Zechariah’s Oil Lamp

John Plunkett

June 30th, 2018

A couple of years ago, Trish and I had the pleasure of staying for a couple of days in a very old house high up in the Apuan Alps in the north of Tuscany in Italy.

In the garden of that house stood two olive trees:

One of the trees with two main branches.

As I’m sure you know, olive oil is a very common biblical symbol of God’s Holy Spirit.

At this time of year, I like to concentrate on subjects related to the Feast of Pentecost – and often, more specifically, to the Holy Spirit.

As I’m sure you know, the Holy Spirit is something of an enigma to many people.  Maybe to many of God’s people too!  And that’s nothing to be ashamed about.  Because, in order to get as complete as possible a picture of the "nature" of the Holy Spirit – that is, as complete a picture as God wants His people to have at this time – we need to do what He tells us through Isaiah:

Isaiah 28:
9: Whom shall He teach knowledge?  And whom shall He make to understand doctrine?  Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts…

That is, not "babes in Christ"; but those who are spiritually mature enough to desire the intake of strong spiritual meat; those who want to be taught true knowledge; those who want to grow in knowledge as well as grace; those who desire to better understand true doctrine.  Continuing:

10:  For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
11:  For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people.
12:  To whom He said, "This is the rest wherewith you may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear" …

But we are among those who would hear – who are willing to hear – who want to hear.

To hear what?  Let’s continue:

13:  But the Word of the LORD {N.B.} was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they {Not us! But those who refused to hear the Word of the LORD} might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

What I would like us to study in this sermon is not meant to be the sum total of all knowledge about the Holy Spirit.  In fact, it is just one small part of it.

Some years ago, I did a Bible study series on the Holy Spirit scriptures in the Old Testament and that series ended up as fourteen parts!  And even after completing it, I still felt that I’d only scratched the surface!

As you know, the vast majority of the professing Christian world believes that the Holy Spirit is the third member of what they refer to as “the holy trinity” -- a grouping that is nowhere referred to in the holy scriptures – other than one spurious reference in I John 5:7.

The KJV sometimes confuses the issue when it occasionally personalizes the Holy Spirit by referring to it with the pronouns “he” and “him” instead of “it,” as we believe those verses should read.

I’m not sure where I heard it; but apparently Joan of Arc was once quoted as stating that she did not completely understand the Holy Spirit – nor did any man living.  Perhaps there is no human being alive today – including true Christians – who has a truly complete understanding of it.

It is not my purpose in this sermon to take the time to refute the false, professing Christian views of the Holy Spirit; but rather, and hopefully, according to God’s will, to shed some additional light on it – even if it has to be just one or two beams of light.

Today, I’d like to begin by examining the inspired – and inspiring – words of Zechariah in chapter 4 of his book.  As we go along, we’ll also get into the gospel accounts, Pauls’s letter to the Romans, and the book of Revelation.

Some Background

But first, before we go to chapter 4 of Zechariah, let’s see some background in the earlier chapters.

Zechariah’s prophetical career began in the second year of Darius (520 BC) about sixteen years after the return of the first group of Jews who had returned from exile in Babylon.

Throughout all fourteen chapters of this book, we are told repeatedly that the words that Zechariah wrote here were – and still are – part of what he repeatedly refers to as “the Word of the LORD,” which kept coming to him over a span of two years.

He mentions “the Word of the LORD” {Hebrew: Dabar-YHVH} thirteen times in his book – right from the beginning of chapter 1 all the way up to chapter 12.

We won’t turn to all of these mentions; but for reference, let’s just look at the two mentions that precede chapter 4 – which is the main chapter of our study today.  Both of these earlier mentions are in chapter 1:

Zechariah 1:
1:  In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the Word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying…
Verse 7:  Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month
{three months – or more – after the first instance in verse 1}, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the Word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,

For our purposes today, we don’t need to read all that the Word of the LORD was saying to and through Zechariah at either of these points in time.  

But because this is the last “time-stamp” given to us prior to chapter 4, the words in chapter 4 – the chapter which concerns us today – were apparently given to Zechariah on that 24th day of the 11th month – the month called “Sebat.”  This date may have some significance; but if it does, I’m not aware of it.

I concentrate on this phrase “the Word of the LORD” because another spirit being – other than the LORD/YHVH – is frequently mentioned throughout these chapters; and he is identified as “the angel of the LORD that talked/communed with” Zechariah.

Although we know for sure – from John 1 and other scriptures – that Jesus was/is the Word {Greek: Logos; Hebrew: Dabar} and the LORD {Greek: Kurios; Hebrew: YHVH} of the Old Testament, it was not Him who was speaking directly to Zechariah at this time.  Rather, the LORD was speaking through a representative – one of his holy angels.

Let’s look at some mentions of this angel {Hebrew: malak} in the chapters preceding “our” chapter 4 – mentions, some of which prove that this angel and the LORD are two different beings.  First in chapter 1:

Zechariah 1:
9:  Then said I, O my lord
{N.B. lower-case Hebrew “adown” – not upper-case “YHVH”!}, what are these?  And the angel that talked with me said unto me, "I will show you what these be" …
Verse 13:  And the LORD
{YHVH} answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.

Here we see the LORD/YHVH talking to the angel who had been talking with Zechariah throughout this narrative -- so proving that they are not one and the same being.

14:  So the angel that communed with me said unto me, "Cry you, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts; "I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy"'"…
Verse 19:  And I said unto the angel that talked with me, “What be these?” And he answered me, “These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.”

Then in chapter 2:

Zechariah 2:3:
And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him,

Okay, I think we now have this fact straight that the angel who Zechariah called “adown” – the one that talked with him – and the LORD/YHVH are two different beings – the angel being the lesser of the two, of course – the messenger and servant of the LORD/YHVH.

Zechariah Chapter 4

So now let us begin delving into Zechariah chapter 4:

Zechariah 4:
1:  And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep,

It seems that Zechariah might have been put to sleep and then awakened within a God-inspired vision:

2a:  And said unto me, “What do you see?” … 

This whole series of visions that Zechariah experienced seems like one long, continuous "question-and-answer" session – a method which, actually, is an excellent way of teaching specific points.  (I’m sure that you’ll all remember the format of the old Ambassador College Bible correspondence course).

As we continue now in the second half of verse 2 – with Zechariah’s description of what he saw, maybe you’d like to take a sheet of paper and draw a picture of what he describes here.  Here's a copy of my abysmal effort:

2b: … And I said, “I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:

So, now let’s start picking this apart and examining some of these words in more detail.  

Golden Candlestick

And let’s begin with the word “candlestick.”

Right from the get-go, we see that this is not your average candlestick!  As candles had not yet been invented in Zechariah's time, the Hebrew word menowrah is more accurately rendered “lamp-stand” -- as it is is in most modern translations.  

The word menowrah stems from a few other Hebrew words meaning beam, gleam and glisten.

As Zechariah tells us that the menowrah is “all of gold,” it might be acceptable to assume that this might include its piece-parts – it’s bowl, pipes and lamps.

The word gold is translated from the Hebrew zahab which, as well as the preciousness of the golden metal, also refers to its visual brilliance and splendour -- which links nicely with the beam, gleam and glisten of the menowrah-lamp-stand.

We tend to get our ideas of what the temple menowrah looked like from the bas-relief on Titus’ triumphal arch in Rome depicting the Romans’ sacking of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 AD.

But did the temple’s menowrah really have that classic candelabra-like design? 

Maybe.  But I’m not totally convinced -- because, commonly, the old oil lamps of that era were often a flattish “dish” of oil with as many side “dishes” as it had wicks.  So a 2-wick lamp would perhaps have a figure-8 shape and a 3-wick lamp would have a clover-leaf shape.  Trish and I recently saw actual specimens of this ancient type of lamp in the most excellent museum of Cadiz in southern Spain.

Still, if you’re okay with the traditional, seven-branched candelabra design, we can go with that for now.


Now what about the bowl that is “upon the top of” the lampstand? 

The English word “bowl” is translated from the Hebrew word gol (Strong's 1531).  Easy to remember because it is pronounced “goal” which rhymes with “bowl”!

The word can also refer to a basin – which gives the idea of a larger vessel, rather than a smaller one.

My lexicon also mentions the interesting fact that the word can refer to the bowl-shaped portion of the capitals of the two intriguing, and evidently symbolic, bronze pillars of the main doorway to Solomon's temple (I Kings 7).

We are told that this “bowl” was seen to be “upon the top of” the lamp-stand.

“Upon the top of” is translated from the single Hebrew word “rosh” (Strong's 7218).  Yes, the same word as in the Jews' Rosh Hashanah.” 

Rosh is elsewhere translated, amongst other things, as head, chief, beginning, captain, first, principal and ruler.  Extended Hebrew translations are summit, upper part, height, front, height, choicest and best.  These translations give some clues as to the symbolism of this bowl -- the anti-type being Jesus, of course.

But thinking back again to those two bronze pillars of I Kings 7, the word is also translated as chapiters -- which were the ornamental heads or capitals of those pillars.

If we were to compare Zechariah’s lampstand with the one made for the tent-tabernacle (Exodus 25), we would see that, instead of one single bowl, the tent tabernacle lampstand had numerous bowls.  The Hebrew and KJV English of Exodus 25 are a little vague; but likely – from the way I read it, at least – there were three almond-shaped bowls on each of the six branches and four on the main stem.

This appears to have been what we might call a "distributed" oil-feed system compared with the "centralized" one in Zechariah’s lamp. 

Seven lamps

The number seven in English is translated here from the Hebrew “sheba” (Strong's 7651).  In the Bible, the number 7 is commonly known as the number denoting completion or perfection -- once again, all pointing toward God the Father and the Word – the LORD/YHVH – the LORD Jesus.

The English word "lamps" is from the Hebrew niyr (alternately spelled nir, neyr, ner or nerah – Strong's 5216).  As with the word menowrah , the word niyr stems from the same Hebrew words meaning beam, gleam, light and glisten -- yet again pointing to the perfect brilliance of the Father and the LORD/YHVH/Jesus.

So now we have a lampstand with a bowl above it feeding seven lamps.

How are the seven lamps fed from the bowl?  Via…

Seven pipes

Sheba again for the “perfect number” seven.  And for the pipes?  The Hebrew word is muwtsaqah.  Please keep this word in mind – because we’ll come back to it again shortly.

As well as pipes, the Hebrew word muwtsaqah (Strong’s 4166) can also mean casts -- as in the castings of molten metal.   The root verb of muwtsaqah is yatsaq (Strong's 3332) which can mean pour, cast, molten, firm, hard and steadfast.

You may find this to be a bit of a "stretch"; but I find it interesting that the word yatsaq is very similar to the word Yitschaq (Strong's 3327) – the Hebrew name of Abraham's son Isaac – who was symbolic of Jesus.

There is an implication here, either that the pipes were cast from molten metal or perhaps that the substance that flowed through them initially flowed in liquid form; but became cast into a hard, firm, solid form.  As we continue, please think of the spiritual equivalents of this – both good and bad.

Now, let’s stop for a minute to re-read verse 2 and to ask what the vertical arrangement was here:

Zechariah 4:2b:
… a candlestick all of gold… with a bowl upon the top of it… and his seven lamps thereon… and seven pipes to the seven lamps… which are upon the top thereof:

Ok now, if we take this description literally and in the order of this KJV translation, we would have the lamp-stand -- with the bowl on top of it -- and the seven lamps on top of the bowl -- and the seven pipes on top of the lamps.

The scripture says that the seven pipes go to the seven lamps; but it doesn’t say where from. We might assume that they come from the bowl; but the verse doesn’t actually say so.

Physically, considering the laws of gravity, could this arrangement work?  I don’t think it could.

We can be sure that this was a vision that symbolizes spiritual things; and, of course, as we all know, and as Jesus proved to us, God is not limited by the physical laws of gravity.

But let’s keep all this in mind as we move on into verse 3, where we'll see what else God showed Zechariah in this amazing vision:

3:  And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.”

Let’s examine some of the words in this verse:

Olive Trees

First, the two words “olive trees” are translated from the single Hebrew word zayith (Strong's 2132) which is elsewhere translated as olive, olive leaf, olive-yard or, perhaps most significantly, Olivet -- the Mount of Olives, which is located just across the Kidron Valley east of the Jerusalem temple site.

The word zayith stems from the root word ziv, which means brightness – very fitting with the gleaming and glistening light of the golden menowrah.  Ziv or Zif was also the name given to the second month of the sacred calendar.

A Second Bowl?

We are told that the two olive trees are located on the right and left sides of the bowl.

But the Hebrew word for “bowl” is different here!  Remember in verse 2, thye Hebrew word for bowl was gol (Strong’s 1531)”?

But here, for some reason, the Hebrew word is gullah (Strong's 1543).  It has the same root verb as the word gol; but as well as bowl, it is also elsewhere translated as springs (as in springs – or wells – of water) and pommels, which is another name for those decorations on the temple pillars.  

The same basic meaning; but why did God inspire different words to be used?  Could it possibly be that this gullah bowl was a different bowl than the first gol one?  God seems to keep us guessing here!

Right Side and Left Side

Let’s go back to the positioning of the two olive trees which were located on the right and left sides of this gullah bowl.

Surely the words right side and left side are just what they seem?  Aren’t they?  Let’s see.

The phrase right side is translated from the single Hebrew word yamiyn (Strong's 3225) which can also mean south – which is the direction of the right hand when facing east.

The phrase left side is translated from the single Hebrew word semowl (Strong's 8040) which can also mean north – which is the direction of the left hand when facing east. 

These directions – the north, south and east – would usually be important in relation to the positionings in or around the Jerusalem temples.

The main building of the Jerusalem temples – the building housing the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (a.k.a. the Holy of Holies) was constructed to lie due east and west – with the main entrance (the first veil) and the Holy Place being at the east end of the building and the Most Holy Place being at the west end of the building – separated, of course, from the Holy Place by the second veil.

N.B. Hebrews 9:3 tell us that it was the “second veil” that separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place.  So, if there was a second veil, there must have also been a first veil.  And it is likely that the first veil must have been at the front door of the main temple building:

Hebrews 9:
2:  For there was a tabernacle made; the first
{i.e. the Holy Place}, wherein was the candlestick {lampstand} and the table and the shewbread; which is called "the sanctuary."
3:  And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All
{i.e. the Most Holy Place}.

CGG’s John Ritenbaugh opined – quite correctly, I believe – that, if the two veils of the temple were torn apart at the instant of Jesus’ death, from the Mercy Seat within the Most Holy Place, a viewer (God alone, of course) would be able to see out through the doorway separating the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place, out through the main door of the temple, out through the Miphqad Gate in the east wall of Jerusalem, across the bridge over the Kidron Valley, and over to the Miphqad Altar in the Golgotha area of Olivet – the Mount of Olives – where Jesus was crucified:

Hebrews 13:
10:  We
{the priests-in-training for the Melchizedek Priesthood}
have an altar, whereof they {the priests of the Aaronic/Levitical priesthood} have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
11:  For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without
{outside} the camp.
12:  Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without
{outside} the gate.
13:  Let us go forth therefore unto Him without
{outside} the camp, bearing His reproach.

In the tent-tabernacle and the Jerusalem temples, the lampstand was located in the Holy Place near its southern wall.  But the lampstand described by Zechariah seems to have an even more important pride of place, with one olive tree to the north of it and the other olive tree to the south of it.

There are no olive trees – whether miraculous or otherwise – mentioned in the descriptions of the tent-tabernacle, nor in those of the stone temples in Jerusalem.  Their lamps were fuelled – not directly from olive trees; but indirectly via the human hands of the priests and other Levites.

What do these things Symbolize?

Now let’s go back to Zechariah 4, move on and try to get some questions answered about the symbolism that we have read of so far in Zechariah’s writings:

4:  So I answered and spoke to the angel that talked with me, saying, “What are these, my lord?” 
5:  Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, “Know you not what these be?”  And I said, “No, my lord.”

Please remember that this angel who talked with Zechariah was not the LORD/YHVH; but was a lesser “lord” – an adown.  Yes, he was still a strong and super-powerful spirit being; but he was one of God’s righteous angels – a servant of God – and ultimately of man.  

When (and if) Zechariah and the angel used the Hebrew equivalent of the word “these,” what were they referring to?  To the two olive trees only?  Or to all of the items – including the golden lampstand, the bowl, the seven pipes and the seven lamps – as well as the two olive trees,?

I’m not really sure, especially as the angel’s reply doesn’t give us any clues.  In fact, his answer seems to deepen the mystery even further – by going off on a seemingly unrelated and seemingly insignificant tangent:

6:  Then he answered and spoke unto me, saying, “This is {N.B. not “these are”} the Word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD of hosts.’"

Seemingly unrelated and seemingly insignificant?  Yes.  But actually, what the angel came to here is the central crux of the whole matter – of what was being revealed to Zechariah.

It’s all about the Word of the LORD.  And as revealed as it properly only can be – by the Holy Spirit of "the LORD of hosts" – the "YHVH-Tsaba" – the LORD who has control over all hosts, all armies, all wars.  Even over individual battles.  Even over the actions of individual soldiers.  Even over all time including all of the appointed times.  Even over the heavenly (astronomical) hosts of the sun, moon, and stars.  Yes, even over the whole creation!


But what about this mention of Zerubbabel?  And the other mentions of him in the following verses?  What does Zerubbabel have to do with all this?  Why is he important to this narrative?

The name Zerubbabel means “the Seed of Babylon.” 

In the book of Ezra, this same Zerubbabel is also known by the Persian name of Sheshbazzar (which, although only partially true (see Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; Hebrews 12:29), means “Worshipper of Fire”). 

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, Zerubbabel led the first band of Jews, numbering 42,360 – exclusive of a large number of servants – who returned from Babylon at the completion of their seventy years captivity.  In the second year after their return, he erected an altar and laid the foundation of the temple on the ruins of Solomon's temple which had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar

All through his work Zerubbabel occupied a prominent place, inasmuch as he was a descendant of the royal, kingly line of David.  And as such, he was a key ancestor of the human Jesus – as is mentioned in the two gospel account lineages:

Matthew 1:
12:  And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel
13:  And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; 

Luke 3:27:
Which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri, 

So, in some respects he was a kind of “missing” royal link between the lapsed Israelite (Jewish) monarchy and the monarchy of Jesus – the King of kings.  Perhaps in a similar way as John the Baptist – who was of the Aaronic, priestly line of Levi – was a kind of “missing” priestly link between the Old Covenant Levitical priesthood and the New Covenant Melchizedek priesthood of Jesus (Genesis 14:18; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6-10; 6:20; 7:1-21).

As we read on in Zechariah 4, I think you’ll see the connection:

7a: ‘Who are you, O great mountain?  Before Zerubbabel you {O great mountain} shall become a plain

This reminds me so much of one of Isaiah's prophecies – which God inspired Luke to apply to John the Baptist:

Luke 3:
1:  Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,
2:  Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God
{there's that Word of the LORD again!} came unto John {the Baptist} the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
3:  And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
4:  As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias
{Isaiah} the prophet, saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare you the way of the LORD, make His paths straight.
5:  Every valley shall be filled
{exalted}, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth {plain}
6:  And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Isaiah 40:
3:  The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, "Prepare you the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4:  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
5:  And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it."

Perhaps Zerubbabel – as well as Elijah (Matthew 11:14) – was a forerunner of John the Baptist.  And perhaps Zerubbabel – as well as John the Baptist – was also a forerunner of the end-time Elijah which is still to come (Malachi 4:5; Matthew 17:10-13).

Physically, the time has not yet come for the valleys to be raised up, for the mountains to be lowered, for the crooked paths to be straightened, nor for the rough ways to be smoothed out into plains.  It must be that that time will come -- likely around the time of the Second Resurrection – at the time when all flesh will see the salvation of God, as we just read in Luke 3:6.  

But spiritually?  

Back to Zechariah 4 -- continuing in the second half of verse 7:

7b: … and he {Who? Zerubbabel?} shall bring forth the headstone thereof… 

“Thereof”?...  Where-of?...  From the great mountain?

And what for?  For what building?  What building was this headstone being brought forth and prepared for?

7c: … with shoutings, crying, “Grace, grace unto it.”’”

Grace unto what?

Let’s just back up a little, and take a look at the word “headstone” (NKJV: capstone).  It was translated from the common Hebrew noun eben (Strong's 68), the root verb of which is banah – which means to build.

Zechariah uses the noun “eben” eight times throughout his book; and in different ways.  Or at least, they are translated differently.

In one place he uses eben in terms of the precious stones of a crown.  In another place he uses it in terms of a kind of punishing burden.  

Back to chapter 4 and let’s continue with the Word of the LORD once again in verses 8 and 9:

8:  Moreover the Word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
9a:  “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house…

What house?  The only house mentioned by Zechariah so far in his writing is the LORD’s earthly house, which was, at that time, to be rebuilt in Jerusalem:

Zechariah 1:16:
Therefore thus says the LORD, “I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it,” says the LORD of hosts, and a line
{perhaps a builder’s plumb line?} shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.”

Zechariah 3:7:
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “If you will walk in my ways, and if you will keep my charge, then you shall also judge my house, and shall also keep my courts, and I will give you places to walk among these that stand by.

Evidently, this was the LORD’s physical temple in Jerusalem.

Back in chapter 4, what about the foundation mentioned in verse 9?   Is this foundation (stone) different to the head-stone (NKJV: cap-stone) that we just read about in verse 7?

The Hebrew word for foundation is different to the Hebrew word for head-stone.  It is not eben; but yacad (Strong's 3245) which is a verb; not a noun, which implies that this foundation is not just the foundation stone (noun) itself; but is also the laying (verb) of the foundation – specifically by Zerubbabel's hands.

The verb yacad can also mean: to lay, found, ordain, establish, appoint, set, fix, and notably to begin.

Using Zerubbabel's hands, the LORD laid the foundation to begin the rebuilding of his earthly house.  Those same hands would also be employed to finish the work.

9b: … his hands shall also finish it; and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me {one of His special angels} unto you {Zechariah}.

The implication here is that, because Zechariah had seen Zerubbabel start and finish the work of the rebuilding of the temple, he (Zechariah) would know for sure that it was the LORD who sent the angel to him.

Why was this work such a miraculous thing to begin and to complete?  Perhaps because of the great adversity that the builders suffered from their (and the LORD’s) enemies.

10a:  For who has despised the day of small things?... 

Was that particular day – that time of the rebuilding of the temple by Zerubbabel – considered by many to be “the day of small things”?  If so, why?  Why small?

Perhaps because the building of the tent-tabernacle (under Moses and Aaron) and that of the first stone temple (by Solomon) were such huge deals; but this rebuilding was relatively low-key – at least, to human appearances anyway.  Also, the actual finished building itself was, to be sure, relatively inferior to that built by Solomon.  So says Haggai – and with another mention of Zerubbabel:

Haggai 2:
1:  In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month
{the seventh and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles} came the Word of the LORD {N.B.} by the prophet Haggai, saying,
2: “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying,
3: ‘Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory?  And how do you see it now?  Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?...

We might say the same about God’s church today –  in comparison with what it was back in the first century in the time of the apostles –  or with what it was forty or so years ago under Herbert Armstrong.  But if so, there’s a message here for us too:

4:  Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel,” says the LORD; “and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,” says the LORD, and work: for I am with you,” says the LORD of hosts:
5:  According to the Word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remains among you.  Fear you not.
6:  For thus says the LORD of hosts; ‘Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;
7:  And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations
{whether they choose to admit it, or not: the promised Messiah} shall come: and I will fill this house with glory,” says the LORD of hosts.
8:  “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine,” says the LORD of hosts.
9:  “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former,” says the LORD of hosts: “and in this place will I give peace,” says the LORD of hosts.

As expressed here, the silver and gold of the temple may be symbolic of its God-given glory; and, in turn, that glory may be symbolic of his Holy Spirit.  

But why would the glory of this rebuilt temple be greater than that of Solomon?  Perhaps because, in it (or actually, in the version embellished by Herod) would walk the human Jesus – the ultimate peace-giver.  

And who knows?  Maybe some of its actual stones might be miraculously relocated, regathered and reconstructed into the Millennium temple!

Back to Zechariah 4, where we left off in verse 10:

10b: … For they {those who had despised the day of small things} shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.”

The word plummet here is translated from our old friend, the Hebrew word eben (Strong's 68); and is referring right back to another two mentions of the same word, eben, in the previous chapter:

Zechariah 3:9:  {the LORD speaking here}
“For behold the stone
{eben} that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone {eben} shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof,” says the LORD of hosts, “and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.”

We’re not concerned too much right now with Joshua, nor with the removal of the iniquity of that land”; but only with this eben – this stone or plummet (which is the weight at the end of a builder’s plumb-line) onto which the LORD has engraved seven eyes.

What could these seven eyes be?  A whole sermon – or more – could be preached on “the eyes of the LORD”; but there’s only one other scripture that mentions seven eyes; and that is Revelation 5:6.  Could the seven eyes revealed to Zechariah be the same as those revealed to the apostle John?  Let’s take a look:

Revelation 5:6:
And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

The location here is “in the midst of the throne.”  Probably – almost definitely – the heavenly throne room – of God, of which the earthly temples that have been so significant throughout this sermon – were relatively inferior physical copies.

The holy, once-slain Lamb of God is depicted here – somewhat unusually – as having seven horns and seven eyes, which, as John writes, are the seven spirits of God which are, or have been, or will be sent forth into all the earth.

Just the seven eyes?  Is it only the seven eyes that are the seven spirits of God?  Or does this include the seven horns too?

And what are these seven spirits?  Are they spiritual "extensions" of Jesus – perhaps seven special angels?  Extensions that extend His reach – which we may assume to be already perfect and eternal – throughout the earth – and beyond?  Compare these verses:

Revelation 1:4:
John to the seven churches which are in Asia: grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven spirits which are before His throne;

Revelation 4:5:
And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. 

Revelation 8:2:
And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.

And now please compare two more verses:

Revelation 3:1a:
And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; “These things says He that has the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars: 

Revelation 1:20:
The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks.  The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven churches. 

This all ties in together; but it still makes one’s head spin!

Another question: Are John’s “seven eyes” the same ones as Zechariah’s?

Yes.  It appears so.  Both sets are the eyes of the LORD, who is the Lamb of God.  And although both sets stand before the LORD’s throne, they are also both sent forth to run to and fro throughout the whole earth!

But I wonder why the LORD would have a representation of his seven eyes engraved onto the plummet that he gave to Zerubbabel and Joshua?  Could it be that the LORD’s empowering of them to rebuild his Jerusalem temple might be an initial, physical precursor to something much more wonderful?  Something spiritual?  I believe that the scriptures we have studied already prove the truth of this fact.

But there are even more astonishing things to come as we continue back in the book of Zechariah.  Still in chapter 4 and moving on now to verse 11 and returning back to the inspired description of the amazing lampstand – referring all the way back to verse 3:

11:  Then answered I {Zechariah}, and said unto him {the angel he had been conversing with}, “What are these two olive trees {Hebrew: zayith} upon the right side of the candlestick {menowrah – lampstand} and upon the left side thereof?”

It’s almost like Zechariah was saying to the angel, “Hey, wait a minute!  I asked you earlier what these olive trees were; but you changed the subject and took off on a tangent, telling me about all the great things that Zerubbabel is going to accomplish!  Let me ask that same question again!”  And he does ask the same question again. 

But then he seems to be inspired to see something else!  Or perhaps a more detailed view of things he’d already seen:

12:  And I answered again, and said unto him, “What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?”

Not just two olive trees {zayith} here; but two olive branches!  The Hebrew words are shibaley-ha-zeytym.  The shibaley is Strong’s 7641.  The meanings, although varied, are all significant and refer to two different but linked themes:

1. Referring to the aspect of growing and growth:  branches, heads of grain, ears of corn and clusters.

2. Referring to conduits for the transference of liquids (which happens to fit in so very well with the pipes of the lampstand):  channels, floods and flowing streams.

Now, what about the two golden pipes mentioned here by Zechariah?

What?  Only two pipes?  I thought that Zechariah told us back in verse 2 that there were seven pipes?  

Yes.  But these two pipes appear to be different!  Those seven pipes in verse 2 were muwtsaqah (Strong's 4166).  But these two pipes in verse 12 are tsantarah (Strong's 6804) – a totally different Hebrew word!

Now what about the “golden oil” that flows from the two olive branches and through the two golden pipes?

Yes, olive oil certainly is symbolic of the Holy Spirit in a few scriptures.  And maybe the adjective “golden” might refer to the colour of the olive oil.  But let’s examine it in a bit more detail.  If you have a KJV, you’ll notice that the word “oil” is italicized.  That’s because it does not actually appear in the Hebrew.  Perhaps it was just naturally assumed by the KJV translators – maybe because of the olive branch source.

But assumption can be a dangerous thing when it comes to Bible study.  And please remember once again that we’re dealing with a God-given, spiritually-symbolic vision here; so, just as we have seen in more than one case in this chapter so far, physical logic may not always apply.

The single Hebrew word that the KJV translators rendered as “golden oil” is one that we’ve seen already earlier in this chapter.  And that is zahab (Strong's 2091) which in most cases is translated as the noun “gold.”

Zahab is only translated as the adjectivegolden” when it is followed by a noun; e.g. zahab-tsantarah: golden-pipes; zahab-nexem: golden earrings; zahab-mizbeach: golden altar, etc.  But when it appears on its own, it always means gold (except for one scripture in the book of Job where it is translated (poorly, I believe) as “fair weather”).

My opinion is that the preciousness of gold is being alluded to here – especially in comparison with the relatively inexpensive olive oil – and that it is molten pure gold that flows out of the two olive branches and through the two golden pipes.

And what are those two olive branches?  Zechariah asked this same question of the angel.  Sometimes I wish that we had an angel handy who we could ask questions of when we needed answers on a particular complicated issue!  We pray to our heavenly Father, of course, through His son Jesus; and they certainly do give us answers.  But not always as immediately as we would like! 

But is this any different to Zechariah’s case?  Did Zechariah immediately receive totally crystal clear answers from the angel who was relaying the Word of the LORD to him?  Or did the angel’s answers spur Zechariah on to further questioning – just as it does for us?  Just as it should for us!

This is one of the major lessons that I perceive – not just in this fourth chapter – but also in the whole book of Zechariah.  Perhaps in the whole Bible!

But let’s proceed with the angel’s answer as to Zechariah's questions as to what the two olive branches were/are:

13:  And he answered me and said, “Know you not what these {the two olive branches} be?”  And I said, “No, my lord.”
14:  Then said he, “These are the two anointed ones
{v'ney-ha-yitzhar} that stand by the LORD of the whole earth.”

These two anointed ones stand by the LORD – as do the angels that we recently read about (See Zechariah 3:5; 6:5; Revelation 1:4; 4:5; 7:11; 8:2-3).

The Hebrew word for anointed is yitzhar (Strong's 3323) which is always – except for this one case – translated as oil.  It’s root verb is tsahar which can mean to glisten – which leads us back to the gold that we just discussed.

And the Hebrew word for ones here is v'ney (Strong's 1121) which is primarily (in 93% of all its  appearances) translated as sons (2978 times) or children (1568 times).  So a better translation, as suggested by commentator John Gill, would be “sons of oil” or “children of the glistening or shining oil.”

But where have we heard a similar scripture to verse 14 before?  It’s in the book of Revelation, of course!  So let’s go back there – to chapter 11.  But let’s begin in verse 1 – just to pick up a few other apparently-significant similarities:

Revelation 11: 
1:  And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, “Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
2:  But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months…

I don’t want to get too deeply into this measuring of the temple today; but I just wanted to compare it with Zerubbabel's pre-re-building measuring activity of the Jerusalem temple with the plummet inscribed with the seven eyes of God.  (By the way, there is also another “measuring of the temple” in one of Ezekiel's major visions in Ezekiel 41).

3:  And I will give [power] unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

The word “power” (Greek exousia) does not appear in the Greek; but the power of truly inspired prophecy may properly be assumed – as well as other God-given powers that are mentioned in verses 5 and 6.

So again, tying John’s God-given vision to that of Zechariah, we may ask: Who are the LORD’s two witnesses? 

4a:  These {the two witnesses} are the two olive trees…

Olive trees?

Well, maybe!  The Greek noun is elaia (Strong's 1636) which is translated as such three times in the New Testament; but eleven times as olives and once as olive berries (the fruit of an olive tree).

I find it interesting and perhaps very significant that every one of those eleven mentions of this word elaia in the gospel accounts, as well as the word elaion {Olivet} in Acts 1, all refer to the Mount of Olives, which figures so significantly in the life, death, ascension and second coming of the LORD Jesus.

I don’t want to move away from this word elaia until we have taken a look at its use in Romans 11:

Romans 11:
1:  I
{Paul} say then, has God cast away His people {Israel}?  God forbid.  For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
2:  God has not cast away His people
{Israel} which He foreknew.  Know you not what the scripture says of Elias {whose name reads and sounds quite like Elaia!}?  How he made intercession to God against Israel, saying,
3: “LORD, they
{the Israelites} have killed your prophets, and digged down your altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.”
4:  But what says the answer of God unto him?  “I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.”
5:  Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant
{of the Israelites} according to the election
{another word that is reminiscent of elaia!} of grace… 

That remnant in Paul's time was a small group of physical Israelites who had also – by grace – become spiritual Israelites.

6:  And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.  But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
7:  What then?  Israel has not obtained that which he seeks for; but the election
{i.e. the spiritual elect – both physical Israelites and physical Gentile Christians} has obtained it, and the rest {the temporarily un-called, un-elected physical Israelites} were blinded.

Along with the un-called, un-elected physical Gentiles too, of course.

8:  (According as it is written, “God has given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.”
9:  And David said, “Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompense unto them:
10:  Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always.”
11:  I
{Paul} say then, have they stumbled that they should fall {i.e. for “always”… permanently}God forbid: but rather through their {the physical Israelites’ temporary} fall, salvation is come unto the {physical} Gentiles, for to provoke them {the physical Israelites} to jealousy.
12:  Now if the
{temporary} fall of them {the physical Israelites} be the riches of the world, and the {temporary} diminishing of them {the physical Israelites} the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their {the physical Israelites’ eventual} fullness?
13:  For I speak to you
{Roman} Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify my office {his God-given office -- certainly not himself!}:
14:  If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh
{Paul's physical Israelite brothers and sisters}, and might save some of them.
15:  For if the casting away of them
{the physical Israelites} be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them {the physical Israelites} be, but life from the dead?
16:  For if the Firstfruit
{Jesus} be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the Root {Jesus} be holy, so are the branches.

Firstfruit?  Root?  Branches?  Now we’re getting into some familiar territory!

17:  And if some of the branches {Israelites} be broken off, and you {physical Gentiles}, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them {the Israelite olive tree/branches}, and with them partake of the root {Jesus} and fatness of the {spiritual Israelite} olive tree;
18:  Boast not against the
{Israelite} branches.  But if you [do] boast, you bear not the root, but the root you.
19:  You will say then, “
{Yes but} the {Israelite} branches were broken off, that I {and other physical Gentile tree/branches} might be grafted in.”
20:  Well
{okay -- true -- but} because of unbelief they {the Israelite olive tree/branches} were broken off, and you stand by faith. {so} be not high-minded, but fear:
21:   For if God spared not the natural
{Israelite} branches, take heed lest he also spare not you {and other physical Gentile tree/branches}.
22:  Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God.  On them which fell
{the physical Israelites – temporarily}, severity; but toward you {physical Gentiles}, goodness – if you continue in His goodness: otherwise you also shall be cut off.
23:  And they also
{the Israelite "natural" olive tree/branches}, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.

In order to be readmitted once again as branches of God’s national/spiritual Israelite “olive tree,” the physical Israelite branches don’t get special treatment.  They don’t automatically receive a kind of “get-out-of-jail-free card” just because they are physical Israelites.  No. They too need to be grafted back into God’s national/spiritual Israelite “olive tree” by Him, of course and in exactly the same way as their Gentile brethren. 

24:  For if you {physical Gentile branches} were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature {the Gentile wild olive tree}, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good {God’s natural, un-wild, cultivated} olive tree: how much more shall these {Israelites}, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

If God is willing and happy to graft the wild, Gentile branches into His own spiritual/national olive tree (upon His calling and their repentance), He’ll be even happier to re-graft the natural Israelite branches – those whom He had formerly broken off because of their sin, unbelief and lack of faith; but who will have then repented of those sins.

There’s much more to that chapter; but let’s cut it short for now, as it was the mentions of the olive tree, the root and the branches that I wanted to get into.  

Please notice, though, that there is only one olive tree mentioned here in Romans 11.  Not two as in the Zechariah and Revelation accounts. So, what does this single olive tree represent here in Romans 11?

Through Paul, God makes it quite clear, I believe, that it represents the people of God:

1. Initially, originally and ideally, God’s children through the Abrahamic covenant,

2.  Later, His “Old” (Sinai) Covenant children – “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38) – the people of physical Israel,

3.  But after their temporary fall, the New Covenant “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16) – the Church of God, 

4.  The Family of God –  including the Firstborn Son of God the Father – Jesus Christ Himself, who is the First of the spiritual (olive) Firstfruits and the very Root of the olive tree.

Does this symbolism of Paul in Romans 11 contradict that of Zechariah 4 and Revelation 11 – in which the two so-called "olive trees/branches" – the two zayith shibboleth – the two elaias – clearly represent the two “anointed ones” – the two yitshars – the two “sons of oil” – the two (obviously) human beings – that are given the honour of standing by the LORD of the whole earth?

No, .I don’t believe that there is any contradiction.  I strongly feel that God might be using these kinds of seeming contradictions and anomalies to urge His children to more actively use the Holy Spirit He has put within us, and to stretch the wonderful minds He has also given us. 

Now, after that long diversion, let’s return to Revelation 11 and finish reading verse 4: 

4b: … and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.”

Here again, God sets us to thinking and questioning – by shuffling the quantities around.

Why are there two lampstands here, while there is only one in Zechariah 4?

But, at the beginning of the book of Revelation, there are not one – not two – but seven golden candlesticks (lampstands):

Revelation 2:1:
Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; “These things says He that holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 

Revelation 1:13:
And in the midst of the seven candlesticks One like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

And in verse 20 of this same chapter 1, we are told what these seven golden candlesticks are:

Verse 20: 
The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks.  The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven churches.

So, if the seven lampstands of Revelation 1 and 2 symbolize seven churches (Greek ekklesias Christian assemblies not necessarily corporate Church of God organizations, as some have claimed), then could it be likely that the two lampstands of Revelation 11 might symbolize two Christian assemblies.

Yes, they are God’s two human witnessesfor sure! 

But could it be possible that the two witnesses may be from two Christian assemblies – again, maybe one from a mostly physical Israelite assembly and one from a largely Gentile one?  I’m not willing to be dogmatic on such things; but I just want us to expand our thinking on such matters – by using God’s Holy Spirit in partnership with our “little grey cells.”

Also, could it be possible that Zechariah’s single lampstand might symbolize God’s one true church, with its seven lamps perhaps symbolizing its multiple end-time “branches” and/or its multiple end-time members?

This leads us naturally into the next segment… and that is a discussion of:

Lamps and Lampstands in the Gospel Accounts

During His human ministry, what did Jesus have to say about lamps and lampstands?

Let’s begin with:

Matthew 5:
14a: “You are the light of the world… 

This is interesting; because John tells us four separate times (John 1:9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46) that Jesus is theprimary” Lamp and Light of the world!  It appears then, that, with His light dwelling in us through His Spirit, we are to be “secondary” lamps and lights of – and to – the world.

What else? Jesus continues:

14b: … A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.

Why would Jesus mention this in reference to lamps and lights?

Whenever I read this verse, I think of a person driving through the countryside on a dark night and approaching a hill-top city, the residents of which all have the lamps in their homes lit.  This would seem to be a very attractive, alluring and welcoming sight to an approaching stranger.

I believe that the spiritual antitype of this is obvious.  A person whom God wishes to call, travelling through life in spiritual darkness, is led to come into contact with the shining lights of His previously converted people.


15:  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Physically and practically, this is just common sense – especially as it was in the days prior to electric lighting.  It would be useless to put a lit oil lamp under a basket – or as in Luke's renditions of this same parable – in some secret place or under a bed.  

Not only useless, such folly would be downright dangerous – as fire would most certainly result!  I believe that the spiritual equivalents of the uselessness and danger of oil lamps being placed under baskets or beds should also be quite obvious.  The right place for a lamp – both physical and spiritual – is on a lamp-stand!  Does Jesus agree?  Yes, he does:

16:  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

We are to relay and shine His spiritual light to others – so that they might be able to see our good, Holy Spirit-inspired works.  

Luke is the gospel writer who gives most space to this subject – in three of Jesus’ different discourses:

Luke 8:
16:  No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed; but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. 
17:  For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.

We might have tended to apply this to a person’s sins – especially his/her unrepented-of ones.  But Jesus’ context here appears to be light!... the light of the good works of His brothers and sisters – perhaps including the works of the preaching and revealing of the true gospel message – all of which will ultimately be revealed – and none of which will ultimately be hidden.

And we – all of Jesus' brothers and sisters – have a part in this "revelation project"!  So He tells us!  

This must be important; because He repeats it in chapter 11 – but with a different accent:

Luke 11:
33:  No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.

Then comes Jesus’ different accent on this point:

34:  The lamp of the body is the eye.  Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light.  But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.
35:  Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.
36:   If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

The subject of spiritual light and darkness is a huge one and we don’t have time to cover it in a lot of detail today.  But Jesus’ main point here seems to be that, just as the light of a lamp would be useless to us if our physical eyes were “bad” – i.e. if we were totally blind – likewise, unless our spiritual eyesight and comprehension are miraculously opened by the calling of God the Father and the receiving of the Holy Spirit, His spiritual light is useless to us!

Jesus’ third mention through Luke is this one – again a different topic:

Luke 15:
8:  Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 
9:  And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbours together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’
10:  Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:19-21 that spiritual treasure must be given to us by God.  But once He has given it to us, what happens if we devalue part of it – perhaps by neglect – to the extent of losing it?

For this purpose, let’s just say that this woman’s ten silver coins represent the ten commandments.  When brethren go astray – giving in the lure of straying into spiritual darkness – what is the first commandment that they will likely lose?

The fifth – Sabbath – commandment, of course!

Once they realize (hopefully) that they have lost something of great value, they can go scrambling around in the dark on their own.  But what they really need in order to find it again is one of God’s “lamps” fuelled by His spiritual oil.

(By the way, we might sometimes think that, if a church member loses the truth – or part of it – he/she can never get it back.  But this is disproved by the “sin unto death” scriptures in I John 5, and also by Jesus’ well-known parable of "the prodigal son").

The Ten Virgins

I don’t think we can finish this “lamps and oil” topic until we’ve mentioned the oil and lamps of the Ten Virgins:

Matthew 25:
1:  Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
2:  And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3:  They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4:  But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5:  While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6:  And at midnight there was a cry made, behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him.
7:  Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8:  And the foolish said unto the wise, “Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.”
9:  But the wise answered, saying, “Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go you rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.”
10:  And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
11:  Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, “Lord, lord
{Greek: Kurios}, open to us.”
12:  But he answered and said, “Verily I say unto you, I know you not.”
13:  Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man comes.

These lamps were evidently a different kind of lamp than the permanent one that was made for the temple and from those permanent ones that one would find in a person’s home.  These were evidently portable lamps – perhaps the equivalent of a modern torch/flashlight.

I don’t claim to know all the details about the wedding ceremonies in the Judea of Jesus’ human lifetime or what the significance and purpose of the attending virgins with their lamps was.  But we can be pretty sure that the virgins’ portable “wedding lamps” held some special, ceremonial significance.

It appears that, for such virgins to be accepted by the bridegroom to do their important ceremonial “job,” they were expected to be punctually on-time and ready with their lamps.  Also, they were expected to be equipped with an adequate supply of lamp oil – even with some extra oil – just in case of unforeseen delays.  Those who turned up late – or ill-equipped – were rejected.

Instead of a large, permanent, built-in lamp-oil bowl or “reservoir,” these portable lamps had smaller ones.

Just as a wise camper would take along spare torch/flashlight batteries just in case his original ones “ran out of juice,” so a wise wedding virgin would take along a container (“vessel”) with an extra amount of lamp-oil.

We can be absolutely sure that the coming of the "bridegroom" here is symbolic of the second coming of “the Son of Man” – Jesus.  And we can be sure that the virgins and their lamps are dual symbols of Christians.  

A couple of questions come to mind:

1. Did the bridegrooms of that era really need the light of the virgins’ lamps?

2.  Or were the lit lamps purely ceremonial?  Perhaps to add a physical kind of glory to the wedding ceremonies?

3.  At His return, will the perfect LORD Jesus really need the spiritual light of His brothers and sisters?

4.  Or will their light contribute to and magnify His glory and honour and that of His Father?

In this regard, this scripture comes to mind:

Revelation 21:
23:  And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

24:  And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.

The important thing that Jesus seems to be trying to get across with His "Ten Virgins" parable is that His brothers and sisters must be “watching.”  Not just (as has been taught in the past) watching every fine, gory detail of world news; but rather, in the sense of being ready ready to do the jobs that He has in store for us.

The timing of the parable implies that we need to be preparing the tools now – the tools that we will need to use at and after His return.  The parable implies that the virgins’ lamps were lit while they were awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom; but the time for their main ceremonial purpose was at and after his arrival.

Of course, most analogies and symbolisms eventually break down and do not always come to pass 100%.  For example, we're not told what the five wise virgins did with their lamps after they went in with the bridegroom to the wedding.  But once Jesus returns in His utmost brilliance and glory, what will His brothers and sisters do with their spiritual lamps?  We will then be fully born children of God the Father – radiating the same light that He and Jesus radiate now:

I John 3:2:
Beloved, now are we the sons
{Greek : teknon: children} of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.

And what does He look like now?

Matthew 17::
1:  And after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother, and brought them up into a high mountain apart,
2:  And was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light.

For more detail of what He looks like now, let’s go back to Revelation 1:

Revelation 1:
12:  And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me.  And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks
{lampstands representing ekklesias: assemblies or churches}
13:  And in the midst of the seven candlesticks
{lampstands, ekklesias, assemblies, churches} One like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
14:  His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire;
15:  And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters.
16:  And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shines in its strength.

That’s what Jesus will look like at that time and likely how He looks now.  His brothers and sisters who constitute His seven lampstands (ekklesias/assemblies/churches) will look very much the same – although He, standing in the middle of the seven, will stand out and be recognized as having an extra measure of glory.

But that’ll be then and this is now!  If we are His – and the Father’s – then they are living within us now – through the indwelling of their Holy Spirit.  That being the case, just like the five wise virgins in preparation for the arrival of the bridegroom having their lamps lit (yes, prior to His arrival!), we who are awaiting the arrival of Jesus – we must have our spiritual lamps lit – now!

We should beware of thinking that we can hold off lighting our spiritual lamps until His arrival.  And when we do light our spiritual lamps, we must not be foolishly hiding them under spiritual bushels, baskets or beds – whatever they might be.

We must mount our spiritual lamps as high up as possible on a spiritual lampstand and on a high hill.  Not necessarily, I believe, on the “lampstand” of any one of the many corporate church groups; but rather on the one ultimate spiritual lampstand of the one true church of God.

If we do this effectively, not hiding our light, not keeping it to ourselves; but rather, if we will open the spiritual “curtains” of our spiritual hill-top houses, according to the will and calling of our Father, some of those who are wandering around in the darkness of the world’s valleys will see our welcoming light, will be attracted by them, and, with God’s help and calling, will be drawn to make the effort to climb up out of their dark valleys, up onto our hilltops, and join us in our houses of light!