11-3-2 The Vision of Seven Lamps
Zechariah Chapter 4
The vision is of a bowl with seven lamps, fed from a sump of oil in a bowl which is supplied by pipes from two olive trees.
The "seven lamps are the seven eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth" (Zech. 4:2,10)- i. e. they represent the Angels active in the land of Israel to enable the restoration. They are energized by the spirit in the bowl. The candlestick being part of the tabernacle was therefore also a "pattern of things in the Heavens"; it represented how the Heavenly organization of Angels works. The olive trees "are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth" (v. 14). The "Lord of the whole earth" is the Angel of 3:1 (making "the God of the earth" in Rev. 11:4 also an Angel). The olive trees actually stand by the candlestick, thus making the whole arrangement of bowl, branches, pipes and lamps represent the workings of the one Angel- in the same way as the Angel of Jesus in Rev. 1 can somehow stand in the midst of a candlestick.
The olive being a symbol of leadership (in Judges 9:8 the olive tree was the first tree to be thought of as a national leader), it would be fitting that they represented Joshua and Zerubbabel. However, there is a definite allusion to the Angel cherubim here. "Within the oracle he made two cherubims of olive tree" (1 Kings 6:23); "and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two (olive tree) cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony" (Ex. 25:22). If the olive trees are like the Cherubim, then "the Lord of the whole earth" of Zech. 4:4 which was between them connects with the ark- the Angel that dwelt over the ark, between the Cherubim. Josh. 3:11-13 also makes the connection between the ark and the "Lord of all the earth". The candlestick therefore represents the Angel co-ordinating the restoration, as well as the other "seven" Angels in His control.
This shows the close association between the Angel-cherubim and Joshua and Zerubbabel. Thus from the Angelic inspiration of these two men, the spirit was supplied to the candlestick through the gold pipes- the faith they showed and their prayers supplied the spirit which enabled the seven lamp Angels to act. However, the close link between the two olive trees and the Cherubim Angels once again shows that the ultimate impetus to our faith, prayers and spirituality comes from God's spirit in the Angels rather than from any personal inspiration we may feel. This idea of the flow of the spirit, enabling God's action through the Angels as a result of our prayers, is found elsewhere:
- "This shall turn to my salvation, through your prayer, and the supply of the spirit of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:19)
- ". . . how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit ("good things", Mt. 7:11) to them that ask Him?" (Lk. 11:13).
Of Oil And Olives
Thus in the vision of the seven lamps, the prayers and faith of Joshua and Zerubbabel were the oil, the spirit that was supplied to activate the seven lamp Angels that went to and fro in the land of Israel preparing the way for the restoration. However, the olive trees were "sons of oil" (4:14 AVmg)- they were anointed with the oil initially. Is this a dim foreshadowing of the birth of the spirit ("sons of oil")? The oil of the spirit is clearly a symbol of the word- the men of the olive trees were sons of the spirit word through their belief in the word of God through Jeremiah concerning the restoration. The olive branches emptied the golden oil out of themselves- if we are to have the same victory of faith as Joshua and Zerubbabel, we have to in the same way pour ourselves out in prayer and golden faith. The amount of oil flowing into the bowl determined the amount flowing out of it to the lamp Angels, seeing that there was a constant flow of the oil in the vision. Thus the amount and intensity of our prayers and spirituality affect how brightly the Angels burn in their zeal to fulfil our requests. Notice too the power of the prayers of a small minority of God's people. The two olive branches which feed the bowl are replaced by Christ, the one branch (Zech. 3:8; 6:12), who would provide the Spirit in abundance so that the true spiritual temple could be built- "the branch. . . shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord" (6:12).
It is difficult to relate Rev. 11:1-5 to all this. It is clearly based on this and other visions in Zechariah, but the exact links are elusive. The measuring of the temple in Rev. 11 is similar to that in Zech. 2, which was stopped by the Angel. In Rev. 11 the measuring (for judgement) goes ahead for the Jews but not for the Gentiles. The two witnesses of Rev. 11 are empowered to overcome their adversaries, as Joshua and Zerubbabel were given power to overcome theirs. There are often what appear (superficially?) to be vague allusions to the Old Testament in Revelation, and it is hard to determine their exact significance (e. g. Job 3:21= Rev. 9:6). Maybe the points of contact between Zechariah and Rev. 11 are examples of this? But Rev. 11:4 seems specific: "these are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks". And why two candlesticks when there was only one in Zechariah?
Let us take the rebuke which the Angel gave Zechariah twice (a sign of rebuke often in Scripture- e. g. "Simon, Simon"): "Knowest thou not what these be?" (v. 5,13), the Angel answered Zechariah when he asked what the system of pipes represented. Let us be humble to the Word, let us really accept the potential power of our prayers and truly poured out spirit. Note too the Angel's method of educating Zechariah by asking the question "What seest thou?" (v. 2). Through what mechanism do they open the word of God to us and lead us to concentrate on certain parts of it, as they did to Zechariah?