Fragmentary Thoughts on Revelation

J. N. Darby.

Revelation 1:5-6
Revelation 2:1-11
Revelation 2:8-17
Revelation 3 and 4
Revelation 4
Revelation 5
Revelation 6 and 7
Revelation 11 and 12
Revelation 13
Revelation 14, 15, 16
Revelation 17
Revelation 18
Revelation 20
Revelation 22

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{For the remaining papers in this series, the reader is referred to the Editor's Note, Vol. 12, page 1. They are mainly notes of Addresses, not known to have been revised by the Author, save where this is specially indicated.}

Revelation 1:5-6

The ways in which the gospel may be preached and reach the heart are so many, that one has to look to the Lord to direct one, that it may be brought so as to comfort the saint and awaken the sinner. The moment the word is revealed to the soul in grace, the point is gained. There may be a thousand thoughts on men's minds, but there is enough in this blessed word to meet these thoughts, and to bring every one of them into captivity to the obedience of Christ. He is the Lord of all; and in His Person all truth centres. He is the substance of all truth - the ground and centre of truth to the soul. As we know Him, we get comfort, peace, and joy; as we walk with Him we have power to overcome. In verse 5 we have Christ presented in a threefold character. He is the one most drawn out by the Spirit of God. Alas! it is not always so drawn out in our heart. The answering character to that in the spirit of grace is, "To him that loveth us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood." In verse 7 is an application to the world - it will be a day of mourning to them. The Jews behold Him whom they have pierced, and the nations wail because of Him.

Let us especially consider the way in which Christ is presented to the soul. First, we have grace and peace in a peculiar form from God, that is, Jehovah; and the seven spirits, His spiritual perfectness, not the Father speaking to His children, buy the Eternal, and the seven spirits, the Holy Ghost exercising the varied power of the throne. Christ is brought near as connected with the earth; the faithful Witness when He was here below. This is what our souls need to remember - faithful testimony to what God is; for without this we have no certainty, whether as saints or sinners. A holy man cannot know God without the witness, nor whether the witness would suffice to meet a holy God. When I know God, I get sure ground to go upon, I shall know where I am - a terrible thing if I am walking in sin; but there is only uncertainty out of Christ, for He is the light.

137 There are sufficient traces of power in creation to serve as a witness of the eternal power and Godhead - enough of misery around us to see ruin - enough in conscience to learn that we have sinned; but we cannot learn God in providence, for we know not why He does this, or refrains from doing that. Providence is a depth out of our reach; we are not able to find out and judge the ways of God, nor indeed of the thoughts of a man's mind very often. There is another, the law, which appears to be a clear witness for God against sin. It is true that this is a witness of God's claim on man. We ought to love God with all our hearts, mind, and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves, but it reveals nothing of God's thoughts to us, and if this were the only witness, we should be ruined for ever. The object of the law is not love, but righteousness - God's everlasting claim of righteousness. But the law cannot meet what we want, for it says, "Thou shalt not covet," and there was never a man since the days of Adam that did not covet. If you do not satisfy God's claims, there is a curse upon you. Thus the law is man's letter of death. We turn to Christ, the faithful Witness, "the same yesterday, today and for ever" - the Witness down here amid the same circumstances in which we are placed, and dealing with men in all the feelings of life.

Jesus Christ was not as a king shut up in His palace, but in the midst of all man's wants, passions, propensities, and desires. The first grand comfort is when I see Christ, the faithful Witness, in the same circumstances as I am in: our hearts can say what God is to us. When I look at Christ down here, I see the faithful Witness, and I am brought into certain ground as to what I should meet in God. Jesus did not come claiming from man what he ought to be, but shewing out Himself in all the circumstances of man - shewing us what God is.

Whatever character I meet, Christ is the faithful Witness - the life and the light of man. This faithful Witness owns no goodness but in God. When the young man came to Him, Jesus does not tell him that He Himself is God, for that was not the time to do this. The young man was very lovely, and he thought by adding something to what he had already done he should go to heaven. He came to seek teaching of Jesus, and he gets Him as the end of the law. The faithful Witness touched him. All was laid bare, and the young man's heart was found given to mammon. With the Pharisees the faithful Witness shewed that their righteousness was only adding the sin of hypocrisy, as all outward show is. He knocked down men's righteousness with a terrible hand. What was the company that Christ came to? He was the friend of publicans and sinners. This upset the whole standard of man's righteousness. How came this? Because all pretences to righteousness were found to be false. This is a terrible thing for those who are building their hopes of heaven on their character. The world is constantly presenting their character at the expense of their conscience.

138 On the other hand, we see that Jesus did not want a character from man, but from God. John the Baptist came in the way of righteousness, and he went into the desert, and was company for no man. He came in the way of righteousness, not in grace. It is commonly said, a man is known by the company he keeps; and this is true, in a certain sense, of Jesus. How? He who in His own nature was holy, undefiled, and separate from sinners, was the companion of publicans and sinners, the faithful Witness to them of grace, that God is love. Jesus would make no allowance for man's claim to righteousness. He had compassion for sinners - He was always grace.

Whatever your state, come to Jesus, and you will find that He is always gracious, that He has always grace. The disciples would send some away when they brought young children to Jesus. They thought Him a great doctor, and that He must not be approached. Jesus took them up in His arms, and blessed them. The disciples had no sympathy with the thoughts and feelings of Jesus; yet He spoke to them as if they had sustained Him. "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptation." "They all forsook him, and fled" (Matt. 28:5-6), Peter even denying that he knew Him.

If I find difficulty in the way of the sheep, Jesus goes before them. In everything He had gone before us. Do I fear death? Jesus set His face stedfastly to go to Jerusalem, knowing that He should there be crucified. In this faithful Witness we find the activity of love. He came to seek and to save those that were lost, to bring them to Himself. The moment I find Christ I find a true God and Saviour. I may have been walking in all sin, but when I find Christ, I find One who was such to such as I am - to sinners. If I take God's witness of Himself, and give up reasoning, I know what God actually is - He is seeking sinners - and have no uncertainty at all. I may think I may get better, and may put off coming to God; the God who has come down first in Christ, or I should never repent at all. God, who so rich in mercy to come down into all my loneliness, He has come down as the faithful Witness to take up such as me - He could be the Friend of publicans and sinners: He was despised for it - faithful in love going through all the scene of man, because He was the faithful Witness, that grace may come to me where I am ashamed to be seen of men: there Christ comes to seek me out, determined to be the faithful Witness of God, who is rich in mercy. It is not that God has given a good character of Himself up in heaven; but it is goodness come down to earth, to identify Himself with all the misery of man. The One above all, our Saviour, is God, and God is love, and Christ came to be a faithful Witness of this. You cannot be in any condition that Christ did not come into. He plunged into the very sea of men's misery to help you out. It is a comfort to get man's sympathy, but he often cannot help us. What is it to get God's sympathy, which has power in it? This was the accepted time, from the time of Jesus, coming into the world, to His coming again - the day of grace.

139 What a comfort to the saint to meet the faithful Witness, who never reproached the disciples' negligence, but said in the tenderest manner, "Could ye not watch with me one hour?" He waits upon all our circumstances upon all our anxieties. As our High Priest He bears us always on His breast - the accomplishment of God's love to saints, as well as to sinners.

The conscience makes even a saint afraid of God; he finds an evil will in himself, and the devil often gets an advantage over a sincere saint, and keeps him away from God; but the comfort is, Christ met the enemy in all his power, and He is presented to me as the First-begotten from the dead, the One who has put Himself under all the consequences of my sin, and now in His new character I find Him "the faithful Witness" - One who has borne all my sins - not now under them. The Father in righteousness was obliged to raise Him from the dead, and I can say, as a believer in Him, that I have no guilt - He sees all washed away. This is beholding Christ as the First-begotten from the dead. I see One who has blotted out my sins before Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and I get true and settled peace - not a cold, hard-hearted way of saying I have peace; but I look to Jesus as my Saviour, and this re-kindles love, and impels me to keep His commandments.

140 We are by nature under Satan's power the end of which is death; but the Lord Jesus overcame through death him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and through this I have not only victory over Satan in Christ, but I may say all things are mine, whether life or death, etc. Satan could not deal with the heirs of salvation, unless he had foiled the Captain, and Jesus submitted Himself to the power of Satan, but in the resurrection that power was broken for ever. Liberty and joy are ours; not freedom from conflict, but deliverance from Satan. Now the way that Satan gets power over us is by his wiles, persuading us to receive him as a friend, instead of treating him as a fiend - "Resist the devil, and he shall flee from you." It is not said, Overcome him, for this Jesus did before.

Jesus was the expression of grace and truth, the blessed Son of God before; but now in resurrection, He presents us with a new character to God, such as man never had before - a Man who had put Himself under the power of death, risen to absolute dominion: a new thing - man once without God, now in the very presence of God, and the very pattern of God's mind and delight! Sin is done with in Christ, and our standing in Him is quite a new thing - "Bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh." There is no past history of this, no experience, not any old thing; all is done away, there is an entirely new Headship in the second Adam, the Lord from heaven. Is this my place? Yes; but we find difficulty in apprehending this, because of the weakness of the flesh; for the moment I look at myself, I have another man full of failure; but my standing before God is in Christ the new Man, not in myself that I have to struggle against, but the new Man, the Lord Jesus Himself I am one with, who bore my sins and put them away for ever. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God," etc. (1 John 3:2), but it is not by being in glory that I shall be justified, that is by faith now. Justification is from two causes; first, that Christ bore my sins; secondly, that He is before God without sin.

141 "Prince of the kings of the earth." I would say a few words on this point, together with the response from the heart of the saints. We see not here the dominion of Christ over the kings of the earth, but we shall shortly. As to the response of the church: when God enables me to believe the testimony of the Son, He gives me the Holy Ghost, He puts the Spirit into man's heart as a seal, and earnest of glory. What is the effect in this verse 5? It gives power to say us - "To him that loveth us," no uncertainty: the Holy Ghost always says to us, not them (1 Peter 2:21), not that we shall be loved, but He does love us - no room for doubt, but the fruits of the Spirit, consequent on the Holy Ghost's dwelling in me. Things were not so ministered to the Old Testament saints, though they may be as holy. Christ has come, was dead, has accomplished righteousness, has sat down, so now the answer to all His titles is, "To him that loveth us and washed us," etc. All the promises of God are in Him, Yea and Amen, to the glory of God by us; 2 Cor. 1:20. God hath anointed us, hath sealed us. Do I doubt? What do I doubt? That the Father sent the Son for poor sinners? If you believe this, you cannot doubt that you are saved. Your salvation is based upon the unchangeable revelation of God; and what a tide of affection flows from knowing this! God, through Christ, has saved not me alone, but the whole body of saints. What a difference does it make to me, in thinking of the joy and blessedness, whether I am going alone, or in looking at many of you, and being able to say, "He has made us kings and priests!" Just exactly what He is Himself - the highest in authority, and the nearest to God. Can you all, dear friends, say this according to the Spirit, "To him that loveth us?" - so settled in the consciousness of it, that the heart can only go out in fulness of praise! If it is not so with you, dear friends, it is because you have not received the testimony of the faithful Witness, who was grace, and the Messenger of God's grace to us. The Lord give us to give place to the Holy Ghost in His thankful testimony to His love, and grant us to walk nearer to Him, in the conscious power of it.


There are certain expressions in the word of God which unfold, in the most familiar manner, what the Christian is; and which, if there was but the most ordinary attention on the part of the reader, would lead him to say, "Well, if that is what a Christian is, I know nothing of the matter."

142 These expressions are not the violent stretching forth after some hope, but they are characterised by the quiet certainty with which they appropriate the blessing. As John here says of all the Christians to whom he was writing, "unto him that loves us, and has washed us from our sins in his own blood," etc. Now, if I were to ask you - you, perhaps, who would be affronted if I should say you were not a Christian - if I were to ask you, are you sure that Christ loves you? that He has washed you from your sins in His own blood? No, you would say, if honest, I know nothing of it. Yet these are the expressions of the common recognised state of Christians. Or can you say - Yes, blessed be God, though a poor thing in myself, I do know that God loves me? To be able to say this is the common portion of the believer. And so it is written, "we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one." All Christians are recognised as knowing salvation. And in 2 Peter we read of one who had forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. But he could not forget what he had never known. Forgetting "that he was purged," was backsliding; the christian state was knowing that he was purged.

You will find every kind of exhortation addressed to the believer; but they are all based on the ground of his having been brought to God. I ask any one, would there not be a quieter, happier state of soul if you were certain that God loved you? There cannot be happy affections if the soul is not in confidence with God. That is the kind of knowledge of God which is life eternal. God is love, and if you do not know that, you know nothing. And where are you if you know not God? If you believed fully that God is love, love toward you, what kind of thoughts would you have of Him? Would you think that you must obey, or else He will punish you with His vengeance? Would you think of Him as a Judge? No. Such thoughts are not the thoughts of one acquainted with His saving love. Of course there is a judgment, but there is no mercy then. When Christ comes to judge, can you stand if He marks iniquity? can you answer Him for your transgressions? No. But if you really believed in His righteous judgment now, you would say, "enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." But Christ is not now a Judge; He is a Saviour. It is all mercy now. He is not imputing to any their trespasses. Every eye must see Him. We Christians see Him now as a Saviour. You who do not believe put it off till the judgment, hoping to be able to meet Him then; but then "all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him." He is a Judge when He is not a Saviour. It is judgment then, not trial as to whether you will pass. Now there is a trial going on, not indeed as to whether you are a sinner or not; but as to whether you will receive Christ or not. Now your heart is put to the test: alas! your wilful heart would still reject Him, if grace does not bow you in the sense of sin. God will justify Himself in that day, and no one else. In that day He will demonstrate the sin which is the ground of the judgment. Every secret thing will then be made manifest. It is not then that the question is raised, but that the judgment is manifested. Now the question is raised. All this is brought into the soul now. In spite of all the fair appearances of the world we justify God now, we accept the judgment God gives of man now, we justify Him in condemning us. The eye of God brings the judgment into my conscience now, and I bow to it. I feel and say that God should not let such a wretch live before Him. That is what will be when every eye sees Him; but it is also what is now in the soul, when the Lord reveals to us our state by faith. I now justify God. I say I have been all darkness and sin, and I abhor myself in His presence. Conscience is dumb in the light of God. If you have been brought to this, you know yourself. If you seek to hide it you are not the better, but the worse.

143 Suppose that I am brought to this, I shall not now be trusting to a vague feeling that God is merciful. It was not so with Peter when he found himself a sinner in the presence of the Lord. He said, "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man." He felt that sin and Christ, as the holy Lord, should not be together. So is it ever when the soul is brought to be jealous about God. The idea of compromise is a horror to one whose conscience is active about sin. Well, when brought to this, what can the soul have confidence in? Oh! in this - that when we were in such a condition we have full assurance of the love of God toward us.

Now if I turn to nature, I see signs of goodness, but widespread misery and wretchedness too, so that I know not how to say God is love; and these very signs of goodness shew me that I have lost it all, for this God I have offended. If I turn to providence, I find it all confusion - how often have the wicked the upper hand! If I look to the law, it condemns me, and leaves me without hope. In all these I see things about God; but nothing that reveals Him. In Christ I get what reveals God. I, for myself, just where I am, find that He is the "faithful witness" of God. For it is in this world, where all the sin was, that Christ was the faithful witness.

144 There will be no need of a witness in heaven. Now I can go to Jesus and see God in Him. Do you ever find a single act or word of this faithful Witness that was not love? Never. Of course He would unmask the hypocrite. But the moment a person is true - were he the greatest sinner in the world - the moment he is contented to be what he is in Christ's presence - you will never find that He was anything but love. Of course God must convince of sin. He will write on the sepulchres and tell what is within. God will unmask what we are; our self-deception He will discover to us; but then He is perfect love, and nothing else. What brought Christ here? To know that there was sin? Oh no! He knew it well; but He came here because there was sin. The very sin I am confounded at, is the very thing that brought Him here in love.

In the case of the woman who was a sinner, in Luke 7, Christ puts down Simon, and He does not care for the guests. Why? Because a poor woman was to be comforted in love. Christ came into the very place where sin was. If it is a question of truth, He knows my sins. When I speak of Christ loving me, it is that He loves me knowing all that I am; it is not loving, surely, the sinful condition I am in, but loving me when in it. He will write on the ground to let my conscience act; He will bring my sin into my conscience. He will not let me get satisfied with myself, but He will have me to rest in His thoughts of me. What the heart struggles to do is to be satisfied with itself; but God will break that down; and the moment you are brought to that, He will make you to be satisfied with Him, just as you are. He will not leave you there, of course; but He will have you to rest in the knowledge of His perfect love: "Unto him that loves us"; then I find rest.

But that is not all: it is added, "And washed us from our sins in his own blood." It is not said, will wash us, but has washed us. We want it now, for peace, and for holy affections. "In his own blood." Who has done this? Christ. He has done it. He has made us "clean every whit." And if He has washed us He has done it in righteousness, knowing all our sin, and maintaining all this perfect righteousness which made us tremble because of our sins; but in accordance with it all He has washed us from our sins in His own blood. He knew what our sins were in the sight of God, and so He gave Himself up - Himself entirely He gave for me. An angel could not, nor should not, do it - he is called to keep his first estate - but Christ only. In this act of Christ in washing my sins I find Him giving His blood, His life, Himself, for me. Not one single spring do I find that was not love to me. Such is the knowledge I get of Christ.

145 He has washed me from my sins in His own blood. Do I believe this? Oh yes! I do. I believe that every one of them is washed away, and that He has done it, as it is said in Hebrews, "By himself purged our sins." Ah! you say, if I only felt this! But let me ask you, will your feelings add to the value of Christ's blood? Oh no! Then why not rest on it, as that which has perfectly satisfied God on account of the sins? The question of sin Christ settled between God and Himself; "When he had by himself purged our sins": He did it according to the holiness of God, and according to my need. And what cleanness do I get? The cleanness which God's eye requires; all that which shut us out from God being perfectly put away, so that we are brought into the light as God is in the light; and in doing it His perfect love has been revealed.

"And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father." If I take a person and bring him into the enjoyment of everything that I have myself, I give the fullest proof of the perfect outgoing of my heart towards him. Kindness may give something for a person; but that is perfect love. I cannot do more. Well, that is what Christ has done. He is the King and Priest; and He makes us kings and priests too: and it is worth so much the more because it is the very thing He has Himself.

Another thing we get - the perfect love of the Father. Not the love of Jesus alone, but the love of the Father, the knowledge of which Jesus gives us. He makes us priests unto His Father. Was ever love like this? Never. Was Christ ever anything else? Never. He is nothing but this perfectness of love for us. And the sum of it all is, "he loves us." Has He anything else to say to us? No. What love had to do, it has done. Oh, in the simplicity of thankful hearts, to say, "he has made peace by the blood of his cross!" "Unto him that loves us, and has washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion, for ever and ever. Amen."

146 Revelation 2:1-11

It is good to be occupied with spiritual affections, or rather with the subjects which vivify them, with those things which are not seen, which God has revealed to us, and which are of the world to come. The Holy Spirit presents to us many of those things which we shall enjoy later, and with much more detail than we can expect.

That which the Spirit says to the churches is for the peace and the joy of the children of God in the glory which is coming The Spirit says, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." This, therefore, concerns us individually. According to His faithfulness, the Lord Jesus takes cognizance of the present state of the church. That which is in question here is not accomplished salvation, but the particular state in which the church is found, or even the state of such and such an individual, as we may judge from verse 2. "I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience," etc. Then also, "He that hath an ear, let him hear," etc. At the same time, Jesus is there revealed to us as judging the state of those to whom this is addressed. There are also particular promises fit to sustain the remnant of faithful ones, in the midst of the special circumstances by which their faith is tried. The promises which are presented here, differ from those which are made to the church in an absolute and general manner. They apply also to the church, and the church enjoys them. However, they have particularly as their object to sustain faith in the circumstances in which we may be found, whether as a remnant in the midst of the unfaithfulness of the mass of the professors, or as faithful in the midst of the trials which we are called to pass through. Now, for the conflict, we need discernment, in order to understand where the conflict is found; what is its main point or speciality. Faithfulness is found in contrast with the evil which the Lord reveals, because we are on God's side in this world.

147 We need to understand that the interests of Christ are our own - that His battles are our battles; and the more we lay hold of this idea, the stronger and happier we are (Exodus 17:16). Happily, in Jesus these things do not fail us. Although Jesus identifies Himself with the church, He nevertheless judges the state of the church, and here He presents Himself as judge, but in love.

The book is divided into three distinct parts: first, the things which John saw; secondly, the things which are; thirdly, those which are to come. The things which John saw are mentioned in chapter 1; those which are, in chapters 2 and 3, including that which concerns the seven churches; those which are to come begin at chapter 4, and fill the remainder of the Apocalypse. Christ manifests Himself here as judge, not as in the latter day for the wicked, but as a priest who discerns all in order to remedy the evil.

You will find in Leviticus that, after the consecration of the priests, all the things as to which it was a question of being clean and unclean are presented together. It was they who were to know how to discern between the clean and the unclean. The priesthood had to discern everything. And it is also what belongs to the Christian, not as to one who fears the imputation of sin (although he has a responsibility), but because he has been anointed by God to distinguish between good and evil, according to the holiness of the service of God.

That is why Jesus takes to Himself this character of authority; that is the general idea which He gives of Himself. "These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks," v. 1.

We find in all the addresses to the churches these words, "I know thy works." He takes cognizance of all that is done. It is very comforting that God has put us in such a position; and we are responsible according to the grace of the position. This responsibility increases according to the measure of grace in which we are placed. A servant and a slave do that which the master demands; but the child enters more intimately into the interests of the family, and he is responsible according to the position in which he is placed. It is good that we too should consider ourselves under this point of view. An Israelite might have done things which a priest would not have dared to do; many things were required of the priest for the service of God, to which no other man among the people was bound; then he was to discern good from evil, according to his nearness to God, as the anointed of God. We ourselves also, are priests. We have the knowledge of good and evil - a privilege acquired through sin at the beginning; so that this has been our ruin, but, at the same time, a thing which proceeded from Him who willed it thus - a thing good in itself, and which we possess now according to the intelligence of the Holy Spirit, in virtue of the obedience of the second Adam. When Satan led away Adam to infringe the prohibition which God had made him, Satan added, "God doth know, that, in the day ye eat thereof" - of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - "then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." The word adds, "The LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil."

148 Two things are always found, as in the garden of Eden, responsibility and life - the two trees. Adam acted in his responsibility, and failed as to it, before having life. This is why God must needs drive him out of Eden, because God did not permit that he should have life together with sin. There are the two great principles, responsibility of good and evil, and life: Christ alone has reconciled them. When the law was introduced, it presented responsibility, and not life. The law places man in responsibility as to his salvation; but instead of life, it pronounces condemnation and death. Christ, on the contrary, takes the responsibility on Himself, and becomes at the same time the source of life. Christ took upon Himself our responsibility before the judgment of God, and has placed us under a much higher responsibility - responsibility according to that life which He has given us. Consequently, He judges Christians, not to condemn them, in their everyday conduct. But treating them according to the holiness of this life, He judges their walk, that grace may always be given them, according to their need, and to maintain them in communion with the Father and with Himself. He intercedes at the same time for His own before God, not to obtain their justification, which He has perfectly accomplished, but to take them out of their difficulties and maintain them in the path of faith.

149 Jesus, therefore, takes notice of the state of the church and says, "I know thy works." It is not to condemn, but it is as being priest, and thus having to manifest the new man according to all the grace which is given him, and we shall see how far this responsibility goes.

Verses 2, 3. "I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted." Here are many excellent things, and one might have thought that there was nothing but approbation; but it is not so. "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee." Christ cannot come down from the height of His love. He would have fruits according to the love which He has for us. A worldly person would say, Is it absolutely necessary that I should do that? Have I need of these things? Am I bound to do that, as a Christian? But the love of Christ cannot be content without seeing fruits. It is like a father who loves that his child should succeed, that he should bear fruits capable of rejoicing him, and in keeping with the love which he shews him. The child may be slothful or lazy, but the father devotes himself to him; if there is not a response to the care taken by that love, neither is there contentment on the part of the father. If there is not with the conscience of that love, the same ready response as at the beginning, there is not the sound which goes to the heart of Jesus. It is better not to play at all than to play false tones. One has abandoned one's first love, and there is not that love which responds to love. Jesus is not a hard Master; He only requires these things from us in love. He says, "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." It is something which does not suit the ear of Christ, something which is not in tune: it is the first thing of which Christ takes notice - "thou hast left thy first love." They had patience; they could not bear them which were evil; they had laboured for the name of Jesus, but - "they had left their first love." If love is wanting, something essential is wanting. The heart has begun to be occupied with itself. A wife may do for her husband all that she did before, work as much, be wanting in nothing as to her duties; but if the husband does not find in her that which satisfies the heart, all is wanting: the wife has ceased to be occupied with him in the same manner.

150 We love something, and if it is the affections of faith, Christ is the object of them. As soon as He ceases to be the object of our thoughts, the thing is seen; He at least perceives it. After being delivered, we are full of love, and we only see the light. We think that sin is dead within. In the measure that the heart is filled with other things, the springs of this love are weakened; and if we ask ourselves, Do you still think as much of your Saviour as when you received Him for the first time into your heart? We notice that we have left our first love. I can be occupied with good things; I may seek souls; but if I no longer think as much about Jesus - about what He is for me - all is marred. If I am before God, I am always little; I feel myself responsible to God, and I am nothing. I judge myself, there is love; but if I get far from Him, I think of myself, and weakness increases. There is no longer the same discernment. There is no longer the same love. One is no longer at a height to view things as Christ views them; one is not at a height to shew grace. This is the leaving of one's first love, and of the patience of our hope.

The apostle Paul, writing to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 1:3), reminds them continually of "their work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ." In the Ephesian church are found works, labour, and patience; but they are no longer the work of faith, the labour of love, the patience of hope. The Lord says to them, "Thou hast abandoned thy first love." Each one of us can address the same question to himself, "Am I as much occupied with Christ? Have I not left my first love?" And, if we are in this state, cannot the Lord apply these words to us? "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."

Verse 7. "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life." It is not with us as with Adam, who had only a responsibility of obedience: our responsibility refers to a conflict with Satan; and the proof that we are the strongest is that we can conquer the power of Satan. We may fail, it is true. If we were in nowise in the conflict against Satan, it would be because we had not life; but, besides this conflict in principle against him, one must also conquer in the details.

151 The tree of life, which is here referred to, is no longer in man's paradise, but in God's. In Eden, the paradise of man, there were two trees. Satan succeeded in entering there, and all was marred; but God's paradise was arranged by Him and for Him, after all was lost, and that by a work of love and glory, which causes the other to be forgotten. The paradise of God is a work of grace, which is the consequence of what it is God's good pleasure to do when man has failed. The paradise of man was a test of what man is; that of God is the consequence of the fact that Christ has resisted and overcome all evil. As the other was the place where the responsibility of the first Adam was - responsibility as to which he failed - we are placed with the life of Christ in us, and put to the test in the midst of evil with that life, not as men, but as Christians. The world thinks to be put to the test as men, but they are mistaken; the Christian alone is put to the test, in order to manifest in the world a life which is not of this world. Now let us see how Christ introduces us into the midst of all that.

The question is not, if I conduct myself well, I shall be accepted. No, it is not a question of that. The world thinks that it is a question of a conflict, destined to satisfy certain demands of God; it is an error. For the Christian, the conflict is the exercise of the power of the Holy Spirit in him who has already eternal life, who obtains the victory over the world, of which Satan is the prince and the head. In order for us to enter into the conflict, it is necessary for Christ to take away all our sins; for if any remained, it would be with God that we should have to do. The difficulty was found on that side, and it is the practical state of souls not set free; but we must be without sin before God; and being His in this world, and He being for us, we can enter into this conflict - where evil does not enter at all, where flesh cannot subsist - and there have the victory over Satan.

Verses 8-10. The Lord addresses Himself here to the church of Smyrna, as being "the first and the last, which was dead and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (but thou art rich), and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer; behold, the devil shall case some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." It is very evident that the promises, and the character of Christ, apply to the circumstances of that church. Here is something striking. It is not a question of knowing how far the heart responds to Christ; but of knowing if it is worth while leaving everything, even one's own life, in order to enjoy the privileges which are in Christ.

152 That which comes in here is the result of leaving the first love, as a church: for it is not necessarily true as to individuals. Persecutions follow as the consequence of that which is not in the mind of God. The widows complain of being neglected in the daily ministration; Acts 6:1. It is no longer Christ who alone occupies the thoughts: they have left their first love. When that happens, the world holds somewhat the place of Christ.

The church must learn that everything is above. "Fear none of those things which thou shalt have to suffer." Christ might have said, Thou shalt not suffer; but He wishes us to understand that we must be little, poor, and despised, and that one cannot be rich. I do not speak of temporal riches, but of that poverty which has nothing but its faith to present; and that is what God wishes. If the church suffer, if it is tormented in different ways, there is also another suffering. The church had nothing to present but its faith, which could sustain it. Now the Jews who were there boasted of being the true people of God; they said they were rich, and blasphemed. The Christians, for them, were only miserable heretics, and sectarians: and the church felt its position contemptible in the eyes of those who, according to appearance, were the people of God. That is more painful than when the world speaks evil of us. The church was afflicted, persecuted, and poor; but Jesus says to it, "Fear none of those things." The Jews said insulting things; but the Lord said, "Thou art rich." In this we have a lesson. Christ does not prevent our suffering: we must make up our minds to suffer; but if Christ says to us, "Thou art rich," that is enough for us. And He will only have for disciples those who are content with what He says, "Thou art rich." If any one is not satisfied with that, well, let him go to the world.

There is, however, something remarkable here. Jesus says to them, "The devil shall put some of you into prison." He attributes it to Satan, as if He were not able to prevent it. He says you shall be tried (v. 10). I leave thee to suffer; it is the time of the power of darkness, but it will end. Whatever, then, may be the power of Jesus, He changes nothing in the position of actual suffering. It is necessary that the moral ways of God should have their course, and that the work should be accomplished according to the good or the evil which is found in those in whom it takes place. It is necessary that He should leave to the enemy his own part, according to that which is due to him, so to speak - according to the state of those who are the objects of the government of God. He leaves power to Satan in order to manifest the glory of Christ by the church; and if we are not near Christ, Satan gets the victory as to things present, and Christ is not glorified.

153 All power belongs to Christ: we have nothing to fear. But Satan is there, and the church is responsible for the manifestation of the glory of Christ; and as soon as we leave Christ, we can no longer do it. It is a question of realising all this power of Christ, according to the position where we are individually; and we must be near enough to Christ to get the victory over Satan, and to do perfectly well all that we are called to do according to our position. It is not a question of leading or of being a general. If each soldier does his duty in his own place, the victory is won; and that may go so far as to lay down one's life. It is not a question of getting life: we have it; and we shall reign. It is a question of the church placed there to manifest the power of Christ by the Holy Spirit, to manifest His glory where evil exists, before spiritual wickednesses, and to enjoy the same results of the victory as Christ Himself: the crown of life in the paradise of God, as Jesus has Himself, and with Him.

It is not only not being lost; but it is to be with God, and to get the victory over Satan, who has the power of death. What we have to understand is that each one in his place, from the head down to the skirts of the garment, and however little he may be, has his place and his responsibility to manifest the power of Christ; and if he is not in the power of Christ, he is overcome. May God give us this strength, and render us capable of accomplishing in all things His will!

154 Revelation 2:8-17

Last time we were speaking of the character of judgment running through this book of Revelation. We see the Lord in these epistles judging the churches, and then the world; we see Him taking notice of everything: "I will judge every one of you according to his works."

It is well to see the difference between the church as seen in Christ, and as on earth representing Christ. She partakes of His glory, as united to Him; and as a vessel contains His glory, and represents it on earth - the "epistle of Christ, known and read of all men." Responsibility down here does not touch salvation in any wise. He had promised, in His faithfulness, to carry them on towards the fulness of His glory, and He judges them for failure in the use of the responsibility He laid upon them. God's own people are profited by it, but the "simple pass on, and are punished," and at length, as a body, they are "spued out of his mouth."

All chastening is intended to turn to profit for the church. In the address to each church there is a particular revelation of Christ corresponding to the peculiar judgment, and there are special promises to each. It is not here the supply of grace from the Head for the body, as in Ephesians, but the responsibility of individuals in their walk. Another thing we have to remember is, that the object of these addresses is not to shew the power of the Holy Ghost actively at work. If it is judgment, it clearly is not this. Christ cannot be said to judge the work of the Holy Ghost. It is power in grace if the Holy Ghost works, but Christ's judgment is His estimate of the practical use made of the privileges given. The Lord looks at the church as responsible for all the love of which it is the object. The candlestick is to be taken away when there is no profit. It is not individuals judged here, but churches - what "the Spirit saith to the churches," and there is no return found; therefore it is to be taken out of its place.

Then the address is to "him that hath an ear, let him hear." There is individual energy to overcome, and it is overcoming in the condition in which they were - it is overcoming things within, not overcoming the world. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith" - there was that as well, of course; but here it is overcoming evil in the church. We must remember that the church has fallen from its first love, when Smyrna is addressed; and the church ceases to be a place of security to the saint, the moment the Spirit so addresses the church as failing; therefore individuals are singled out. I get myself as an individual singled out, but the church addressed. I have to make good my certainty by the word. The church may be right in this or that; but I have to discern by the word what I can follow, and what I cannot. This is a principle of great importance. It is not that there were no blessings for these churches - they were highly commended in many things. But the churches were being judged by Christ's word.

155 Development is a common word in use now, but it has in it the principle of infidelity. There is nothing in God to be developed. The word is a revelation of God in Christ. In 1 John 1 we find it said, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which our hands have handled of the word of life: for the life was manifested," etc. It is clear there can be no development of that which has been manifested. Unless we can get something beyond "God is light," there can be no development. There is much to be learnt about Him; but it is a Person here presented, not a doctrine. If it were a doctrine, we might get something added; but it is not a question of doctrine, but a living Person that has been revealed, and in the address to this first church we find that they have left their first love - they have left something; there is no development in that. God cannot set up anything but what is perfect, nothing contrary to His mind, or inferior to His mind. Look at man. We see him brought out perfect, but he could not keep his first estate. Then there was a perfect priesthood established, but there was failure in Nadab and Abihu. He "planted wholly a right seed." What comes from God must be perfect, and cannot by any other operation. There may be decline, and there is decline. This is a very simple truth, but it cuts up by the roots a whole system of thoughts and feelings and judgments.

Then we find another grand principle brought out here. He exercises the heart by bringing in the hostile power of the world to hinder decay, and to separate from the evil around - and this is tribulation. Take Christ Himself, see His perfectness as the Servant of God: "He learned obedience by the things that he suffered." Much brought out through trial, opposition, slighting; His path led, darker and darker, down to the cross. He met Satan's power, and even the wrath of God. He overcame all, and is set down with the Father on His throne, and in it all, it only brought out the growing manifestation of the perfection in Him.

156 There is another thing with regard to us. Persecution and trial are used to hinder our departure from God. There is the constant tendency in the heart to take rest in prosperous circumstances, the flesh turns to what is agreeable in the world; but it will not do. God says, "Arise, and depart hence, for this is not your rest." Persecution is the natural portion of the children of God. When the church was taking rest at the beginning, persecution soon came in. In Matthew the principles and character of the kingdom were brought out in the sermon on the mount: "Blessed" - "Blessed" - "Blessed," etc. Blessing is the character, and then the grace of Christ was just beginning to be manifested; the miracles had begun to be performed, etc., and God was now shewing them what was "blessed" in His sight. Towards the end of the Gospel, instead of blessing, it is, "Woe" - "Woe" - "Woe"; "your house is left unto you desolate"; because the opposition was fully brought out by the perfect manifestation of what was in Him.

God sends us tribulation, opposition from without, to bring out grace, and to hinder decay. With Christ it was always and only the former. But take the case of Job: God uses Satan as an instrument of blessing to him, as He does with the church. About Job God begins the conversation, "Hast thou considered my servant Job?" etc.; and God uses the trial to bring out to him what Job had never known before. Then, again, take the case of Paul. He had to be taken up into the third heaven, to get such a sight of the glory as to fit him for the peculiar service to the church to which he was called. Then what use would the flesh make of this? It would puff up. Then a messenger of Satan is sent to buffet him, and he prays that it may be removed. But he is not to be rid of the thorn in the flesh, but gets the assurance, "My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness." This it was that strengthened him for after service, not the being in the third heaven and the sight of the glory, in one sense, for it was to be God's strength, not Paul's. Take another case in Peter. He needed to be sifted, because of the self-confidence in him: therefore the Lord allows Satan to sift him, but He prayed for him. When confidence in self was pulled down, then he could be used to help others.

157 It seems astonishing that God should use Satan as the instrument to try the saints here; but it is so, and He says, "the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried." In this church we find the state is decaying (they have lost their first love), and God has to put her into the furnace. She gets into the place where Satan persecuted before; she gets where Satan's seat is. "I know thy works, and tribulation, and thy poverty (but thou art rich)." God knew that they were rich, they were multiplied in the world, and then there was a tendency to rest in the circumstances put into, instead of in the Lord Himself. The Lord would not suffer this. He must put them into trouble, because He would make them lean on Him. He would cast the church on her own proper position altogether. He will give them to find the hostility of the world, in order that they may be brought back to know their own privileges in their own real position. How strange that the church should need persecution, not only that Christ should suffer them to be cast into prison, but also that they were to be faithful even to death! And the promise to them is "the crown of life." They may be martyrs, but there is positive blessing and honour for them. Christians are seeking what the world does. If the Lord turns the current, He puts them through the fire. If the church has the world, in any sense down here, it must give up a heavenly, a crucified, Christ.

You cannot associate the world and religion, but it was the object of Judaism to connect them. It set about to mingle the tastes and feelings of nature with God, and whenever the world is connected with religion, there must be priesthood let in, because the moment you get man as he is, he cannot stand before God. But now Christians are priests - no need of an order of priests between God and you; you are a heavenly, not an earthly people. "He suffered without the gate, let us also go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." The moment the blood is carried into the heavenly places, we are associated with Him, and we are taken outside the world altogether, and connected with the heavenly places. Judaism connected the two. Our place is outside the camp, and inside the veil, with Him. Carnal ordinances connected man with God under Judaism; but when Christ is rejected on earth, the place is in heaven, and there cannot longer be the mixture of the two. We are raised up together, and made to sit together in the heavenly places in Him. We have no middle thing if Christ is our portion. The moment we lose the sense of this, God must let loose the power of Satan to keep us in a straight path.

158 The character in which He addresses this church is as the First and the Last, One dead and alive. Looked at as man, He is dead to this world, cast out and rejected. We now must, like Mary Magdalene, get an empty tomb, or a living Christ. If your heart is upon Christ, all that you can find in this world is an empty tomb with nothing in it. Then you have nothing to do with the world, for all heavenly blessing is yours. The constant tendency is to slip away from this, because, if we do not cleave to the world, it cleaves to us. This was the case of the churches here. They needed to be put through the fire to separate them from the world. Judaism had crept in; then development (Gnostics, etc.), "intruding into those things which they have not seen, vainly puffed up by their fleshly minds." Then persecution comes, and blows upon all this. The history of these times shews that the living power in the church was not in its doctrines, but in its martyrs.

Verse 13. "I know where thou dwellest, where Satan's throne is." Here is another and more subtle character of evil. The Lord gives them all the credit He can. It has passed through tribulation, sent on account of worldly corruption from without, but here there is doctrinal corruption within It is in the world where Satan's seat is, and it has been living there ever since. (It is not a question here of individual conduct, but of the corporate position of the church.)

It was at the cross of Christ that the world emphatically became the seat of Satan - not that, as some say, his power was then defeated. The world had been first put under man, tried on the ground of responsibility; then it had been under trial in the exercise of power in Nebuchadnezzar. Satan risked everything upon getting rid of Christ, but then it was his own power was really broken - he just destroyed himself; but he has ever since led the world (as the universal instrument of Satan) to reject Christ; from that moment he is the prince of this world - until that rejection he could not be said to be so. It was when Christ was on the cross he led the mind of the world. The church has been taken out of the world, to be associated with the true Prince; but alas! it has taken an earthly character. But if it is taken up, and rejected with Christ, then what has it to do with the world? "Why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?" etc. There is no possibility of escaping it in any other way but as being dead with Christ. Ordinances are not Christ. They have been nailed to the cross of Christ. If we are dead with Christ, we are dead to ordinances. Man in the flesh must have something between him and the Head. If united to the Head, there is nothing wanted to bring near.

159 "But I have a few things against thee. Thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam." He had taught them the evil of this corrupting association through a persecuting world; but Christ could never say, "There is Balaam's teaching for you." He could never talk of the moral acquiescence in evil as the proper trial of the saints - not like the tribulation before. You have got Balaam then, not Jezebel yet. Balaam would associate them with the world, but Christ says I have passed through death for you, and now you must for Me. He would not step in to hinder the consequences of the position into which they had brought themselves, but He could own their faithfulness.

Balaam could not succeed in enchantment against Israel. The question was whether Israel might pass into Canaan, and Balaam (a frightful character) was employed to hinder them if he could. The effort was to get Jehovah to curse His people, but he could not, and he was forced only to bless. There is no possibility of using Satan's power against the people of God. God held the lips of Balaam, and obliged him to bless in spite of himself. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." He has no power as an adversary. It is as a tempter he has power. When the enemy could not succeed in bringing a curse upon the people, he sought to seduce them into wickedness, and then how could God bring them in? (Num. 25). In this church we find he has come in as a seducing Satan, instead of being without as a persecuting Satan. Then they were exhorted to fear none of those things which should come upon them. Weakness is in fear. When we look into the persecution we tremble. Out of it we look out to Christ, where there is faith Thus the faithful one is separated from the world by that persecution, and made to feel what his own proper portion is. But when the church is on Satan's territory, he says, You shall have as much as you like - as much as ever I can give you - for I will seduce you into it. In enriching them with earthly things, he seduces them from God. Balaam was a prophet, but a false prophet, just as the evil servant who hid his lord's money was a servant, though an evil one; and we find him coming in within the church (ver. 14), and if he can make it all ease in the world, comfortable in the world, his end is gained. Then they might go and eat in the idols' temples: doctrine of the Nicolaitanes follows - internal corruption. In Nicolaitanism we see the flesh acting in the church; through Balaam the world had come in. It is very sad to see how the church declined after the tribulation had brightened it up for God, and our hearts ought to bear the burden. By being thus associated with the world, by being content to dwell where Satan's seat is, they had got the door open for evil doctrines - Antinomianism, a fleshly religion of demons. Satan did not want to persecute when he could corrupt. Here it is only teaching false doctrine, in the next church we see there are children born. The promise to the faithful here is a very sweet and peculiar one.

160 The word is that by which Christ draws the church to Himself. He comes out with a "sharp sword with two edges," v. 12. The word of God is the resource of the faithful, and the promise is more individual. In the sorrow and pain of seeing those belonging to God not departing from iniquity, there is bound up in the heart this link of secret fidelity to God which associates them with a suffering Christ. They shall have to eat of the hidden manna. It was hidden faithfulness which was to be rewarded with this hidden manna; the fruits, indeed, would be manifest to all around, but it was a secret between God and the heart, an inward link with that which never changes in its character. What is this hidden manna? We find manna spoken of as the bread which cometh down from heaven: "My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven." The manna for the Israelites was spread about the camp, not hidden. Christ is the provision for daily walk. But besides this they were to take a pot, and lay it up before Jehovah: when they had got into the land, they were to have the memorial of what they had enjoyed in the wilderness. So we in heaven shall have God's eternal delight in what Christ has been down here as the suffering Christ. The memory of what Christ has been in the wilderness is God's eternal delight. With us, he that has been faithful with Christ in rejection from this world will have the everlasting joy of fellowship with God in the delight in Christ as the suffering Man, which He had and has and will have for ever. It will be the same kind of delight, though of course always in different measure. If we are walking faithfully with a rejected Christ, instead of letting Balaam into our hearts, we shall enjoy Christ down here now; but we cannot enjoy Him while we are going on with the world. If we so pretend, it becomes Nicolaitanism or Antinomianism. Even in the Gospels what enjoyment can we have if walking in the spirit of the world? The imagination may be fed, but the soul is not satisfied. God has not given His Son to be played with, but to be fed upon.

161 There are public joys in heaven, thousands of voices echoing the song, but there are secret ones also. Joys with Christ we all share in common, but He must have our individual affections as well as our common affections - "a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." That name has no meaning for any one else but him to whom it is given. Christ reveals Himself to the soul, "and a stranger doth not intermeddle with its joy." Christ has joys for us as individuals, and my joy you cannot have, and yours I cannot have. This joy of communion will never be interrupted, and individual communion will not hinder the universal joy. This promise specially relates to the future, but it is the source of joy and strength now. The Spirit of God makes it anticipative of that day. We may have now this "white stone" from Christ, this secret expression of His grace and love to my heart. Others cannot have it for me. How it makes this white stone more precious than anything else, though all the world may think I am wrong! Of course, I must judge of all by the word. The world may talk about things, but Christ has talked to me, and He will own in that day all He has said to me.

What a sorrowful thing that Balaam should be teaching the saints! But, never mind: there is no trouble whatever in the church that does not bring the soul into deeper communion with Christ than anything else could. Then is the opportunity afforded for overcoming the evil within.

162 Revelation 3 and 4

The contrast between the addresses to the church at Sardis and Philadelphia is similar to what is found in 1 Thessalonians, where to the world the coming of Christ is spoken of as a thief in the night, but not so to the saints in the world. "Of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need, that I write unto you." The professing church at Sardis will have the character of Christ's coming in judgment.

Verse 2. "I have not found thy works perfect." No decay of spiritual life ever lowers God's standard of holiness in the church. The church at Ephesus is reproved for losing first love - here it is "works," v. 1. All resources of spiritual government and power are perfect in Christ. "These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars." Christ has the perfectness of seven spirits and seven stars.

Whatever we have to do in this world - common occupation, business, anything - the great object is to represent Christ. If my soul is knit to Him ("my soul followeth hard after thee"), we shall measure all our path as to how far we can do justice to Christ. "If thine eye be single," etc. There may be a hundred wrong ways, but I must take care to get into the right one. Whether I have made much or little progress as a Christian, I must have Christ my object, as the end; Christ will be reflected all down the path, then every step onward will be brighter and brighter. It is not going fast on the road, that is the great point, but going always in it (the faster the better too), "forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forth to those things that are before, I press towards the goal for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus." We must have our hearts set upon Christ, though, in one sense, not nearer Christ at the end than at the beginning; in another, we are a great deal nearer. The fact of our resurrection is not nearer, but we are nearer in the moral effect of the expectation. Of the church it is said, "that he might cleanse it by the washing of water." In one sense it is perfectly clean, but in another it is getting cleaner through the application, by the Spirit, of the word to the individual members of Christ's body, and so producing in the whole moral likeness to the image of Christ. So the outward fact of resurrection is, and may still be future, but it is the power of the truth of resurrection wrought in his heart that Paul desired.

163 There are some in Sardis of whom it is said, "they shall walk with me in white," but the Philadelphian state is one of far more blessing. There is energy in the midst of Sardis encouraged, but there is approbation given to Philadelphia - "hast kept my word." The great exercise of faith will be keeping the "word of Christ's patience," for the days are come in which it is said, "Where is the promise of his coming?" The heart set on Christ Himself gets such a sense of His blessedness, that it is kept fresh in the hope of seeing Him. "For we shall see him as he is," it is said, not "shall be." We shall see Him as He is now, the glorified Man, and we should so realise Him now, and so realising Him, I have so tasted what He is, that I want Him to come. In one sense He cannot come, but is waiting in patience till His word be fulfilled. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." He waits, He has not got it yet; and I must wait. My heart has got such a connection with what Christ is, is so knit up with Him, that it can find no satisfaction in anything else. "My patience", "He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied." The Father's will is that He shall lose nothing.

The character of the promise to him that overcometh corresponds with that which they were exercised in. What is the promise? He shall be a pillar in the temple of my God; it is not said, the temple of God merely. Mark the number of times "my" comes in in this verse. You have been associated with My patience, and now you shall have the same association with God that I have. "Thou hast a little strength." See what little strength comes to: a crown then! Great strength now, is mixed with carnal things, and will be weakness then. "I will keep thee from the hour of temptation." Mark that word "from." Does the Lord delight in trying His people? No, He would rather keep them from it, but He must try us for our good. Still, we may well use that petition, "Lead us not into temptation," for it is a sad thing if God is obliged, as in Job's case, to try us by throwing us into Satan's hands for the destruction of the flesh. There will be trial come upon all the world; as long as there is a grain of wheat in it, He will sift, sift, sift it, till every grain is separated; but He will not have us to be so separated. "I will keep thee from the hour," etc. If the saint goes on in the consciousness of little strength, keeping the word of Christ's patience, in fellowship with God's long-suffering, he will be kept from it.

164 In passing through the wilderness God gives us two things as means of blessing down here - the word of God and the priesthood of Christ. There is the promise of entering into His rest, and to everything that comes in between our apprehension of that rest and us, the word of God comes as a two-edged sword. The word of God is "sharper than any two-edged sword," etc. What tends to unbelief? Every thought and intent, every little root that strikes into this world, everything not from God, everything that separates from our desire to see Jesus and be with Him. We are in the wilderness but every heart rests either in Egypt or Canaan: it is Canaan in hope, or Egypt in heart. Whatever does not bear the thought of God separates from Him, as the word shews us Sorrow, affliction is not wrong, but if the will does not submit it is rebellion, and that is wrong. All open sin is cut up by the word, the two-edged sword. All our weakness and infirmity are borne by Him who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. We must be going on with Christ, and in the consciousness of going on. "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."

"I will write upon him my new name": He will stamp it on those who overcome as associated with Him in the temple of His God. He will give us His own portion as risen and heavenly.

The inscription to the epistle to the church of the Laodiceans (or in Laodicea, as in the margin) differs from those to the other churches, inasmuch as here it is the character of Christ in Himself, apart from the body, instead of His relationship with the church. Christ remains the same, although the church is gone to ruin. God could put His Amen on Him if the church fail ever so, and He is available for every opened ear. The titles belonging to the Lord are applied to each, answering to the condition of the church; and here there is the positive declaration that He will spue them out. There is nothing owned - all good shut up in Christ - but there is rebuke and chastening. He is outside, standing at the door and knocking, "if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him." There is the entire definite and final rejection of the professing church pictured, no hope held out but judgment, positive and definite, prophesied of - nauseous to Christ, as lukewarm water.

165 There is, however, love at work still, as with Israel in Jeremiah 2. Repentance is called for, but, of course, God knew the body would not repent. "Behold I stand at the door and knock." These words of invitation to those who hear are of a different character from those in Canticles: "The voice of my beloved that knocketh; open to me," etc.; where it is awakening the heart afresh of the Jewish people, who had been asleep a long time, stirring up the stupid, sleepy thing, by appealing to the affections. Here it is at the close of the testimony Christ is seeking to gather up any lingering desire after Him; but the promise to those who overcome, though most blessed, is of a lower and more general character than that given to the other churches. To sit with Him on the throne - this is what all will have who reign with Him a thousand years. All who are raised reign with Him. To the other churches there is something more special promised - this is only trenching on the kingdom. But Christ Himself will come in to him, "and sup with him, and he with me." He says Christ will come, and give you to enjoy with Him at His table, not come down with you to your things.

Verse 17. "The wretched one" is more literal. If a person says, I have got Christ, and so is careless about his walk, thinking he has got all he wants, it might come up to this state of things. But the whole description seems to apply more to those who have not Christ at all. They had got all that could make a fair show in the flesh - numbers, learning, prosperity - like Babylon, which says, 'I sit as a queen, and have need of nothing.'

Verse 18. "Gold." Divine righteousness is what the soul wants in order to be with God. "White raiment" shews the purity of the righteousness of Christ. The wisdom spoken of in Proverbs is a spirit of value for these things.

It is a dreadful thing to be associated with a form of things, when the spirit and life are wanting. The fig-tree was, as regards Israel, an exhibition of this state. The thing to be overcome in such a state of things is lukewarmness; and to be able to overcome lukewarmness you must be hot yourself. "Moab had not been emptied from vessel to vessel." Affection to Christ in hidden ones, as individuals, may be found, but faith is not so much brought out in the assembly - a strong manifestation of the declension in the corporate state of these Christians and of the fact that man spoils everything God sets up amongst men.

166 Verse 19. "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten" - convicting the conscience. Nothing is healed until that is done; it is not only an expression of His displeasure, but bringing it home to the soul - it is to "as many as I love." Whatever amount of exercise of conscience there may be, it is a proof of God's love; this is comfort to many a troubled soul. Men often speak of judgments as if they were from man, not God, but man's heart rebels more against God than against man. Job complained of God more than of the Sabeans. It is because God touches the conscience. It is a sorrowful thing when God's voice is not heard in the chastening. There are more pains taken with this Christian than with any. It is a different thing from Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, where he says, "Though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved"; as if he said, I shall not cease to love you, though the way I take to shew it to you makes you love me less. Here the meaning is, although they did not love Him, but were sunk amongst the rest, He would not give them up "He that hath an ear," etc. Christ is a Son over His own house. "To him that overcometh … even as I also overcame," etc. Christ had to go through all this, and to overcome. Blessed grace! He has made us heirs and joint-heirs. Let us take a lesson from Saul as to overcoming. He overcame the Ammonites; but the Philistines, whom he was specially raised up to conquer, he never overcame. If people do not do the thing they are sent to do, it does not matter how much they do

Notice that this address to the Laodiceans is a threat - it is not said, Except ye repent - not the fact of its accomplishment: their moral condition. They will be totally done with morally, but the Philadelphian state of the true Christian may run into it - only we must remember, the "spueing out" will be after the remnant are gathered out of it, after the church is taken away. The outward state may go on to Antichrist, and then be given up.