Revelation 1:12 “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands…”
Seven verses later the meaning of this picture is explained in simple terms: “The seven lampstands are the seven churches,” seven Christian congregations spread across modern day Turkey, each facing its own set of challenges and temptations at a time when persecution by the unbelieving majority made them feel rather alone.
The lampstands are a picture of churches, and I don’t think that it is hard to understand why our Lord chose that image. “You are the light of the world,” Jesus told his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. A Christian congregation, where Jesus’ disciples are gathered together, is a light shining in a dark place. That is just as true of our congregations today as it was of any of these other congregations 1900 years ago.
Look at the values and standards competing with ours in the broader community in which we live. On my way back and forth between home and church I used to drive past a rather impressive looking building with one odd feature: it had no windows. Perhaps you can guess why. Inside women are paid to disrobe for the men who attend this club. I have never stopped to confirm what I am about to say — for obvious reasons — but my impression is that on any given day of the week between the hours of noon and midnight that parking lot has more cars in it than my church’s parking lot on Sunday morning.
You, dear Christians, are a light shining in a dark place. There are many interesting and useful things our churches could do, from feeding the hungry to entertaining the teenagers to keeping some stretch of a nearby highway free of trash. These could even be used to enhance the gospel ministry. But don’t let these kinds of things become a replacement. What good is it if a congregation should improve the whole world yet lose its own soul?
Let’s keep the gospel light burning in our lampstands. The light that calls lost souls to repentance, and to find the forgiveness of sins in the innocent death of our Lord Jesus, and never-ending life in his glorious resurrection from the dead, is the true light of our churches. Without it they are nothing more than a social club, and none of what we do will make a dime’s worth of difference the day after Judgment Day.