Thoughts on the Revelation

J. N. Darby.

Chapter  1
Chapter  2
Chapter  3
Chapter  4
Chapter  5
Chapter  6
Chapter  7
Chapter  8
Chapter  9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15, 16
Chapter 17, 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22

<30030E> 316 {file section a.}

In pursuing the present explanation of the Apocalypse, I shall endeavour to give all the light which I may have acquired; but with the fullest acknowledgment, that many parts remain obscure; and explaining, what I judge to be clear, without in all things teaching it as ascertained truth, as in many parts of scripture the Christian ought to do. Further, I shall here consider the whole defined period to be one half-week, not two. The facts and personages, in this point of view, remain unaltered; it is merely the relationships of detail as to time, and the particular force of certain passages which are affected by it. Many treatises have been published viewing the Apocalypse as revealing the distinct events of two half-weeks. The comparison the reader will be enabled to make of the explanation of the book after the two methods will lead to a fuller judgment of the connection of the various parts of it.

Besides the direct blessed witness of God's love and of personal salvation, there are two subjects which scripture presents to us as a whole; the government of this world, and the church. The latter is now, through the Holy Ghost, the recipient and depository of divine knowledge.*

{*Those who are its members are the means of spreading it. The church does not teach. Apostles and prophets first, and then teachers in their place, as evangelists in theirs, do that; the church receives, holds fast, and professes the truth. The state of the church may be such as to cast the holding fast and professing the truth on the fidelity of individuals; but the church's duty, in her right and normal state, is to be the pillar and ground of the truth.}

The church's portion is heavenly: to be in heaven in spirit now, and when the fulness of times has brought in the accomplishment of God's purposes; to be there, in fact, associated with Christ in the government of the earth. Her own proper place is the bride and body of Christ. But the church has also an outward and responsible existence on the earth. She ought to be the epistle of Christ, known and read of all men; and to present thus the character of God before the world. In this respect, she is looked at as a responsible dispensation in the world, God's husbandry, God's building, where men may build badly, though the foundation may have been well laid. Christ will build His own work, through all phases of the church's existence; and have the church, as His house, of which He will be the light and glory, perfect in glory. Against this work on earth, or its result in heaven, no power of him who has the empire of death can prevail; but, as intrusted to man's responsible service on earth, the church stands in the position of a dispensation: to be rejected and cast off, if it does not maintain its faithfulness and manifest the glory intrusted to it. It is like all the various ways and dealings of God with men: sinless man at first, the promises, the law, the priesthood, the Jewish royalty in obedience with the law, Gentile supremacy without any, have respectively been trusted to men; man has failed in them all. All will be set up in grace, in or under Christ. The last Adam will be there (of which the first was but an image), the promises fulfilled, the law written in the heart, priesthood in its excellency made good, Jewish royalty in the Son of David, supremacy over the Gentiles, in Him who shall rise to reign over them. The church - though forming no part of this series of dealings, yet, as the sphere of the manifestation of Christ's heavenly glory, by man's faithfulness on the earth, as the house of God, through the Spirit - is subject to the same divine law, first of responsibility in man, failure, and divine accomplishment in grace and power. Local assemblies - candlesticks - come under the same rule. In their normal state, they locally represent the normal state of the church, that which is manifested of Christ's body on earth; but, as is the case with the general assembly, they may be so corrupt as to require that the candlestick should be removed. There is this difference, that the removal of the candlestick leaves the assembly in general subsisting on the earth; whereas, of course, the closing of the responsibility of the whole assembly removes it as the scene of God's dealings on earth. Hence, we are sure, that the latter never can take place, till the time for the bride and body of Christ to have a better place in heaven be come also.

317 The Apocalypse reveals to us Christ as Son of God, or Ancient of days, in His divine title of judgment; and it contemplates the judgment of the assembly, and the judgment of the world, particularly of the last apostate power. In this point of view, we must read it, or we shall never understand it. Hence the communications are prophetic in their character. The direct relationships of the Father to His children, and of Christ to His bride and body are not before us; though, at the close, the bride be spoken of in order to identify the city with her. The saints have the consciousness of the grace in which they stand, as also the church at the end of its own relationship; but these are in no way the subject of the book, but distinguish themselves sharply from it. The book is prophetic, because it is occupied with government and the world; and the assembly itself is viewed in its responsibility on earth, in which character it will finally be rejected; not surely as the body of Christ united to the Head in heaven. It is all-important, not only in respect to the Apocalypse but as to truth in general, to enter clearly into this distinction. Without it the church will never be known; as the knowledge of the church, on the other hand, makes it instantly and necessarily felt. All belonging to Christ, save His relationship to the church, is found in the Old Testament; this could not be. All was open, publicly revealed, that concerned Himself. The church could not be. It lay at the foundation of the church's existence, that the middle wall should be broken down. It lay at the very foundation of the existence of Israel and the law, that it should be kept up. Indeed, the responsibility of the first man would not have been otherwise fully tried. The church, and our relationship to God, repose on the fact, that that responsibility is closed by our being wholly lost, and a wholly new place taken by the second Man risen from the dead; His work being accepted, and thereupon Himself also accepted and glorified, and we in and because of Him.

318 Our responsibility, even, is of another kind. It is to walk as He walked, not to live up to what Adam ought to have been, or what the law required; but to let this life of Jesus be manifested in our mortal body as dead to sin, the world, and the law; and living in that life which came down in the person of the Son from heaven.

I must, however, add here, that the revelation of the Father by the Son, as dwelling eternally in His bosom, is not to be looked for in the Old Testament. The relationship of son is, doubtless, found therein, so that the thought is not foreign to it; but it is sonship employed in a conventional way (I do not mean, of course, not a true way), or viewed in time, and not founded in the nature of His person in the Godhead, but as a relationship formed on earth. "He shall be to me a Son," and "I will declare the decree. … Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." This is in time on the earth, the glorious and true title and character of Messiah. So, in the passage referred to, "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son." "I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth." But in the New Testament we find the Son in His own proper relationship to the Father. "No man hath seen God at anytime:* the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." He has declared, even when on earth, the Father's name. He came forth from the Father. By the Son, God created all things. He puts us in this relationship of children and sons, adopted no doubt, but by becoming our life. So that life is never said to be in us, though we have it, and are said to have it. But "God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." This leads me to examine, more nearly, the nature and character of the Apocalypse; because it is specially John who brings forward this last point of view, while speaking of the truths connected with our salvation, especially the presence of the Holy Ghost, and, in the Epistle, of propitiation. In his Gospel it is the Son who is come as life, the life being the light of men. In the Epistle this is taken as the ground-work; and the life communicated to us, and its existence tested by its true character to guard us against deceivers. It is remarkable, that, save in a few passages coming in to complete the truth here and there (and they are very few and short), John never sees this life carried up to its ultimate result in the purpose of God; but manifested in this world, whether in Christ Himself or in us. The fact, that we shall go up on high to the Father's house, is blessedly stated in the beginning of chapter 14, and desired in the end of chapter 17; but it is no where the general subject.

{*Compare here, 1 John 4:12, to see the unspeakable privilege of the Christian.}

319 Paul, who was born out of due time between the first and second comings of Christ, who knew Christ only in the glory in which He was in heaven (man glorified, the result with God of His accomplished work), who was not to know Christ after the flesh, Paul, who was especially apostle of the church, the minister of the church to complete the word of God, who was converted by the revelation of the heavenly glory. of Christ on one hand, and of the union of the saints with Him so glorified, on the other* - Paul puts us, perfectly accepted, in the glory in Christ, and sees this life in the risen and glorified One, and in us crucified with Him but alive; not "we live, but Christ lives in us." But John (and hence the exceeding sweetness of the writings he has given to us by the Holy Ghost) presents the divine person of the Son in life (and that in grace in flesh, divine love shewing itself and the Father), in His blessed superiority to evil, and as divine love does, adapting itself to the want and sorrow around it, to everything the human heart could need, yet light all through. We do not get man taken up to heaven, so to speak, in John; but we get God Himself in grace, the Son revealing the Father down on earth. The Gospel - and Epistle, as we have seen, reveal this life in itself or in us; but the Gospel (for the Epistle gives us the life between the departure and return of the Lord) gives us at the end a hint of the apostle holding on a testimony to the coming of Christ. He did not say he should not die; but if He would that he tarried till He came. Paul might build the church, or lay its foundation as a wise master-builder; Peter might teach a pilgrim how to follow Him that was risen, and had begotten Him again to a lively hope by it - how to follow his Master through the wilderness, in which, after all, God still governed. These, and others, warn too of coming evils. But he, who was so personally near to Christ (Jewish in his relationships and full of them, but in whose eyes, at the same time as taught of God, [Christ was] a person who was, in Himself, above all relationship, save with the Father, and who had a place in which He could be in the Father's bosom, yet walk as Man, in the title and manifestation of the Son, upon earth, and withal a place in John's heart; through grace, which attached him to His person, and life in it); such an one (and such an one was John, the disciple whom Jesus loved) could watch, with the power of divine love, over the departing glories of the church on earth in the energy of a life which could not fail in it. And he could pass on with prophetic vision to establish the rights of the same person (out of and on the part of heaven, yet still on earth; rights, whose establishment should bring peace on the earth, and set aside the evil, and make these rights good, where the prophet had seen them despised, in One he so loved, as manifested on earth, and connect the excellency of the glorified Sufferer with the blessing of a rescued world, which grace could bless through Him, though it had once rejected Him. The way of bringing about this, with the failing church's previous history, is what is given us in the Apocalypse, with the prophetically known person and glory of Christ connecting itself, first with the responsible assembly on earth, though then judicially, and then with the earth.

{*Although this doctrine is found in many parts of Paul's writings, it may be interesting to remark, that though in God's plans (chap. 8) he sees us glorified, and Christ in heaven interceding - in doctrine, the Romans presents man as a sinner and Christ only risen so that the individual is justified - not the church, save in relative duties. In Ephesians, on the contrary, he does not see Christ living on earth, nor us as living in sin, save, as alluding to it as a past history, when speaking of practice. Christ is first seen as dead, and God has raised Him and set Him above all: we, dead in sins, and God has raised us with Him. Hence, it is wholly a new creation, absolute relationships, according to this. Hence, we have the church, and our place before God, as Christ now has it.}

321 From the beginning of the book we have the revelation given treated as a prophecy. It is a revelation given of God to Christ to shew what must shortly come to pass. The churches themselves thus come in merely as a kind of necessary introduction their rejection by Christ as to their testimony on earth, as yet the subject of prophecy and warning, was needed for Christ's assuming the government of the world. Christ sends it by His angel - not exactly an angel, but one who specially represented Himself - to His servant John. He bears record. It is the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, a vision.* This sentence is important. It is, no doubt, the character, except the being a vision, of all scripture; but it gives us the fact that the present prophecy is the testimony of Jesus, and the suffering in the time of and according to this prophecy is suffering for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. It gives us, moreover, what indeed is evident and cannot be otherwise, but an additional proof of the same, that the prophecy is addressed not to the people of God or saints, as in their normal state, like the epistles, but is a revelation about them to another. In the prophets, those who prophesied when the people were warned carried the word directly from God to the people immediately addressed by Him. So in the epistles, though in another form, the Holy Ghost addressed Himself directly to the saints for their good and instruction. In Daniel it is for the people, but not to them; and even in Zechariah, and in a measure in Habakkuk; so in the Apocalypse. It is something given to John, of course, as all the New Testament, for the church, but not directly to the church in its own natural state.

{*It is known that it should not be read, "and all things," but simply, "things."}

322 The church on earth is itself looked at as the subject of prophetic address, and as in relationship with the God of prophecy who governs the world, not with the Father. The Son of man who is Judge walks in the midst of the churches. Grace and peace is wished from Him who is and was and was coming - from the seven Spirits in which the fulness of all His attributes in government is developed, and from Christ as connected with the earth though risen. But the time of the church as such is left out in this greeting of grace, that is, the character of Christ at that time. He is faithful witness; this He was in manifestation on the earth; first-begotten from the dead, He is risen (that, too, on earth not ascended); then prince of the kings of the earth - what He is indeed, now, in title, but one in which the passage springs over from His resurrection to His governmental title when He comes again.* We have no church relationship; but all that He was, has been, and will be, as to the earth, and what gives Him His right in the kingdom set up in right and power on the earth.

{*It is remarkable, that in John 1, where we have the names and titles of Christ so wonderfully displayed, exactly those are wanting which belong to His place in heaven, and present relationship with the church exclusively. He is neither Head of the church, nor High priest. This is significant as to John's writings.}

I have no doubt there were these seven churches in the state thus alluded to; and in the language used, we must keep this in mind. But I cannot think that, with this number seven, the character of the addresses, and details of expression, it is possible not to see that a wider sphere of thought is before the apostle's prophetic eye. But subjects previously spoken of by the apostle call for our attention first. We have Christ in three positions, or characters, in the Apocalypse: walking robed down to His feet in the midst of the candlesticks; the Lamb in the midst of the throne; and Christ coming forth on the white horse (not to speak here of the description of the city, of which He is the light-bearer).

323 The character of God here is Jehovah, the Ancient of days, who is, and who was, and is the coming One. This is, in fact, the character in which God is revealed, as the One who is to be a great King over all the earth. He was Almighty for Abraham - will be Most High over all that is. But Jehovah is His personal name, in which He takes the rule as One who had counsels and purposes, would fulfil them by His own power, and has given the revelation of it.

As is said in Psalm 83:18, "that men may know that thou, whose name is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth." So Psalms 87 and 91, where the three names are brought together so beautifully and strikingly, when the power of the Almighty is promised to secure him who knew the secret of the Most High, and it is answered (by Messiah) "I will take the God of the Jews I will say of Jehovah, he is my fortress," the psalm then going on, speaking in the person of the godly Jew, to celebrate the rightness of the answer, and Jehovah Himself closing it with His approbation: "Because lie has set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him."

It is in this name that blessing is now wished to the "seven churches which are in Asia."

Next, we have it wished from "the seven spirits, which are before his throne." This last word may be remarked. We are in presence of a throne on which Jehovah is, and seven spirits are before it. It is not from the Father, and from the Son, in their communion, and from the divine nature, in its own blessedness, but from Jehovah, the Supreme Governor, upon His throne. And the spirits, as the lamps in the tabernacle, all before the throne. The Spirit itself has His place as the perfect development of governmental power in exercise from God. The spirits are the manifestation and display of this before the throne.

The characters of Christ are also of importance here. have already spoken of their being in connection with the earth; but there is something more. We have all that was needed to give the rightful place of government over the earth, with which He is here in connection. He is, but much more, He was, the Faithful Witness of God upon the earth. He spoke what He knew; He testified what He had seen. He declared righteousness in the great congregation, did not refrain His lips (that Jehovah knew); at all cost to Himself lie bore witness to what God was, made good the witness of it before men. This was an immense service. He made good the perfect witness of light in the world. "While I am in the world I am the light of the world"; and "God is light"; and that in spite of hatred and opposition because of it. So that John had to say, "This is the message which we have heard of him, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." And what He declared He was in manifestation, He was in every sense - a Faithful Witness. When asked what He was, He could reply, In nature and principle what I also say unto you, "Altogether that which I also say to you," John 8:25. His words were the witness and expression of what He was; and this and its rejection is just the subject of that chapter, and the proof of man's guilt; they loved darkness.

324 No doubt His witness was a witness of life in Himself, too for the life was the light of men; but this remained in abeyance, so to speak, as to its revelation to us, and the part we could have in it till after His death,* when we have the Spirit, blood and water (which flowed out of His side when slain, as the Spirit came because He went away), as witnesses that God hath given unto us eternal life, and that this life is in His Son. The life was the light, and the light of men, properly of men as such; but except a corn of wheat fell into the ground and died, it remained alone. Hence He was straitened till that baptism was accomplished. And the witness of all this was consequent on His death, a witness about Him rather than by Him. Hence I do not speak of the witness that eternal life is given to us in the Son (that springs out of death, and as to any persons who are such, His servants are, with the Spirit, His witnesses), but of Christ Himself as the Faithful Witness. There is always this necessary difference: as for reconciliation, in 2 Corinthians 5, God was in Christ reconciling; then, Christ being rejected, a ministry is committed to Paul and others, Christ having been made sin for us.

{*In chapter 10 with the sheep the Lord speaks of eternal life, but He speaks also of His laying down His life for the sheep. It is after chapters 8 and 9, that is, rejection of word and work.}

Christ, then, has made good His title as against the world for God and as of God, as the Faithful Witness. It is, when we have eyes to see (that is John 9), an immense blessing to us. Light has come into the world, yea the veil has been rent, and we have the light of God Himself, yea the revelation of God as light (and we are also light in the Lord, He being our life), so as to walk in the light as He is in the light. Oh, that that light may penetrate utterly through us, so that all may be light in communion with Him! Yet this is a great thing to say, but the perfection of the Christian, not to say perhaps attained, but seen and, in the nature given to us, sought after.

325 But there was more. He was a faithful Man; but there was an adversary who had the power of death over man, and ruled the world, and could bring the world against this witness as having the power of death. No doubt in Christ, as the Faithful Witness, he had nothing; but then, if Christ had not subjected Himself to death, He must have remained alone, as we have seen, having gone to heaven with twelve legions of angels, in the right of His own perfectness, but left us out and the world under Satan's power. But these were not His thoughts, nor the counsel of God, nor suited to His glory: the scriptures had spoken differently, and they (the expression of God's mind; and what could give them greater authority that this reference to them of the Lord's?) must be fulfilled. "How, then, shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" Christ Himself, the Son of God, was to die; the scriptures, the witness of God's mind, the truth, had said it; and He gave Himself, drinking, in blessed obedience and love to His Father, the cup He had given Him to drink. But it is the special side of this which regarded His power and title over the world, and victory over the prince of it, which we are here to consider. Satan committed himself completely in the exercise of this power of death, and dominion over the world; but it was all he had. He was the prince of this world, and it was the hour of darkness. And Christ, in obedience, subjects himself to this last and absolute putting forth of Satan's whole power over men and in death, a power sustained too by the pronounced judgment of God. But it is with the former we have to do here, though it were nothing without this latter. But the prince of this world was judged. By death Christ brought to nought the power of him who had the power of death. In the resurrection He comes up in that power of life which left no trace of Satan's power behind. Indeed, according to His trust in Jehovah, no corruption passed upon Him, no moment's trace of anything that was not the power of the Holy Ghost. He gave Himself up to death, His spirit to His Father, and never saw corruption. In Him, so to speak, resurrection and transmutation were united. In resurrection, according to divine righteousness, He took the condition to which power belonged in grace. He died and rose that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living, being competent and having the title to have all power in heaven and in earth.

326 In the passage we are considering His ascension is not touched on, but His coming forth from the whole result of Satan's power through sin, through the work which gave Him the place and power of man in the new estate in which the power of God would place Him. He is the first-begotten from the dead, the Man who has made good, in this final and conclusive conflict, the title of God in spite of sin, and against sin; and baffled all Satan's apparent success, so that God is perfectly glorified in respect of that in which man has dishonoured Him, and in which, so to speak, to the creature's view, all that God was, all His moral glory, was brought into question. Christ has taken thus the place divinely prepared for man, the headship of man according to God, the whole question of good and evil having been resolved by His subjugation to the whole power of evil in death (in life He had ever kept it at a distance in the power of the Holy Ghost), and, divine judgment being glorified, made it possible, yea necessary, for God to bring up Him (and, blessed be God! all in Him) into the perfect place of blessing, where divine goodness could have its absolute flow, and that in righteousness - yea as due to Christ, and so to others as redeemed. But here, we take it as the place of power and right, according to God's counsels, in man. The head of every man is Christ, and He will take all men out of the power of death, and Satan's power, though for the wicked it will be for judgment. He is the first-begotten from the dead.

Our book treats of the throne, and of the government of the world. Hence the third title of Christ applies to that. He is the Prince of the kings of the earth. This title is so plain, that I do not enlarge upon it. The making it good is, after the letters to the churches, the great subject of the book; first, by God's power in preparatory dealings, and then by the exercise of Christ's own power when He comes. We may remark, that so entirely is government the subject of the book, that when the bride itself is mentioned and displayed in glory, it is as a great city, the capital (so to speak) of God's kingdom.

327 But here the church breaks in. When Jesus is mentioned, it cannot be otherwise. So at the end of the book (chap. 22:17), and necessarily, in both cases, with the sense and feeling of her own place and blessings in connection with Him. If a general entered in triumph, if a judge was celebrated as the wisest of his race, the wife's and child's feelings would be, when it was seen or spoken of - "That is my husband - that is my father." Such is the necessary effect of the feelings which the consciousness of the relationship gives, and it is beautiful to see. "To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood!" He may be the greatest above all princes of the earth, but that is what He has done for us. His own blood has cleansed us. He may be great, but He loves us. He may be great, but He would have us great with Him, and near Him. "He hath made us kings and priests to God and his Father." This last is the association with Christ in the royal place He has connected with the earth. It is not children, sons, His bride, but kings and priests; royal, and nearest, under God, to a divine place in government; and nearest in access to Him, when the world is in relationship with God. It is not children at home in the house. It is official glory, though in its highest character and conformed to Christ's own, for He is King and Priest. The exact words are "a kingdom, priests," as in Exodus 19, and pretty nearly literally as in the Hebrew. This only confirms the character in which all is seen here. The saints ascribe glory and dominion to Christ for ever.

Here, remark, we have John himself, the Spirit in the name of the saints on earth: "loveth us." In the following verse the Spirit announces His coming to the world, when every eye shall see Him coming in the clouds of heaven, the Jews too and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. All this is closed, I apprehend, by the Amen of God Himself as first and last - Jehovah, Elohim, Shaddai.* These are the three names I have already noticed, and which are the well-known names of revelation in the Old Testament:** God, who was revealed to Abraham by His name God Almighty (El Shaddai) - to Moses and Israel as Jehovah. Only He who speaks affirms here, as in the prophets, that as He was at the beginning and the Alpha of all else, so is He the Omega when all is brought to completion by His power, embracing all things and subsisting in Himself, embraced by none. This closes the introduction; and the revelation of the book itself begins in what follows.

{*The reading is this: "I am Alpha and Omega, saith the Lord God, the One who is, and who was, and who is the coming One, the Almighty."}

{**Compare the use of these names in 2 Corinthians 6:17-18, where He who bears them takes the place and name of Father with us.}

328 In the address of John, we find the same character of relationships, and order of thought as that which we have already seen. We have neither an apostle, nor "he that is of God heareth." He is a brother and companion in the tribulation, kingdom, and patience of Jesus Christ. His ideas range in the kingdom, and Christ's waiting for it. Christ sits at God's right hand, expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. At present His saints are in tribulation. The persecution of John was for that which is found through the book - the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ. All the word is such, but it takes this character when it becomes prophetic. He does not say the gospel, though that is, of course, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. It would not do here at all. He is not teaching among the saints, but alone in the Spirit seeing visions. On the Lord's day is entirely different, to my mind, from what many take it to mean. It is the lordly day (not the day of the Lord), the Lord's day of the week, the position in which Christianity set us as risen. And thus, though the apostle's testimony was prophetic, it was as personally in his risen place he stood when he gives it. This is always true. No prophet now can cease to be a Christian. When he gets out of a christian place, it is false prophecy. His prophecy may have the character which belongs to the subject of prophecy, that is, God's government of this world; but he is on the Lord's day. I do not say this in reference to prophecies given now, as if there were actually such, unless they be false ones, but as to the necessary position of one who has been, or should pretend to be, one in christian times. It is not that the prophet was in "the day of the Lord" (at most chapter 19 is such), but on the Lord's day he was in the Spirit. He then received his commission: "a voice as of a trumpet," but now speaking on the earth. He does not at this moment see, but hears a voice "behind him."*

{*I am strongly disposed to think this intimates that his real prophetic position is looking out to the government of the world as then immediately before him. The church was past; and, as prophet, he was in times beyond it, but he must turn and give a rapid and general account of the way in which the course of the church led up to this time. Prophecy always leaps over from the present time to the end, and specially does not know the church; but here it was necessary to give the course of the church on earth.}

329 The voice* tells him to write what he saw in a book, and to send it to the seven churches in Asia. He turns to see who speaks to him, and sees, first, seven golden candlesticks, which was the substantive object of the vision; but, for the moment, his attention is attracted to another object. In the midst of the seven golden candlesticks he sees One standing like the Son of man. Here we have the vessel of responsibility for fight on earth, corresponding to the unfolding of power in government above. The seven spirits were before the throne and, later, we find them as eyes in the horns of the Lamb. Here we have seven candlesticks which should give light by one Spirit on the earth. It is not the unity of the body of Christ: this is perfect, and belongs to heaven. It is the responsible vessel of light on the earth, of the state of which, as we shall see, Christ judges. Here is the key to the apprehension of this part of the revelation. God's throne carries on all secretly, and in the time of this book in revealed ways and power according to the seven-fold excellency of the Spirit - Christ, too, as taking the kingdom. The candlesticks are vessels of light. Do they give it?

{*The first part of verse 11 is left out by the editors.}

Nor is it here Christ interceding for the weakness of individual saints on earth, nor representing them before God or the Father. He is standing with no garments of service (He is clothed to the feet) but taking cognizance of their state. Next, though the details are important, He is the Ancient of days. It is remarkable how we are brought ever into millennial connections, kingdom associations: I do not say, millennial times. That is only at the end - and Daniel, with whose prophecy this so closely connects us, is never in millennial times, but he is always in millennial connections, only in the times of the Gentiles which precede them - and then the judgment. We have Christ's character here, not His going about amongst the candlesticks. He stand there. That is His place; and His character is such and such. The prophet sees one who answers to the idea of Son of man. It is not, I apprehend, any personal acquaintance of John with the Lord as an individual, but he sees one in the character of Son of man: and He is, as I have said, not in service with His loins girded, but His garments down to the foot. He is at ease with power to judge; girt under the breast with divine righteousness. Then we find Him, just as in Daniel 7, to be the Ancient of days. But further, His eyes are the all-seeing, piercing, power of judgment; His feet, the firmness and perfectness of divine judgment as applied to men according to God's glory; His voice as the overwhelming sound of majesty, out of the reach of man's power. He held in His hand all subordinate authorities, who represented Him in light in the church, and the word as judging men's hearts and intentions; His countenance witnessed supreme sovereign glory.

330 There is a threefold expression of character and dignity here. Firstly, the garment, girdle, and the hair of His head apply to His person and personal state. Secondly, His eyes, feet, and voice, what He is in divine judgment and majesty towards man. Thirdly, His official authority and glory as man: the stars, the sword out of His mouth, and countenance like the sun.

Let the reader remark this character and various glory of Christ here. The apostle - and this also is man in flesh before the glory, characteristic of visional prophecy - falls at His feet as dead. The reply is the fortifying witness - not of an angel-messenger, as in Daniel - but of the prophet's well-known Lord and Saviour, strength for them that are His, in Him that has overcome. He laid His right hand on him, saying, "Fear not." It is not peace, but dealing with man on earth, as when Jesus was on earth, only that now He possesses the dominion. "I am the first and the last." It is still the Jehovah of the Old Testament, but more, the Living One. But this is not all; He has the victory over the prince of evil and weakness. "I was dead, and am alive for evermore." It is Jehovah; but it is man victorious over all the evil and death itself into which man had fallen; and He held the place of victory for ever. And not only was He in His person victorious, but He held the power over what had been the sphere of the enemy's - death and hades. No angel could have said this to Daniel. Power - power that had wrought deliverance - was there; power superior to all that the enemy could do; and a power which John knew and now felt to sustain him, and make sure the blessing which God's will purposed to bring in, before the evils and sorrows and trials of the saints came before his mind.

331 The prophet then receives his commission. There are three classes of things which he is to write. "What thou hast seen"; "the things that are"; and "the things that shall be hereafter": but the two first are closely united together - "the things which thou hast seen"; and "the things that are"; then what is to come afterwards. He had seen Christ standing in the midst of the candlesticks. That was not "the things that are"; but the developed state of the candlesticks is so, and Christ's judgment as walking among them; so that the connection is very close. Besides, this was connected with Christ as John had now seen Him, and as he knew Him himself: not the highest knowledge of Him, but a present one - the church on earth; not properly prophetic, that is, entering into the direct government of the world, though it might, as moral threatening, foretell many things as to the church. Still all here was "things that are," belonging to the church period and state, though to the outward form of it. It has been remarked, that "the things which are" is plural; and "the things that shall be hereafter," singular. This is quite in place here: "the things that are" in detail before the prophet's mind here; the future, yet distant, as one short whole.

It may be well to notice here the use made of the characteristics of Christ in the churches, as confirming the interpretation of them. The first two give the state He was in as Son of man generally; the second that He is the Ancient of days. Neither of these is specifically used; nor is the sound of many waters, which is also personal greatness and majesty, nor His countenance as thus seen, shewing in its strength the vastness of His divine majesty, beyond man's reach and control, and His personal supremacy as man. Those applied are His eyes as flames of fire, His feet like burnished brass, His sharp sword out of His mouth, in His right hand seven stars, and His reply to John when he fell down - the relative qualities, so to speak, chiefly in judgment, but also in sustaining power. We shall see that they are all employed in the first four churches, and none, save His title over the seven stars, found in the three last.*

{*It is very possible that John had been visited by messengers (angeloi) from the seven churches; though, of course, as it is not revealed, I speak of it, but as suggested by the term angeloi, and as he was really writing to these churches. Were it even so, the purpose of the Spirit was not to send an ordinary epistle to the churches, but to use the occasion for a prophetic unfolding of the whole scene of God's ways as unrolled before God's eyes.}

332 The angels stand as moral representatives of the churches. They are addressed - not the letter sent by them - and they are owned of Christ. They are stars (that is, subordinate authority, but in the character of heavenly light and order in the darkness) in His hand; so that we must see that which should stand as a representative authority before Christ, and in His hand. But the church is that which is judged, and, as has been remarked by another, whenever judgment is threatened,* it is not on the angel; it is, in fact, on the church, or a guilty part of it. The angels stand, therefore, as the accepted representatives of the churches. Both they and the churches are seen in the mind of Christ and of God. The stars are in Christ's right hand, and the candlesticks are golden. Both are looked at abstractedly. The candlestick may be moved out of its place; but, in God's mind, it is a golden candlestick of which He speaks.

{*At least in the first four. A closer examination of the churches will lead us to see that in the four first, where there is blame (in the epistle to Smyrna there is none) and threatened judgment, the threat is to be executed not on the angel, but on the candlestick in Ephesus or on the guilty parties, as in Pergamos and in Thyatira. But in the three last it is not so. in Philadelphia there is no blame; and here, as in Smyrna, the angel and the church are not distinguished in the address itself; but in Sardis and in Laodicea the threatenings are continued as a part of the address to the angel himself. This, I suppose, connects itself' with the distinction already made between these two classes of churches; the four first have a definite church-place, and the angel, that part which in God's sight really represented the church, is abidingly owned at all events, and the judgment is on the inconsistent part, or what falsified the public testimony. But, when we come to Sardis, we go back (for Thyatira goes on to the end); when speaking of the mass, the better and witnessing part comes out as witness, witness against Jezebel; if they are not a witness they are nothing at all. The corporate constitution is null here. Hence, if there be failure, the whole thing fails and is judged with the world, and any faithful ones become a distinctive blessed remnant; because faithful witness is the whole thing. Hence, when Christ has to become that, the church so ruined is to be spued out of His mouth.}

333 So the star is that which has the authority of Christ in the church, and stands before Him as representing it, but cannot be separated, in idea, from the church itself. I say this, because I find "Thou hast left thy first love." Who? the angel: so it is said; but surely the church as such. Yet it is "thy candlestick," that is, its public acknowledged status before the world as light-bearer. So that what the ear that can hear is to hear is what is said to the churches, but all is said to the angel. So to Smyrna, "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer; Satan shall cast of you," etc. Similar things are found in Thyatira. So in Pergamos, "Antipas was slain among you." Indeed, it is impossible to read the epistles to the churches without seeing that the angel and the churches are identified; only that the angel is looked at abstractedly in its representative character, the churches dealt with in their actual state, and as composed of individuals. The whole body is responsible, and dealt with in detail of judgment; but Christ looks at the ideal responsible personage: a thought which will be in fact realised by every one that hears His words. An individual may be in this, if he be the intelligent vessel of Christ's mind, in the midst of an assembly; so all those who are so. But the assembly is responsible, and all that hear Christ's warning.

The history given to us is the moral state of the church, and applicable to every assembly; and, indeed, to every Christian at all times, according to spiritual wisdom in application. This state I shall refer to, and it will, as a consequence, give its historical application in the succession of churches. The first has left its first love; the last is to be spued out of Christ's mouth. They follow thus: -

(1) Ephesus: the church has left its first love, and if it does not repent will be removed out of its place. (2) Smyrna: it is persecuted. Those who pretend to be the ancient people of God are specially in view. (3) Pergamos: martyrdom has been going on, and the church is there where Satan's throne is - the world which has thus persecuted. But corruption of doctrine and practice is beginning within, particularly in associating with the world. (4) Thyatira: we find devotedness and labour, but withal, on the other side, along with it, a sad state of things - Jezebel, who not only seduces as Balaam, to mix the world with Christianity, but commits adultery, and begets children. The evil is active and fruitful in its own way. This reaches to the end; and the Lord's coming is the resource of faith. Judgment will be special and terrible. (5) In Sardis we find a name to live, but death; and, if repentance does not come in, its judgment, just as the outward world. (6) In Philadelphia is little strength, but faithfulness to the word, and the patience of Christ. These are encouraged by Christ's speedy coming, and will escape the hour of temptation which will come on all the earth. (7) Laodicea is to be spued out of Christ's mouth as nauseous, being neither cold nor hot; yet warning is given.

334 These are "the things that are." I have no doubt that in the Revelation, as in all New Testament prophecy, while the prophecy, properly speaking, takes up the close, when God begins again to interfere directly with the government of the earth, or at least to prepare the way for it, what is analogous in spirit is viewed by the Spirit of God as a matter of His instruction and warning. There is Babylon, and what is unmistakably Babylonish, before it is fully revealed. There is Antichrist; and yet many antichrists, the "power of the antichrist," 1 John 4:3; of whom we have heard; and, as Jude presents it, the manifestation in apostolic days of those of whom Enoch spoke, who are to be judged at Christ's coming. Barriers would be taken away which hindered the public manifestation of the wicked one; but the mystery of wickedness was already at work, and how has it ripened since! This is an undoubtedly scriptural principle, and I have no doubt it applies to the Apocalypse. We may take the churches as the then state of the province of Asia, a picture of the general state - specimens or samples of all - and God's history of the world thenceforth unto the end; or we may take the things really signified, and the prophetic part, as God's history at the close of things.

In chapter 12, where a new part of the book begins, the prophetic character is absolutely according to the form of Old Testament prophecy, Israel coming symbolically directly in scene. Christ's first coming, as in Isaiah 8:10, is directly associated with His second. The man-child is born, the church has been taken up in Him, and the last close is then there. Analogies may be found in what follows, and identification with subsisting elements under other forms, as Babylon; but the history is the history of the end.

335 I return to the churches most rich in moral instruction and warnings; but have, however imperfectly, treated of this elsewhere. I now turn rather to interpretation as more immediately in place.

In Ephesus the Lord appears entirely in His general relationship to the responsible church. He holds seven stars in His right hand, has the authoritative control of all in power, and is occupied with the inspection of all. He walks about among the golden candlesticks. The failure of the church is also seen in its first principle, not in consequent details. The judgment is the general and absolute one, if repentance do not come in. The result of overcoming, also, is the general one of eating of the tree of life in God's paradise. This general character of the first church, its statement of general principles in every respect, is a strong confirmation of the successional character of the churches. It is much commended; but oh how weighty a notice for all! It had left its first love. The measure of self-judgment is its first estate. It is not a fallen church awakened up to Christ's coming, and by it; but a falling church reminded of its first planting in blessing. In the responsible church individual responsibility comes in. He that has an ear is to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The promise is the calm and peaceful one, belonging to a walk with God, of full enjoyment of the ripened fruit which belongs to His paradise - not a special one in special danger.

In Smyrna trial sets in, the natural conservative consequence, under God's hand, of growing cold; and the natural portion of the saints, too, yet often not coming till coldness begins, as God holds the first planting safe. But it is measured. The pretension of those who set up to have a hereditary title to be God's people is the commonest feature of persecution, and the church is in a very low and despised state in such. Of the rest men durst not join them. But it is rich. Hence of them, the angel representing the church, as we have seen, would be cast into prison. God permitted, though He measured, the persecution. Did death ensue, the crown of life would follow it. Overcoming, may our souls remember it is still, and always, the path. They that did would not be touched by the second death: of the first they might. Here Christ - as Satan seemed to have power against and above the church - is presented in a divine character, "first and last," and in evident special application to the circumstances he had been in - dead, and had lived again. He did not put His people through what He had not gone through Himself before them. He would assure them, in that path, of divine perpetuity and of life through death.

336 In Pergamos He has the sharp two-edged sword. Here worldliness comes, when the first love had already waxed cold, and when persecution was over, and a hostile world had ceased to drive the church from itself, and force a difference on the church, though not always driven it into its own place - into those joys and hopes which were its own. The motives, the thoughts and intents of the heart came under the searchingness of God's word in Christ's hand. The church found itself now in the public place of the world. Not a first action of the Spirit in living beauty, but unnoticed out of its little sphere of testimony; not a Gentile persecution, stirred up because it jostled old prejudices in its progress. It dwelt now, had a position and standing, in the world, of which Satan was the prince - where his throne was. "Your fleets and armies are filled with us," says Tertullian. "If we leave your cities the empire will become a desert." Could Peter and Paul have said that, or those who were of one heart and one mind? It was another kind of testimony, not a first love. It had grown to this, in spite of martyrdom through Gentile persecutions. Then it had stood firm and weathered the storm. Now Christ's sword, not Nero's must be applied. Inward corruption, the seduction to association with the world, and to lead those who bore Christ's name to go in the public path of the world, away from God, when, as an enemy it could not curse and destroy them - this was now the danger - more than the danger. It was going on, and corrupt practice was taught; deeds Christ hated had become a doctrine. The Lord would interfere if they did not repent, and apply His own judicial power within the church, giving His word judicial action in their midst, against those who sinned, no doubt, but so as to act on the conscience of all. It was His coming to the church in judgment though; His war, by the sword of His word, was made on the guilty. The word, despised as instruction and warning and correction, becomes judgment in the power of Christ. He is Son over His own house. But if the sword distinguishes in judgment, faith does in receiving the warning and word in the heart, and receives its reward according to this spiritual faithfulness. That word, which would come judicially to distinguish and sever in the church, wrought in the heart of the faithful; and the spirit and character of Christ was distinctively realised, and communion with Him in His separate path on earth enjoyed. To this the promise answers: they would have the hidden manna to eat; that is, Christ as known in His walk down here, though now in glory - the corn of that heavenly land. The hidden manna was not the daily manna, but the manna which had been laid up in the ark and kept as a witness in Canaan. They would have the distinguishing white stone of Christ's own approbation, and on it a name, a term of relationship with Him in this approbation which they only would know.

337 We now come, in Thyatira, to the general public state of the corrupt church, yet accompanied by long and unwearied devotedness. Christ, as we see His servant Paul ever doing, first notices all the good He can. The saints have done the same when their hearts were right with God. How have the sorrows and sufferings and labour and painful devotedness of the hunted but persevering witnesses in the dark ages occupied the mind and feelings of thoughtful Christians! Nowhere, perhaps, is there a more deeply interesting story; nowhere longer and more unwearied patience; nowhere truer, or perhaps so true, hearts for the truth and for Christ, and for faithfulness to Him against a corrupt church, as in the saints of the middle ages. Through toil and labour, hunted and punished in spite of it, by a system far more persevering, far better organised, than heathen persecutions, violent as for a time they surely were; with no fresh miraculous revelation, or publicly sustaining body, or profession of the church at large, clothed with universal acknowledgment as such, to give them confidence; with every name of ignominy that people or priest could invent to hunt them with, they pursued their hemmed but never abandoned way, with divinely given constancy, and maintained the testimony of God, and the promised existence of the church against the gates of hades, at the cost of rest and home and life and all things earth could give or nature feel. And Christ had foreseen and had not forgotten it. Weakness may have been there, ignorance have marked many of their thoughts, Satan may have sought to mix up mischief with the good, and sometimes succeeded; and men, at their ease now, delight in finding the feeble or faulty spot, and perhaps succeed too; but their record is on high, and their Saviour's approbation will shine forth, when the books ease - loving questioners have written on them will be as dust on the moth's wing when it is dead; and shame, if shame can be where we trust many of them may meet those they have despised, cover their face. This the Lord owns in Thyatira. It made no part of the church for men then. It makes none for many wise people now. It is the first part for Christ. And here we have a larger scene, a general condition going on to the end.

338 I do not think at all that this refers, as some have thought, to the principle of works as found in popery. Verse 19 speaks of what is approved of; verse 20, of what is disapproved of We have now one who takes the woman's place, symbolical of a state; not individual responsible activity, but a state, as long ago remarked in the types of the Old Testament. I do not think it matters much if it reads "thy wife Jezebel" or not,* as the name is moral and the wife of the mystic representative must be the public general state. But those who were morally responsible, as actively representing Christ in the church, suffered this state of things. It had grown into a settled system. She pretended to express the mind of God, to be the authorised expounder of His mind, having the Spirit; and she deceived, and taught Christ's servants to go on in worldliness and corruption. It was not seducing them when the seducer was separate from the body, putting a stumbling-block before them. It was an allowed state; all let to go regularly on. Corruption and idolatry in worldliness characterised the state. This had gone on long. It is looked at as the thing with which God was dealing. He had given her time to repent; and she would not repent of her fornication; she was teaching it, but she was committing it. It characterised the public state of the outward church. She would not repent. It was the present state. "I have given her … and she will not." If those who were committing it with her (all who entered into the spirit of her ways, and carried them on with her) did not repent, they would be cast into great tribulation. And her children - those whom she had begotten and formed in these principles God would destroy, and would be known as the Searcher of hearts and Judge. I do not take this as necessarily the judgment of Babylon - as such farther on, but the application of God's judgment to all the religious part of it; though the scene be substantially the same. The character of Christ here given (the reader may see, I believe, justly given) in what precedes, the all-seeing piercing power of judgment, and the firmness and perfectness of divine judgment as applied to men according to God's glory. "He that hath an ear" is here first seen apart from the general body of the church, contemplated apart. Up to this, "he that hath an ear to hear" comes before the promises to them that overcome; here after.

{*All the best authorities, read "the woman."}

339 When the state - the woman - is the thing to be dealt with in judgment, the ear to hear is not associated in God's mind in the same way with that which is judged. The prolonged state of the professing church is looked at here. It is not, as at Ephesus, the general idea, "I come quickly, and remove the candlestick," because it does not exactly answer His mind, and He expected it. This supposes, in a certain sense, confidence that all will be exactly as it ought to be: otherwise the relationship ceases. Here, as to the public state, all was very bad, though there was personal devotedness. And God, the One going to judge it definitely as bad, and as an object of judgment, has long patience. Abraham must go down, or his children, to Egypt, for the iniquity of - the Amorites was not yet full. Moses He was going to kill, because Eliezer was not circumcised. This is God's way; jealous when He admits to confidence; infinite in patience when He must take His character of judge. Here He is judge - He gives to every one according to his works. How solemn a thing it is, when the public professing body of the church becomes the direct object of God's judgment!

In verse 24, "to you,* the rest in Thyatira," that is, those who had nothing to do with Jezebel and her ways, her doctrine, who held the church - the woman - to be (no prophetess, but) apart from the world, and pure for Christ; they had but to be faithful to this. God did not expect from them in this darkness, the light of other days. Only they must hold fast what they had. Remark here, they were only a numbered and distinct "rest." confirming the idea that Jezebel represents the public state. Not knowing the depths of Satan, that is, what they called so, I apprehend to be plain morality and separation from the world. They indulged in corruption and idolatry; it characterised them - pretending to see a liberty which their acquaintance with the depth of Satan's wiles gave them; and pretending to look on the others as seduced by the deep wiles of Satan, to hold aloof from the church's path, from what God owned on the earth, and where He had placed His Spirit and word, for all this Jezebel pretended to. They said, that "the rest" did not know the depths of Satan, in making them think outward morality and holiness was called for in the church. So the true saints got the character of being led of Satan; and the instruments of Satan, that of possessing the word and Spirit of God. They were to keep Christ's works: that was the depth of truth at any rate. Knowledge they had little of, even in respect of justification by faith. The saints of that day were very ignorant.

{*Not and "the rest". "You" is plural, and means "the rest."}

340 George, who began the practical separation in Bohemia and Moravia, after the fall of the Hussites, began with morality, knew nothing of justification by faith as to clearness of doctrine. It was introduced later among them, and through much opposition, and alas! through the Lutherans with great relaxation of practice.

So with the Waldenses; practice was their great theme. And this was in its place according to God. Not that the truth was mighty as afterwards to deliver countries; but conscience was found in those holding Christ as the one foundation, which, through grace, made them suffer and live for Him.

The promises here are important. They are not simply special promises for those faithful within, though suited to them but the whole scene of promise and millennial glory to come, as belonging to the whole church. This is notable and connects itself with the view we have taken of the passage, as presenting the whole public state of the church in which corruption had become the mother of children, and its public state.

The Greek church comes little in scene here, though partaking of much of the corruption, because it did not stand before the eye of prophecy (as it has not been, in fact), as that which represented the church in the world. No doubt the accession of Russia has given a large population and importance to it. But this is quite modern; and all the East was overrun with Saracens and then Turks, in a word, with Mahommedans; and these stood in God's eye as holding the population there - the world's religion; and the Western system as that which was the church before the world. So, we know, it has historically been.

341 The promises given to the church are the power of the kingdom, but, besides that, Christ Himself. This is so simple and distinct, that what is called for is not interpretation but spiritual understanding. Only remark, that the subject here is not Christ's universal power over all things, but over the nations. It is the rule of the world, when the outward church has been the world and falsely "reigned as kings," falsely set up the millennial reign, and faithfulness has caused suffering; and Christ Himself, as the world will never see Him or know Him, as the Morning Star. As Sun He will reign over the world; as Morning Star, He belongs to faith alone, and is never seen by the world. As Sun, the saints will be seen with Him; as the Morning Star, they will see and enjoy Him themselves. Thus, both answer to the trial of the saints in the church; though it is the general glory of the church - all glory, save indeed as Christ is over all things, and such to the church His body. Here it is the world. The promise Of Psalm 2 made to Christ as Son of God is conferred on the overcomers. But, besides that, there is the proper Christian privilege. That which the watching eye, he who watches in the night sees, when the sleeping world enjoys itself and sees nothing, to be awakened by sudden judgment as a thief in the night - the Morning Star which Christ declares Himself in this book to be - that is given. Christ Himself thus known, known to the heart in the trial and difficulty of faithfulness, is given to him that overcomes.

The reader will remark, that this church professedly continues on to the end. Here first the coming of Christ is introduced. In fact, the others were passing states of the church. Here God's loving patience waited, and the saints were called to hold fast what they had to the end, till Christ came.

As a distinct form of existence, the Jezebel character marked it, when there was nothing else. It is the state before God's eye without as yet any other (the three last churches were not yet come up before Him), and to this state the instruction directly applies. But, in a secondary way, the fact that such a state of things would continue comes out, as the saints are called to hold fast till Christ comes, and the promises are directly and openly the church's at Christ's coming.

342 The church of Sardis presents Christ to us in a striking manner. He is in the very fulness of His power in respect of His relationship to the church - the fulness of power in government - the fulness of spiritual energy to work. He has this; but it is merely the fact. The stars are not seen in His right hand. It is not the regular formed order in its right place, but all spiritual power of working not mentioned in His relationship to the churches, nor what had been seen in the things that were (chap. 1:13-20).

But although thus far seen in a general character, and not a special one, Christ is not presented here as walking in the midst of the candlesticks. I do not mean that Christ had ceased to do it; but He is not so presented here. He is the source of all spiritual power, the possessor of all spiritual authority; all that actively represents Him on the earth belongs to Him. But the previously existing relationship is not expressed.

It is further to be remarked, that the seven Spirits of God belong to the comprehensive qualities and power of the Spirit in connection with bringing about God's will, not the Holy Ghost dwelling in the church: of this we have nothing here. The seven Spirits are seen before God's throne, and they are seen as eyes in the Lamb. We have got into new characteristics of Christ, in reference to His own power and rights, not what was already revealed of Him as walking amongst the candlesticks. His coming has been announced, and the outward successional church followed to the end. It was a system wholly corrupt, a mere Jezebel, a mother and source of wickedness. The Spirit now takes up Christ's personal character and rights, and, in this respect, looks out beyond church scenes.

The story of Sardis is soon told. We have no corrupt state, though there was much personal individual evil. On the contrary, there was the reputation of a moral activity which had delivered from evil - a name to live. But the real character of the church was a state of death. And here remark, that the work of the Holy Ghost is itself not, and cannot be, the object of judgment. This is evident. God does not judge His own working; nor Christ, the Spirit's. It is the result in man's hands. Thus the work which produced Protestantism was God's work, the action of His Spirit; the result is the use man has made of this blessing. Some things remained; and they were exhorted to strengthen them, for they were ready to die. The Lord had not found their works complete. There was something failing - lacking. It had man much in it. Christ had not found. them complete before His God.* It was not anything corrupt or superstitious exactly, but wanting in their character and motive. Activity, but not such as met the relationship of Christ with God on the earth; they were not Christian enough. Yet they had received much, and were to remember this, hold fast, and repent. If the church did not watch - this was the great point - they had got into the ease of the world, and were living as if things were settled and to go on for ever; it was not corruption and superstition' but deadness and worldliness; if they did not wake up and watch, they would be treated as the world. Christ would come on them as a thief in the night, and they would not know when.

{*Note that "complete before my God" is the correct reading.}

343 I have remarked elsewhere the extreme importance of this threat. Because it is directly declared in 1 Thessalonians 5 that those whom the Lord owns as Christians would not be so treated; "Ye are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief" And they are exhorted to watch. But on the world that day would come unawares, as travail on a woman with child. The professing church, in its Sardis state, would be treated as the world if it did not watch. Not only is the judgment most solemn, but it shews that the spiritual judgment, that professing Christianity in this state is (morally speaking) the world in God's sight, is just. And note, here, that if we connect (as we should) 1 Thessalonians 5:1, with chapter 4:14, this judgment will take place when the saints come with Jesus. Protestantism, for such I doubt not it is, sad as the thought may be, will be found and judged as the world at Christ's coming with the saints. It is not terrible tribulation and special judgment as with Thyatira, but found to be the world. Here, too, the true saints are treated as a remnant. "Thou hast a few names in Sardis who have not defiled their garments." They had practical christian walk. The white linen is the righteousness of the saints. "They shall walk with me in white." The church's works were not complete before Christ's God. There was a lack of what was properly Christian in them. Those who kept themselves in their walk as Christians would walk with Him in white. The same is repeated to him that overcomes, with the addition that he would not be struck out of the registers of God's people. When the once nominal church was treated as the world in judgment, it would not be even in the register. All professing Christians are, and in that sense, in the book of life. They have not life, surely, unless born of God, but they all stand on the public registry of life; a Jew, a Mahommedan, an open apostate, does not. When the saints were gone, and the nominal body visited as the world, that would have no real meaning, perhaps no nominal existence. The saint, faithful while it went on, would not lose his place on the register. Christ would confess his name as really His before His Father, and before His Father's angels. Here we have the saints very definitely individualised as to Christ's owning them, and in contrast with the professing church judged as the world below, confessed by Christ above in the presence of His Father and His angels. The warning to hear, as in Thyatira, comes after this distinction.

344 The church of Philadelphia is the rich and unqualified encouragement of that which was feeble but faithful. There is little church - character, I may say none. All is a statement of what Christ is and will be for them; only that they have the comfort of knowing that Christ has fully taken cognizance of their state, and that, satisfied of this, they are to go on, encouraged by His own grace. "I know thy works." This is all that is said. This character of the address to Philadelphia is very remarkable. The church, the saints, have to think of Christ, not of themselves. Faithfulness to Him, however, is noticed. His word had been kept, His name not denied, the word of His patience also kept, that is, of the way in which He awaits the time of His glory and power, through the long-protracted evil of the professing church, in the accomplishment of God's ways.

In this also they are specially associated with Christ. This association characterises all the promises made to him that overcomes also. Hence what Christ is personally with respect to such relationship, and His availableness, so to speak, for those seeking so to walk, is presented in the revelation of Him. He is "holy." This character must now specially be responded to. It is individual conformity (though in the common body and walk of all) to Him that is looked for in this near personal relationship. He is "true," the one who is truthful in all; the true Son of God, the truthful revelation of what He is, and we are sanctified by the truth; true in His word, so that it can be counted on. But "true" especially here refers to the power of the truth, but the truth seen in Christ's nature and person, and so known to us. "Sanctify them through thy truth; Thy word is truth … and for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." So is He the Holy and the True One; and it is especially where all has failed, that this character of Christ has its application, but a people are yet called to be faithful in special connection with Him.

345 So it is in John's Gospel, as regards Christ Himself in the midst of Israel; and in his Epistle, where seducers were leading men astray, and piety became individualised. Not, of course, as if brotherly love and union were not to exist, but that personal adhesion to Christ, the Holy and True One, was needed for it. Out of twenty-six times the word true is used, it is used twenty-one times by John, as a kindred word is sixteen times out of twenty-five. It is the personal character of Christ separated to God from all evil, and the true and living expression of all that He presented Himself as; as that manifested also the nature of all that was not it.

The next point is that He has the authority of the house and government to which, as Christ, He has a title, "and openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth" - an important word in present service. So to Him the porter opened. No human power, nor Satan's either, could hinder it. So now for those who hold fast to Him. And He had set an open door before them, and no man could shut it. But little strength they had, but (with the door open) if there was faithfulness, the service was easy. This, "Thou hast a little strength," is real approbation. There was not Pauline energy, nor God mighty in any one as in Peter. Not the energy that led to martyrdom, or brought kingdoms under its sway; but love to Christ and His word, that gave desire for the good of souls, and His being known, He was held to - had authority over the heart. Hence, there was a little strength: a great thing where all was loose as to Christ, and His word was held fast, and His name not denied. People might pretend to be the ancient people of God; but Christ had His place in the heart, and hold on the walk and conduct of those whom Christ here approves. His word was kept, His name owned.

346 Two evils were before the eye of the Spirit in these times: - the synagogue of Satan, those who founded religion on ordinances and not on Christ: a present and pretentious evil - "they say." The other a judgment of the Lord Himself, the hour of temptation which was coming on the whole world to try those attached to the earth, as it had been formed under the eye of God. As to the first, their judgment, after all, was light, but a great strength to the saints; who might seem to act for themselves, and despise the old traditions and truths, or what were said to be such, sanctioned for ages. They would be brought to own, by God's ways and dealings, that it was those who had little strength but were faithful to Christ, His word and name, whom He loved. They would have to come and bow before the feet of the despised remnant of faithful ones, weak as they might have been, and to confess, at any rate, that Christ had loved them. And this is what contents and satisfies the heart - the approbation and the love of Christ. This is what is presented by Christ, and what constitutes the ruling principle of the heart of the faithful here.

The first point, then, was Jewish principles invading the church outside her Jezebel character; that is, ordinances, traditions, and human authority in contrast with Christ. The second is connected with the consciousness that the world is going on to a scene of confusion and judgment, a time of universal trial. In the light in which Philadelphia stands, this is clear to those who have the understanding given by the Spirit of God. Christ is coming. Christ has to be confessed and held to fast, when all principle is loosed, God setting an open door before faith, but the world itself uneasy. The saints who hear with the ear given to faith will escape the hour of temptation. The reason is given. Christ is waiting for His allotted crown, and maintains His exclusive heavenly character, till He rises up from His Father's throne.

But the mass of professors are dwellers upon earth, not pilgrims; they have not their conversation in heaven waiting for the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. But there are those who have kept the word of Christ's patience, who know that He must wait until His enemies be made His footstool, and wait as strangers in heart on the earth till then. Christ has taught them this, and given the word that in teaching directs the path and spirit and conduct of him that waits. They wait with Christ, according to the word of His patience. It is into this, connected with the love of God, that Paul prayed the Thessalonians might be directed (2 Thess. 3:5). They are thus in the spirit of their mind separate from the world, as He is, associated with Him. It is not needed to try and prove them as dwellers upon earth. Here, therefore, His coming is given as direct encouragement and joy. 'You have to keep the word of my patience. Have patience, but I will keep you out of the hour of temptation which is coming; and not only so, I am quickly coming.' "Hold fast what thou hast [an earnest and important word] that no man take thy crown." In a time when there is little strength, and nothing but the promise of Christ's approbation to encourage, and the return to Jewish principles in those who profess to hold anything, it is a great thing to hold fast that that one has, the word of Christ, not denying the name of Christ, to keep the word of His patience.

347 The open door is before us, and it is a great blessing, and none can shut it. But the special exhortation is to hold fast that we have, and remember that keeping the word of Christ's patience, who now waits the day when His Father shall cause Him to rise up and take the power, is that which gives the assurance of being kept out of the hour of temptation. It will come on all the world, but we shall be out of it. This must not be confounded with the great tribulation which comes on Jerusalem especially, from which the remnant flee. It is far more general - on all the world.

The promise is very special, as is the relationship with Christ. The character of the saint's relationship, if he knew what his place was, is that of Christ's. A heavenly man in the midst of pretensions to be the people of God, which made nothing of Him, his only part personal faithfulness along with them that clung to Him, the whole weight of human traditional religiousness being against them, else all death around him, yet an open door to serve. The glory which follows on this answers to the glory Christ takes in consequence of His walk. I do not mean exactly with the Father, as in John 20, but in the time of His coming glory, walking in communion with Him. The former was the means of possessing the latter. He shall be a pillar, says Christ (yes, he who was weak), "in the temple of my God, and go no more out. I will write on him the name of my God [on the faithful one who had not denied my name on earth, when there was nought else for him], and the name of the city of my God [the place of glory and power which God had prepared, for he had looked for a city which had foundations] new Jerusalem which cometh down from heaven from my God [there his thoughts had been], and my new name." He shall be fully and openly associated with Me in the glory as he was by faith in littleness overlooked when there was nothing but Christ; but Christ for him was all. In God's day He will be all, such is the promise, so closely associated with Christ Himself in the Philadelphia state of things. I pray the reader to fix his attention on the close association with Christ all through this epistle. Let us look around and see if we cannot see elements such as these - No Jewish principles formed in Protestant countries after a name to live, but death there? No looking out for a time of trouble on all the world? No truth in there being but little strength but an open door? If there be, let the reader mark what the warnings and exhortations of Christ are.

348 The closing state of things comes next. Church, as to its place in the world, it yet is. It stands with its angel before Christ to be judged as such. He takes its works into consideration as such. But it has settled down into taking things quietly. It has not a name of excellence compared with Jezebel, but death. The living elements have been concentrated in the Philadelphia state. It would not renounce Christ, would keep up profession, would sacrifice nothing for Him, it would keep the church's place and credit, yea, claim it largely on many grounds as a body; but spiritual power, in individual association of heart with Christ or trouble for Him, was gone. Christ abhorred such a state. It was as lukewarm water, which would be spued out of His mouth. Such was the judgment unconditionally pronounced on the church of Laodicea. But, as ever till actual judgment comes, God continues to work, if any man may have cars to hear. So in Jeremiah: the plainest declaration that they would go to Babylon - yet continual calls to repentance, and a statement of God's way in this respect on repentance.

349 In Laodicea, all that they professed to have, all that man could estimate the value of, was false and human. I do not mean mere outward riches, but all that could give a large pretension to wisdom and knowledge and learning, perhaps a fuller view of Christianity itself; self-satisfaction in what was possessed: this characterised the professing church in Laodicea, but utter poverty as to Christ, nothing of Him - a name to attach to learning and human thoughts, but of Him nothing. Hence His counsel was to buy of Him gold tried in the fire, true divine righteousness in Him never separated from life, for it is His nature: and white raiment, the power of this association with Christ in what is displayed in man, living righteousness; and to have that true intelligence of the Holy Ghost which makes us see, the unction of the Holy One. In a word, the divine gifts and power of Christianity in contrast with what man possesses as man, with that of which he can say "gain to me" - man's conscious possession of that which gives importance and value to man in his own mind. The relationships of Christ to the professing church here are remarkable. The Christian is a new man, a new creation in Christ, risen into a wholly new place, on the utter rejection and proved insuperable evil of the first man - proved insuperable in the death of Christ. Man's and Satan's business are to exalt and give a place to the old. It is not here in the world, not at any rate in his own eyes. The professing church goes decidedly back here into that out of which we are taken in Christ by faith. Hence though this has still the name of the church, and professes to be Christian, it is really wholly in its own claimed moral place, though thinking itself wiser than ever, off the ground of Christianity, and on that of the world or natural man, which consequently comes on the scene in its own place; and the church closes. What was wholly wanting was what was divine and new in man. It was the first man enriched, even if Christ enriched him. That would be admitted. There was no divine righteousness, no specific christian clothing, the righteous life, according to Christ, of a new nature to be had only in Him. The teaching of the Holy Ghost was wanting. Man's intelligence was wonderfully and wholly in play. The things counselled to be got make this character of the evil clear; they are specifically divine things connected with man's rejection and acceptance in Christ alone, to be had only in Christ, and from Christ, and nowhere else; not an improvement of man, but what was divine found in and obtained from Him.

350 To this, and the fact of its being the closing state, all answers. Christ reveals Himself as the "Amen" who secures every promise of God, now man has failed even in the church. He is the faithful and true Witness in Himself. The witness of the church as a witness of Him is gone. He is the beginning of that new creation, of which indeed the church ought to have been a witness in the power of the Holy Ghost; but of which He in resurrection was the Head, the spring, and manifestation; all taking, in the new creation, its starting point of existence from Him, its place under Him. Adam had such a place in the old, the image of Him that was to come - Christ, in the new, of which the saints are the firstfruits. But here, the church, which on profession as founded on His resurrection had this character, having wholly failed and gone back in professed riches of human nature to the old, Christ comes forward as the beginning of it all, the one in whom it had its rise and its truth; all the rest being wholly dependent on and flowing from Him. The AMEN maintains the promises now to be fulfilled - the faithful and true Witness - One who had, and now would fully make good, the character of God - which man, His image, and the church, too, had failed to do - the beginning of the creation of God, one who, when God made all things new, as He was now about to do, was the beginning, the fountain and source of it all, the first in, and the first from, whom it all flowed. The position He takes, in respect of the church, shews the same relationship to it. He was practically without it, looking at it as gone, though it were not yet spued out of His mouth. It is a question, though He warned it yet, of individuals hearing His voice that they may escape - may have fellowship with Him, and He with them. He has not given it up; but it has become wholly human in its real state, as judged by Him; so that He has to come in to the individual if he has anything to say to Him, or Christ to him. "I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."

The whole body of members of the professing church were judged to be men now, not sons of God or Christians, though judgment was not publicly executed, but Christ still acting in grace; divine things (the alone true ones) recommended, human things boasted in. If the individual heard Him who still called and knocked, though as outside at the door, He would have communion with him. The promise answers to the bringing in of the new order of things, not heavenly joys, still a share with Christ. As they had listened in time, they would be on the throne in the kingdom. It was immense grace, but no more is promised; not the tree of life, no hidden manna, no white raiment spoken of to the soul, to encourage it in faithfulness within: they would not miss the kingdom. Blessed surely, and wonderful grace, but only just not shut out.

351 This, of course, necessarily closed the church's history. The reader will remark, that the instruction being moral, a state that is judged, promises ever precious, the warnings and exhortations are available to the saints at all times. The special application may be more or less seized. The words of Christ have power at all times for the heart and conscience; and this is the force of the exhortation at the end to every church: - "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."