For the most part, much of matter exists in three phases: solid, liquid, and gas (vapor). On which phase does the matter exist depends mainly on the property of the material and temperature to which it is exposed. So, for example, in warm to cool weather water is liquid. In very hot weather water is gas or vapor. On the other extreme, in very cold weather, water is solid – what we call ice.
There are terms for the temperature at which matter changes from one phase to another. For example, there is the melting point, the temperature at which a solid becomes liquid. These vary depending on the material's property. So, it is that a material with a low melting point will be liquid where one with a high melting point will be still solid. Another example of these terms is flashpoints: This is defined as the temperature at which a particular organic compound gives off sufficient vapor to ignite in air when exposed to flame. If you have two different substances with two different flashpoints, the one with the lower flash point will burn before the one with the highest flash point. An excellent example of this is the wick of an oil lamp. Let us learn more about these lamps to illustrate this point.
In the past lamps where very simple utensils: it was nothing more than a small reservoir filled with oil and a wick coming out of the reservoir saturated with the oil from the reservoir. Through capillary action, the taper would draw the oil up. If you looked closely, you would notice a charred bit along the top, and sometimes it gets hard and crusty, this is like lacquer from the oils and should be trimmed up from time to time. When you light the candle wick, the small burnt bit of wick heats the oil traveling up, and the vapor ignites. The oil vapors have a lower flash point than the cotton, so they ignite before the wick does. Kerosene, for example, has an autoignition temperature of about 220 °F with a flash point of 33-36 °F and Cotton needs about 630 °F to flash. If you look closely on a candle, the wax does the same thing, you will see a space between the flame and the wick, and it is not the wax but rather the vaporized wax that is burning. To reiterate, this means the vapors – which only need 33 °F heat to ignite with a flame source - burn before the cotton can burn. So you see, as long as there is oil to burn, the cloth just acts as a wick! The wick will burn when the oil is gone, and the flame is still does burning; the cotton becomes the fuel.
We will see that there is a spiritual application to this when we study the vision in Zechariah 4. This vision is full of imagery, symbols, and meaning. Let us read it,
Zechariah 4:1 And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep.
Zechariah 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:
Zechariah 4:3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.
Zechariah 4:4 So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?
Zechariah 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.
Zechariah 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.
Zechariah 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?
Zechariah 4:14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the LORD of the whole earth.
This vision is an obvious reference to the lamps in the sanctuary. According to Leviticus 24:2, the Lord said to Moses to "Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually." We read from Ellen White writings that by the lamps is represented the word of God. The psalmist says, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105. The oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. [We see this as we read the narration as to how the Spirit is represented in the prophecy of Zechariah.] (PK 594.1; COL 408.1)
In this vision, the two olive trees which stand before God are represented as emptying the golden oil out of themselves through golden tubes into the bowl of the candlestick. From this, the lamps of the sanctuary are fed, that they may give a bright, continuous light. So, from the holy ones that stand in God's presence, His Spirit is imparted to the human instrumentalities who are consecrated to His service. (PK 594.1: COL 408.1) Then the heavenly fire, when applied, makes them burning and shining lights. Our hearts cannot reflect light until there is a vital connection with heaven; this connection is established when the Holy Spirit dwells in us. This alone can make them burn steadily with holy, unselfish love for Jesus, and for all who are the purchase of His blood. And, unless we are regularly replenished with the golden oil, the flame will die out. (TDG 98.3) If the fire of the Spirit is not burning, we then become "spiritual fuel. Ellen White explains why,
The prophet Isaiah had declared that the Lord would cleanse His people from their iniquities "by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning." The word of the Lord to Israel was, "I will turn My hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin." Isaiah 4:4; 1:25. To sin, wherever found, "our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:29. In all who submit to His power, the Spirit of God will consume sin. But if men cling to sin, they become identified with it. Then the glory of God, which destroys sin, must destroy them. (DA 107)
As we can see we are the wicks, and without the Holy Spirit oil we burn out. The Holy Spirit is thus a preserving agent. It is He that burns, and as long as He is present, He will burn but not us. So, spiritually we are to be "human torches" "… letting our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).