For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

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

This seems to indicate that the previous revelation had been given the prophet in a dream or when he was in a trance, but the present information appears to have been given him in the course of a face-to-face conversation with the angel.

4:2.  “And said unto me, What seest thou?  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:”

The golden candlestick or lampstand shown him was not identical with that which lighted the Holy place in the Tabernacle for it had six branches, three springing from each side of the central shaft; but as the Tabernacle lampstand was a figure or type of the Lord Jesus Christ, so is this present one.  Both were of pure gold, always the symbol of Divine glory, and reminding us that while the One portrayed by both had condescended to become the Son of Man, He never ceased to be also the second Person of the Trinity.

One reason at least for the difference between the two lampstands or candlesticks may be that the one in the Tabernacle is a figure of Christ in relation to the Church, while the one seen here by the prophet may portray Him in relation to millennial Israel, for the six lamps in the former protrude from the central shaft, whereas in the latter the seven lamps are placed on the bowl at the top of the central shaft, a position peculiarly appropriate to the dominion that will be Israel’s in the Millennium.

Relative to the six branched lamps of the Tabernacle lampstand: since six is the number of man, weakness, incompleteness, and sin, it is to be remembered that connected with the Church, composed of men still in earthly bodies, and having still the old Adamic nature, as well as the new Christ-like nature, there is  associated with us much of what the number six signifies. 

The Israel portrayed by the seven (number of perfection and completeness) lamps, on the other hand, will be a nation that will evince the earthly completeness and perfection of the fulfillment of all God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for then she will be the head and not the tail, exercising dominion over all the nations of the millennial earth.

The seven pipes were seven ducts through which the oil from the two olive trees was fed continuously to the seven lamps; and since oil is one of biblical symbols of the Holy Spirit, the truth being symbolically taught is that millennial Israel will be a nation imbued with the unction of the Holy Spirit, she being His instrument for the government of the millennial nations, and the display of the Divine glory.  She will be God’s lamp of testimony to the whole millennial earth, the Holy Spirit enduing her with power as He does every true testimony in every age. 

(Some understand there to have been seven pipes or ducts to each lamp, thus making a total of forty-nine.  Whether one or seven pipes to each lamp, however, is relatively unimportant, for the basic thought is of the perfection connected with the number seven, of which forty-nine is simply a multiple).

A practical lesson for believers of this present Church age is that we are also responsible to display that same Divine glory, something that will be accomplished only to the degree that the indwelling Holy Spirit is ungrieved and unquenched, He being grieved when we do what He forbids; and quenched when we refuse to do what He wishes or commands, for it is to be remembered that He will no more compel a believer to obey than He will an unbeliever to believe.  With the one, as with the other, His activity - which is always for blessing - is subject to the will of each individual.  Were it otherwise, it would be impossible to grieve or quench Him.

4:3.  “And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.”

As is made clear in verse six, these two olive trees represent the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit in relation to the written Word, for it is by means of that Word that He works, it being  through it that His will is revealed to men - saint and sinner alike.

There being two olive trees “one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof,” may be to portray the two parts of the written Word: the Old and the New Testament; and perhaps also to portray its resemblance to the binary system with which the computer age has made our modern world familiar.  The written Word also falls into the same two categories: what it commands corresponding to one; and what it forbids corresponding to zero.

4:4.  “So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?”

Another practical lesson being taught in the prophet’s seeking information, is that we should be equally inquisitive relative to what we read in Scripture.  The modern tendency to skim or speed-read has robbed us of much of that priceless insight which is  given only to the careful studious reader of God’s Word.  We impoverish ourselves spiritually when we refuse to read slowly and carefully, stopping to consult a dictionary or concordance for the meaning of a word we don’t quite understand; searching further to find the answer to a question prompted by what we have just read.  Meditative study of Scripture has become a lost art, as is evidenced, not only by the paucity of profitable exposition on the part of many who take the place of teachers amongst God’s people, but also by the general ignorance of Christians relative to the typological and spiritual significance of the written Word.

4:5.  “Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be?  And I said, No, my lord.”

Is there here in the angel’s question just a hinted implication that perhaps the prophet should have known the answer?  If that implication does exist, then it ought to remind us that all too often the same question might be addressed to us who have been on the road to heaven so long that meditative study would have rendered some of our questions unnecessary.  It is very different, however, relative to young believers, the “babes in Christ.”  God delights to hear the questions prompted by sincere desire to know Him and His Word, and to give the answers. 

4:6.  “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”

The “this” of the words “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel...” is ambiguous, for it may apply to the statement that immediately follows, or to the vision of the golden lampstand and two olive trees of verses 2 and 3.  It may, in fact apply to both, for it seems that what is written in verses 2 and 3 is the symbolic declaration of what is announced explicitly here in verse 6.

Zerubbabel, the civil leader, was being encouraged to put his hand to the work having the assurance from God that the power needed for the task would be, not his own puny human ability, but that of the third Person of the Trinity: the omnipotent Holy Spirit.  Every servant of God has the same assurance of Divine enablement to accomplish every divinely assigned task.  Our responsibility is to be sure that the work we attempt to do has been given us by God, and is not impelled simply by the restless rebellious energy of the flesh, for if the flesh is the source of our activity, no matter how seemingly worthy the task, there will be nothing but failure.

4:7.  “Who art thou, O great mountain?  before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.”

The language here is metaphoric, the mountain being the symbol of the nations under the leadership of Satan using kings and rulers as his puppets to oppose the work of God.  Relative to the work in which Zerubbabel was engaged, the mountain in that day was the opposing surrounding nations; but clearly the language goes beyond that day, and points to the final conflict between Christ and the armies of the Beast at the end of the Tribulation.  The reduction of the mountain to a plain is the symbolic announcement of the truth that the nations of that day would be powerless to stop God’s work, as will be also those assembled under the leadership of the Beast in the conflict of Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation.

The immediate task assigned Zerubbabel was the rebuilding of the Temple, his victorious accomplishment of that work being symbolized in his setting in place the headstone of the building amid the joyful exultations of the people expressed in their shouts, “Grace, grace unto it.” 

The type will be fulfilled on that quickly approaching day when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to end the Tribulation and establish His millennial kingdom, for He is the One typified by the headstone, as it is written, “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,” 1 Pe 2:7.

4:8.  “Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,”

4:9.  “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you.

The speaker is the angelic messenger informing the prophet that Zerubbabel’s completion of the Temple would be the confirmation that Jehovah, the Lord of hosts, had been the Author of all that the angel had revealed; and in this we are reminded of what is written in 2 Pe 1:19-21, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Hold Ghost.”  Of all the books of all the religions of the world, the Bible is the only one that has undertaken to foretell future events, and not just in generalities, but with such amazing accuracy and precision as to place its Divine authorship beyond question; and with by far the greater part of prophecy already fulfilled, there can be no doubt in any reasonable mind that what remains will also be fulfilled, and with the very same precise accuracy.

4:10.  “For who hath despised the day of small things? for they 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.”

It may have been a day of small things, see, for example what is written in Ezra 3:12 relative to the reaction of the people when the work of laying the foundation was completed.  The younger ones who had never seen the former glorious Temple built by Solomon, rejoiced, “But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice.”

God, however, Who sees the end from the beginning, knew what His people didn’t: that little Temple of Zerubbabel was not the only one that would be built.  It was only one of several, for it was replaced by the magnificent Temple of Herod which was destroyed almost as soon as it was built, for though it wasn’t fully completed in the Lord’s day, it was destroyed just a few years later in AD 70 by the Romans.  Another, the Tribulation age Temple is yet to be built and also destroyed, to be replaced by the glorious millennial Temple described in Ezek 40-43.

That little Temple which they were to build has long since gone, as has also the magnificent Temple of Herod which replaced it.  Clearly God views all the Temples which have been, and which are yet to be, as simply stages which will culminate in the magnificent Temple that will adorn the millennial earth, and which will be again what Solomon’s Temple was: the earthly dwelling place of His glory.

That literal house, however, is but a figure or symbol of the spiritual house, the Church, which has been in the building for almost two thousand years, but which is now almost complete.  God’s showing them therefore that what they were being called upon to build was but a stage of a work that began with the Tabernacle, and that won’t be complete until the millennial Temple is built, is to remind us that the part which each generation of Christians has in the building of the Church, is but a small part of a great whole.  And as God encouraged them not to look back, but forward, so does He also encourage us.  As they were not to waste time on weeping over departed glory, neither are we to sit idle, bewailing the departed glory of the Apostolic age, or even of the generation that has preceded us.  We are to look forward and build, with our eyes on the finished work, on that day when the building will be complete, and Christ will, “Present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing,” Eph 5:27.

That spiritual house, in the building of which we are privileged to have a part, will surpass the glory of any earthly Temple, for as Solomon’s Temple passed away, so will that of the Millennium, but the Church will endure for ever, her glory lustering eternity.

“... with those seven,” clearly refers to the precious stone described in 3:9, the seven facets of which are the symbolic description of the Lord’s omniscience, that interpretation being verified by the words, “... they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.”

4:11.  “Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?”

We have already noted in our study of verses 3 and 6 that in those verses the two olive trees are set before us as symbols of the Holy Spirit working through the written Word; but here we are being directed to yet another facet of His activity: He works also through human instruments, as we shall see in the verses that follow.

4:12.  “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?”

It is instructive to note that here they are described, not as trees as in verses 3 and 11, but as branches, implying that they are growing out of and dependent upon something greater than themselves, i.e., the parent tree.

The lesson couldn’t be clearer.  In the context of this verse these two olive branches represent Spirit-filled believers yielded completely to His will, and therefore instruments that He can use to accomplish His purposes.  Notice that the oil doesn’t originate with them: they are simply the “pipes” through which the golden oil flows, the oil representing the Holy Spirit; and gold being the symbol of Divine glory, so that the typological picture is of the Holy Spirit glorified through the obedience of believers yielded to His will.

A fact rarely recognized is that the Holy Spirit never bypasses the will of either saint or sinner.  He will strive with sinners to convict them, but He stops short of compelling them to accept salvation; and He will strive with believers, through the Word applied to their consciences, to secure obedience, but He stops short of compelling that obedience.

As it was by means of the golden oil, flowing through the two olive branches, that the seven lamps shed their light abroad, so is it by the obedience of believers that the light of the knowledge of God is shed abroad in the world.

A further lesson is taught in there being two olive branches, for two is the biblical number of testimony or witness.  It is through the testimony of obedient believers that the light of the knowledge of God is diffused, and the darkness of this world dispelled.

4:13.  “And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be?  And I said, No, my lord.”

The same lesson is being taught here as in verse 5.

4:14.  “Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”

The “two anointed ones” are generally understood to be Joshua, the high priest; and Zerubbabel, the civil head; and their standing by the Lord of the whole earth declares them to be Jehovah’s willing servants, anointed by the Holy Spirit, standing by ready to do His bidding.

Every believer has had a similar anointing, for each is indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit, but sadly those who stand by ready to do the Lord’s will, are a very small minority today.

[Zechariah 5]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough