Living Menora

The letters to the pastors of the seven churches in Asia are a prophecy of the history of the Church, according to dispensationalist Bible teachers. For interpreters who are committed to a “literal” hermeneutic, this is bending the rules in the direction of a “literary” hermeneutic, which is excellent. However, they apply the letters to the wrong future, and overlook the obvious allusions to the past.

According to James Jordan, the seven churches are presented as a sort of “decentralized” menora, that is, seven lamps instead of a single seven-branched lampstand. Once this way of thinking is pointed out, it amazes me how much of what is obvious in the text we miss entirely.

This image suggests that we are supposed to take the Church as a new Israel, a conclusion which would not be so popular with dispensationalists, but one that seems unavoidable. The Bible teaches “replacement theory,” or at least, “transformation theory.” Like Jesus, Israel was about to pass through death and resurrection and come out of the grave renewed and as different from old Israel as a butterfly is from a caterpillar.

The Romans would remove the Lampstand from Herod’s Temple, as is predicted later in the Revelation (18:23). The new “decentralized” worship would not be centered on earth but in heaven, on the true Zion (Paul says as much in Galatians 4).

Further support is found in the fact that the seven letters are a brief retelling of Old Israel’s history (following Israel’s festal calendar). Once this is observed, the use of the names of Old Testament characters suddenly makes perfect sense.

Ephesus (the fall) – The Garden of Eden (Sabbath/Day 1)
Smyrna (prison/door) – Joseph and Israel in Egypt (Passover/Day 2)
Pergamum (priests) – Balak, Balaam and the serpent (Firstfruits/Day 3)
Thyatira (kings) – Ahab and Jezebel (Pentecost/Day 4)
Sardis (prophets) – Repent and wake up or be invaded (Trumpets/Day 5)
Philadelphia (restoration) – An open door (Atonement/Day 6)
Laodicea (first century Judaism) – False food and riches (Booths/Day 7)

Following the seven letters, the rest of the Book of Revelation is an eighth letter, John’s “little book.” [1] The budding sins which Jesus critiques in the fledgling church are shown to be full grown in the worship in Jerusalem (the harlot and false prophet are a Jewish Jezebel and Jewish Balaam, ruling and cursing Jerusalem). The Lampstand was made to look like an almond tree, literally a “watcher tree.”

The word of the LORD came to me saying, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “I see a rod of an almond tree.” (Jeremiah 1:11)

These New Covenant “watchmen” watch on as she is destroyed. So, the letters are a prophecy of future Church history, but a history of the “Firstfruits” Church, leading up to AD70, with only a brief glimpse of “the age to come” in chapter 20.

The meanings of the names of the cities also seem significant in identifying the “dominion” pattern:

Ephesus (Creation) – “First, Desirable” (Genesis – Sabbath)
Smyrna (Division) – “Bitter Affliction” (Exodus – Passover)
Pergamum (Ascension) – “Earthly Heighth” (Leviticus – Firstfruits)
Thyatira (Testing) – “Sacrifice of Labor” (Numbers – Pentecost)
Sardis (prophets) – “Prince of Joy” (Deuteronomy – Trumpets)
Philadelphia (restoration) – “Love of a Brother” (Joshua – Atonement)
Laodicea (first century Judaism) – “Just People” (Judges – Booths)

As Jordan observes, the Church pastors are the seven stars in Jesus’ right hand. Jesus is the new Tabernacle, and His right hand is the new Lampstand, one whose light multiplies and reaches every corner of the earth.

[1] See The Eighth Letter. For more on Revelation, get James Jordan’s lectures or his summary The Vindication of Jesus Christ.

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2 Responses to “Living Menora”

  • Dave Says:

    So, the letters are a prophecy of future Church history, but a history of the “Firstfruits” Church, leading up to AD70, with only a brief glimpse of “the age to come” in chapter 20.

    Did you mean to say “are Not a prophesy of future church history”? I was thinking that was a typo, but not sure

  • Mike Bull Says:

    I re-read it. It’s correct. They (like historicists, I believe) think it’s a prophecy of this entire age, and as history rolls on they stretch it to fit however they can – as long as we are in the last days, the Laodicean church. Now, there may be some truth in that, because history always moves in cycles, but the last days are only ever the last days of the old order. It seems to be 500 years, so we are at the end of the era begun in the Reformation, and looking at something new. Very exciting. But all of this is application, not interpretation.