withhold from those for whose sins he has died? May we then obey his word, and give up ourselves wholly to him who directs all things aright.And I turned to see the voice that spake with me - He naturally turned round to see who it was that spake to him in this solitary and desolate place, where he thought himself to be alone. To see the "voice" here means to see the "person" who spake.

And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks - These were the "first" things that met his eye. This must have been in "vision," of course, and the meaning is, that there "seemed" to be there seven such lamps or candelabras. The word rendered "candlesticks" (λυχνία luchnia) means properly a light-stand, lampstand - something to bear up a light. It would be applied to anything that was used for this purpose; and nothing is intimated, in the use of the word, in regard to the form or dimensions of the light-bearers. Lamps were more commonly used at that time than candles, and it is rather to be supposed that these were designed to be lamp-bearers, or lamp-sustainers, than candle-sticks. They were seven in number; not one branching into seven, but seven standing apart, and so far from each other that he who appeared to John could stand among them. The lamp-bearers evidently sustained each a light, and these gave a special brilliancy to the scene. It is not improbable that, as they were designed to represent the seven churches of Asia, they were arranged in an order resembling these churches. The scene is not laid in the temple, as many suppose, for there is nothing that resembles the arrangements in the temple except the mere fact of the lights. The scene as yet is in Patmos, and there is no evidence that John did not regard himself as there, or that he fancied for a moment that he was translated to the temple in Jerusalem. There can be no doubt as to the design of this representation, for it is expressly declared Revelation 1:20 that the seven lamp-bearers were intended to represent the seven churches. Light is often used in the Scriptures as an emblem of true religion; Christians are represented as "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14; compare Philippians 2:15; John 8:12), and a Christian church may be represented as a light standing in the midst of surrounding darkness.

12. see the voice—that is, ascertain whence the voice came; to see who was it from whom the voice proceeded.

that—Greek, "of what kind it was which." The voice is that of God the Father, as at Christ's baptism and transfiguration, so here in presenting Christ as our High Priest.

spake—The oldest manuscripts, versions, and Fathers read, "was speaking."

being—"having turned."

seven … candlesticks—"lamp-stands" [Kelly]. The stand holding the lamp. In Ex 25:31, 32, the seven are united in ONE candlestick or lamp-stand, that is, six arms and a central shaft; so Zec 4:2, 11. Here the seven are separate candlesticks, typifying, as that one, the entire Church, but now no longer as the Jewish Church (represented by the one sevenfold candlestick) restricted to one outward unity and one place; the several churches are mutually independent as to external ceremonies and government (provided all things are done to edification, and schisms or needless separations are avoided), yet one in the unity of the Spirit and the Headship of Christ. The candlestick is not light, but the bearer of light, holding it forth to give light around. The light is the Lord's, not the Church's; from Him she receives it. She is to be a light-bearer to His glory. The candlestick stood in the holy place, the type of the Church on earth, as the holiest place was type of the Church in heaven. The holy place's only light was derived from the candlestick, daylight being excluded; so the Lord God is the Church's only light; hers is the light of grace, not nature. "Golden" symbolizes at once the greatest preciousness and sacredness; so that in the Zend Avesta, "golden" is synonymous with heavenly or divine [Trench].

And I turned to see the voice that spake with me; that is, to see the person whose voice I heard speaking to me: or else, by seeing is meant understanding; but that he might have done without turning; he therefore turned, hoping to see the person that spake.

And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks: by these seven candlesticks which he saw, are meant the seven churches; so we find it infallibly expounded, Revelation 1:20. We shall find in this book frequent allusions to the Jewish temple: here they begin. In the Jewish tabernacle there was one golden candlestick, and seven lamps, to give light against it; so Numbers 8:2 Zechariah 4:2. John here seeth seven. God had but one church of the Jews, but many amongst the Gentiles. This notion, or comparison of churches to golden candlesticks, both showeth us the nature and office of the churches of Christ, they do not give light of themselves, only hold lights, and it is their duty to keep in them the pure word of God, which is a light to our feet, and a godly ministry; and it also lets us know, that they ought to keep themselves pure (as beaten gold) from all corruption as to doctrine, and their members from all scandalous conversation.

And I turned to see the voice that spake with me,.... The Complutensian edition reads, "and there I:turned": and so the Arabic version; that is, to see who it was that spoke, from whom the voice came, and by whom it was uttered; see Exodus 20:18,

and being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; which represented the seven churches, Revelation 1:20; in allusion to the seven lamps in the candlestick of the sanctuary, Exodus 25:37; compared to "candlesticks", for the use of them, which is to hold forth light; these have none of themselves, but what is put into them, and being put into them, they hold it forth; so the churches of Christ have no light of themselves, but what is put into them; and the light which is put into them, is not the mere light of nature, nor the law of Moses, but the Gospel of Christ; which dispels darkness, and is the means of enlightening sinners, and gives light to saints, by which they walk and work; and this light is put into the churches by Christ, whose the Gospel is, and who is himself come a light into the world; and being put here by him, it is held forth by them, especially by the ministers of it, who are the lights of the world, both by their ministry, and in their lives and conversations: and they are compared to "golden" candlesticks, because of their excellency, preciousness, and value, in the esteem of Christ; and for their brightness and purity in doctrine, discipline, and life; and for their splendour, glory, and beauty; and for their stability and duration; and though they are liable to corruption and taint, yet may be melted, refined, and purified as gold.

{8} And I turned to {k} see the voice that spake with me. {9} And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;

(8) The exposition, declaring the third and last point of the proposition (for the other points are evident of themselves) in which is he first speaks of the author of his calling (till verse 17), and secondly, of the calling itself Re 1:17-20. First of all the occasion is noted in this verse, in that John turned himself towards the vision, and after he sets down the description of the author, in the following verses, Re 1:13-16.

(k) To see him whose voice I had heard.

(9) The description of the Author, who is Christ: by the candlesticks that stand about him, that is, the churches that stand before him, and depend upon his direction. In Re 1:13 he is described by his properties, that he is provided with wisdom and dexterity for the achieving of great things, and in Re 1:14 with ancient gravity and most excellent sight of the eye. In Re 1:15 he is described with strength invincible and with a mighty word, and in Re 1:16 by his ruling of the ministry of his servants in the Church by the sword of his word, and enlightening all things with his countenance, and mightily providing for everyone by his divine providence.

Revelation 1:12. καὶ ἐπέστρεψα. John turns,[741]—viz., according to the connection, backwards,[742]—in order to see. This is correctly explained according to its meaning, as “the one who uttered the voice;”[743] the βλέπειν has its foundation in the liveliness and directness of the presentation, which immediately penetrates from the perception of the voice to the speaker himself, just as in Revelation 4:1 λέγων is written, while the subject speaking is only φωνή.

John now sees, after turning, seven golden candlesticks,—but in no way a candlestick[744] with seven branches,[745]—and, in the midst of them, Christ himself (Revelation 1:13). [See Note XXVI., p. 125.]

[741] Acts 9:40.

[742] Cf. Matthew 24:13; Mark 13:16; Luke 17:31.

[743] N. de Lyra, Beng., etc.

[744] Cf. the interpretation, Revelation 1:20.

[745] Grot., etc.


XXVI. Revelation 1:12. ἑπτὰ λυχνίας χρυσιᾶς

Alford notes the change from the seven-branched candlestick of the temple, as symbolizing the loss of outward unity, so that “each local church has now its own candlestick.” So Trench: “The Christian Church is at once ‘the Church’ and the ‘churches.’ ” Plumptre: “What he needed was to bring out clearly the individuality of each society.” Tait: “These candlesticks were of gold, to denote the preciousness of every thing connected with the Church, and, we may add, the beauty of the Church and her holy services.”

Revelation 1:12. The seven golden lamp-stands are cressets representing the seven churches (20), the sevenfold lamp-stand of the Jewish temple (cf. S. C. 295–99) having been for long used as a symbol (Zechariah 4:2; Zechariah 4:10). The function of the churches is to embody and express the light of the divine presence upon earth, so high is the prophet’s conception of the communities (cf. on Revelation 2:4-5); their duty is to keep the light burning and bright, otherwise the reason for their existence disappears (Revelation 2:5). Consequently the primary activity of Jesus in providence and revelation bears upon the purity of those societies through which his influence is to reach mankind, just as his connexion with them on the other hand assures them of One in heaven to whom out of difficulties here they can appeal with confidence.

12. to see the voice] The meaning is obvious, and the inconsequence of language characteristic.

candlesticks] Or lamp-stands (Matthew 5:15). The ancients did not use candles like ours: the candela was rather a torch.

Revelation 1:12. Βλέπειν τὴν φωνὴν, to see the voice) to see Him, to whom the voice belonged; or, an instance of Oratio Semiduplex.[19]

[19] See Appendix.

Verse 12. - To see the voice. As in Genesis 3:8, "the voice" is put for the speaker. This is the right method in studying the Revelation; we must, like St. John, "turn to see the voice." We must look, not to the events about which it seems to us to speak, but to him who utters it. The book is "the Revelation," not of the secrets of history, but "of Jesus Christ." Seven golden candlesticks. The word λυχνία occurs in Matthew 5:15; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; Luke 11:33; Hebrews 9:2; and seven times in this book. In Exodus 20:37 we have seven λύχνοι on one λυχνία, seven lamps on one lamp stand. So also in Zechariah 4:2. It is by no means certain that a similar figure is not meant here; the seven-branched candlestick familiar to all who know the Arch of Titus. If the Christ stood "in the midst of the candlesticks," his form would appear as that which united the seven branches. But it is perhaps more natural to understand seven separate lamp stands, each with its own lamp; and these, in contrast with the seven-branched stand of the temple, may represent the elastic multiplicity of the Christian Churches throughout the world in contrast with the rigid unity of the Jewish Church of Jerusalem. Revelation 1:12To see the voice

The voice is put for the speaker.

That spake (ἥτις)

The compound relative has a qualitative force: of what sort.

With me (μετ' ἐμοῦ)

The preposition implies conversation and not mere address.

Candlesticks (λυχνίας)

See on Matthew 5:15. We are at once reminded of the seven-branched candlestick of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:31; Hebrews 9:2; compare Zechariah 4:2). Here there is not one candlestick with seven branches, but seven candlesticks, representing the Christian Church. The Jewish Church was one, as being the Church of a single people. The Christian Church, though essentially one, is a Church composed of many peoples. It is no longer outwardly one or in one place. According to the literal meaning of the word, lampstand, the several lampstands are bearers of the light (Matthew 5:14, Matthew 5:16), "holding forth the word of life" (Philippians 2:15, Philippians 2:16).

The epithet golden, so common in Revelation, indicates the preciousness of all that pertains to the Church of God. Trench observes that throughout the ancient East there was a sense of sacredness attached to this metal, which still, to a great extent, survives. Thus, golden in the Zend Avesta is throughout synonymous with heavenly or divine. Even so late as the time of David gold was not used as a standard of value, but merely as a very precious article of commerce, and was weighed. In the Scriptures it is the symbol of great value, duration, incorruptibility, strength (Isaiah 13:12; Lamentations 4:2; 2 Timothy 2:20; Job 36:19). It is used metaphorically of Christian character (Revelation 3:18). In the Earthly Paradise, Dante describes trees like gold.

"A little farther on, seven trees of gold

In semblance the long space still intervening

Between ourselves and them did counterfeit."

"Purgatorio," xxix., 43-45

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