Question: "What is the significance of the lampstand in the Bible?"
Answer: The first time we see the word lampstand in the Bible is in Exodus 25:31, as God gives detailed instructions about the golden lampstand to be placed in the tabernacle the Israelites were building. It’s interesting to note just how precise God is in explaining how He wanted the lampstand to look. Since we can be assured there are no “wasted words” in the Bible, we know each detail and specification are important for some reason.
The lampstand was to be made of pure gold, hammered out to the perfect accuracy of God’s decree (Exodus 25:31). Gold was the most valuable of all metals (Psalm 119:127; 19:10). Gold is often spoken of in terms of being “tested by fire”; the Bible compares the testing of gold with the testing of the church in 1 Peter 1:7. Out of testing, or refining, will come the true people of God (see Zechariah 13:7–9; Job 23:10). Those who withstand the “fire” will be purified (see Numbers 31:23).
The lampstand as a whole was to be fashioned as a tree with the base and center shaft representing the trunk and with three “branches” on each side. The top of the shaft and of each branch was to be made like an open almond flower; each flower held an oil lamp (Exodus 25:32, 37). There are several passages in the Bible that speak about the almond tree, which was always the first tree to blossom and bear fruit in the spring, as early as February. The apostle Paul calls Christ the “firstfruits” because Jesus was the first to rise from the dead to everlasting life, and because of His resurrection all believers will also be raised (1 Corinthians 15:20–23; Romans 8:23).
God used Aaron’s rod as a sign to the Israelites of his unique priesthood. At one time, when Aaron’s priesthood was being challenged, God caused Aaron’s rod to bud and grow ripe almonds overnight; this miracle reaffirmed that the privilege of being chosen as High Priest only came through God’s appointment (Numbers 16:3;17:10). This was a “shadow of things to come” experience that pointed to Jesus, our God-ordained, life-giving High Priest forever (Hebrews 7:21).
In the tabernacle, the lampstand was to be placed in the first section, called the Holy Place (Hebrews 9:2). The lamp was to be tended by Aaron and his sons so that its light never went out. The lampstand was to give forth light day and night (Exodus 27:20–21). The lampstand’s being the only source of light points directly to Christ as being the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5). Jesus is the “true light that gives light to everyone” (John 1:9) and the only way anyone can come to the Father (John 14:6).
Jesus also calls His church the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), not of their own doing but because Christ is abiding in the church (John 1:4–5). A Christian who is shining with the light of Christ will live a godly life (1 Peter 2:9). Scripture is overflowing with references that compare and contrast light and darkness, believer and unbeliever, right up through the book of Revelation. In Revelation 1:20 Christ says the “seven lampstands are the seven churches.” The churches of Christ are to walk in the light of God (1 John 1:7) and spread the light of the gospel so that all people will glorify God (Matthew 5:16).
There is other symbolism in the lampstand: it was made of one piece, as Christ is one with His church (Colossians 1:8); the six branches (6 being the number of man) plus the main shaft equals seven lights (7 being the number of completion)—man is only complete in Christ (John 15:5).
The most important thing to note about the lampstand is that it points to Christ, as do all the elements of the tabernacle. The Bible is from beginning to end a testimony about Christ and God’s merciful plan of redemption. Praise the Lord, He has taken His children out of the darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).