Seven Lectures on the Prophetical Addresses to the Seven Churches.

J. N. Darby.

(Delivered in London, 1852.)

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I feel, beloved brethren, that the very commencement of this chapter comforts one in a particular manner in connection with the exceeding solemnity of the address to the church of Sardis. I know of nothing more solemn than the point of view from which the Spirit of God, in this address to Sardis, regards the professing church, as to its name, its character, and its responsibility in the world; for, while the address is to the church, the point of view from whence it is looked at is what the Son of God is in His own fulness of blessing; since it ought to be, in the power of divine grace, the expression of His nature and power, from whom its life flows; and it is necessarily addressed to the professing church, according to the professed position it has taken. I feel ever a little difficulty in speaking on the subject, because of the sense of responsibility that presses on me; and I pray the Lord may communicate to you the sense I have (nay, and a much greater sense than I have) of the responsibility connected with it. The church of Sardis was, indeed, in a most solemn condition. Still there is a comfort in the fulness and perfectness of Christ here given for the need of the church; and, when all else might seem to fail, so much the more does Christ bring out that unchangeable fulness which is always there in Him to be depended on.

The Lord's character (which, as I have before said, is usual in these addresses) is adapted to the state of those whom He is addressing - "these things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." It is not said here, as it is in the address to Ephesus, "He that holdeth in his right hand the seven stars"; but "he that hath the seven stars." And, mark, that no word in Scripture is omitted or changed without full meaning. The stars (the angels*) of the seven churches are symbolical representatives of the churches, but considered in those who have a character of authority under Him, who is the head of government. In the address to Ephesus, Christ holds all the authority in His hand (the stars, as I have just remarked, being the symbolical representatives of the whole system of authority - of that active energy which characterises the churches to Christ's eye, which acts in His name in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks), judging the state of the church, and holding the representatives in His right hand.

{*Though such points are not my object here, I may remark (as much stress has been laid on it), in explanation, that the angel of the synagogue was in no way the ruler of the synagogue: they were rather the clerks of the synagogue. The angels may excel in strength, but are ministering spirits. The star is what gives the ideal of authority (though of subordinate authority) as a symbol, not the word "angel."}

324 But here in Sardis, failure, and even spiritual death, had come in, and characterised the state of the church - "I know thy works, that thou hast a name, that thou livest and art dead." We have seen how failure and decay had already previously got into the church; but Sardis was, in one point of view, in a worse state than even any before her, having a name to live while she was dead. It was decay of vital power - not the power of evil working, but a morally worn out thing; and consequently the Lord presented Himself to Sardis as having for faith all the fulness* of the Holy Ghost at His disposal - "He that hath the seven Spirits of God"; and the seven stars, all power in the church, were at His disposal also (seven being the symbol of perfection.)

{*But this I think in the activity of its ministrations.}

325 Whatever the failure of the church may be, however it may have coalesced with the world, this remains always true, that the full, divine competency of the Holy Ghost in His various attributes, is its portion, under Him who is the Head of the church and cares for it, and loves it, and watches over it; so that the church is without excuse, on one hand, and the believing saint has a resource on the other. But now that the whole thing had completely failed, that not only God's saints were seduced by the false doctrine of Balaam, and that Jezebel had found a home there, having children born there (as of Zion it shall be said, "This and that man were born in her," so here there were those who had their Christian name and birth-place in the very evil itself): another scene presents itself here after the evil has fully developed itself - a deathful state, though all spiritual energy and authoritative power is there in Christ Himself, with whom they have to do. And much as the fact of all this being still and ever in Christ may condemn the professing church, the precious truth of all power in connection with the Holy Ghost being then, as ever, assuredly in Christ is brought out for the comfort and blessing of the faithful "overcomer." It is his stay in the midst of abounding evil.

Whatever may be the form in which corruption has come in, be it Jezebel or be it Balaam, the Lord says, "I know it all." If death is stamped on the professing church, still Christ says, "I have the seven Spirits of God, and nothing can touch this"; and, therefore, while all is going wrong, we find that He has still all that is needed for the full blessing of the church - "hath the seven Spirits of God." This is not altered a bit, either by the failure of man or by the wickedness of Satan.

In Revelation 4:5, and chap. 5:6, we have likewise mention of the seven Spirits of God - seven lamps of fire burning; seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, expressive of multiform power and manifold wisdom; so that it is as if the Lord had said, "Here is everything that can produce good, and secure good, and I have it all in My keeping." In Thyatira He had been obliged to teach them to look out for His coming as the only refuge in the midst of evil; and this hope is brought in as the bright and morning star, to light up the soul in the midst of surrounding darkness. Then, in the church of Sardis, where they had a name to live when they were dead, He further comforts the faithful ones with the assurance, that, as to the real source of all strength, there is not any failure. If all outward supply is gone, He is still the same, and now He will make this known to the church as the power to sustain and support the faithful few; but He does not work a miracle for their deliverance. So likewise, we may observe, when Israel set up the golden calf, there was no miracle wrought to meet that failure, but there was spiritual power in Moses, when he put the tabernacle outside the camp.

The prophets in Judah prophesied, but they wrought no miracles, except when the sun-dial of Ahaz returned ten degrees backward as a special sign given to Hezekiah. They testified in order to bring man back to publicly acknowledged truth in a divinely established system, and comfort the hearts of the faithful. But when the whole nation of Israel had openly departed from God under Jeroboam, and at length Baal was set up and worshipped, then God worked miracles by the hands of His servants Elijah and Elisha. So that while in mercy and grace God was always sending testimony after testimony to Judah, but no miracle when open failure came in, His power must be shewn to prove that He was Jehovah, in contrast with Baal, which Judah did not deny. Power with corrupt holders of truth would corrupt them more; power as testimony to those gone away is the patient goodness of God. This is a great principle in the ways of God, and it is of this great principle that I am speaking, rather than of there being miracles.* The great practical principle is established, that we may always reckon upon God, whatever the failure may be. It is true that we cannot but be sensible of failure, and a deep sense we ought to have of it, while, at the same time, we must never suffer the utter sense of man's failure to dim the eye of faith to the consciousness of Christ's power; it should rather turn more definitely and distinctly to that which can never fail. Thus we can look with calmness on the church's failure, because we look at it from our dwelling in that love which can never fail; but still we must care for it, and deeply feel it, as being dishonouring to the Lord.

{*Moses wrought them as a proof of his mission, as nothing was then divinely established in Israel. But this is not our subject here. It is the same principle. The Jewish prophets appealed to what was established.}

326 Take for instance, the apostle Paul; how entirely he got above the position of the failing Corinthians and Galatians when he got up to the spring of confidence in the Lord. See how shockingly the Corinthians had been going on when Paul wrote to them. There was "such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles." Therefore he had to reprove them, but he looked above their actual state to the source of their life and hope; and, therefore, before he touches upon their evil, he can speak to them of their being "confirmed unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ"; for "God is faithful by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." So also to the Galatians. When Paul wrote to them he said, "I stand in doubt of you"; for they had got under the law, and, therefore, Paul asks, must he change his voice - wants to know how he should speak to them; for they were off the Christian ground of grace, and, accordingly, he turns to speak to them according to the law. But when he gets up to Christ, then his heart gets to the spring of confidence - not confidence in them, but about them - and then he could say, "I have confidence in you through the Lord that you will be none otherwise minded." The right state of our souls is to have a just value for, and apprehension of, all that is in Christ, and consequently of all that the church ought to be for Christ, in order to have a deeper sense of its failure, according to that which we see in Christ, of whom it ought to be the faithful and fruit-bearing witness; and then the sense of the failure will augment, and not diminish, our confidence in the Lord Jesus. And this it is that will keep the saint steady and quiet through it all, because our confidence is not in what the church ought to be for Christ, but in what Christ is for it.

327 Mark, then, the graciousness of the Lord, in the way in which He opens this address to Sardis. Before He touches on their terrible state, He first of all presents Himself as still possessing the plenary power of the Spirit, for the resource of faith; so that, notwithstanding all the failure and evil that had come in, the power and prevalency of the Spirit still remained the same, because it depended not upon the walk of the saint down here, but upon the value of Christ's work above. Just as God spake to Israel of old when they had failed, by the mouth of Haggai the prophet, saying, "According to the word which I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth among you; fear ye not." And so it is here - "These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." Then He goes on to take up the state of the church - "I know thy works that thou hast a name, that thou livest and art dead." What a terrible condition is this! It completely portrays what we see all around us - I do not mean only at the present day, but what has actually been the state of the church for the last century and more.

In Sardis, it is not the church as having left her first love, as in Ephesus (although that has been the origin of all that has since followed). Nor is it as Smyrna, suffering under persecution from Satan, who has the power of the world. Nor is it as Pergamos, dwelling in that same world where his throne is, having such as hold the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes, a doctrine allowing evil deeds. Nor is it as Thyatira, suffering the prophetess Jezebel to teach and seduce My servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. Nor has it yet arrived at the state of Laodicea, just ready to be spued out; nor is it like Israel, as the open and positive worshippers of Baal. Grace has still some work to do, and therefore we find it acting here and there. The church of Sardis, as we have seen, had got away from evil doctrine and the actual teaching of corruption; the evil of Sardis was more negative - a dead form without any living power. It has a great name to live, certainly. It is not Jezebel here, nor eating things offered to idols, neither is it yet spued out of Christ's mouth. They had got outward truth, but it was dead, having no living power; they had a certain outward and avowed profession and appearance of Christianity; but, alas! if there was the name to live, there was no power of life. They held the name and doctrine of Christianity; but alas! Christ was not there. Take orthodoxy as it now is and has been for some time past, and is it not just this? Saved from Jezebel, a dead form has come in. And here let us bear in mind what we have before remarked, that, in these addresses to the churches, nothing of that which is put under judgment has any reference to the energy of the Holy Ghost working. The thing that is judged is the use made of these graces and gifts of the Spirit of God.

328 Take the work of the Reformation as an illustration of this. As to the energy that produced it there was an undoubted work of God's Spirit; and we find with joy what God was doing, and not what He is judging. It is from not seeing this distinction that people get into difficulty. Now, it may be asked, where is the fruit which should have been produced by the privileges brought in at the Reformation, and now so long enjoyed? God lights a candle, not to put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all who are in the house; then God looks to see if it gives forth the light which He has put into it. In the churches, we find a good or a bad state spoken of, but never is the good state named in connection with the Holy Ghost as producing it.

"I have not found thy works perfect before God." It was set up complete in all the perfectness that there was in Christ for it; and therefore He looks for that which should answer to it, the perfectness in which it was originally set. Thus the Lord presents Himself as the One having all this perfectness in spiritual power and energy, and is looking for that which answers to it. We might say, "Is it not strange to say their works were not perfect, when we are told they are dead?" No, for the Lord never can descend below His own measure in dealing with evil, whether in the church or with an individual. If He gives a standard, it is that by which He must judge. The church must be judged according to the resources it has at its disposal. God never goes below this in looking for an answer to what He has done. Therefore we have to ask ourselves whether, as individuals, we are shewing to the world the holiness that we are made partakers of, and the love we are the objects of There are very many who profess Christ, while there are few comparatively who live Christ. There is no charge here of Balaam and his corrupt doctrine, eating things sacrificed to idols, or of Jezebel; but the Lord is looking for life. He looks for works complete, filled up according to the measure of grace with which He has connected the church. If we look at ourselves, dear friends, what can we say? The question is not whether we are producing any fruit at all, but whether the fruits that are produced are fruits meet for Him for whom the ground is dressed. If I till a field and sow it with wheat, and it does not bring forth according to my labours bestowed upon it, I must give it up, and I do not sow it with wheat any more. I am not here talking about the salvation of a soul, but of the Lord's judgment of the results in the saints, in souls already saved.

329 It is true that God will produce the fruits of every principle of His grace in perfection, when Christ takes His power; but before this He commits it to man. He gave the law to Israel, and they utterly failed respecting it. But Christ says, "Thy law have I hid in my heart." So also of Israel, God will, in the latter days, write the law in their hearts. Now Israel has become "a proverb and a bye-word among all nations," as having been unfaithful; but in the day of Christ's power, when God will produce fruit in perfection and fulness, then "Israel shall blossom and bud and fill the face of the whole world with fruit."

Then take government that was put into man's hand. Nebuchadnezzar was entrusted with power, and we know what became of it. But government will be set up in perfection when "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." So also the church of God was set up on the earth complete in Christ, to manifest the glory of her absent Head in heaven, and the power of the Holy Ghost conferred upon her. She was the habitation of God through the Spirit. But alas! how miserably has she failed, and what God is looking for are the fruits of grace as a testimony and witness to His grace received. But when Christ "shall come to be glorified in his saints and admired in all them that believe," then the church shall be manifested in glory, and the world shall learn that the church has been loved with the same love wherewith Christ was loved. But now it is a matter of responsibility, and this for each individual if the church fails. It will come to this, as to the professing church, that it will be spued out of His mouth. But, remember, this is not a question of salvation, but of profession before the world.

330 Take the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost was given to produce certain effects. There the adequate fruits were produced. As to the present time, then the enquiry of course is, Is the church of God producing for God fruits which answer to the power of testimony entrusted to it? No, the church as a body is not. Then comes out the individuality - "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear," and this brings the question home to each one of us, "How far are we individually producing a testimony to God's grace?" - a testimony, I mean, not in accordance with the first fulness of public power manifested in the church, but filling up the measure of what we have individually received, and the spiritual service of a saint, according to Christ's power now; for so God in practice deals with the church, and the grace in Christ is always sufficient for that. When this is the question between the soul and God, surely we shall have to own that this individual measure of grace is not attained to. We may indeed zealously contend for a name; but the question before God is as to power and full fruits of grace in the measure of that which has been received; and if the soul does not come up to that, it is a dreadful thing for it to be resting on a religious reputation, while the works are not perfect before God.

Oh! may the Lord keep us all from resting upon a religious reputation; for of all the terrible things that can befall a saint of God, one of the worst is, trusting to a religious reputation - especially for one who is engaged in ministering, I am sure. Alas! how often we have seen such a person labouring devotedly, diligently, blessed in his labours, gathering others really in truth to Christ, but thus gathering a circle round himself. Self is there, and thus he gets "a name to live," becoming satisfied with the circle he has made, and resting in the fruits produced, and not in Him who is alone the power of life. Thus his usefulness is gone, and he himself stops short of the end. Look now at the direct contrast of this, in the Lord's earthly path. He lost credit, every step He took, with those around Him, because He went on walking with His Father, shining brighter and brighter; till at last men could not bear its brightness, and, as far as they were concerned, put it out on the cross, because those around Him knew not His measure of communion, and could not at all get up to it. Even His very disciples could not come up to the discipleship involved; they also dropped off, as He said, "Ye shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me." Thus we see the blessed Lord in man's estimation got lower and lower till they put Him to death, "even the death of the cross."

331 Then there was Paul. What spiritual energy of faith there was in him! He walked with God in power; but we see that those about him could not attain to the point he had reached; and, therefore, as Paul was advancing, he must necessarily leave them behind him. His path became more and more lonely, and at the end of his course he had to say, "all they which are in Asia be turned away from me." Again, "all men forsook me, notwithstanding the Lord stood by me." Paul, out of all he had gathered, had only one person to visit him in prison. Full energy was kept up in Paul, in the power of which he walked with God, while others slipped back; as he says, they were "the enemies of the cross of Christ," "who mind earthly things." And even those who were not this were not keeping up to the point of faith; they lost sight of their heavenly citizenship; they sought their own more than the things of Jesus Christ.

Just in proportion as there is this secret measure of communion in our walk with God, in that which is hourly passing between the soul and God, will be the degree of our isolation. What we have most specially to look to is that all our works be perfect before God, that all our doings be measured with immediate reference to God; and this must necessarily produce a certain degree of isolation. It was thus with Christ: He was always lowly and He was already lonely, yet full of love to all, perfect in affability with every needy soul as with His disciples. It is no matter how we sink in the estimation of others, it will be the necessary consequence of faithfulness; and the reverse of all this is with a great show before the world - just this, "that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead," "for I have not found thy works perfect before God." The works are done in reference to man, and not to God. At the same time it is quite a right thing to walk with the saints and to keep and cultivate their affections, although the more faithful individual walk is, the greater the isolation must be, because the fewer there will be who understand it. And yet the nearer to Christ, the greater, of course, will be the grace towards others, as He says, "as I have loved you, that ye also should love one another." Thus in a close walking with God, there will be an abiding sense of His secret favour; but then this personal dependence upon God must lead to isolation. Our path will be a lonely one as Christ's ever was. With all His grace and lowliness, to listen to all, and to serve all, yea even to the washing of our feet, yet He was left alone, though not left of God, as He said, "He that sent me is with me," "the Father hath not left me alone, for I do always those things which please him."

332 Now see the consequences of the works not being perfect before God; and this is what I feel to be so solemn in the warning here given: "Remember, therefore, how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent." Mark the two points here, "received and heard." Firstly, the grace which it has received, and in which it has been set; and, secondly, the revealed word of God as their rule and guide. Grace has been received, and the word communicated. It is not that which we have not received, but that which we have received, that we are called to consider. The Lord presents the measure of responsibility in these two points, that which the church has received, and in which it has been set, and that which it has heard (the word of God being the alone measure of revealed guidance). God gives us His word to guide us, and grace to walk according to it.

"If, therefore, thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." Now it is a very wearying and tiring thing to watch; for one has to watch oneself too, or we are apt to fall asleep. The heart grows tired of being constantly awake to all that is going on. It is impossible to watch if we do not keep close to Christ - if we have not the sense of His watching us, and taking notice of us. We need great watchfulness in active service. Indeed, our every service ought to be connected with God as a matter of individual faith. We may be tried in it. The bush may be very thick, but the object on the other side should be clear. There is a constant tendency to slip away from that clearness of judgment about a thing, which we should have if close to Christ. When judging of a trial in the presence of Christ, the way out of it seems easy; but when we have got into the trial, we do not always see it so clearly. When we are first descending into a valley, the object on the other side, and the direction to be taken, are seen clearly enough; but when we have got into the thicket of the valley, it is not so easy to discern the pathway through the details of the way. We are apt, when we get into the weariness and distraction of the circumstances of the trial, to lose the clearness of apprehension which we had in judging of it in Christ's presence. We all find there is much practical difficulty in seeing as clearly when in the thicket of the valley, as when on the heights with Christ. Our eye must be single to do God's will; and the more humble we are, the more simple we shall be, and thus be guided through by the wisdom of His own will, who sees the end from the beginning, and guides us by His word and Spirit. The largest mind of man that was ever heard of could never discern God's ways, while the "little child" who looks to God has God's wisdom. Every step we take should be marked with the sense of God's approbation. "For the meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way."

333 "If, therefore, thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come on thee." If there is not this watchfulness in the professing church, how solemn is the result! "I will come on thee as a thief." What a fearful thing when the professing church, with its great name, is reduced, in God's estimation and judgment, to the level of the world, when it does not come up in its works to the expectation of God! He had not found their works perfect before God, because not according to the privileges given by God. God here says to them, If there be not the answer to what I have given, if there is not watchfulness, I must treat you as the world will be treated. In 1 Thessalonians 5:2, with regard to the world it is said, "the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." But to the saints it is said, "but ye, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief; ye are all the children of light and the children of the day." And when He comes who brings in the day, the children of the day will come with Him. They will be, in fact, as the rays of the Sun of Righteousness. "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory"; "when he shall come to be glorified in his saints and to be admired in all them that believe." And, again, "The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them, that the world may know that thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me."

334 In 1 Thessalonians 5 the Spirit of God contrasts the world with the church of God; while here in Sardis the Lord contrasts the professing church with the true saints of God, and announces to it the world's portion. Therefore Sardis is addressed as the world; it is not denounced as Jezebel, but as receiving the judgment of what it is in spirit, the world; for if the professing church is not coming up to the measure of what it has "received and heard," this is its portion. If it be not found watching, it is courting in its measure the same judgment as the world. Of course we are not saying that the church of God, which is one with Christ in glory, and whose life is hid with Christ in God, could ever be so treated; but it is an exceedingly solemn thought that the great professing body, with its "great name to live" and a "fair show in the flesh," is waiting for the same judgment as the world. It is the world itself in fact. Then arises this question, How far have your souls realised that all that is going on around us bearing the name of God, while it is not of God - the nominal church, or Christendom as it is called, which is in truth the world, but having this name and position - will be treated as what it really is - the world? Well, then, dear friends, what a solemn fact is this, that we are, in this day in which we live, walking through a scene which must thus be visited, because God has said it, and alas! we know not how soon. I know of nothing more solemn than the identification of the professing church with the world in judgment which is here found.

"Thou hast a few names even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments, and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy." Here we shall have another important point opened out; for here we shall find the characteristics of what is called the "invisible church." "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis." These "names" here signify "individuals" whom the Lord had counted up and known each one of them by name. "These are they which have not defiled their garments"; they had not gone on with the world, now the professing church had defiled their garments. Sardis is not charged with the seductions of Balaam, or the corruptions of Jezebel, it may be; but she is "minding earthly things" and is "glorying in her shame." Sardis has not kept her garments unspotted by the world, and, therefore, her spot is not "the spot of His children." As Paul said, "even weeping, they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, who mind earthly things." It is the spirit of the world filling the heart as an accepted object, and hence conformity to it in order to walk with it, which is here spoken of. But those who have held by the cross of Christ with undefiled garments "shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy."

335 The character of the blessing always answers to the difficulty. They had kept their garments unspotted by the world when down here. Therefore they shall walk with Him in white up there, "and I will not blot his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels." Mark how individual this is - "his name," so constantly recurring.

The force of the expression, "the book of life," is evidently that of a general registry of profession, taken from the custom of corporations of cities, where a name may be enrolled, the title to which may prove false, giving at the first blush a prima facie title to something, though on investigation it will have to be erased. Those who were written in this book had a profession, "a name to live." This was very different from "being written in the book of life before the foundation of the world"; because God, in that case, had written them there: it was thus the book of the counsels and purposes of God.

"I will confess his name." The Lord will distinguish each one that is His. And in these individuals we see that the invisible church exists amid the wreck of all, and when the visible body is judged, they will escape, and not merely escape, for they will be taken to the Lord before this. So that, when the Lord comes to judge the world, they will come with Him; and the visible church, not answering to the grace, will be treated as the world. There is, therefore, an invisible church, I doubt not; but mark that when the true church is invisible, then the visible church is treated like the world. These churches were called candlesticks, and God had put light in them, not to be put under a bushel, but to be put in a candlestick to give light to all around. Well, then, is light invisible? If it is, what is invisible light worth? It only merits condemnation. What has been said by men for the last three hundred years is quite true, that there is an invisible church, but then this is the condemnation of that which is visible. Looked at with respect to its public collective testimony for God, does it bear out the precepts of Christ in its conduct and life? No; and, therefore, there has not been in the church the visible testimony to all the grace, and truth, and blessedness, which is the church's portion in Christ.

336 We would here point out what very different aspects of the Lord's coming we have presented to us in these addresses. In Thyatira, in the Jezebel state of the church, He turns away the eye from all hope of its restoration as a whole, and turns it to the Morning Star for the comfort of those who, though not of the night, yet feeling that it is the night, are watching for the Morning Star; thus presenting the hope of His coming as a refuge to the faithful overcomer in the midst of abounding evil. Here in Sardis His coming has the character of judgment - "I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know at what hour I will come on thee." Sardis, being in a decayed dead state, necessarily brings a judgment on itself; for if the professing church be got into a state like the dead, then it must be treated like the dead. But in Philadelphia, it is quite a different thing; there He addresses a poor, feeble remnant in the midst of apostasy, with the blessed and encouraging hope of His coming quickly - "Behold, I come quickly."

Philadelphia. We have seen the general course of the first of these churches to be declension; then the being drawn away by Satan; then warnings. Here a remnant are comforted. What characterises the faithful here is, that while they had no strength, they are yet in close connection with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. What characterises the father in Christ, in John's first epistle, is the knowledge of Him that is from the beginning. So here in Philadelphia, we get a little strength, it is true; but there is no denial of His name. The address to the church, the foundation of the declaration made to it, is connected with Christ, is Himself; it is not a question of power. But when all is going wrong, as in John's epistle, where there were the many Antichrists, still there were those who had that by which they could detect the false one; "for he that is born of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." Feeling it now to be a kind of hopeless thing to look for any restoration of the church, as far as regards apparent power, the keeping of the word of Christ's patience is what characterises the church of Philadelphia; and the name of "him that is holy and him that is true" is stamped upon it in a peculiar way. In the way Christ is presented here there is no question of power. as in Sardis, but the unfailing certainty of what He was in His character, and what He has said - "He that is holy, and he that is true." With these two we can judge everything. When all was going wrong around, they were to keep to the simplicity that was in Christ; as in John's epistle - "This is the true God and eternal life." "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." They had got eternal life in their souls, and having touched Him and handled Him, and seen Him by faith, they could say who this true One was; and could also say, "this is the Holy One," for He is not only the One who has power, but He is the Holy One.

337 Remark, too, that the characters of Christ presented here form no part of the original glory of Christ, spoken of in chapter 1, but refer to His moral character, discerned by the saint exercised in faith at the epoch to which the church refers. But the saints here had "kept the word of Christ's patience"; and when the word of God is valued as such, then the character of Christ Himself governs the soul. His precepts become our authority, and Christ Himself personally rules the affections of the heart, and with a single eye the body is full of light. So it was with Mary, when the departure of the Lord drew nigh. The word of God links the soul with Christ as He was, and is; it just gives one a written Christ. See in Matthew 5: "Blessed are the poor in spirit"; and who so poor in spirit as Christ? "Blessed are the pure in heart"; and who so pure as He? "Blessed are the meek"; and who so meek as He? "Blessed are the peace-makers": He was the great peacemaker, the very Prince of peace.

The first thing, of course, is to have Him as the living Christ for the salvation of the soul; and then, through the written word, we get the spiritual perception of what this Christ is. It is the simple expression of Christ Himself, of Him who was the express image of God; who "was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." And when we thus get the Spirit's testimony to Christ, the heart clings to Him as the "holy" and the "true." Thus the Christ found in the word governs the affections, for we dare not and would not be without, or depart from, this written Christ. This living link to a living Christ is the only safeguard against them that would seduce us. A holy Christ in whom we have the truth is the blessed, strong, moral assurance of the soul, when a mixed and lifeless Christianity is powerless against delusion; and when the same causes make the professing church incapable of discerning a plain path, when there is not faith enough to do without the world, and mixture is everywhere, then a holy and true Christ is the assuring guide and stay of the soul.

338 To Timothy Paul said, "From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus," and surely there can be no better knowledge to be got than the knowledge of Christ. This was the point in the Epistle of John. The father in Christ "knew him that is from the beginning"; he could tell what the true Christ was; he knew "him that was holy, him that was true." It is not development that is needed, but merely the getting back to the simplicity that is in Christ - to know Him truly that was at first revealed, Him that was from the beginning. Therefore, if my soul is attached to the Christ of the written word, the Christ that I have loved here is the same Christ that I am waiting for to come and take me up there.

The blessed picture that we get here of the Lord Jesus is not like that given in chapter 1, with "his eyes as a flame of fire, and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace" - firm, unchanging, a consuming fire in judgment, and now so revealed, and according to what was revealed by the Holy Ghost. But the picture here given of Him is in connection with the moral character given of Him in the written word - "he that is holy and he that is true."

"He that hath the key of David; he that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth." Christ is not looking for strength in His saints: He enters into His own personal and peculiar service and holds the "key" Himself; and this is our confidence. If raging billows rise in countries around us, and the preaching of the gospel seem to be forbidden, well, it is all in His hand. I might desire that the gospel might be preached in a certain land, and the hindrances may seem to be too many and too great; but my comfort is to know that Christ has the key, and all the divine power of God at His disposal; and it is as in John 10, "To him the porter openeth," so that when Jesus presented Himself (as in the gospels) none could shut out His testimony. All the powers of earth - the Pharisees, the lawyers, the chief priests, the governors, the Pilates, and the Herods (those foxes) - could not hinder one poor sheep from hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd in the days of His flesh; and so it is now, for Christ is "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." This is our confidence in preaching the gospel; for, with all the liberty with which we are blessed in this highly-favoured country, I could not count upon a single year more, but for this simple promise, "I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it"; and I could go fearlessly into any country, whatever might be the outward circumstances, if I saw that the Lord had set before me an open door.

339 Of course we must wait the Lord's time to have the door opened; as we see in the case of Paul, he was forbidden to speak in Asia, at one time, and then we find him there for three years afterwards, the Lord owning his labours there, so that all Asia (of which Ephesus, where he was gathering a church, was the capital) heard the word of God. Of course we shall have to be content to lean in faith on the arm of Him who holds the key, and in our patience we shall have to possess our souls; for there will always be circumstances to exercise our faith, and God will allow these circumstances to arise, to prove to us that we cannot do without Him. For then it is we find that we have no strength, and that God answers our weakness according to His own strength; because He cannot fail to answer the faith He has given. "I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it." This word has often given me great confidence - "no man can shut it." This is such a blessed comfort that if Christ has opened a door, no man, devil, or wicked spirit, can shut it; and although we have not strength even to push the door open, it is open for us. The whole church is weak, as weak as can be, and that in a bad sense, for what faith have we? We hear of a little faith. God shews us His power, as we have heard of in Madagascar. But where is the strength and energy of faith to be heard of amongst us?

340 "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation." This stamps our safety and our power. It is Christ's own patience, for He is also waiting for the kingdom, expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. We wait as and with Him; but here it is by the word. It is that which is our warrant and our security - the word by which He guides us into the same mind and spirit in which He waits, separated from the world and knit to Him in the same hopes, and joys, and delight, not finding rest till He finds His - the guidance of our mind, by the communicating His, into the thoughts and expectations which He has Himself. Only let us keep fast hold of the word of Christ's patience in these last perilous times. It is our power against the adversary - in the knowledge of Christ Himself, not in ecclesiastical power, but as holy and true, waiting apart from the world, as He is, and keeping His word, and belonging to Him, so that He takes us out of the hour of temptation that hangs over the world, and the open door of service is ours meanwhile in spite of all.

For, thus associated with Him, we have His own portion. Not being in spirit dwellers upon earth, but waiting with Him, He does not make us pass through that hour of temptation which is to sift out those who have their home here, confounding by the power of the enemy and the tribulation of God the men of this world, and making the world, clung to by any of His, too great a torment to cling to any longer. All this the Philadelphian saint escapes; he can look straight up to the heaven and heavenly Christ he belongs to; and the heart associated with Him knows that He will not fail his heart, but as soon as He rises up to take His place and power towards the world, will take him to be with Him, according to the hope He has given him. Only let us keep simply to the written word of God, then we may defy all the power of our adversaries (not that we would be adversaries to them, God forbid!) Only let there be in the heart the consciousness of Christ's approbation, and that closeness of heart to God, which takes God's word for a guide because it is His, and then there will be the power of Christ, the strength of Christ made perfect in our weakness. That which characterises the true saints at this present time is the written word of God, as bringing Christ's character and name as truth and holiness into the heart; and thus walking, in fellowship and communion with "Him that is holy and him that is true," they will be safe.

341 "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." Here we get those who have an opposite character; and the Lord speaks very plainly, He does not spare them a bit. They are the synagogue of Satan. What did these Jews pretend to? All that which externally gave them a religious title to govern, to command, in the truth: - antiquity, and ordinances established of God, as they really had been in the case of the Jews, and the proof that they were the true and only people of God, the priesthood instituted of God. They had the pretension to be God's competent administrators of His blessings, which none else were; they had zeal for God, possession of His oracles. All else but themselves were without these distinctive privileges. Where else was eternal life to be found? When Christ's authority is owned in the heart, then this word comes in, "We write unto you that believe, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." If God has given us eternal life in Christ, we do not want those who pretend to be the exclusive administrators of it; and we cannot let anything come in and separate between us and Him; we cannot go away from Christ, and we have got the true Christ in the word, and we cannot but speak of the things which we have seen and heard. Him who would lead me elsewhere I can easily detect as of the synagogue of Satan. They may prosper now: I will wait with Christ, keeping that word which teaches me from Him and with Him to wait till He comes and sets up the blessing and the glory.

But if God has given you eternal life, then do not you dispute with these of Satan's synagogue, as if they had any title from God (they have none); but judge ye whether ye are to obey them or God. We have "Him that is holy and him that is true" - "and the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." They were not to contend with this synagogue of Satan, and though they had but little strength and were of no reputation, yet in patience they were to possess their souls, because Christ will yet manifest His love to them before their adversaries. The synagogue of Satan was a religion of the flesh, which rested in outward things - in all that nature could claim as religious - works, ordinances, and the like, assuming and occupying the place of the Jews in Paul's time; and it is spiritually the same now. But "I will make them know that I have loved thee": the Greek marks with emphasis the "I" and "thee." Then the question resolves itself into this, Is Christ sufficient for me? Is Christ's approbation sufficient motive to govern my conduct? If Christ's approbation be not sufficient to satisfy a soul, that soul can never walk aright.

342 "Behold, I come quickly, hold that fast which thou hast" (that is, "the word of my patience"). I am waiting, and you must wait; Christ is expecting till His foes be made His footstool. Instead of taking our ease, we must be waiting till He come in, just as He always waited till His Father came in, and as He does now till His Father makes His foes His footstool. I would mark here how emphatically the word "My" comes in throughout this address. It is the practical identification of the saint with "him that is holy and him that is true." Waiting with Him in rejection from the hands of those who had all the ordinances, and antiquity for them, we shall be sharers with Him in glory. The word "My" is especially connected with everything in the glory. You have been weak in testimony down here, but you have kept the word of My patience, and you shall be a "pillar" of strength in the temple of My God, I will write on you the name of My God, the name of the city of My God … which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. This identification with Christ in patience, and Him in everything, is of the deepest interest and instruction.

The Lord give us to walk in the power of the Spirit with our hearts fixed on Christ as revealed as the holy and the true keeping the word of His patience, that so His approbation may be our everlasting reward. May He keep us separate from the world upon which He is coming in judgment!

How great the contrast between expecting that which is hanging as a terror over a person's head, and knowing Christ in such a way, having Him so completely the whole object of our desires and affections that when He says, "Surely I come quickly," the immediate response of our hearts may be, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."


We only touched a little upon the general features of the church of Philadelphia last evening, just so much as was needful to connect it with the preceding church of Sardis. We will, therefore, now turn again, the Lord helping us, to consider more particularly the details of the church of Philadelphia; and in so doing, we would notice, in the first place, that the most prominent feature in this church of Philadelphia is, that it is one of special blessing to meet a special need. For, after all the display of terrible evil through which we have had to pass, in the previous condition of the churches, now that we have reached Philadelphia, we find it to be all mercy and blessing.

It is very blessed to observe, that however poor and feeble God's people may be, even though the faithful ones be reduced to a remnant of individuals, He never forgets them. His eye is ever upon them to give them out of His own resources, according to what they need and when they need, at the time that surrounding things are darkest. When both the church and the world have arrived at a state of felt darkness, then the few who are faithful have the most "light in the Lord." For the life of faith is always nourished and sustained by the faithful grace of Christ, according to the power of that which draws upon it - according to the difficulties through which it has to pass.

It is another question whether the Lord's people are to be used in testimony by Him in time of failure; this will be according to His wisdom. We see this exemplified (as we have before remarked) in Israel; the failure of the golden calf was met by inward spiritual power in Moses putting the tabernacle outside the camp. And when the open and avowed worship of Baal prevailed, then God raised up Elijah and Elisha with great outward manifestation of power; but then the seven thousand faithful ones were hidden of God. The Lord may not choose to put the outward honour of testimony upon that which has failed. Still He gives the needed grace and inward power of life to sustain the individual soul; and this, as regards the saints now, flowing from the Head in glory for the nourishment of the body on the earth, can never fail. Thus, as regards gifts in the church, for instance, those which were for signs ("sign-gifts" as they are sometimes called, and a testimony to the world, signs being for those which believe not, as "tongues," "gifts of healing," etc.), these may be all gone; but never can those gifts be removed which flow down from the Head to sustain the members of the body; for "no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it even as the Lord the church."

344 In the epistle to the Ephesians, where the church is so specially brought out as the body of Christ, we find the gifts for the church spoken of as being "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Here we have not a word about the sign-gifts, while in Corinthians we have "gifts of healing," "divers kind of tongues," "interpretation of tongues," etc. Thus we see in Scripture two characters of gifts distinctly marked out: first, the sign-gifts, as in Corinthians, which were public signs attached to the church for outward testimony, whereby to attract an unbelieving world; secondly, those gifts which flow from the Head for the nourishment of the body. This nourishment must ever remain. It may come in the way of outward testimony, or direct from Christ Himself in the way of grace; but there must always be this supply from the Head. This is just what we get brought out in the Philadelphian church; for that which characterised it was weakness - only a little power, but a much greater nearness to Him who is power, a greater degree of affection to the Lord, more intimacy of communion with Him, and in the promises made to it a much more definite identification with Himself.

Weakness is that which characterised the church of Philadelphia, but then it was without reproach from the Lord. And we must ever remember this, that though God may give an outward display of power, such as gifts of healing, tongues, and the like, as a testimony to the world, or these may all have come to an end, yet at all times, either with or without this outward manifestation of power, the sense of weakness is competent strength if mixed with faith. There may be trouble of heart along with this sense of weakness without unbelief. There was this sense of the surrounding sorrow in the Lord Jesus. "Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour." But thus we see the sorrow was the very thing which immediately linked Him with His Father.

But, alas! in us there is too often such a getting into communion with the sorrow itself, such a turning of our souls to the thoughts of sorrow, as to lead to the distrusting God's competency to meet it. For, instead of saying, "In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul," we are turning about in the multitude of our thoughts to think what is to be done, and thus looking at and occupying ourselves about circumstances, or what we find within us, so as to keep God out altogether; but this was never the case with the Lord Jesus. For the moment the hour of sorrow appeared before His soul, the immediate cry was, "Father, save me from this hour." But if we are thinking about our own weakness in any other way than to lead us to immediate dependence upon the strength of God, God with us and God for us, it is unbelief.

345 It is not, moreover, a sense of the greatness of God's gifts and revelations to us in which our strength lies. For signs and miracles do not give inward strength; they may confirm His word to us in times of trial, but can never impart inward strength; and it is of importance clearly to understand this. Take, for instance, the case of Paul, who was caught up into the third heaven, and heard there things which it was not possible for him to utter. An amazing thing this, and doubtless it was a kind of background for Paul's soul to rest upon in his trials, his having been in the third heaven. But it did not give him inward strength. On the contrary, the flesh, without God's overruling care, would have been puffed up, and this is not strength; but when he got something that made him sensible of his own weakness, then strength from God could come in. And so it is with us: our hearts are so treacherous, and our flesh so wicked, that if not watched against, we should abuse everything that the Lord makes known to us. We need not stop here to enquire what Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was, although it is often made the subject of much fruitless enquiry, out of mere curiosity; but this we would remark, that each one of us will have a different thorn according to the danger we are in. Thus much we know from Galatians 4:13-14, that it was something which tended to make him despicable in the flesh, thus producing sensible weakness in his ministry. And, therefore, Paul cried thrice to the Lord to remove it; to which the Lord replied, "My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Paul must realise this sense of weakness in order to learn where real strength lies; and then he can glory in his infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon him; as he says, "When I am weak, then am I strong."

346 There is always strength in looking to God; but if the mind rest upon the weakness otherwise than to cast it upon God, it becomes unbelief. Difficulties may come in. God may allow many things to arise to prove our weakness; but the simple path of faith is to go on, not looking beforehand at what we have to do, but reckoning upon the help that we shall need, and find when the time arrives. The sense that we are nothing makes us glad to forget ourselves, and then it is that Christ becomes everything to the soul. There is real strength in pursuing the simple path of obedience in what we may have to do, whatever the trial may be. So it was with David when he had to fight. "The Lord, that delivered me out of the paw of the bear, and out of the paw of the lion, will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine." It was no matter to David whether it was the lion, the bear, or this giant of the Philistines; it was all the same to him, for in himself he was as weak in the presence of one as the other; but he went on quietly doing his duty, taking it for granted that God would be with him. This is faith. Mark the contrast with this in the unbelief of the spies sent by Moses to spy out the land. They trembled and said they were but as grasshoppers in the sight of their enemies, thus quite forgetting what God was for them, and making it a question between themselves and the Anakims, instead of between the Anakims and God. But where there is a simple reference to the Lord, then "I can do all things through Christ strengthening me." When trouble comes in, we must not be looking at ourselves, but, knowing that we are nothing but weakness, simply look to the Lord as everything in the way of strength for us.

The case of Philadelphia was one of decided weakness, but faithfulness; there may be great apparent power and yet weakness itself. As the Holy Ghost says in 1 Corinthians, there may be the speaking with the tongues of men and angels, the understanding of all mysteries, and all knowledge, and yet there may be, at the same time, the most perfect weakness, because all this was not done in communion with God. There is nothing more dangerous than to have the outward manifestation of power going beyond the inward association and communion of soul with God; the life within must be equal to the outward display of power. We have lately alluded to this in the case of Elijah.

347 "These things saith he that is holy, he that is true." Here in Philadelphia we have the Lord in His moral character, and not in the character of personal power as the Son of God, but as the "holy and the true," presenting Himself as a standard of judgment as to everything inconsistent with Himself, and suiting Himself in grace to the condition and need of His faithful ones, and by His truth giving a means of judgment, and security of heart and confidence to the saints. And we also find Him disposing of means in favour of the church, in such a way that, if He opens a door, none can shut it, or if He shuts a door, none can open it. Thus there are the two things: He is the holy and the true, to those who trust in Him; and He has also, not here indeed the display of power, but the key of power (as Jehovah said of Eliakim to Shebna in Isaiah 22:22: "The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder, so he shall open and none shall shut, and he shall shut and none shall open"). So that, where there is this weakness, He encourages the church to look to Himself as the holy and the true, and trust Him; and where there is this resting on His title to open and shut, and this trust in His Person, and conformity to His character, the church is perfectly secure, no matter what may happen. Let all the power of man or Satan do their worst, if I am resting in Christ, who is perfectly true, and He has opened a door, neither man nor devil can shut it.

How analogous is this position of the Philadelphian church to that of Christ when He was on the earth! Everybody sought to shut the door against Him; Pilate, Herod, Scribes, Pharisees, and the whole nation of the Jews were all trying to shut the door against Christ. Christ, like the Philadelphian church, was in the midst of an order of things which God had once instituted, but which had entirely failed; for in Christ's time there was no ark, no Urim and Thummim, no Shechinah (the glory of God's presence in the temple). All that had really constituted the sensible display of power and testimony was gone, and, instead of Jehovah having a throne in Jerusalem, they themselves had fallen under Gentile power and were slaves to man's throne. And hence arose the exceeding subtlety of the question the Jews put to our Lord. "What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar or not?" If the Lord had answered No, it would have been the denial of God's chastisement for their sins; and if He had said Yes, then it went to the denial of His title as Messiah. But (the Lord perceiving their wickedness), His reply to them amounted to this, "You have brought yourselves under this dominion because of your sins, and therefore now you must submit to its authority." Not only "the powers that be are ordained of God," and as such we submit to them; but in Israel's case it would have been denying God's chastisement upon them for their sins (as it is said, "we are slaves this day because of our sins").

348 So the Lord Himself submitted to paying the temple tribute. But though Israel, as a body, failed in their faithfulness to God, yet God could not fail in His faithfulness to them, for His Spirit remained among them, as we learn in Haggai; and therefore we find there was a little remnant in the Annas and Simeons, who were waiting for redemption in Israel (as it is said in Malachi, "They that feared the Lord spake often one to another"). Thus we see it was a condition of thorough darkness, and when He who was the Light comes in, He is at once rejected. Well, what then? Was the door shut to Him? No: "to him the porter openeth." Christ came in at the door, not, like all the pretenders that came before Him, climbing up some other way; but while working in divine power Christ came in by God's own appointed way, and no man could shut it. He is become God's appointed way to us; He said of Himself, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved."

Whatever links our position with Christ, as an example and pattern, is in truth a blessing to us; for was there ever one that went through all with such unfailing, lowly faithfulness to God as He did? Note the contrast of His lowly path with that of Elijah's; and what do we see? Elijah was going on ministering with great outward power, bringing down fire from heaven to destroy the prophets of Baal, and thinking himself to be the only one that was left that was true to God; whereas God had seven thousand that had not bowed the knee to Baal, whom Elijah had not found out. Christ was content to be nothing in a world where man was everything and God was shut out. He was content to be treated as the very offscouring of the earth; and yet, at the same time, there was not a single lost sheep of the house of Israel that His voice did not reach as the voice of the good Shepherd (let them be the vilest of sinners, a woman of Samaria, an adulteress, or a publican), that His eye did not discover. Thus, in virtue of His very humiliation, He puts those who now have but this "little strength" into the very same place which He Himself took, and then, as the porter did for Him, He opens the door for them, which none can shut.

349 We are waiting for the glory: "the glory thou hast given me I have given them"; and while thus waiting we have to pass through that which has "Ichabod" written on it (the glory hath departed). The testimony of this dispensation in its public power is gone, never to be recovered. What the Lord is pressing upon them is, that they are not to suppose that the evil, such as that of Thyatira and Sardis, can be put in order; but He says, "Behold, I come quickly! hold that fast which thou hast that no man take thy crown"; that is, keep the word of My patience till I come. Thus we find ourselves in circumstances analogous to Christ; for when the Lord says, "Behold, I come quickly," it is to the end that we may get into greater likeness to Christ's position, and although trying and humbling, yet one of blessing, finding ourselves just in the same position which Jesus took, with the same promise - an open door which none can shut. This is present faith; it is not much strength that we want: the thing most needed is greater conformity to the position of Christ.

Observe another thing peculiar to this church of Philadelphia. The Lord does not set about canvassing their works, but leaves the heart of these poor weak ones satisfied with the consciousness that He knows them. To the other churches it was not so; He notices the character of their works. To Sardis He said, "I have not found thy works perfect before God." But it is sufficient for us that He knows our works. O what a comfort it is, for if we had to look for perfection, as in Sardis, we should find it very troublesome to give in the account. The mixture of things, the little faith, would dismay us. In fact, none of our works have answered to the grace received. There is plenty of activity, there is much that man may approve, but taking the general character of service, how difficult to find that which God can approve! Then again, if we get occupied with the state of things in the world around us, and in the church of God itself, our hearts would sink within us, did we not fall back on this most blessed truth, that Christ knows all about it.

350 But then does He say that they have nothing? No; He says, "Thou hast kept my word." That which characterised Christ must be the characteristic of the church of God. Christ could say, "Thy word have I hid in my heart"; and this is especially the characteristic of faithfulness in the last days. Paul in writing to Timothy says, "In the last days perilous times shall come," and there would be a terrible form of godliness without power; for even then the mystery of iniquity had come in, "and evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse." But the safeguard is, "but continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them, and from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures" - the plain written word, what we call the Bible, read from his youth. Security would not be in the manifestation of outward power, nor yet in miracles, but simply in the written word. This was the instrument of blessing; this the recognised authority with Timothy. Of course the grace of God was needed for his conversion. I refer to this now, as the keeping close to the word is the special security of these latter days (namely, the special authority of the word of God itself, just what Timothy, as a child, found in the Scriptures); and added to this, of course with Timothy, was that which he had learned from the apostles, equally inspired, and which was thus a known immediately - divine authority in a person "of whom," says the apostle, "you have learned it," and which since has become the written word to us. The written word of God is where all our security lies through grace.

The Lord does not say "You have strength," but "You have kept my word"; and then further He does not say "You have known me in this or that character," but "You have not denied my name." The Lord's name means always the revelation of what He is; as if He be called Christ, He is the Anointed One. The Lord is here saying, that as you have stuck fast to Me as revealed, now I will make them which have a false name and pretences "to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." Here we get the two characters contrasted; and also mark the emphasis on the word "My": it is Christ's word upon which I am called to rest; "My word" - the word of Christ Himself, to come in personal communion with Christ Himself - not even the church's word. Suppose, for instance, I take the church's word, that is, to assume that the church has authority; but if I take Christ's word, then I have the authority of Christ Himself; and it is by the word of Christ that I must judge everything about the church itself. And the word of Christ connects us with Christ, His name and Person; and these are the two things which are especially essential for us to have, to enable us to walk contrary to the seductions which we know are peculiar to the last days. It is seductive power which characterises these times, "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse." "These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you."

351 In speaking in a general way of the character of the times, we look for seductive power. There will be a distinct and definite Antichrist, who will shew it in another way, but "even now there are many Antichrists"; therefore we have "earnestly to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints." If he, whose coming is after the power of Satan, with signs and lying wonders, shall prevail against those who "receive not the love of the truth that they might be saved," we have need to hold fast that which will guard us against him who will come in as an angel of light; but it is those who have not received the love of the truth who fall into his snares. And this safeguard we have in the word of Christ Himself - keeping the word of His patience, and not denying His name. It must be an individual thing, for seductive power, having come in, marks the times in which we live to be "perilous times," not by open persecution and the like; but as the serpent beguiled Eve by his subtlety, so our minds are in danger of being corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ. And what have we to deliver us from this? Is it the outward manifestation of power, miracles, etc.? No, we have no outward power wherewith to meet Satan, we are weakness itself - "thou hast a little strength"; but our safeguard is in this, each soul individually for itself, holding fast the written word of Christ, and not denying His name.

It seems not much to say of them, "Thou hast kept my word and hast not denied my name," for there was not much done by them. But, dear friends, when the seductive power of evil was there it was saying everything of them; when all that was going on was to the setting aside of the written word, they kept it; and when everything went to the denial of Christ's name, they did not deny His name. That which is a great thing in God's sight is, not the calling down fire from heaven as Elijah did, but the being faithful amidst surrounding unfaithfulness. So likewise it did not seem to be saying much for the seven thousand who did not conform to the gross act of worshipping Baal, merely to say that they had "not bowed the knee to Baal," but it was, in truth, saying everything for them, because they were surrounded by all those who did bow the knee to Baal. So likewise the church of God was at first set up in power, but tares were plentifully sown among the wheat, and that which marks out the faithful ones is simply this, that when the seductive power of evil comes in, they are not seduced and led away by it. It is not in the manifestation of outward power, but simple faithfulness in walking with God in the midst of evil. Thus in the church of Philadelphia there was faithfulness of walk which gave them inward power, although no outward display of power.

352 "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie." Here we find this individual faithfulness in a secret walk with God, contrasted with those who cling to something established, where there was abundance of form, a fair show in the flesh, boasting themselves to be Jews, and attempting to set up again that which used to be the outward characteristic of the people of God, not seeing that "new" thing which God had now set up, and which now puts the heart to the test. They do not reject the word of God (the Jews did not either); but it is not God's word that governs them. The Jews received the Scriptures, but they rejected Christ, and killed Him; as Jesus Himself said, "They will put you out of the synagogue." Nor was it without the notion that they were serving God in doing so: "The time cometh that he that killeth you will think that he doeth God service." But this was pure rejection of the light God sent: "And these things will they do, because they have not known the Father nor me." Any old truth which has gained credit in the world so as to be accounted orthodox, fails to put the heart to the test. It accredits nature: one is esteemed for it. If I can take religion and accredit myself with it, instead of having the heart put to the test by it in the exercise of faith, I may be quite sure that it is not the religion of God. Though it may be the truth as far as it goes, it is not faith in God. That is what this synagogue of the Jews were doing. They were setting aside Christ's name and Christ's word, for that which could be rested upon where there was no heart for Christ. Tradition, ordinances, ancestry, etc., were the things they loved, and not the word of Christ for themselves. It is quite true that the Jews had been God's people; but they had rejected and trampled under feet the name of Christ. And this is what makes all the difference; for now that Christ has been manifested what God is looking for is faithful obedience to His Son. Faithful adherence to Christ now is everything.

353 "I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." God did not own these pretenders to religious antiquity as His people. All they would get was just to know that Christ had loved this poor despised remnant: "To know that I have loved thee!" See now what the heart has to be satisfied with - not the present acknowledgment from those who profess to know God, while in works they deny Him, but the calm, settled confidence that Christ loves it. This it is which puts the heart to the test. If you want present enjoyment, bright pictures set before the mind, taste gratified, imagination fed, men gained, something of "reverend antiquity"; Christ is not in any of these things. "He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever"; and He Himself is the Truth - "holy and true." And if we have the love of Jesus as a present thing in our souls, we have all we want in Him.

There are plenty of people asking, What is truth? With such these pretensions may have weight. The synagogue of Satan may be religion, ancient, and reverend, full of gorgeous attractions, and what has authority over the flesh (and accepted for us by those who, like Pilate, asked What is truth? and then crucified Jesus, who is the Truth, to please the priests of the day). The character of these last days is just this, that men are always seeking, and never coming to the knowledge of the truth. I have no need to be asking, what is truth, if I have it; what a man seeks he has not got. A man that is always hunting after truth acknowledges by his actions that he has not got it. Christ said, I am the truth; He is the centre of all truth, and is the ground of everything that connects us with God. An infidel will raise doubts about everything, but establishes nothing; but we want something that is certain. The moment we have the Person of Christ, we have the Truth: "no man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Do I want to know what God is? what man is? I get in Christ a perfect picture of what God is to man, and what He is as a man to God. It is all in Christ: of course we have to advance in the knowledge of it. The heart that has Christ wants not the synagogue of Satan; the heart that has received His testimony has set to his seal that God is true. The soul knowing this is in the simplest way kept from evil. I have got grace too as well as truth - "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."

354 When I was living in a lie, it was grace that brought the truth to my mind; and what can a soul want more? It has sorrow indeed, by reason of the defiled place through which it is now passing; but there is no more uncertainty about its portion, it has got all in Christ. There is nothing wanting to add to the secret blessing. "I will make them to come and worship before thy feet" (that is, in the sense of doing homage) "and to know that I have loved thee." We know it now, not as deserving it indeed, for it is all of grace; but we have the present enjoyment of it through Christ's presence. We know that love of Christ which passes knowledge indeed, and the Father's love too; as He says, "I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them." The world does not know it now, but in that day the world shall know that the Father loved us as He loved His Son. When the heart gets hold of this love of Christ to it, it rests there; it is satisfied with the present enjoyment of Christ's love, although those around know nothing of the approbation it conveys to the heart. The Lord is now in various ways weaning our hearts from everything around us, in order that we may find, in the testimony of His personal love to us, that which strengthens our faith, settles the conscience, and guides the heart. Christ says, "I am the door," and that is the warrant for the sheep following Him out. In the time of Christ there was the Jewish order of things which God had set up; and there was no warrant for getting out of this Jewish system until Christ went out; but the heart, drawn and attached to Christ, had the special warrant of going after Him outside the established system - "following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth."

In this church of Philadelphia we have the promise which met the hope which the faithful had of being with Christ in glory. Identification with Him in His position connects them with Himself, and with the word of His patience. They had not all the professing church of one mind with them; and they were not yet enjoying the full result of His love (not having Christ personally and fully present with them, I mean); and if Christ's love is to be the guide of my conduct, what the heart wants is, that Christ should be with it, for if we love a person we surely want to be with him But having Christ in our hearts, we are keeping the word of His patience. Such is a trying, sifting, purging, exercising time, no doubt, but we must wait. And mark, further, how this blessed identification and connection with Himself is kept up all through, as it is not simply the word of patience, but "My patience." And why "My patience"? Because Christ is still waiting (see Psalm 110); and it is this which determines all our conduct, for if Christ is waiting we must wait also. Christ has to wait in a state of expectancy, so to speak, in the exercise of patience, for the Father's time; and it is in this sense, I doubt not, that He is said not to know the time which the Father hath put in His own power. Christ has done all that was needed for His friends to present them to God, and is set down at the right hand of God, "expecting till his foes be made his footstool." Christ is waiting until He gathers in all His friends before He does, as He says, His "strange work" on the earth, in dealing with His foes. And hence this word of "My patience" is just what is needed, for we are waiting for that day of which Christ tells us (John 14), "I will come again and receive you unto myself."

355 We see all creation groaning around us, waiting for that day; and we too groan within ourselves, waiting for the redemption of the body; but all is in disorder till then. Where are the Jews, "still beloved for the fathers' sake"? They are as vagabonds and wanderers upon the face of the whole earth, without priest, without teraphim, without anything, as a teil tree and an' oak when it has cast its leaves, though the Lord is working among them. If I look at the world all is sin and misery. If I look at every created thing it is groaning. Look at what calls itself the church: the universal cry is, "Who will shew us any good" - who is satisfied with anything? I do not speak thus in the bad sense of dissatisfaction; but there is nothing on which the soul can rest. It is no matter: take whatever system you will. The general feeling is, that all the foundations of the world are out of course. The raven indeed may go and light upon some dead floating carcase; but the dove can find no rest for the sole of her foot, save in the ark.

356 And what have we in the midst of the dense darkness of the night on which to rest our souls? Nothing but the certain expectation of the coming of the bright and morning Star. How long will Christ be waiting till He can deal in judgment, and when can He do this? When He has got His friends with Him, then He begins to act in the character of Judge, not indeed that He will at once cut them all off, but then it is that He will take to Himself His great power. What He is specially waiting for is, that those who have His portion should be with Himself and as Himself. We are predestinated to be conformed to His image. "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied," when He gets His bride with Himself and as Himself. If the mighty man, the mystic man, the man-child of Revelation 12 is to act, He must first be complete (of course He is so, essentially so, in Himself, but as Head over all things to the church which is His body). The head and the body must be united before He can act as having this title before the world; because the mystic man as a whole cannot take it until the church is. taken up to Him. For not until then - until the church, the body, is united to the Head, Christ, in heaven - is the mystic man in that sense complete; and therefore, the church must be taken up before Christ can come in judgment.

What is the great hindrance to the full blessing of the church now? All from the beginning have failed: Adam, man before the flood, Noah, man under law. Then take Christianity - how have the tares been sown among the wheat! Priesthood, through the influence of Satan, taking the place of Christ, and our union with Him. After this - summed up in the final apostasy, the acting of judicial power to set aside the evil begins. The first act of power, when the mystic man is complete, will be to cast Satan and his angels down (Rev. 12:9), to cast them out of heaven; and they are never seen there any more at all, but they are cast down into the earth; and then the devil has great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time; and, in his great rage, he stirs up all things in his full character of adversary against the Lord Jesus Christ. Then the Lord will come with His saints to execute judgment upon the earth. He must set things to rights by removing the evil. And as soon as His enemies are made His footstool, then He brings in the fulness of blessing. But we must keep in mind that the judgment is consequent upon the association of the church with Christ. The mystic man must be complete, in that sense of it, before He can execute judgment. Then Christ takes an entirely different character. Until He takes us up into the glory, He is presented as a Saviour (and even then, there will be doubtless - after the church's removal - a saved remnant). But then the acceptable time is ended; and then in "righteousness he doth judge and make war." And when He comes forth thus, we shall fully understand why it is the word of His patience now; for till then, till He take unto Him His great power and reign, we are linked with Him in heart and mind in the word of His patience; and the blessing of this to us is our association with Christ Himself, the perfect linking up with Christ in all things. As a Man (not at all touching the divine glory of His Person, but as taking the official character of a servant) Christ has to wait until God in His good pleasure puts all things under His feet; and this, I doubt not, as I have said, is the meaning of the words - "of that day knoweth no man, neither the Son, but the Father." But thus linked up with Christ, and having His present love as the satisfying portion of the soul, we had rather wait and have it with Him, than have it before Him. Thorough association with Christ Himself is the proper character of the church of God; for it is not merely that it is blest, but that it is associated with Him who blesses. We are His bride: this is our proper place; and whenever we descend from this, we get away from the full power of God's thoughts of love about us and about what He has made Christ to be for us.

357 Whatever is said of Christ in the day of glory, we find the church is associated with Him in it all - in His Melchisedec character, for instance, the highest place in authority as King, and the nearest in worship as Priest: we also are made kings and priests. Eve was associated with Adam in the dominion; but there was nothing in the whole creation which could have had this place. As it is written, "for Adam there was not a help-meet found for him"; but when Eve, as the bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, was brought to him he could say, "This is now [now, this time, for that is the force of the original], bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh." There was a help meet found for him. This is equally true of the Lord and the church, for He can say, "now this is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh," and can rejoice and delight in the production of His own love.

358 The Lord forbid that we should sink down from this our true place; and may He give unto us a deep and abiding sense of our being thus linked up in full blessed association with Himself; for the heart of Christ could not be satisfied without it, and neither should ours. It is not a question of our worthiness (for in ourselves, as in flesh, we are vile sinners), but of Christ's affection. True humbleness is not to think evil of ourselves, but not to think about ourselves at all. But, mark, it is a much harder thing to forget self, than even to have evil thoughts about self. If we are not humble, we must be humbled.

"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee," etc. The Lord says, If I own you as keeping "the word of my patience," and not as having any strength, but as in connection with myself, then "I will keep thee," etc. Thus He connects us with Himself, a poor feeble folk though we be, like the conies who were but a feeble folk, yet made their nest in the rock. "I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come on all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Now as regards the consequences, what a comfort is here! It was not a question of strength at all, but of being kept from a terrible time that was coming, "to try them that dwell upon the earth." These last words describe the moral condition of a class.

Do you suppose that God takes pleasure in afflicting His people? No, in truth He does not want to put you into temptation; but if you have got into a position in which you are mixed up with these dwellers on the earth, upon whom the hour of temptation is coming, you must be dealt with to be delivered from that on which that dreadful hour is coming. The gospel is preached now, and is taking out souls from the world; and the whole thoughts, feelings, desires, and affections of the saints should be looking out for the day of glory. And if they have got into Christ's place of patience, they do not want sifting as the world does; but if they are mixed up with the world, they must be sharers in the troubles of the hour of temptation which is coming to try those who dwell upon the earth, or practically sifted before to be rescued from it. A time is coming when the beast will blaspheme those that dwell in heaven, but he cannot touch them. When we know our heavenly character, it makes us strangers and pilgrims upon the earth, instead of dwelling here, and seeking our portion here; but those who are dwellers here must come into this hour of temptation which is coming to try those who dwell on the earth. And mark here, that this is a distinct thing from the tribulation spoken of in Matthew 24. That time of trouble is confined to Jerusalem; as it is said in Jeremiah, "it is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it." But here, this is a time of trouble, "which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Those who have kept the word of Christ's patience now, He will keep from that time. If the Lord is now getting fruit from them in a way which this temptation is intended to produce, then there will be no need for them to be tried by it.

359 But now, see how He encourages them: "Behold, I come quickly," as if He should say, "You must go on" bearing My lot in patience, and in the cross too, if you will share My lot and glory; but "I come quickly." It is not His coming, as presented to Sardis, as a thief in the night; but what Christ would press upon the church now is, that His return is a speedy thing. He does not tell them the moment, but puts His coming before them as their comfort, joy, and hope, and thus fixes the heart upon Himself; as it is not so much that He is coming quickly, but that it is Himself that is coming, "I, Jesus," etc. etc. Oh! if the heart has tasted God's love, what comfort it is after all to rest in Himself, as at the close of this book. After Christ has led the mind of the church through those things which He is going to do on earth, then He brings back the heart of the church to Himself - "I, Jesus."

That which characterises the church of Philadelphia is its immediate connection with Himself; it is Christ Himself who is coming. It is neither knowledge nor prophecy that can satisfy the heart; but the thought that Jesus is coming to take me to Himself is the blessed hope of one who is attached to Him by grace. Prophecy concerns Christ's coming to the earth; but my going to Christ is the proper and blessed hope of one united to Christ by faith. I solemnly respect and reverence God's warning about coming judgment, etc.; but it is not a matter of affection. God's purposes about Jerusalem, Babylon, etc., of which prophecy speaks, are most important and instructive to the mind; but the affections are not drawn out by knowing about the doom of Babylon, and Antichrist. I love Christ; therefore I long to see Him. But prophecies of coming judgment do not connect the spirit and heart with the Person of the Lord Jesus.

360 Then we have this warning: "Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." Oh! may the Lord give us to keep His word, and to be looking for Him as a present thing. If the devil could take away the hope of the Lord's coming as a present thing, this would be taking away our hope and crown. No man or devil can take away anything from us, if we have but that clear sense of faith which connects us with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as a present thing. To lose this is to lose spiritual power; and anything that robs us of spiritual power in our association with Christ, is to rob us of present blessing, and of that which is the path towards our crown. And, beloved brethren, we are now going through every kind of thing that is likely to rob us of our crown - everything which puts faith in a coming Jesus to the test, and calls it in question.

In the case of the ten virgins, they all slumbered and slept; the wise were as fast asleep as the foolish, and at midnight, when the cry was made, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!" they all rose and trimmed their lamps. There was no difference in this respect; but the one had the oil of the Spirit, the other not; and between the cry going forth and the actual coming of the Bridegroom, there was plenty of time for the lamps to be going out if not supplied with oil; and hence the manifest difference between the virgins was in the supply of oil which they had. If the first thought in the hearts of the foolish virgins had been the Bridegroom Himself, they would have been thinking of the light that He would want when He came; but they were occupied with other things, satisfied with merely keeping company with the virgins. The dress, and the lamps without the oil, would suffice to place them among the company; but alas! without the oil they could not keep their lamps burning for their Lord till He came. Still, there were those who were fitted to receive Him, "and when the Bridegroom came, they that were ready went in with him to the wedding, and the door was shut." And so it is with us. The cry has gone forth, and between this and His actual coming the Lord is testing us whether our hearts are set upon Him or not.

We have now only time left to consider the promise: "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God," etc. Here we see how definitely all the promises are connected with the time of glory - the "new Jerusalem" - here the heart is lifted up into its own proper dwelling-place. Are we taking the position of heavenly dwellers while walking this earth? Remark in how thorough a manner the saints are connected with the heavenly Jerusalem, the eternal dwelling-place of him that overcometh. He shall be in God's temple, in contrast with the synagogue of Satan, in the full enjoyment of the things of God (every purpose of His love fully brought out). "Him will I make a pillar." He who was a faithful but weak one in the earth, when the professing church was great but not fulfilling the purpose of God as the "pillar and ground of the truth," shall then be the very pillar of strength, and that the very strength of God, because there had been firmness against the power of seduction.

361 It is always "my God." Throughout Christ keeps up this connection with Himself. He was once in appearance the weak one on the earth; He says, "I have been rejected and you have taken the place of rejection with Me, and I know you have been faithful to Me; I go to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God." He is the patient One who waits the Father's time for the glory which is due to Him, and we have part in His patience.

"I will write upon him the name of my God," the way in which Christ as a man knows God: "You shall have that name publicly set upon you, as you have not denied My name down here - ' the city of my God,' waited for in faith; this is your place." Abraham looked for a city, whose builder and maker was God. It was a heavenly city they wanted for themselves on the earth, even when the flesh had built one here. This heavenly citizenship shall then be stamped upon the faithful, in the city of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the stranger on the earth. If men are looking for an ecclesiastical stability, a present establishment of things, they can have it now; but then it is not according to God's word: if content to walk simply with Christ now, waiting until God owns a city as His ("the city of my God"), they shall have it then: it comes down out of heaven from God. When Charles II was away from his country, those who were attached to his person felt themselves strangers in the land while their master was absent. And so it is with the Christian now; he belongs to Christ; he is a child of the day, waiting for Christ and the day of His appearing.

"My new name." It is not the old name of Messiah, but His wondrous new name, taken as the result of a heavenly redemption. We shall have what is stable then, though we have it not now in one sense.

362 May the Lord give us to know what it is to be really associated with Christ Himself, and to know this blessed thought of God about us, "that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace," etc. He has associated us with the object of all His infinite delight - His eternal delight; for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, and therefore have the privilege and portion of Jesus Himself. May God keep our hearts untainted by this present evil world and in freshness of affection to Himself. This can only be by keeping in communion with Christ Himself. To know our portion in Him, to know the value of His name, gives courage and strength to keep His word and not deny His name.