from Memorials of the Ministry of G. V. Wigram. Vol. 1.
[Notes on Scripture; Lectures and Letters.
Second Edition, Broom 1881 (First Edition 1880)]
PART THIRD. EARLIER MINISTRY, CONTINUED.
Rev. 1:1. The "revelation" (unveiling, uncovering, manifestation, as in Romans 8, "manifestation of the sons of God") "of Jesus Christ" (in this book to show the way in which He meets all God's desires in the midst of the wreck and ruin of the Church) which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass." There is a great meaning in the manifestation being especially made to the servants, this applying to those gathered out from the churches — "He that hath an ear, let him hear." There may be a difficulty in the last clause of this verse. Perhaps the meaning is, God signified by Christ to His servant John. The revelation of Jesus Christ in this book is of a different character to that which we get in the epistles. This goes beyond the scope of what is unfolded there.
Rev. 1:4. Grace and peace, not from the Father, as in the epistles, but from God in the abstract sense — self-existence, power, and eternity being the attributes implied in the thought. "From the seven Spirits," etc., source of government in connection with the earth; "from Jesus Christ," the characteristics here named, "Faithful Witness," etc., are not those of special relationship to the Church, but are more His intrinsic personal distinctions and offices, and relate to Him in the universal sphere of His dominion. John in his right place is a worshipper. "To Him who hath loved us," etc.
Rev. 1:8. He speaks of Him; he first realizes the washing from sin, which was necessary before he could be a priest. If we do not take our right place in the first thing, we are not in our right position in the second. The prodigal son would not have made a good servant in the Father's house; he must get into his place as a son. God's ways with us are all according to the glory of His Son. "All things work together for good," therefore the judgment of the churches. The very highest abstract title of God is given to Christ, "Which is, and was, and which is to come;" also the title expressive of His power, "Almighty," "Alpha, and Omega" — the "Beginning and the Ending," connected with all testimony; the Word — first and last letters of the word. "First and Last" expresses that which was in existence before the "Beginning," and continues after the "Ending." It is more connected with the eternity of Christ as God. In the addresses to the churches, it is observable that those in which there is the sense of responsibility in government, the title with which He comes to them is connected with something in His person, as the "Ancient of days;" but when there is most the expression of grace, it is connected with what lies deep in His own bosom, individual dealing; e.g. Philadelphia.
It is needful to remember that God has given all truth for me. I must be holding fast what God gives, and be keeping always in my soul the conviction that I have not got all yet. Two things are very important to remember; first, all is in Christ, therefore I cannot get it for myself; and second, all is in Christ, and I am in Him, therefore all is safe for me, and God is for us. Grace and truth have never been held together in human controversies, therefore you constantly find yourself at "Pihahiroth" — nothing but sea before you; you are conscious you cannot act out, and can do nothing.
John is surprised and alarmed at seeing Christ come to judge the churches (walking amongst the candlesticks). He had learned the truth of the heavenly calling of the Church, and was not prepared for this; therefore his anxiety. The suddenness of it was another cause. If John had had more faith and understanding of Christ's holiness. and consequently of the need to judge the churches which He had set up, he would not have been surprised or afraid. But see the condescension of Christ in meeting him just where he was. (vv. 17, 18.) His highest title, "First and Last," associated with human being, "He that liveth, and was dead." This condescension of Christ in all our difficulties is like oil upon the conscience. How little we realize it as we might! We humble ourselves perhaps, and pray about a thing, and then have five hundred anxious thoughts about those very things we have confessed or prayed about. Christ uses this terror of John at seeing Him on earth to express to him this moral truth connected with Himself. (v. 17.) When "he fell at His feet as dead," "He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death." The touch is very peculiar. One stranger does not touch another stranger; but here Christ comes, and lays His hands upon John, as much as to say, "You lay on my bosom once. I am the same." "I am He that liveth, and was dead; and am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death" — all power over hades and death. What perfect sympathy as a man associated with divine glory in this chapter! In personal experience, "I have passed through deeper waters than you, and have come up out of them," Christ would say, "and have the mastery of the unseen world — death and hades."
*This lecture, as well as one or two others, is very imperfectly reported. But though fragmentary, they have their special value, and are given to complete the series. — ED.
CHRIST sympathizes with God as well as with us; therefore He judges us according to the blessing He has bestowed on us. If Christ is the High Priest to maintain our access, etc., He opens the "thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb. 4) So here Christ has done great things for this Church, and is looking for some suitable response that God can see in her. Sympathy and warning are always associated. It is because He loves that He comes to search. He must, on the very ground of love to me, search my works now. If Christ's love is perfect towards me, He desires that when I come face to face with God, He should find my works perfect before Him; that is, walking before Him according to certain traits of character. The things done are not so important before God as the formation of character. Many things He has to repress, and one object of Christ in searching and trying is to prove His own work in us to God.
A candlestick is the medium of giving light in testimony, and it always has reference to Christ. He holds it in His hand. There is no real fruit but that which is from the tree; and there is no real light but what comes from Christ the Life. Whatever was given from Christ when here, as the Light, was always in the power of life. The light is in "earthen vessels" with us. There is no light at all in the old nature, but the new nature is the medium of testimony; Christ's nearness and Christ's upholdings are essential to testimony. Approval first, and then reproof here; man takes knowledge of works, God takes knowledge of growth as well as works. He expects us to walk with Him according to the light given. Here were works in the midst of an evil world, and in the midst of difficulty, patience, hating evil, etc., are taken knowledge of by God. There is a double meaning in coming here with praise. It is not only individual, but He is coming to see what the effect of the light is in association with Himself, and this is to be manifested to God. Trial brings out the proof of what Christ has wrought in a soul to God, and this is sometimes the reason of trial being sent. "The Lord knoweth" means, not only being cognizant, but approval. Christ has sown much, and He expects much; He loved much, and He looked for much in return for that love. "I do see a reflection of my love in their hearts, but not equal to the measure I have spent on them." "Thou hast lost thy first love." This is not so much that the object was changed, not so much singleness of motive lacking as purity of spirit in acting. Rev. 2:5. There is a difference between dealing with a people in flesh and in Spirit — His dealings with Israel, and here in Revelation. There it was through the outer man here through the inner man. Confession is to be made, but upon a different principle. We have to separate between what is flesh and what is Spirit. Truth nourishes the inner man.
Rev. 2:7. There is a double contrast in this promise to what man had at the beginning. First, man was shut out from it. Second, that was the paradise of man; this is the paradise of God. We have it in Him (by faith) who has overcome. We have not got it literally yet, because in these bodies of sin and death. There is a glory proper to the last Adam. Eating of the "tree of life" has nothing to do with fixity of state, but it is having direct access to the person of Christ, in whom I now know that I have eternal life. He will be the centre of a sphere, including the heavenly and earthly. We shall be where He is, and shall have unhindered access to Him out of whom all that scene has flowed. We shall have access to (though we shall never fathom) all the divine glories and relationships between Christ and the Father — all the fields will be open to us. The chief delight of all will be in seeing how Christ is honoured. The power of victory is in going after Christ. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith." Christ is the centre and power of testimony. He says, "I know and see each one of you, and I would cheer you up with the thought of what is mine to give in that scene which is preparing, which you shall have as overcomers." It is a solemn thought that God does care for testimony. He that hath an ear, let him hear."
THE peculiarity of the Church of Smyrna is that it preserved its character before God. There is something very blessed in the state indicated. The end signifies that they would be able to go through death for Christ's sake; and therefore the promise is that they should not be "hurt of the second death," but have "a crown of life." The character in which Christ comes to them is remarkably blessed. There is none so high as that of the "First and the Last," because it is that which is connected with the person of the Lord. His title of Alpha and Omega is connected with testimony, the expression of the Word which was "made flesh," etc. The "Beginning and the Ending;" is connected with His human character; but the "First and the Last" implies something before there was a beginning, and after there is an ending. Christ comes to this Church in this divine character, the "First and the Last," because the Church is looked at as divine. The heavenly character of the Church is another thing, contrasted with the earthly dealing with the Jews not brought out until Christ has taken His place at God's right hand. There is another thing also connected with this. The Church is more than heavenly, it is divine — the mystery, His body — and it shows forth thus what Christ has been. It is a brighter thing to be able to say, "I am a member of His body," than to say, "I am of the heavenlies." So here Christ as the "First and the Last" connects Himself with the Church as Son of God.
The Church in the glory that is to come will have all the glories of Christ laid open to her. There will be no distinction between Christ and God,* for it is the "throne of God and the Lamb." All the glories, all the relations between them, will be open to the Church, for she is with Him there as His bride.
*This statement is left, but it may be questioned if it is scripturally correct, — ED.
The earthly people who behold Jehovah in the temple will not know the Lord as Bridegroom in the heavens, which is a higher thing. The Smyrnian Church is recognized as in a position to see the blessedness of this, and thus the character in which Christ comes to them is perfectly moral and spiritual. They were brought into sorrow, humiliation, but they are in a state capable of having sympathy with the mind of Christ. Taste for truth depends upon the state of your own soul. There are some states in which the circumstances connected with Christ take most hold of the soul, and others in which the person of Christ has most attraction. The calibre of a person's soul may be, known by what he most delights in of Christ. The Laodicean state of the Church is met by the promise of sitting on Christ's throne to those who overcome. Christ speaks of Himself to John as the "First and the Last," who was dead but alive; so here to Smyrna. What was comfort to John would be comfort to them. There is an answer in the person of Christ to all the circumstances. There might be many an aching heart in Smyrna breaking about the state of things; but it would be great comfort to the saints to realize, whatever circumstances they are in, "Christ has passed through it all before." Look at Christ's humiliation! And Paul, in all his tribulations, could always say, "Christ went lower down than this, and He could always commit Himself to God as to a 'faithful Creator.'"
There are other things in which Christ's sympathy was expressed in a different way. Christ never sinned, never had a fretful will, etc., but He tasted all the bitterness of its judgment when He bore our sins upon the cross. I must realize the cross to understand His sympathy in this. It was when He passed through death for it, and now He can say, "I am He which was dead but am alive." In coming to the church at Ephesus, the Lord was coveting fruit from them. It was a thing He desired to find. To Smyrna He says, "I know thy works;" and what follows? There was what God saw in them, and what Satan could see in them — "tribulation, poverty (but thou art rich)." The saint is often most spiritual when in the most humbling circumstances, and the reverse. When David was on the top of the tree, his will was breaking out; never was he so near God as in his adversity. We ought to be able to pass through prosperity without loss, being instructed, like Paul, "to be full and to be empty, to abound, to suffer need." Paul goes right through to the end of his course, and the end was lost in brightness. We should look to be able to do so too; but generally it is easier to go through the afflictions, tribulations, etc., with the soul right with God, than through prosperity.
"I know the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and are not." Here is the old tale again at Smyrna. Profession without reality — saying they are Jews when they are not so — and the effect of their wishing to get a place brings in trial for Smyrna. If a person begins doing things for his own honour, professing it to be for God, it will be sure to end in casting off God altogether. If he begins with God, he will end with God. We have need to be jealous over ourselves, whether what we hang outside be according to the expression inside. The spiritual energy of Paul was such that what came outside was what was within, and nothing more came out than was inside. Walking with God is the only safeguard of a saved sinner. The great thing is to walk in the same Spirit as Christ walked;. and He, said, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me." Take God's will and suffer in it, that is the happy way. The most precious part of Paul's service was in suffering, not in doing. So also Christ's when He went to the cross. Those who are seen by no one, but suffering God's will, may be doing much more than where there is much to attract with "see here or see there."
The contrast in verse 10, is between the ten days' tribulation and the "crown of life;" the second death has no power over the overcomer. The Scripture is very much handled according to the state of mind a person is in. Some would dwell upon the "ten days." Then the Lord would have them see they are little compared with the "crown of life" at the end — "Our light affliction which is but for a moment," etc. You may have got all this tribulation, affliction, etc., and they are as a crucible. What effect has the crucible on you? If you are dwelling on the things, you will find the crucible affect you much; but if your mind is on what is beyond, you will pass easily through it. Observe, God measures things by days, months, years; there is a limitation. How many? Only "ten days." "Hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther." What are they contrasted with? The "crown of life." Suffering here is connected with the outshining of the life. Look at Christ; "He endured the cross, despising the shame," etc.; but what glory is like His? It is one thing to have life, and another thing to be marked there, having the crown of life. The contrast in Hebrews 12:4, 5, is between the little afflictions of the Hebrews and the great afflictions of Christ. We think much of a little suffering; but if it cripples my fleshly energy, breaks my will, and in the glory I have a crown of life, I may rejoice in it. We must remember, too, that flesh takes hold of suffering as well as doing. If doing is the expression of self-will, it is out of place; but if God is sending it me, and I bow down to His will and suffer it, that is another thing.
"Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." There is a curtain hanging before you in your path; come up to that, and you will see the end. "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." That is in danger of being clouded by our carnal thoughts; but the sense of it is, "Do not be afraid of death; the second death cannot touch you." If your soul goes out of your body by their taking away your life, they cannot take the spirit out of your soul. "Overcomers" is the character of all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." Who is he that overcometh but he that believeth that Jesus is the Christ? The gospel is a gospel of life, not strivings. The character of these Smymese is peculiarly beautiful; they are a set of pilgrims — Nazarites cast out. They could not say, "The temple of the Lord are we." They are in affliction, and the Lord's words would flow out from Him for their comfort. We can never remember too much as regards testimony for whom the testimony is, and to whom it is; and the thought that God. is the Judge of. all that is done is the great comfort. I have no doubt that we shall find, as things advance (and perhaps days of persecution may come), that the real bond of union will be willingness to do God's will independent of measures of light. Unity in the Spirit is the great power of fellowship. It is often heart-breaking to look round and see how little one can really do now; but it is our comfort to find little things owned by God; as in Zechariah, the people who took up the first thing that came to hand and did it were approved, while those who would do some great thing were turned away.
As before observed, we find a remarkable harmony between the character in which Christ comes to address these churches, and the promises given to them. In the epistles of Paul we notice, that when the state of the Church is low the higher subjects cannot be introduced to them, and when they are in a higher state they do not need the lower points so especially. In the epistle to the Hebrews, who were in danger of going back to ordinances, offering bullocks, etc., all the official titles of Christ are brought out; while in the epistle to the Ephesians we have the truths connected with the Church, the helpmeet for Christ, the sharer of redemption-glory, as Eve was to share with Adam all his glory and dominion. To this Church at Pergamos Christ comes in an official character. (v. 12. See also Rev. 1:16.) That which proceeds out of His mouth is the "sharp sword with two edges." The word is the detective power of God to deal with evil. There will be no need of the sword to cut in heaven. Now God comes into the circumstances, and makes everything bare by His word; He lets nothing pass. (Heb. 4) This is not needed in heaven. In the passage referring to the word in Hebrews 4, Christians are apt to get hold of the lower part only; and this is likely to have a false effect, because if I think only of the sympathies of Christ as consolation for me in my weakness it strengthens my weakness; but if I see that He sympathizes with God, is full of zeal for God, and brings God's light to me, and in view of that, shows me my wrong motives, lifts me up into God's light, coming down to me in my need, putting His hand under me to help me, I am strengthened in God's way. Christ is zealous for God, and so zealous for me. The word is the perfect expression of the divine mind, and Christ sympathizes with all that is new in us, not with what is of the old nature. He had to do with that on the cross, when He bore our sins; but now He bears up whatever is pure to God.
Christ comes to the Church at Pergamos as having the "sword with two edges," an implement discerning and penetrating all. It is not in days of quietness and ease that Christ's sympathy is most realized. Here were some bruised under Satan's power; but Christ could not stand by and not take knowledge of it. And He lets them know it too. Christ's sympathies are engaged for those surrounded with evil while He is in opposition to it. (v. 13.) "Holding fast His name" is noticed by Christ. It is communion with Christ cultivated in the midst of the sorrow. "Hold fast" means treasuring up. (v. 14.) This is very solemn. It is not positive sanction of the evil, but allowing it by being present, and not protesting against it.
There is a farther thing in the Church at Thyatira, where Jezebel is teaching. If an assembly take the position of covering over evil it is like this (v. 14), and it shows the want of power of life. There is a contrast between Balaam and Jezebel. Balaam was the last prophet to the Gentiles. He prophesied truth, for he could not help it; but he sold himself for a price. Jezebel took a place amongst the people of God, and taught what she ought not to have done. Rome has no right at all to take a place over God's people; the world can have no right to triumph over the people of God. There are others in the Church of God who have a gift, and are selling themselves for a price, like Balaam. Suppose a person having a gift, and being a man of God besides, a price having drawn him aside, he is drawn out of his place by the gift; he tampers with the world and with consciences, and so gets those to whom he ministers into a place which needs to be judged by God.
Babylon signifies confusion, mingling with the world what God has given from heaven. The doctrine of the Nicolaitanes is not known, and probably we are kept in ignorance of what it is to keep the conscience alive. The churches present a state not true fully now; but there are assemblies of saints to whom in their corporate position the word may be applied: "He that hath an ear, let him hear," etc. (v. 17.) They were in a state here to need the sword, the use of which was to break bands as well as to strengthen and nourish that which was good.
The promise (v. 17) is a very blessed one, and in its harmony with the office in which Christ comes to address them. There is hidden glory connected with the "sharp sword" — the word, and here the thing promised is what is hidden from the eye of man, but gathered up to be God's delight. The manna was food given to the people in the wilderness. When it fell they said, What is it (manna)? Food unsearchable and past finding out. Christ, as manna, is food for the wilderness, not Christ in every relationship. The manna could not be kept without stinking — it bred worms when they laid it up. This may be significant of Christ, the manna for His people 6,000 years, but in the seventh thousand there will be no manna because He will be personally present to feed His people. Individually, communion now brings all in Him as the answer to our hungering in the desert, which is a very different thing to having in ourselves store — old stores put by to feed on. This is the hidden manna spoken of, that which God has. God was so pleased with His provision for His people, that He would have a memorial of it, and directed a pot of manna to be laid up before Him in the ark. God's delight in what Christ has been, as the food of His people in the wilderness, we shall know, as though God said, "I delight in what Christ has done, and you shall taste of my delight" — in the manna. God will share His delight with us. God would have us occupied with His own joy in Christ, but this is what we come so short in. "I will give him to eat of the hidden manna." Christ Himself will do it, just as if Aaron had taken the people to look into the ark where the manna was laid up. He has overcome and sat down, and He will give us to share with Him as overcomers.
"I will give him a white stone." This is an allusion to the ancient custom of making an election by giving the white stone. "And in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." It was the custom of monarchs, not only to give fancy names to their favourites, but names the meaning of which was only known to themselves, the explanation being only given to the one who received it. So when Christ gives a name, He knows it, and the one who receives it knows it. Christ gave names to His disciples — Cephas, a stone; and Boanerges, sons of thunder; and it would seem that the name given to the overcomer here spoken of would bring out to the remembrance of him who has it what his character had been here. Jacob, the supplanter, would be no more called by that name, but prince with God; this new name being the expression of God's grace in his change of character. I know who this prince with God is, he is one who was tricking and deceiving all his life; but he had to learn to come to the end of himself, and then God triumphed over it all. All the Scripture names have a meaning. The name of Jesus — Saviour — how precious that name will be to us in the glory! The Saviour Jah will be ever remembered as the One who served God by letting the glory of redemption in, and served us by saving us from our sins.
The word is precious to God. We have it not only as judging, but as nourishment for His people, and not only so, but God's own delight in Christ. There are two precious things for us to rejoice in. First, God's all-searching eye upon us, having all circumstances purified out, so that we can stand before God in glory; and secondly, nothing is hidden from the overcomers; the ark with the manna, all open to them, and individually they are able to taste God's delight in Christ.
THE three first addresses end with promise. The four last with exhortations. This is doubtless significant. The three first churches have the cheering word last, and the four last have the cheering word first, and the warning afterwards. In verse 18, we have the Lord coming to Thyatira as the Son of God, who had "His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet like unto fine brass." The glory of the Lord is the prominent feature in the character in which He comes to them. The range is peculiarly large in this address, beginning with the Son of God, and ending with His rule over the nations (Rev. 2:27) — the range of His government.
The hope of the Church is Christ as the "Morning Star." It is quite different to be looking to see the Morning Star, and to possess Him. The overcomer will share all with Him, and more than that, he will possess the Morning Star Himself. The character in which Christ comes to the church of Pergamos, and that to this church, is connected. The sharp sword is sometimes the "eyes of the Lord," and when separated there is something to be remarked. The sword is never in heaven, but the eyes of the Lord are.
The sword, as in Heb. 4, implies something that needs putting away when He comes down from heaven to earth. It is the High-Priest's work for our blessing. The "eyes of fire" have to do with the person of the Lord, and relate to intelligence belonging to Himself alone. The bride who shares His glory will be able to look round on all the heavenly and all the earthly glory, but not to understand it all. Although she is with Christ, He has something more than she has. Though there will be communion, there is in Him the enjoyment of something entirely beyond her. "Feet like unto fine brass;" the feet are more connected with service than the eyes — "feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace," which signifies that if the heart is full of peace, the walk of such a person is marked by it. "Fine brass." The brass of those days was peculiarly fresh, and bright as gold, and adapted for all kinds of uses, and signifies here a readiness for all sorts of work. People often limit Christ's service to His humiliation, but this is not true. He is serving us now, and He will hold the servants of God in the glory. He not only loosed the bands of things down here, and can say to God, "Satan put Me to death, but I have risen up over him," but He will shortly be able to say, "I have destroyed the usurper." He will take the earth into His dominion, for He has bought the globe. He has done the work of Servant in the past; He is serving us now, and He will serve in the glory. If He is in service as the High Priest, it is as anointed with oil and sprinkled with blood, ready for all service here, and He does it all in the glory of His own Person as Son of God.
If Christ planted a Church, and cared for God's glory, He must come and seek for fruit from it; and if He cared for man, He must desire them to produce fruit. Therefore He comes to see their state. People often get the thought of not liking to be judged; but it is a wrong thought. If I were a father, I should not like my child to think that I did not care about his love, or was indifferent to his little offerings. There was nothing like the joy Christ had in serving. His delight was to do the will of His Father, and He would have us know it too.
"I know thy works, and charity," etc. Some future time we may dwell on that word "charity," which is very peculiar. It is that salt by which goodness can flow out in spite of evil. How little our hearts are exercised by the nice discernment of the Lord, which is so distinctive here in connection with the churches! Each word has a meaning, and how He reckons up what He can find in them!
Rev. 2:20. The evil here is Jezebel in contrast with that in the last Church — "Balaam." In reading any history of the Church, such as Mosheim, two things strike one. First, we find persons who have no right to touch the things of God, but have done it; and second, there are those who had power, and sold it for a price, as Balaam did. It cuts an immense knot when we see this. Constantine got into the place of power on earth, and usurped power in the Church. This brought in Jezebel evil. The other is also constantly the case — persons who profess to own the Holy Ghost, and going about from place to place using their power to get a place, and lowering the truths they profess to hold. A doctor of divinity pays a price to take his place. This opens the door to all kinds of worldliness. Archbishop Leighton's heart was free from the world, and it was quite against his will to take a place in the Church; and therefore when he got into it he could preach against the world, and in the end he died at an inn. But the usual effect of taking a place in the world in connection with God's truth is "fornication," which with us is not worshipping stocks and stones, as with the Corinthians, but tampering with the world. It is a breach of the position in which we are set, if we patronize the world while professing delight in the things of the Father and the Son; and it becomes adultery.
Rev. 2:21: "I gave her space to repent." This seems strange to us; but so precious to Christ was the light in which Jezebel was set, that He gave her space to repent. "I will cast her into a bed." (v. 22.) This means laying aside — bedridden. It is important to notice that there are children who propagated what was false before God. To herself He says, "Repent," but of the children, "I will kill them with death;" and to the Church He says, "I have something against you for permitting, this evil." This searching the heart is very solemn. If a man is doing evil he will not come to the light; if he is doing good he comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3) But having come there is another thing. We have God's searchings then. Has it ever been a comfort to you that Christ searches the heart and reins? that there is not a single thing but what God sees? "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it? I, the Lord," etc. The reins are the seat of intelligence, and there is not one single thing that is hidden from His eyes. If I have been looking into my heart, I have found it utterly inexplicable to myself. True, I ought not to have looked for it; for I should have known that it is inexplicable. But whatever comes out, it is the greatest comfort to know that He knew what was inside before. What comes out must have been inside first. You cannot bear God's searchings until you know that He is love; and you cannot bear them till you know the eternity of His love, the completeness of His love. Though He knows all that is in me, He gives me to be the object of His service, and He gives me glory. Christ knows not only what I am, but what He was here. Can you be satisfied to be nothing? Is your heart never set on fire (because not in Christ's presence) when another is unkind to you? What He was down here was the "despised and rejected" One. No works done to Him pass without His notice. There are works ordained before the foundation of the world that we should walk in them every day, and the energy to sustain us in them is faith. If in the simplicity of my soul I look up to God and say, "What wilt thou have me to do?" I find He says, "Pure religion and undefiled, before God and the Father, is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their. affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world;" and for this there is both present and future reward.
Christ will take knowledge of all. "Hold fast till I come." (Rev. 2:25.) I should like to speak a little on the three things connected with the encouragement to this Church. Power over the nations," etc., is promised to the overcomers. The overcoming, as we have seen before, is believing that Jesus is the Christ.* There may, in a certain sense, be victory, having faith in Christ for life without the works being kept, but it is very sad when it is so only. See the contrast between Abraham and Lot. Abraham had the opportunity to return to the country whence he came out, but he would not return. But Lot chose the well-watered plain, clinging to a bit of straw. There is such a thing as works being burnt with fire. God would have us laden with fruit, and so stand before Him. Christ has for His reward "power over the nations," to "rule them with a rod of iron." He gives us both, but something more. When Christ wishes to show His love He makes me something to God; when God wishes to show His love He makes me something to Christ.
*The reader will note this interpretation throughout; but overcoming in the sphere of the Church would seem to be rather separation from the evil indicated. — ED.
"Even as I have received of my Father." What He has from the Father He shares with us. Is He a King and a Priest? He has made us kings and priests. Here He takes up the two spheres over which He will reign. Consider this in connection with men's thoughts about an earthly reign. Men say, "We do not want an earthly reign." Men may have their carnal thoughts about it, but it is true that what the Father has given to Christ you will have, whether as now rejected by the world, or coming again in power and glory. Christ says, "Even as I have received of my Father." That was the precious thing to Him — receiving of the Father. Judgment and rule are part of that. The stone will fall upon the nations and break them to pieces; but those who are upon the Stone are not broken. If Lot could have realized a fortnight before that the brimstone and fire were coming down from heaven, he would not have felt about Sodom as he did. If we have right thoughts about the judgment that is coming on the world shortly, we shall not wish to be mixed up with it. It is an old saying of Rutherford's, "The rooks will not rest when a forest is doomed" — they quit the trees; so the people of God, when they see the world is going to be burnt up, will get out of it as quickly as they can.
In this promise of power there is real gospel; it was joy to Adam and Eve in Eden that God should raise up a power against the evil. The power of God coming in through redemption is the real gospel, and rejoices the heart. Our association with the power has this joy in it, that it is power to overthrow only that which is evil. I cannot desire Satan's power. It is really a good thing that God should say, "I will not let Satan have his own way, and I will come and sweep away everything that is hostile to Me." You take care you do not go down with that. Christ is calling on us to do now what He has to do hereafter. Keep clear of all the evil. The next thing is association with Himself, and we would desire association with Him in everything. Lastly, He will sweep out all that is against Him, and cause evil to make way for the good; this is not only the destruction of evil.
"I will give him the morning star." I do not agree with some in thinking this means the position of Christ as He is now. It is not characteristic of the glory of Christ as now sitting on the Father's throne, but as leaving it, and entering the Father's house. Directly He leaves the Father's throne the language of the Bride will be, "I must go up to meet Him," and immediately we rise up with Him. The "morning star" is that which precedes the day. Looking for and possessing the "morning star" are different, just as our feeding now on Christ as the manna, and eating of the hidden manna, are two different things. You ought to be able to respond to His joy when He says, "Rise up and come away." Now the time is come for the answer of all those expectations you have had all those years, while people have been saying, "Oh, no! He will not come yet." Christ has a joy in prospect, and He says, "I will let you into my joy of coming to take you., I will give him the morning star." It is one thing to say, "Christ is rising up from the Father's throne," and another to say, "I know His joy in rising up. The wilderness is all passed, and I shall now rise to His Father's house."
This solemn word, "He that hath an ear," is addressed to individuals in the presence of that which is just about to be spued out of Christ's mouth. Its solemnity is enhanced on that account, whilst it is the challenge of love to the hearts of the faithful ones.
THE titles under which the Lord presents Himself to this Church, in the first verse, are these: "He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." We find the Spirit of God spoken of in other places as the eyes of the Lord that run to and fro throughout the earth. These, and the expression "seven Spirits before the throne," are connected with power and execution. It is not the Spirit as the Comforter, but as having power to execute God's will on the earth. The "seven stars" are not power, but light. The star gives light in the night — a candle is for the darkness. God has always had a candlestick, or candlesticks (according to the circumstances), in the temple, or in His dealings in this period. A light is set up in the place it is wanted in — in the midst of darkness. There is a solemn thought here, because the "seven stars" are connected with what the candlestick is at the beginning. God chose the nation of Israel to show what a wonderful God, what a wonderful Being He was. All the nations were to see by them what God was. What did Israel do? They made a golden calf directly. Just so has each piece of light failed; priests, judges, kings, and prophets, all failed until at last the great Light came, and in such a state were the people of Israel, that they went and asked a Gentile for leave to put Him to death, who had been shining in the midst of their darkness. Then the Lord Jesus, who was crucified, but raised up to sit at the right hand of God, must have a testimony. His heart is towards the earth, and He must have a testimony on it. This question about a candlestick does not bear upon Rome, etc., but upon what God has set up Himself. But where is it now? God has a testimony elsewhere; but that does not alter the solemn fact, that these emblems which He set up are confessedly all gone.
There is one thing very important to notice in reading all these epistles, and it is very prominent here. To be saved, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and made an heir of glory, is one thing; but to bear testimony for Him in the world is another. It is quite certain that what He did before the foundation of the world I cannot lose in time; but my faithfulness or unfaithfulness will tell its own tale in the glory. The Church and a Church are two very distinct things. Constantine was the first who brought in the thought of the visible and the invisible Church. The Romish Church under the Pope, and the Greek Church under its patriarch, are each something standing in the world, and recognized as an instrument of government, an implement of political power. Napoleon felt he must have the patronage of religion of some kind, thus confessing that man could not be governed without religion, and therefore it was a thing to be supported. This brought in the thought of the visible and the invisible Church. The child of God has both now, though the candlesticks have failed. If a ray of light from God has shone down into my heart (an heavenly light shining from the face of Jesus Christ to a poor sinner gives him life for eternity), God says, "You are mine; mine in the place where you found this light; mine in the place where you are in the wilderness; mine in the counsels of eternity for glory and the Father's house."
One of the fallacies of the human mind, observe, is to argue thus: "I am chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world. I am born of God. I am washed, justified, and sanctified. I have everything; do not talk to me about testimony." But will that satisfy God? No. "From the day you are mine," God says, "you are associated with Me, and you cannot shake off association with Me. You are brought into company with. the living God." The object put before me by Him is to live Christ; and if there is not fruit-bearing, there is sure to be some uncertainty in the soul somewhere. I never met with one but what this was the case. You may hedge up the uncertainty; but it will break out somewhere else. The jealousy of Christ's love is ever watching for some expression of His love to me, to flow out from me. A person cannot walk with God, without feeling the need of giving — rendering back to God; and therefore there must be uncertainty in a person's soul if there is not fruit-bearing. Whether there are candlesticks or not, it is quite plain you have to be a light-bearer. God holds you responsible for the light He has given you, though the candlestick is removed.
With regard to God's dealings with man from the beginning, we find man has always lost what God has given. In the garden of Eden it was found there was nothing to hope for but the Seed of the woman. Afterwards the corruption of man was so great, that God must send the deluge, and only one family was saved. Then Abraham was called out; then a kingdom was set up, and that does not stand; then it is given to the Gentiles, they fail in their responsibility, and then Christ comes. When He comes again we find that all these things in which man failed will be taken up afresh. The paradise will be the paradise of God. The government of Israel and of the nations will be in the hands of the Lord Christ. God did put the testimony into the hands of churches — the churches failed, but that does not destroy the responsibility of individual testimony. There is something beyond; viz., the hearing ear, and the victorious power, even faith in the Son; and just when the whole thing fails, these blessings, which have an eternal character in them, come out to light. When anything has failed, God has always showed His eternal purpose through it all. He had not done with man, and He always gathered up a remnant. There were the twelve apostles, and the one hundred and twenty witnesses for Christ. It will be for loss to a soul eternally before God if there is not faithfulness to Him.
"Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain." I may be wrong in making the application, but I believe this has a most emphatic bearing on what in the present day is called Protestantism. Works wanting according to the profession everywhere.
Rev. 3:3. The spring of their blessing was hearing from Himself, "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard." What a contrast is here alluded to, as to Christ's coming, with the language of the bride. (Rev. 22) Instead of coming as the expected One, He comes and takes them by surprise. Everything we do may be tried by the power of its amalgamating with the hope of the Lord Jesus' return. If the saint is really occupied with the thought of the Lord Jesus rising up from the Father's throne, everything we are doing will be tested by it. I am one of the espoused virgins, and I have to live as one who will be with the heavenly Bridegroom. Whenever I can say, "I am doing this thing for the Lord," I shall not be ashamed of it. The expectation of the Lord has a certain moral character in it, because it is that which tells of my taste of His love. Christ's leaving the Father's throne to enter the Father's house is the great expression of His love to me; and if I really walk in the enjoyment of His love, I shall not like to be doing anything which does not tell of His love. Whatever I do will harmonize with His love. There is one difficulty people make about being ashamed. (1 John 2:28.) They say, "How can we be ashamed when in the glory, and perfectly conformed to Him?" But how can I reconcile Christ's suffering in sympathy now with His people down here? for though we know He is past suffering, we cannot doubt the fact of His sympathy with His members in all their wilderness path.
Rev. 3:4. Promise of white robes. Every one else may be spotted around, but I have a clean one. I have one on — having on Christ; but what is this distinctive mark? Will not all be white? Ah! but He says, "They shall walk with He in white." This is the expression of perfect approval of them in the glory; it recognizes them as keeping themselves unspotted now in the wilderness. . . .
Think of the Lord Jesus pointing out to one of us, and saying, "You gave me a cup of cold water; you visited me in prison" etc. This shows the uncommon largeness of God's grace to us in not only recognizing the whole, but those special little acts of service done to Christ. In it all we trace marks of Christ's sympathy with God's divine glory and His people's blessing. "You thought that because I had given you a white robe you ought to walk clean; I will make it manifest before all." The question is not only about ourselves getting the blessing, but of Christ's love being shown out in the expectation of His coming.
"He that overcometh." Does a person then say, "If I do not overcome, shall I not get the blessing?" I would only say to such an one, "If all you are doing is for yourself, take care." If a timid person says, "I shall never be able to get it; for I am always failing," I would ask, "Do you want to meet God's mind? or do you want to get it for yourself?" I do not get any mark as to one who is fainthearted, but only of one who has faith. I get wrong here, and fail there; but, after all, this faith in Christ will overcome; and it is not I who overcome either, but He who has sat down on the right hand of God; He has won the victory for me.
"I will not blot out His name out of the book of life." Mark, there are two books of life — the book of the living, and the book of the life of the Lamb slain, etc.; the book of the testimony,* and a book recording salvation. There are many at different times (at such a crisis, for example, as the Reformation) who have begun faithfully to witness for Christ, but who have gone away just at the end. There was Cranmer in England, and many in Germany and elsewhere; their names were blotted out as to the place of testimony. This applies not only in a great crisis, such as that spoken of, but at any time that testimony is going on. It does not signify how feeble the service is. That has nothing to do with testimony. Paul asked the weakest for their prayers. It is never a question of what the service is, but of faithfulness to Christ. (v. 5.)
*Some would prefer to interpret this as a book of profession. — ED.
Many of the promises have a moral and spiritual application now as well as future. Christ gives tokens of His favour now as well as in the glory, and makes it manifest. Many persons, and godly persons too, are apt to bring down what is divine and heavenly to what is earthly. If I look to myself to, bear testimony I shall certainly fail, and not bear fruit; but if I look to God to bear testimony through me that is another thing. He says, "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine," etc. When Christ came into the world, the effort to do God's will was the power to recognize God's ways and actings. So Luther was seeking with prayers and fastings to please God when he found in the Prayer Book the expression, "Communion of saints," which set his soul on fire, and he heard from a poor man the pardon of sins, which he could not forget. Into whose heart did these truths come? To the man who was ready to do God's will at whatever cost. Two things are needed — readiness to do God's will, and intelligence about the way of doing it. If a person is not bearing fruit he has not these. Sometimes there is the will; but you have to wait God's time for the light to know what to do.
Is your life formed on this: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" It is a most solemn question, connected with fruit-bearing, whether you are living to God in the wilderness, a place which God uses for the showing forth of the grace of Christ.
THE titles under which the Lord presents Himself to this Church are these: "He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth." There is something very remarkable in the address to Philadelphia. The very name is full of blessing — brotherly love. Thus the Lord's condescension in calling us "brethren" down here in the wilderness is called to remembrance. The characteristic traits of the Lord Jesus brought out here, too, are very precious. The divine fulness in Christ is always the same, but the flowing out of it depends very much on the state of the people to whom it flows. We find the truth ministered to the church of Galatia is very different to that given to Ephesus. The apostle would have been straitened in himself if he had attempted to speak for God to the Galatians as he spoke to the Ephesians. The Ephesians were in a very blessed state, and ready for the highest truth connected with the Lord Jesus. It is the same difference in Philadelphia and Laodicea. He addresses the people of His love under a different title to those who are in a lukewarm state.
It is important to rest a little on the first title and insignia. Title is connected with what He is in Himself; insignia relate to office. There are some permanent offices, and some which pass away with the occasion for which they are used. "He that hath the sword with two edges" is an office implying something to be put down, some evil which can only be here. The eyes like unto a flame of fire are connected with His eternal office to the Church in glory; divine intelligence belonging to the Lord Jesus. "He that is holy." Let us rest on this, perfect holiness is connected with the Lord Jesus. We are accounted holy, as being in Him. Our abstract ideas of holiness are very imperfect, but there is another thing; viz., the word holiness conveys a different thought to different persons, according to what they are themselves. If I speak to a sinner by the wayside, and say, "God is holy," "Yes;" but he will say, "He is merciful too." He has no thought connected with holiness but severity. To a young Christian, if I speak of holiness, he will say, "How difficult it is to be holy!" An older and established saint will say, "Aye, but I have been separated to God by the truth, and I ought to keep myself separate." "Be ye holy, for I am holy." The father in Christ will see even differently to this — he will see something peculiar in God's character as to holiness, he will see what is beautiful in the essential character of God, and will be able to say, That is just what I want."
Holiness is the essential character, not an attribute, of God. Christ says here, "He that is holy." When I come to God, I see in Him certain attributes — power, wisdom, intelligence, and I find those things existed in God before redemption was unfolded. At one time He is finding out knowledge of witty inventions, in creating a world; at another, by the foolishness of preaching, saving them that believe. But there is something higher up than any of these. There are three kingdoms — Creation, Providence, and Redemption. God set up creation as the Creator; but there was no expression of mercy there. He was pleased to see creatures capable of enjoyment. There was goodness in exercise, but no mercy. In providence you see the power of God, and the wisdom of God; but if you merely look at providence for mercy, you see it limited to present things, and it is irrespective of responsibility. But God's mercy in redemption is connected with eternity. The high spring is in God, flowing down to something beneath Him. But when you get up to the divine glory, and see how it became Him: for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings, you see how it was possible for One who was perfectly holy to take up such things as we are. There was nothing between the garden of Eden and the pavement of hell, as it were, if God had not brought in mercy. He comes and shows how He could pick up the victims, fillet the flowers of man's sin round His neck, and take up the one who is fit for nothing but a hot place in hell, and give him a place in heaven, to share all the glories of His Son. That God could have nothing to say to His Son, when in the place of the sinner, cuts the whole question of the magnitude of man's sin. That you who are shut out of Eden should be made to share all the glories of God's Son, could never have entered a created mind. In bringing in mercy, God re-arranged everything in heaven and in earth. The only thing that suits the sinner is mercy, and yet it is the last thing the sinner takes hold of. God's holiness is more shown in mercy than in anything, and therefore nothing is so precious to the child of God (a father in Christ nearing his rest), as the character of God's holiness. Weigh in your minds what your thoughts of God's holiness are. It is a word that has scared many, but it is a word of blessing and power, when one really sees how it embodies that special trait in God's character — mercy. Christ was standing here in relation to this little militant remnant, not only as having the understanding of this character, but in the circumstances where this holy separation to God is needed; and He comes as such to associate them with Himself, sweeping out all that would not bear the light.
"He that is true." Here is another characteristic of the Lord Jesus. The two words, faithful and true, are similar; "true" means much the same as truthfulness. The truth was not embodied in any of God's manifestations to man until Christ came. A ray of light came down (e.g. Noah, Abraham, etc.); but we could not say that God came down then, or in the giving of the law, to call back man to the knowledge of what God required; but when God's Son came into the world, there was the full manifestation of what God was. Truth came in the person of Jesus Christ. That thought of reality when it comes into the mind is greatly connected with simplicity. It has been said of Christ, that two things were peculiar in Him — simplicity and repose: He was never hurried nor fluttered. He had one thing to do, and that was for God. There was perfect simplicity, because there was in Him only the expression of the one thing. For young people who may be puzzled what to follow amidst the maze of things around, the great thing is reality; be real, and you will be simple. There was no distortion in Christ; He was always kind to people for God's sake. Take this as a trait of Christ to follow — reality, simplicity; be real before God.
Another trait that Christ takes in coming to the little band in the wilderness to separate and strengthen them from the evil around is, "He that hath the key of David;" this is one of the insignia of office. Christ had a perfectly divine and human character, and besides that, He had a variety of offices. In David we have an allusion both to Israel and the Church. Abraham was the head of the family of faith, and David also occupied a special place. God gave to him, as to Abraham, promises too big for a man upon earth to have; they were heavenly and earthly. "Key" is expressive of office; it implies power to open and shut. A stranger coming into this house would not know where to find certain treasures in it that are locked up. I have the key, and can find them. Christ says, "There is no spring for Israel except from Me. It is laid up, and none can open but Myself. I do not yet set Myself to make Israel to germinate, but I shall do it. 'I am the root and the offspring of David.'" The allusion here is connected with the hope of the Church. It is true in the most minute things that He openeth, and no man shutteth, etc. He opened the Church by Peter; He opened the door to the Gentiles. He will open the way into the Father's house, and then to Israel afterwards. He will be the Opener to blessing, and will shut out all that is contrary. He is the Opener and the Shutter. This applies to us individually now. What I have to do is to look out to see what Christ opens to me, and to do everything He gives me to do with my might. Take everything that comes under your hand, and do it. There is not a single thing little as well as great, but what is connected with the person of Christ. We have no need to be anxious, but calmly to leave things to Him. The connection of this with the testimony is important. This testimony should be near to our hearts. If you love your Father, do you not wish His honour? Do you not wish that men should know and believe that it is their fault, and not God's, if they are not saved? Two things connected with light should affect our hearts. There are two parties concerned in it — God and man. In mission societies we see value for souls the one absorbing thing with them, but there was another with Christ; it was God's value for souls and desire to save them, and we never get the right desire about the blessing of any, until we see how the glory of God is connected with their salvation. The great thing to mark from what we have seen this morning is the importance of the single eye — simplicity and reality. All responsibility rests with Him who has the key of the promises, and we have need of resting quietly on Him in simple dependence.
Rev. 3:8: "I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut, it." There is often great enlargement gained in the sense, through the change of a word - none rather than "no man." In the conflict of things here, even supposing we had to lay down our lives, no one, not even Satan himself, can overcome, for it is against Him who is stronger than he. We have looked before at verse 7, where Christ in His character, and in His insignia connected with office, is put before us. He is the Possessor of the key of the beloved one (David), the Opener and the Shutter, against whom none can prevail. It is to be remarked in this address to Philadelphia, that their circumstances are mentioned before their character. The slightest change even of this kind has a meaning, though we do not always light upon it for want of being more spiritual. Verse 8 really tells of the Lord's love to the churches. Nothing marks the low state of things more than that people often attach the thought of legality with God's looking for works. It is not so at all. The poor sinner directly he has life, will surely say, "Now I must be doing." Men in their natural state will try works, anything to save themselves, rather than having to do with a living Christ; but after trying all for a foundation, and finding all fail, at last the poor sinner lights upon Christ, and then he is in danger, from the low state of things, of tossing works overboard altogether. Christ would have us rest on His finished work, but then He desires that the life He has given should appear. If you say to Christ, "I will give you no works;" He says, "You do not care for my love." If you really cared for His love you would wish to hear Him say, "I wish for this little thing and that." It is the jealousy of His love that He cannot bear that another should be in our hearts in His place.
The first thing He takes notice of in verse 8, is peculiarly sweet in a day like this: "I have set before thee an open door: for little hast thou of strength." Israel was carried, as it were, out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, they hardly knew how. When they were out in the wilderness they had an open door before them, but they could not return to Egypt. There is the same contrast in the early and latter times with the Church. There was a time when they were seen to have the power of God with them, then they came into circumstances which try what the will is for God. In addressing this Church Christ makes them know that He keeps a little door open. He sees the use they had put the "little strength" to, they had "not denied His name." See the difference between walking with God, and walking religiously before men, and without God. Am I thinking whether the things I do will get praise from men? Paul's service was not more approved than Phoebe's might be. The question for each one is, "What has the Lord given me to do?" Faith does not set up a thing on an ordered plan, and faith will not sustain a thing so set up. In this country we see much set up, but faith has not to do with that. Remark, too, that the open door to me might be quite another thing to the open door for another. I must have a conscience towards God, and towards man, and walk with God in the path He has opened. We find constantly that God has opened one door, and we want to open another; but if God has opened one for you, and you are looking to open another, you will find Satan can shut the one you are opening for yourself. It is true for each one of us individually, in any little path of service we may have, and it is certainly true for missionaries. Christ takes notice of the "little strength." The force of the expression is, not you have a little strength (in the sense you may say to a sick person, "Now you have a little strength, only rise up and use it"), but it is, you have a little.
Another thing comes in, too, which Christianity has set aside so much. Little is the strength thou hast, but thou "hast kept my word." If God sees that in a day when His word is thought very little of, it is very precious to me; and if when His person is little honoured, it is much set upon by me, I have His signal approval. The Word and Name are together. There is a connection between the Name and the preservation of the word in purity. If a soul is seeking honey out of the word, you always find that Christ grows before the soul as of paramount importance. "Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name." All the heresies that have come into the world have always had their root in the abuse of the name of Christ. That by which God does everything is in connection with the name of His Son. Heresies soon crept into the Church; and after the apostles left the scene, instead of the authority, "thus saith the Lord," the thoughts of men were quoted. The great assault of Satan is against the person of Christ, and your safeguard is in keeping fast that name. If you are faithful to Christ He will keep you from the error that is ready to touch your soul.
Rev. 3:9. He shows them about the trial of their faith — "I will make them of the synagogue of Satan that say they are Jews, and are not," etc. There are often mistakes made on this subject; but, as Leighton said, "Gold must be tried;" and so, if God has given faith, it must be tried. If God has set this Church, there will sure to be something also set up with pretension only. God has set up something, and Satan imitates it. You say, "How am I to know which is of God? Ought it to trouble me, that I do not know?" If you do not know what you should follow, stand still and wait. God will put your heart to the test; it is not a question of intelligence, but dependence and subjection of will. Simple faith will sit down quietly and wait. If there is self-will and human energy, there will be nothing but restlessness. "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine." You may have to come to your wits' end — a very good place to come to — but God will not leave you without light. Christ is not responsible for the building of the synagogue, but He is responsible for His people's overcoming it. All the evil sweeps around Christ as the centre, and catches the evil that is in the man, and pushes what is for Christ nearer. What is not for Christ will be humbled and broken down; but what is for Him will be strengthened. Christ says, "I will not leave you until it is manifest who is on My side, and who is not." You often find people adopting after a time the very thoughts and expressions used by those they oppose, which is just a recognition of them. "I will make them of the synagogue of Satan to come and worship before thee."
Rev. 3:10: "I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation," etc. In connection with the testimony of the churches, the Lord passes on to show what they on the earth would have to pass through on the earth. There is a time coming to try them that dwell on the earth, but they are promised to be kept from it. There is a time of trouble coming; if you are willing to suffer trouble, you shall not go into it. If you are willing to yield to Me in everything — your heart above though your feet are on the earth, "I will keep you." There is a sweet word to those in trial, and who know there is nothing but trial before them, "Behold, I come quickly." It is very precious to see the connection between His people's delight in Him, and the promise of what joy they shall have in glory. What will be so sweet to you as to see Him? Well, He desires for you to see Him, and it will be an expression of His reward for your faithful service. "Behold, I come quickly." He will (live you a chaplet of victory such as He Himself has to bestow. There are different crowns spoken of — the royal crown, which all will have, and the chaplet of victory are distinct; and there are chaplets of victory in different things — running, wrestling, fighting. A man may have a dozen crowns. That in which we have been victors will stand forth to His joy and His people's in that day. Do you think of the joy it will be to Christ to see you stand forth then? You ought to think of it. He will have perfect delight in seeing His whole Church, and in seeing each believer perfect. When a painter has put the last touch upon his picture, he sees it complete, and he dare not add to it; another touch would spoil it. Not only is the joy reciprocal of the Church meeting Christ, and Christ the Church, but His joy will be the greater. The one is finite, the other infinite.
Rev. 3:12. The thought conveyed in "the pillar" is stability, in "the temple" worship. There will be no more going out; but that is not enough for Christ. He says, "I will write upon him the name of my God," etc. "I will write upon him my new name"Christ's new name! What is in the Lord's mind here, I believe, is to contrast the thought of their little strength and the little door (instead of running here and there, and doing a great deal, passive suffering, and holding fast, and not letting go) with the large sphere He would set before them." You see the evidences of what I have; now I give it you." There is one thought which in our selfishness we forget — the largeness of the expression of Christ's love in giving to us what God has given to Him. We think of the suitability of the glory to meet all our felt wants now; but as we get on as Christians we ought to be learning more of His love in desiring us to share His glory. It will be seen how in Christ was the establishment of everything connected with God's counsels in glory. It is a blessed thing to be pushed by the armies of Pharaoh out of Egypt, but it is more to have the heart opened to admire what is Christ's. Not my getting a place in glory should occupy me, not something good for me (it is that), but the largeness of the expression of God's love for Christ, and His love in not being there without giving me to share it. This is connected with the gospel of peace to my soul. Christ is on the throne at God's right hand; but He is only satisfied with that until He comes to usher His people into the Father's house. There are two points to the blessing — the end that touches God, and the end that touches me. It is a blessed thing for me to have pardon, but it is a more blessed thing that God has joy in me.
IN the very name of this church the Lord's love to His people is recalled, and there is something peculiarly sweet in this, in their time of difficulty and trial from the evil around.
My desire in mentioning a few things is not to bring out new truths, but old truth which God may use for the good of the sheep, as they go in and out — the manna for pilgrims passing through the wilderness.
In the beginning of this book (Rev. 1:3), we find a blessing connected with reading and hearing the words of this prophecy, for the servants of the Lord Jesus. In Rev. 22:6, the Lord's coming is connected with the responsibility of keeping what was written in the book. In verse 12, the effect of the coming of the Lord is regarded in the whole place where there is light — Christendom — but there is general responsibility which Christ will not let slip, because the Church is precious to Christ. Then, thirdly, Christ comes as the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning star, upon which the Bride immediately says, "Come," and He at once responds to the affection of her heart, and says, "Surely, I come quickly." First, Christ says, "Now you have a book; I have given you a book, and come to see what use you have made of it." Secondly, "I have given you light; now I come to see what use you have made of that light." Then again, as part of the Bride, are you able to say, "Come" to the Lord Himself? Is it not a remarkable thing that the book closes with this peculiar brightness, which seems to shine out in the welcome the Bride is ready to give? The book of the Apocalypse is something like a clear stream from a rock, washing through all sorts of muddy, marly, dirty soil, which turns up blacker and blacker as it goes further on, but the stream itself continues pure; and it is an uncommonly bright thing at the end to find that some are calling on the Lord to come.
After the apostles left the scene the fathers were looked up to for authority, then succeeded a period of pitch-darkness; then at the Reformation, God began to separate some for Himself by acting on their consciences; at length, after that, there have been some who can say, "I belong to no churches, but to Christ in heaven, and I am waiting for Him to come for me." This, I say, is an uncommonly bright thing amidst all the mixture that has existed.
We have seen how, in the first of these addresses to the churches, the endeavour is rather to get things right again. Afterwards it is rather to keep people out of the evil which is around them. In this church of Philadelphia it (the Spirit's word) is like a knife cutting down between the good and evil that are there. (Rev. 3:11) "Hold fast that which thou hast, that no man fake thy crown." This is worthy of notice; first, because in this church faithfulness to the word has been praised: "Thou hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name," thus recognizing that the crown is theirs, as much as the truth put into their hands. While all the divine family are recognized as crowned as kings, "we shall reign with Him," and so all have the insignia of royalty alike; there is something more, there is the diadem of victory. I may be an overcomer by faith in Christ, but be without a chaplet of victory. Saved, but works burnt up, just as Lot, dragged out of Sodom, had nothing to bring out.
There was Samson also dictating to God where he should go with the Philistines. It is a very different thing just to know that I am saved, and to have the heart of the pilgrim, rejoicing that Christ has separated me from evil, and that I can look up into His face with joy — my works approved, not so much for the quantity of them — but the little things done to Him are owned as faithful service to Him in His blessed presence. After His telling them, "I know thy works," He gives them that which was to act as a stimulus to them — "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown."
I would recall one thing here connected with the structure of these addresses. In the first three the exhortations come before the promises, and in the last four the promise is put first, and the warning afterwards. There must certainly be a spiritual meaning in it. It is not a question of whether I can say why it is, but this is very manifest, that if I went into a person's house and exhorted first, or comforted first, you would suppose I had some reason for it. Just this we can see in relation to the churches, that the lower you go down in them, the more weakness there is in them as churches; and the more there is of weakness, the more of course will consolation be felt and valued.
Rev. 3:12. "Him that overcometh," etc. This is said to those who ere already conquerors through faith in Christ. Who is he that overcometh but he that believeth that Jesus is the Christ? This is a most comforting word, as comforting as a bolted door to the poor weak pilgrim inside. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith," etc. Two things are to be remarked in this; first, the entire cutting asunder of the Church and the world — that which marks the believer is victory over the world through faith in Christ. This is a word that meets the soul, however it may have fallen. I may have sunk down to where Solomon fell, or where Peter fell. Samson, again, was not much like a victor; but if even like these, I can rest in that word, "He that overcometh is he that believeth."
But there is something more. A man walking with Christ is in all things more than conqueror through Him that loved him, How far are we overcomers in this sense? I could not say of myself, that the Holy Ghost sees me in every detail of daily life more than conqueror. I desire in everything to be a victor, first for my own sake, for there is no joy in being borne down. If I am not conqueror, I am disappointed in everything I touch. God is present at all times; but if a person does not walk with God, God must walk against him, and must break him down. Another thing why I should desire to overcome is, for God's glory. Has He sent His Son into the world to die? Has He given His Spirit to dwell in me? and am I to have no spirit becoming a son? no devotedness of heart and affection? For God's sake, then, I desire to be more than conqueror, I desire in everything to be a victor. An overcomer in Christ should be an overcomer in his walk as regards everything. The promise here given to the overcomer lets out in the details who Christ is. Is it said, "How do you know that Christ is the Son of God?" There are many things which I could not give as evidences to others, but which are very sweet to myself, as showing His right, and the power attaching to Him as Son of God. Who but He could have a right to say, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest"? It seems to me that this must either be the expression of a maniac, or of One who has infinite power to do what He promised. So here, "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, he shall go no more out," etc. He has power to make what He pleases; power to keep, and power to give away. "I will;" the acting of our blessed Lord in Matt. 11, where, like a nail in a sure place, in spite of all the failure around Him, He says, "Come unto Me," is similar to the words to these poor Philadelphians, waiting in patience in the midst of evil. In all this, we do not get a disquisition only of what was done more than eighteen hundred years ago, but it is addressed to our hearts for our daily experience. He is dealing it out to me by means of this little book as One who has an actual part in it. Has not the living Christ, who has been speaking amongst men, has not He spoken to me, and given me rest? May we judge ourselves in the light of that experience. Is not this Christ the same now He was then? And is not His promise the same to me it was to those to whom He spake then?
With Philadelphia, we see running right to the end of this string of precious pearls for His people a trait of moral glory. Christ is acting with the heart of a Brother (for He is not ashamed to call us brethren), and when He wants to express His delight in a thing, and to give His approval, He does not rest on the thing to be blessed, but brings out some of the expression of the love He has received from His Father. He says, "I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God," as though He said, "God has given me a place in the government and worship, and I shall not have it alone. I must have kings and priests with Me. I shall make you sharers with Me in it." "My God." Thus He would give you something connected with Him who is most precious to Himself. What a word that is, "Pillar in the temple of my God." The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. There is not only the thought of stability in it, but it is the memorial or record of a certain victory. The overcomer is there as the trophy of Christ's conquest. Let us pause here. It is something so different to think of glory as that for which we are struggling ourselves, from having it before us as that which Christ gives. We ought to work because of what He has done for us, and because we have such a Master. There is a big bit of selfishness in us all — I, I, I — when, as regards every end or rest, it is all Christ's. Works that please Him are not ours, but Christ's. The end to have in view is not our gain, but Christ's. The rest not ours, but Christ's.
A young Christian says a great deal of "I the good," or "I the bad;" but an old Christian says nothing at all about it; but God knows altogether what I am. He has the true measure of me, and He has measured Christ against me. "He shall go no more out;" as none can open the door, and none can bring in but Himself, so none can keep it but Him. God's delight in Christ is so great that He will bring the Church into this heavenly paradise, so far beyond what Adam ever had. He could be turned out of that, but none shall go out from this.
"I will write upon him the name of my God." There is something in this like the manna that was for the people's food, and some of it put in the ark for God. There is the communication of the character of God upon the child of God. Our thoughts run upon our being there. I shall see Christ; sit down with Him; see all that great multitude round about Him. But there is another thing, "I shall be like Him, for I shall see Him as He is." Then will be fully realized "grace for grace," spoken of in John. It will be perfected in us according to Cor. 3, "beholding with unveiled face." When I see Him face to face, when I stand before Him in glory, I shall have it all; it will be mine for Him to behold. Present this to the world, and they could not understand it. A poor sinner can understand the blessings of salvation — but as a Christian learns communion with Christ, he rejoices in this, that he will be like Him. Another thing connected with the blessing is, "I will write upon him the name of the city of my God." If God ever and anon formed the garden of Eden the tabernacle in Israel, the temple of Jerusalem, in which He appeared, they were but beggarly elements to show forth that higher, better thing to be taken possession of by God. Poor sinners saved by grace, and God Himself making them His dwelling-place. Rough stones as we are, from the quarry of nature, there can be no mistake as to the origin of our being in that scene above. Nothing but redemptive love could give you and me a place there.
The heavenly city is interesting to us by way of contrast with the earthlies. If God has to do with the earth, it begins in time; if it is in blessing in the heavenlies, it begins in the counsels of God. Everything centres in Christ the eternal Son of God; all hangs upon and grows out of one root — God's delight in His Son., and redeeming love is the means of bringing it out. There is a great comfort in knowing this, and in Christ's giving us a special place in that divine glory. "I will write upon him my new name." It was the custom, as we have before spoken of, to give a new name which others did not know. These names often had great meaning, and were connected with character. The name of "Israel" was given to that shuffling character that was always planning for himself and supplanting others, and after all was always in straits and difficulties. See him, for example, not knowing how to get over the brook Jabbok. When God had got him down to the right place, He says, "Now, if you as the creature draw from me as the Creator, I can do what I will with you, and give you the power of God." "Israel" is the new name. There are heights and depths in this new name of the Lord Jesus full of deep blessing. His person none can penetrate. One can only bow down and shelter oneself under the word, "None knoweth the Son but the Father." But as to character, not Person, we see how He puts it upon us, and makes us sharers of it. God displays His grace in different ways at different times. When Christ was down here in the position of the humbled One who had emptied Himself, the Servant going down step by step to the cross, He seemed without any glory in the eyes of men, and yet there was really nowhere that His name, His character, His glory shone out more than on the cross; but it was all between Himself and God then.
Then He rose up from the dead, ascended up on high, sat down, and there He is patiently waiting, the Church down here in patience too. It is in a most anomalous position for the Son of God to be on the throne of the Father, but He will not always be there. There is redemption glory to be manifested in. Christ, and this new name is the redemption name to be given Him, not now, but when He who was the Servant, and in Whom always was all the power, will be manifested in glory. The time is coming when He will lead the praise for the Church and for Israel. The new name is always in Scripture connected with character, not only of moral worth, but also of position. The Lord will take a new position altogether, and then He says He will put it upon us. There are two things peculiarly sweet to me — the unselfishness of heart this would lead us into, and then the joy of the Lord in. being able to look up to His God in the thoroughly unselfish joy of His heart in having us there. Think of Him looking on all around, and looking up to God to see His joy in the many sons He has brought to glory!
"He that hath an ear, let him hear." Faith is the heart having to do with God Himself, and Christ gives the challenge to the heart where He has a place. It is not so much respecting service; that may be closing, but the ear; and are there not some that have an ear? I know there are some who are thankful to have not only the ears "digged," but "bored," and thankful to have such a Master.
There is one word to add in the use of these expressions to the churches. Our using them to profit depends on our rightly dividing the word of God, not taking all the promises without the warnings, nor the warnings without the promises; they are closely connected in the mouth of the Lord Jesus. What is the hope set before us? We shall not only see, but shall bear the glory; "the name of my God," the full display of the glory of God, into which we are to be ushered, as bearing that which will distinguish us from all the other spheres of glory which will exist in that day.
There is evidently a peculiar force in the word "writing." The Church is the epistle of Christ, and you ought to be able to say, that those around you have read a little bit of Christ in you (or Christ says it for you), that they have marked that you are not like other people. But Christ is not content with that, but will have the name of His God indelibly engraven on you. You may be very little in yourself, but the glory would not be perfect without you, as the most beautiful sculpture would be marred if the smallest fragment were knocked off. When will this glory come? Will next year find us marshalled in the glory with God's name written on us? "My new name." Christ is called to patience now, to wait, and so are we; the Man of sorrows was His name then, but He will come forth as the Man of joy; this will be His new name, which will be written on His people. "If so be we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." It is the false heart of unbelief that clouds that vision of glory which God presents before our souls. It is a little while, a very little while, and only horrid unbelief of heart sends it to a distance, instead of seeing it even at the very door.
REVELATION 3:14, etc.
THERE is one thing very helpful to remember in connection with all truth; viz., that as it comes from God, man, as a creature, is unable in himself to hold it. It is a question that often escapes from our minds, that we are powerless not only as sinners but as creatures. Not only is it impossible for God to allow a single blot in His presence, but a creature as such cannot stand before God. Any created being needs to be sustained by God. This is proved in the angels, who kept not their first estate; and in the garden of Eden, when man was seen unable to stand upon his own resources. When God was not present to hold and keep him in place, being a dependent limited thing, he fell; left to himself he had no power. It will be proved again in the millennium, when a brilliant court is set up in heaven, extending its rule over the earth, while Satan is bound in the bottomless pit; but in the end, when he is loosed, and the restraint over men on earth is withdrawn, there is the following after, and taking part with Satan. No display of God could ever keep man; His power could, but He had not laid hold of the wickedness to keep it really in.
What God keeps He hides in Christ. The saved man is one chosen in Christ, and therefore the only question is whether He can keep him. It is very helpful to remember this; for it lets me down as to myself, not only as a sinner, but it also teaches that as a creature I am dependent. There must, then, be something above me, and if I am not instructed by that I shall get off my ground of dependence. God never meant from the beginning to give up the keeping; He always meant to be the keeper Himself. It is well to bear this in mind in looking at these churches, because it gives us to see where we are, and what the security of our heart is.
There is something solemn in the titles with which Christ introduces Himself here. "The Amen," the "verily," as if He would have them to know He was speaking with all deliberation and consideration. This spueing out of His mouth is a very serious thing, but he knew what He was doing. He is the "Faithful Witness," not only for man, but for God. The thought of claim is brought in here. Christ comes and claims all for God in the position in which He has placed us. In the gospel Christ not only shows what God is for us, but what He would have us to be for Himself. In speaking to the Jews:" Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart," etc., God asserts His right over man, but Paul's gospel was far beyond that. Christ loved God's purpose about the poor sinner being saved to bring fruit to Himself from them as such. He was the faithful witness for God and for man.
The "beginning of the creation of God." If Christ was the foundation for these Laodiceans to be built upon, were they who professed to be built upon the foundation like it? In the case of Paul's building it was so; but if these were not found so, they would be tested by it and rejected. Christ never counted on anything from man. He knew there was no good in him. We see this in John 13, 14. Peter said, "I will lay down my life for thy sake." Christ's answer was, "The cock shall not crow till thou hast denied me thrice."
There is much grace shining out in this address to Laodicea. People often forget that God turns things in favour of grace, instead of against it. Why has God put into man's hand this testimony of grace? Because He delighted in it. He has spent two thousand years in showing what the light is in grace. He has sent out witnesses — people to show forth what His love to man is, because He would not shut it up. Grace has been revealed, and people have had to be let down in themselves to see how unable they are to keep it. Man is brought to a dead stand in the presence of God. I see everything has been positively abused. What hope then is there for me? Well, God has not only revealed grace to man, but He is the God of grace. He has not only shown mercy, but He is the God of mercy. Adam might have said to God, "I have dropt every thing out of my hands," but then God said, "I have every thing in My hands." This is part of our moral education. He knew what use we should make of mercy, and yet permits us to trade with it; and when we come to the end of everything He says, "I am not ruined; look to Me. I have it all." So in all these different manifestations to the churches God would show us what we have in Himself.
Let us look at some of the particulars connected with this Church. Christ looks at the lukewarmness with utter disgust. Because "thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." Moderation is the outcry of men; every thing of respectable measure, the form of religiousness without any power. Christ hates this. He would rather have them dead, cold (He would then know what to do with them), if not burning hot. The happy medium, as it is called, is no pleasure to Him. Men try to mix the language of Sodom with Canaan; they would have both countries, and so break down the boundary that God is most anxious to keep up. In Roman Catholic countries Protestants are obliged to have the word of God in their hands continually, and there is consequently a great deal more vitality than in countries where there is nothing to disturb the quiet easy settling down. Nothing so hinders my having a taste of grace as having a fair outside. If I then just get a place, a good reputation for myself, and God is not glorified, I have no taste of mercy in my own soul. It is better to be broken down as a poor sinner than to have the name and character of being a saint without the living reality.
"I know thy works," God says. In this country, and in this year, there is a general feeling of satisfaction in what men call works; but Christ says, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold." When a person is really walking with God he can neither count possessions nor works. With Paul it was always upwards and onwards. When there is form without the power, people look round themselves; Paul looked round Christ.
"White raiment." These things are all the spoils of a victor; one who has conquered continually will have nothing to make him ashamed — that "the shame of thy nakedness do not appear." The eye must be upon Christ above for conquest. Christ above must be glorified.
Nothing would stand the eye of Christ, the eye of God, but what is Christ's. If there is a shred of one's own, God will mark it, and pick it out. There is an immense mass of things done — Bible distributions, missionaries, etc.; but that is bringing what is done to a human standard. How would all the machinery look in the sight of Christ rising up from the Father's throne? What is a system without a living Christ? What was it to Paul? All the hope of the Church is formed for His return. Then I am a widow until He comes; and if a widow, I cannot sit as a queen, and glory in what I have. With these Laodiceans there is complacency in the labour of their own hands — works; but after all, if God lets in the coming of the Lord Jesus upon them, they will find all that they are doing will be spued out in that day. What is the cure for all this? A word from Christ's mouth makes people wince. They do not like it; but if the eye be single, the whole body will be full of light. He says, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire." Have you the gold here spoken of? — the broken heart, all the springs in God? This is to be really rich. You have all wealth in your possession, if you are nothing before God, but are trusting in His mercy.
These Laodiceans did not know Pihahiroth (not knowing what to do, but finding it a happy place to sit down to wait for God). "White raiment, that thou mayest be clothed." There is the white robe of Christ to cover over all our own deformity, and there is the vesture wrought out, the righteousnesses of saints. We should like to have not only the perfect robe to cover us, but the recognition of what He has wrought in us. We have so to walk now, as that these things may be manifested then to be approved, being formed and fashioned by God's grace working in us. Christ would wish us to be coming home laden with the fruits of righteousness wrought in us. "Eyesalve." They were no judges themselves of what was good, and they needed eyesalve. There is something in your eye that hinders your seeing, and you need to be put upon something to cleanse your eye. A Christian may be in a perfect fog, he gets no light, and before he can get it, he has to turn towards God, and seek the glory of God. Christ presented Himself to God — "Lo I come to do thy will;" "Thy law is within my heart;" "If any man will do His will," He says, "he shall know of the doctrine."
Rev. 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Christ's patience is remarkable here. "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." You must be in Christ where all His light is upon you, or you are out of Christ, where there is no light upon you. How far is it a settled thing in our hearts, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one." If we are to be part of the letter for Christ, it must be Christ in us — anything that is good must be put in by Him. If we have learnt to say, "Sinners, of whom I am chief," we must also learn to say, "Saints, of whom I am least." This will not be making light of failure, but will give a taste of grace.
I have to do with God who sees how I have failed in everything. I have nothing to say, and then I may count upon His rich grace to meet my need.
"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." Here we see the perseverance of His love. He stands knocking to those who have got in, and do not know how to get out of the ruin. Christ says, "Let me in. If, like Peter, you have cursed and sworn, you have used all My gifts for yourself more than for my glory; still, let Me in." This is a most blessed thing. The sun will not roll its twenty-four hours without God being there, if the soul is open to receive Him.
One word as to the promises. The mind, if less spiritual, is most attracted by the lower promises. When the soul is in a more spiritual state it is drawn most by those connected with the person of Christ. There is a difference in these promises; yet this is a very blessed one as connecting one as a victor with Christ Himself. He has won the throne, and those who overcome will share the throne with Him. The rich unselfishness of who and what He is comes out most blessedly in it all. He does not bring things to be sold out, but holds forth these promises as encouragements to us while passing through the wilderness. If those poor Laodiceans could have realized what they gave up when He came to them with His gold, etc., knocking at their hearts, dead dogs as they were, they would find they made a sad miscalculation in being in the place they were. They were satisfied with themselves, and with what they possessed, saying, "I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing."