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AN EXPOSITION OF THE APOCALYPSE
Section V SYMBOLIC VISION OF THE SPIRIT-NAME
Seven Golden Lightstands and Seven Stars.
"Having turned," says John, "I saw seven golden lightstands;" and in the last verse of the chapter, he records the signification of them as communicated to him by the Spirit, saying, "the seven lightstands which thou seest are Seven Ecclesias."
When the Hebrew would say that one thing represents, typifies, or symbolizes, another thing, it affirms that the one is the other; as, "that rock was Christ," "this bread is my body," "the seven lamps are the seven spirits," and "the seven lightstands are the seven ecclesias"; that is, "that rock typified Christ," "the bread represents my body" "the seven lightstands symbolize seven ecclesias."
The golden lightstand, as a symbol, is taken from the seven-branched golden lightstand of the temple. It was peculiar to the Holy Place, where it stood on the south side, opposite to the table of Show-bread. As there were no windows, the illumination was by the combustion of
pure olive oil in its seven lamps. Without this lightstand and its burning oil, the holy was a dark place. It was therefore "a light shining in a dark place," both lightstand and light being typical of something else. This Mosaic lightstand was of one stem, with a lamp on the top, and three branches projecting from each side, with their several lamps, making in all seven lamps or burners. Thus, the stock, stem, or shaft, was "in the midst of the seven lightstands," altogether, stem, branches, bowls, knops, and flowers, constituting one illuminator of the holy place.
This was part of "the parable," which Paul says was made up of "the patterns of things in the heavens" -- in the true holy places. The things that the Holy Spirit signified by the pattern-lightstand in the pattern holy place, are of the Christ; for in speaking of the substance, or body, of these shadowy things, he says, "the body is of the Anointed One" -- and that anointed one John beheld in his first vision.
The area of the vision is the state of being between the resurrection and the entire exhaustion of the wrath of Deity contained in the seventh vial; for until the wrath of Deity is filled up, no man can enter into the Most Holy Place of the Apocalyptic Temple, which is the Millennial Aion (Apoc. 15:1,8). In this post-resurrectional and pre-millennial holy state of being, the saints of previous generations are gathered together in Seven Ecclesias, or in complete assembly, as typified by the seven ecclesias of the proconsular Asia.
These seven Asian ecclesias were very different in "gifts," "administrations," and "operations," from anything extant, called "church," in our time. The assemblies of the faithful in Christ were constituted of two classes of saints -- the rulers and the ruled. "Obey them that have the rule over you," says Paul, "and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account (Heb. 13:17). "The Elders which are among you," says Peter, "I exhort, who am also an elder ... feed the flock of the Deity which is with you, taking the oversight, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; not as domineering over THE HERITAGES, but being examples of the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Pet. 5:1-4).
These official brethren, called episcopoi and diakonoi, "overseers and assistants," (Phil. 1:1), constituted the pneumatikoi, or spirituals, of the congregations, because they were endowed with pneumatika, or spiritual gifts (Gal. 6:1), while the rest of the saints, constituting the ruled, were styled idiotai, or privates. To the Spirituals were given nine different gifts, called spirits (!greek! pneumata, 1 Cor. 14:12), not for their own gratification, but for the common good. These spirits are enumerated as, "a word of wisdom," "a word of knowledge,"
"faith to remove mountains," "gifts of healing," "inworking of powers," "prophecy," "discerning of spirits," "kinds of tongues," and "interpretation of tongues;" "all these inworked the one and the same Spirit dividing to each one respectively as he willed" (1 Cor. 12:1-11). Being thus ordered in Corinth and elsewhere, Paul said to them, "Ye are Christ's body, and members partitively" -- they were all of the body, but it was only specially endowed saints who constituted the foot, hand, ear, eye, and so forth, of the body; these special ones were members !greek! partitively -- special parts of the whole.
The official saints collectively constituted in each congregation the presbytery, or eldership (1 Tim. 4:14); and that each brother might know his place, they were set in regular order. They were called "apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers" (Eph. 4:11); and were ranked as, "first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that, powers; then gifts of healing; sixth, helps; seventh, directors; eighth, kinds of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:28). This eldership thus remarkably endowed, was the Lightstand of the Ecclesia, each member thereof being a bowl, or vessel, containing the anointing oil, or spirit, so that when they exercised their functions in the midst of the saints, they were as trimmed lamps with their lights burning (Matt. 25:4; Luke 12:35). They shone collectively as a bright STAR in the midst of the body; and as the spiritual gifts were sent "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building of the body of the Anointed," the PRESBYTERIAL STAR is styled "the ANGEL of the Ecclesia," from !greek! angelos, "one that is sent."
Such was the arrangement of things in the seven typical ecclesias of Anatolia; typical, not of "the church" in seven periods of its history during the times of the Gentiles; but of the saints in their gathering together unto Jesus Anointed, after their resurrection, and before they pass from the Holy into the Most Holy of the Apocalyptic Temple.
In the typifying relation of things (themselves typified and typifying) they were in the partitive, and not the perfect state. Referring to this, Paul says, "we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when !greek!, he perfect thing is come, then that thing which is !greek! in part will be done away." This phrase, rendered in the English Version "in part," is literally from parts -- "we know from parts," or partitively. That is, the word of knowledge, and the gift of prophecy, ("he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification and exhortation, and comfort") were "spirits" possessed only by certain individuals of an ecclesia -- by parts of the body, not by all the brethren: so that the knowledge and the prophecy proceeded !greek!, from parts, or specially endowed individuals. But when the perfect
thing is come," symbolized in John's first vision, "then that thing which is from parts," the partitive, or partially distributive, order of things in the seven Asian ecclesias, will be abolished. This has been abolished, and we may say, before the time -- before the arrival of "the perfect thing;" for this has not yet come, nor will it till after the resurrection. The knowing and prophesying from parts might probably have continued if "the Mystery Of Iniquity" had not spoiled and desolated every thing; but as this prevailed through the working of Satan, the Angelic Presbyterial Stars, or Lightstands of the Ecclesias, shining by the Spirit, were abolished; or, in the words of the Spirit to the ecclesia in Ephesus, "I will come unto thee quickly, and will set thy lightstand a-going out of its place, except thou change thy mind." But things got worse instead of better; so that, as a punishment for apostasy, all the lightstands went out for want of the Golden Oil of the Spirit; and the ecclesias were turned into "churches," mere dark places in Satan, as we behold them at this day.
But when "the perfect thing" symbolized to John, is come, the Saints, as "a Perfect Man" (Eph. 4:13) will be caused to see face to face, and to know as they have been known. Let the reader turn to 1 Cor. 13:11. There Paul illustrates the relation of the general assembly of the saints to the order of things in his day, and to the order of things after the resurrection, by reference to himself as a child, and as a man. In the first century, the Body of Christ was in its childhood, and made up of !greek! "babes"; liable to be "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Eph. 4:14). The !greek! Spirituals, and the !greek! privates, apart from the gifts, spake as children, thought as children, and reasoned as children; and, by the truth, looked into a mirror at an enigma (!greek!): and multitudes of them were "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." But when the Body becomes a Man -- "A PERFECT MAN" -- as represented by "the Son of Man in the midst of the Seven Lightstands with the Seven Stars in his right hand," in the post-resurrectional state of holiness, then there are no childish things found with it. Then every saint of the body will be in accord, seeing face to face, or eye to eye. Distribution of gifts to individuals only will not recur; and the body will no more be divided into spirituals and privates. Then all will be official and spiritual; and the idiotai subject to their jurisdiction, will be Israel and the Nations. Every individual member of the Perfect Man, will be omniscient, and omnipotent; for this Man was revealed to John as "He who is coming, THE ALMIGHTY." There will be no knowing
!greek! from parts then; for all the elements of the Perfect Man will be equally wise, and equally knowing; and the enigma, which is now revealed as a word and testimony, called "the Word of the Deity, and the Testimony of Jesus Anointed," on account of which John was in banishment, -- this enigma, as Paul styles it, will then be practically solved in the eyes of all nations.
We have already shown the great and essential difference which exists between "church" and "ecclesia." The former is apocalyptically styled "the Synagogue of Satan." It is a clerical institution, existing for the advantage and behoof of certain theological empirics, who incompetently undertake to "cure souls" for a decent and respectable living in the world. This satanic institution has had its childhood, youth, and perfect manhood in Satan; and is now tottering upon its staff in the feebleness and idiocy of extreme senility. The reader will please not confound any thing we have said about the childhood and perfect manhood of the Body of Christ, with any ideas he may have about the Body of Satan, called "church." This church is no illustration in any part of its history of the things spoken by Paul, which we have been considering. Its officials are "the spirituals of the wickedness of the darkness" which overspread the habitable, when the lightstands were extinguished for the want of oil. The Body of Christ still lived, animated by "faith, hope, and love," which remained after the gifts were removed, but suffering, bleeding, and struggling for existence, until Satan's officials "prevailed against it," and crucified it, but were not permitted to bury it. It lay in the death-state "three days and a half," and when these expired, it rose again (Apoc. 11:7-12); and lives to die no more, but to bear witness to the truth until the resurrection. But, though it exists, it cannot be identified by a clergyman, or clergyman's disciples. A man must come to the understanding of "the gospel of the kingdom" promised in the prophets, and preached by Jesus and the apostles, before he will have intelligence enough to discern the Body of Christ. When he understands that, he will know that the "Names and Denominations" of "the Religious World" are a miserably executed counterfeit of the true, and current only with such as are indifferent to, or ignorant of the truth.
The mystery, or meaning, then, of the Seven Lightstands is, that they represent the sevenfold ecclesia; and of the Seven Stars is, that they are symbolical of the Elderships anointed with the Spirit, and shining with the gifts. While an anointed eldership was a lightstand to a particular ecclesia, this ecclesia was itself a lightstand to the pagan and rabbinical darkness on every side. But in the future state, no such distinction will obtain; for that which is "from parts" being
non-existent, and every saint "shining as the sun"; or, "as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars in the Olahm and beyond" (Matt. 13:43; Dan. 12:3), the Sevenfold Ecclesia, as the Perfect Man, will be the Seven-Branched Golden Lightstand of the Earth. How brilliant then will be the illumination of the world; the whole earth will indeed be enlightened by the glory.