Seven Lectures on the Prophetical Addresses to the Seven Churches.

J. N. Darby.

(Delivered in London, 1852.)

<05042E> 362 {file section d.}


I had thought and hoped to have closed our consideration of this portion of scripture last evening; but I am not sorry now that time then forbade it, as I feel very strongly the importance of this last address to Laodicea. And it will give me the opportunity of taking up more generally what we have been going through in connection with the testimony of the word of God to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We see in this address to the church of Laodicea, that it is threatened with final and complete judgment, without any possibility of escape whatever. It is not indeed that it has yet arrived at the full consummation of evil; for if it had, where would be the use of warning it? This church of Laodicea, as all the other six churches before, is addressed as having the character of the church of God (that is, as holding before God the position of acknowledged testimony of Him for the world); and as such it is threatened with rejection. This is important in connection with other parts of scripture. It is not the history of that which has been accomplished, but the warning and threat of that which is coming. Hence its character is prophetical. And as the whole book of Revelation is judgment, so likewise, in these addresses to the churches, we get the judgment of the professing church, standing under God's eye, as holding this position. And I would here recall to your memory what I have said before, and what it is important to remember, that what is before us in all these churches is not the work of God's grace in itself; for these addresses to the churches would have no place if it were - nor yet Christ the Head of the body, as the source of grace to the members - nor yet is it the work of the Spirit of God, as that of course is never the subject of judgment; as also the grace which flows down from the Head to the members can never fail. This can never be the subject either of warnings or threatenings. It is the condition and state of the church which is here shewn forth, as holding the place of responsibility under the eye of God, and the consequent dealings of Christ with it, in the expectation of fruit.

363 Further, these addresses are not to individuals, but to churches; still there is a great deal to be gathered from these addresses by individuals who have an ear, through the instruction of the Holy Ghost: I trust that we even now have gathered a little of such instruction. The promises also are to individuals, "to him that overcometh" in the midst of evil circumstances, but the dealing is with the body.

It is not then the supply of the Spirit of grace from the Head, nor yet the directions through the Spirit of the Father's love dealing with the children within, because that supposes the church to be in an accepted and healthy state, and gives them directions suited to that state, and answering to the purpose for which it was called into church position. In Laodicea there is that which cannot apply to individuals; you may give warning to individuals in the church of God, "while the simple pass on and are punished." But this is not mere warning; excision is announced, and that can never apply to a saint of God. "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." It is the excision of the external professing body, which bears the name of the church, as such. This leads us to see the important truth of the responsibility of the professing church of God on the earth; therefore it is I am so glad of this opportunity of going over again the general principles connected with this.

"Unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, These things, saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God." The character of Christ given here is remarkable. In the last three churches we have seen that Christ leaves, so to speak, the characteristics given of Him in chapter I (that is, He is not presented in any part of the character that He takes in chapter 1); but we find a new special revelation of Himself according to the circumstances of the church addressed. It is not the same traits of character given of Him as those John had seen in the vision; it does not connect itself thus with the things "seen," but with "the things that are," in a new and distinct condition from that in which they had stood in their original relationship with Christ; and therefore, a fresh revelation of Christ is made for the need and occasion of the church.

364 In Philadelphia, Christ was not known in the same character in which He was known in Thyatira, as "Son over his own house," but fresh traits of His character were to be seized by the church for its particular need. From the same period of time, and even before, that is, from the time of the complete corruption of its original standing, the coming of the Lord is held out to the church. The saint could no longer occupy himself with the hope of the restoration of the church as a professing whole, and therefore the coming of the Lord is placed before it as its only resource, that the faithful remnant might look out for Him, finding in Christ that which they could lean upon and trust in, when the outward ground was slipping from under their feet. Those who had special faith in Jesus could not float on with the common stream of the thoughts of the church; for if they did, they would find themselves with Jezebel, or with Sardis, having a name to live and yet dead. Faith has need to be sustained in a peculiar manner, in order to keep me from the seductions of the "synagogue of Satan." Common grace will do when the church itself is in its place, but uncommon grace is needed to sustain the faithful when the church is not keeping its place. If Jezebel be there, I cannot go on with common faith; Christ and falsehood cannot go on together. If it be a name to live, being dead, I must have something special to sustain the life in me. Therefore, whether it be Jezebel seducing,* or Babylon corrupting, or Laodicea going to be spued out, I could not go on content with the moral state of things. Therefore I should need special grace suited to it, discerned by spiritual-mindedness alone, not being the natural relationship between Christ and the church as such. Of course we at all times need the sustaining grace of God, we cannot get on without it, as everyone knows; I need it - you need it - we all need it. But when that which bears the name of the church of God is nigh unto cursing, is going to be spued out, then a double measure and peculiar character of grace is needed to sustain the faithful ones in the narrow and often lonely path in which they will be called to walk. And mark here, when they had got into the Philadelphian state of things, with its little strength, and keeping Christ's word, and not denying His name, the coming of the Lord is brought in for the comfort of the faithful ones; and then the subject is dropped.

{*Jezebel is the source of mischief within; Babylon corrupts the world; Laodicea is itself cast out as worthless.}

365 Now here, though the professing church still subsists in form, yet it is utterly rejected, and it is unconditionally declared that Christ will spue it out of His mouth. The judgment is not accomplished, but it is certain and assumed as such. And the reason why the coming of the Lord is dropped after Philadelphia is, that, the whole thing being morally gone and the subject of judgment, the Lord presents Himself as outside in Laodicea, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." If there are still saints within, the testimony to them is as from without the scene of which they make a part. In Philadelphia, all dealing with the saints as maintaining them in a place of testimony is closed; for the professing church had then become either Jezebel in corruption, or Sardis in death, so that it should be judged as the world; and the remnant had the testimony as keeping the word of Christ's patience, and are comforted by the assurance that Christ will come quickly. Now they were to be content with the assurance that then the synagogue of Satan would know that Christ had loved them.

In the church of Philadelphia, the character of Christ's coming was put in its true and proper place. Looked at by the church, Christ's coming is for itself. Christ says, "It is for you I am coming," and the church's hope is to see Himself. It is "you" and "myself," He says, that must be together, constituting the proper church character of hope and accomplished joy. Hence in chapter 22, after the Lord has gone through the whole prophecy, He says, "I, Jesus, have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things, in the churches" - "I am the bright and morning star"; and the presentation of Himself awakens the cry to Him to come. He does not say, when warning men, "Behold, I come quickly." The Spirit and the bride say, "Come," and then, in heart-assuring reply, He says, "Surely, I come quickly"; to which the church responds, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Thus it is very evident that the coming of the Lord to take the church unto Himself, must be something entirely between Himself and the church alone. But it will not be so with the remnant of Israel, for them the execution of the judgment will be needed, in order to their taking their place in the earth. In fact, the Lord's coming to the earth itself must be attended with the execution of judgment, gathering out of His "kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity." And it is evident that the deliverance of the remnant of Israel connects the coming of the Lord with the execution of judgment upon what despises Him before Israel can possibly get their blessing. And this accounts for the strong cry of vengeance we find throughout the Psalms; take Psalm 94 for instance, "O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself." Now we do not want vengeance in order to be with Christ in blessing. God has given us grace as our portion in every way, and we have to deal entirely with grace. I am not looking for the Lord to come and avenge me on my enemies, for I am expecting to be caught up to meet Him in the air. And, that it may be clearly understood, I would again remark, that throughout the whole Scriptures this cry, in connection with the Lord's coming to the earth, is the language of the remnant of Israel, and not the language of the church of God.

366 Take Psalm 68:23, "that thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same." These are not the thoughts that occupy my soul in the contemplation of meeting Jesus in the air. If, through grace, I have bowed to the grace of the Lamb, then I have no connection whatever with that which will come under the wrath of the Lamb. It is Himself that I am expecting for the sake of what is in Himself apart from anything else. So also in the description of the future Jewish times of blessing in Isaiah 60:12, "The nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish"; while of the New Jerusalem it is said, "The leaves of the tree shall be for the healing of the nations." Israel is the scene of God's righteous judgments; the church is the scene of God's sovereign grace; and it never gets out of this. For the church, as such, never calls for vengeance; it will see the righteousness of the vengeance when God shall avenge the blood of those who have suffered, and rejoice that corruption is destroyed; but its own portion is to be with Christ. The earth will be delivered through judgment; but our portion is to meet the Lord in the air, and to be for ever with Him.

367 The church of Philadelphia having its proper portion, the coming of the Lord, the subject of this blessed hope closes. In Laodicea, therefore, there is nothing about the coming of the Lord, although it remains true of course, but still it is not put before it. It is another thing which is in hand; and here the prophet character comes in, because the Lord is here speaking of that which was about to happen in judgment. He is going to judge the church itself. It is always the professing church He speaks of (we must remember), that which takes the place of the church of God, as the testimony for God in the world. And mark now the peculiar character Christ takes here; if the church, this vessel of testimony for God, this witness, is set aside by the Lord in disgust, then the Lord comes in Himself as the "Amen, the faithful and true witness," not so much in the dignity of His Person, as shewn in Revelation 1, but as the faithful and true witness - "the beginning of the creation of God," as going to take the place of that which had so entirely failed as God's witness on the earth.

In James we see the purpose of God is, "that we [the church] should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures," and the church will have that place in the fulness of restored creation. But even now the church is called to have its own peculiar place, as having the firstfruits of the Spirit; but looked at as in a position of testimony, the church has utterly failed, not holding, in the power of the Holy Ghost, this place of firstfruits of His creatures. For what are the fruits which mark that power? Are they not "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance"? Do you see them in the professing church? No; and therefore it is, we say, that the professing church has failed to be this "kind of firstfruits of God's creatures"; for the professing church does not hold a place above the present state of creation or the world around it. Were a man to come to London from China, would he see these fruits of the Spirit in the professing church? or would he find the same covetousness, the same love of the world here in every way as in his own country? "O," he might say, "I could do all this in China. What Christians are doing in London (and true Christians too), I can do throughout China; though there may be a better and more refined way of carrying them out in London than in China." But in China there are the same results; for what professed Christians are doing in London is also done in China, though it may be not so comfortably carried out as to the flesh, but quite as thoroughly as to the heart.

368 I do not believe that the professing church is yet fully ripened up into the final condition of Laodicea; if it were, there would be no use in warning it. God is holding the bridle, and does not yet allow the evil to be so fully developed. It was just as true in principle in Ephesus, the moment the church departed from her first love; but we do not find it developed till the Laodicean state, when Christ spues the whole thing out of His mouth. And remember it is the professing church that is thus spued out, and not the church of the living God, the body and bride of Christ. Nor is this excision a mere removal of the candlestick; for when it cannot be said of the professing church, "Ye are not of the world, as I am not of the world," then, instead of its being the object of Christ's delight, it becomes (terrible to say) a disgust to Him: "I will spue thee out of my mouth."

Nothing can be more solemn than the position the professing church will arrive at, to call forth such a statement on the part of the Lord. We find also in this another remarkable testimony to the successional character of these churches. In its general character, notwithstanding the special working of grace in detail, the professing church gets worse and worse, till it comes to that condition that it has to be spued out of Christ's mouth; and then "a door is opened in heaven," and John is caught up there; Rev. 4. Then the judgment of the world commences, and the introduction of the Only Begotten to His earthly inheritance.

God has done with the church as a testimony, the moment Laodicea is spued out. And when the church has come to this entire state of failure, then Christ supplants it as the "faithful and true witness" of God. What the church should have done, Christ presents Himself as doing. Christ is the Great Amen of all God's promises; the church should have shewn how all the promises of God were Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus; but the church has not been able to do this; it has failed to put its amen to God's promises.

Amen means "firm verity and truth." (See Isaiah 7:9.) "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established," that is, "if you wilt not believe [or amen, for it is the same word], ye shall not be established [amened]." The meaning is, if you will not confirm my promises, you shall not be confirmed. Of course there is not a thought of the possibility of God's failing in His purposes in Christ, and therefore the church, the body of Christ, will be in glory with its Head: but if it is a question of testimony on the earth, then truly the church has not practically put its amen to the promises of God in Christ. For the church was called to manifest the power of its heavenly calling while walking on the earth; but it has not in its walk given the answer to that which God has affirmed. For we do not see the church giving the heavenly witness through the Holy Ghost, answering to the Lord Jesus Christ sitting at the right hand of God; and, therefore, as God cannot leave Himself without a witness, Christ immediately presents Himself as the "Amen, the faithful and true witness," the Person who is going to seal up all the promises and prophecies, the One who puts the great amen to everything as the "faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God." The professing church has failed; it contains within its pale a great mass of people that were never converted, bearing the name of Christ without possessing the life of Christ. But the failure commenced with the true church; it was through them that corruption crept in; "they left their first love," and then, consequently, the world came in; as God says, "I looked in the place of righteousness, and behold, iniquity was there." As is often said, "the corruption of the best thing is the worst of corruptions"; so there is really nothing on the face of the whole earth so diametrically opposed to God, as professing Christianity.

369 "The beginning of the creation of God." Christ comes in here as the blessed witness that God will yet set up creation according to His own will, Christ Himself being the chief and centre of it all. (See Proverbs 8.) It is not the promise of Christ coming to take the church to Himself, as to Philadelphia, but Christ Himself taking the place of full and perfect testimony for God, and as the accomplisher of all God's promises, of which the church should have been the manifestation. In this character, Christ, as it were, supplants the church in the manifestation of the purposes and promises of God, which cannot fail. If the church be irrevocably gone, the witness remains, and that will be the stay of the faithful. Here it is that faith is sustained, even where evil is rising up like a flood; here is solid ground that nothing can touch, the strength on which the soul can stay supposing the church to be gone, for the stay of every soul is trusting in Him.

370 I would now refer to the general testimony in the word of God, as to the complete failure and consequent setting aside of that which ought to have borne testimony to Him, so that the honour, the power, and the glory shall redound to Christ and Christ alone. Man, as man, failed in that which was committed to him, and then we see Christ, the true Man, set up in the purposes of God; Psalm 8. The declaration of God is, that there will be the entire setting aside of all that has borne the name, title, and authority of God in the earth.

Take power, for instance, which was ordained of God to be in the hands of man, and who was thus in a certain sense the representative of God; so that, as Christians, we ought to own the powers that be, and submit to them as "ordained of God." "They were called gods unto whom the word of God came." "But they shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes." Now when God judges among the gods, what does this shew? They have utterly failed - it is the immediate judgment of God which is executed. As to power then in the hands of man, the little stone, cut out without hands, smites the image of Gentile power, which becomes as chaff of the summer threshing-floor, and the wind carries it away, and no more place is found for it. Christ then, according to the purpose of God, takes the full power of the kingdom.

Mark what patience God is exercising during the progress of evil denoted in this image of Daniel. There are three distinct characters of the abuse of power in Babylon, seen in the three successional steps of evil - idolatry, profaneness, and self-exalting apostasy. First, there was idolatry in Nebuchadnezzar setting up the statue of gold in the plains of Dura; setting up idolatry to have unity in a common religious influence. Secondly, profaneness in Belshazzar, who brings out the vessels of God's captive temple. Thirdly, apostasy in Darius, who set himself up to be God. God has long patience with all this, till at last, when power is headed up in positive and open rebellion against Christ, then God, rising up in the power of the stone cut without hands, dashes the whole thing to pieces, like a potter's vessel. Then the stone becomes a great mountain, filling the whole earth. Thus we see that the power that was at first given to man to be used for the glory of God, becoming corrupt in man's hand, is at the end used against God. And here Gentile power ceases in order to make way for Christ the great vessel of power and honour to God.

371 Take Israel under the law. Not only do they fail, fall on the stone and are broken, but the evil spirit of idolatry which had gone out of them, will take to himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in subjects them to this perfection of wickedness, and their last state will be worse than the first. That is, they will go on ripening in evil, till at last, when they openly join in idolatry and apostate wickedness, God will give them up as a nation, though a remnant will be spared. There is the same failure in the house of David.

As regards the church of God, there is much more difficulty in believing that there will be the utter and final rejection of it, although of course it is only of the professing church that this will be true. It is a solemn truth, when evil comes in at the beginning, that it goes on increasing and ripening until judgment comes; and mark, also, that judgment is not executed upon it until it is fully ripe - "The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." This principle is fully and plainly set forth in the parable of the tares. The tares were sown at the beginning, but were not to be rooted up at once. Both the tares and the wheat were to grow together until the harvest. Thus the Lord declares positively that the mischief came in at the beginning, and would go on ripening till the execution of judgment. It is not a question of individuals, or whether the wheat will be all gathered into the garner (that of course it will be), but that the public testimony is spoiled. The crop was spoiled in the field; and that could not be remedied by man, for, looked at as a crop in the field, man is not competent to remedy it, for man is not competent to judge it. Besides, our business is grace and not the rooting up of tares.

Take 2 Thessalonians: the mystery of iniquity was working in the days of the apostles, but something hindered its full manifestation. And the very same iniquity is still working, even in this our day, "only he who now letteth will let until he be taken out of the way"; but the evil will still continue working until open and apostate rebellion will terminate in the full execution of judgment.

372 Take the Book of Revelation. Without entering into the detail, there is a broad, plain evident testimony to what would be the end of the whole dispensation: "I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet," Rev. 16:13. Persons may discuss what these frogs may be, but one thing is quite clear, that they are some power of evil going forth to the kings of the earth to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty, to fight against God. Thus things are ripening up to the fullest manifestation of evil; and when iniquity has arrived at the full, then a great voice from the throne will say, "It is done," and judgment then immediately follows. We get something that comes more home to ourselves, although it is applied to the professing church directly.

Before the introduction of that perfect state of good connected with the power and reign of Christ, we see all the different threads of evil drawing together for one common judgment.

Man, in his character of open rebellion, setting up to be God Himself, must be judged.

Then Israel is in association with the apostate power, returning to idolatry, from which Abraham their father had been called out; identifying themselves with the apostate Gentiles, and saying, "We will have no king but Caesar." Therefore, having by their sins sold themselves to Caesar, they must go back to Caesar again, and associate in evil with the Gentiles, and finally be judged with them, while an election inherits the blessing. As to the Jewish nation itself, we read in Isaiah 66 of its thorough departure - "eating swine's flesh."

Then there is the Babylonish corruption of Christianity; for the character of Babylon is that of idolatrous corruption, and it will be destroyed in the same way. All the evil will then be arrived at its height. The woman that rides the scarlet-coloured beast, the mother of harlots, the full results of Jezebel's seduction; the beast, which is power; the false prophet; man in rebellion; Christianity in apostasy; the word of God set aside; the law departed from; grace despised: all these varied forms of evil are found drawing together and coalescing, and will be in the end the one common object of judgment (the evil being thus altogether set aside that there may be nothing left but good).

373 Is the professing church exempt from all this judgment? Certainly not. Although the wheat will all be safely gathered into the garner, yet, if we take the word of God as our guide, we cannot for one moment suppose that the professing church can be exempt from this general judgment. Take Jude, who in writing to the saints, says, it was needful that he should exhort them to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to them; and why? Because "there are certain men crept in unawares; ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ." "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds." But where were these false brethren found? In the church of God, as Jude says, "These are spots in your feasts of charity when they feast with you." They were not found among the Jews, nor yet among the heathen, but in the church of God, corrupting it, "feeding themselves without fear." God has most graciously allowed that there should be a distinct manifestation of every spring and form of evil that could ever possibly arise before the canon of Scripture was closed; that we might have the judgment of the written word of God on every evil as it arises. And without this we should not be able to detect the exceeding subtlety of the mystery of iniquity which is still working on, but, having the written word as our guide, as God's children we are called on to judge everything by that alone. Again in 2 Timothy 3, "In the last days perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers," etc., their false piety being made manifest by being "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God," and also "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." And mark that it is not mere Judaism that is meant here, although the spirit of Judaism be at work. And it is also added, "that evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." Then the apostle (having taken up the varied characteristics of those false brethren who "have crept in unawares," which characteristics also serve as a guide to us) winds up the whole by saying to Timothy, "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned, and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them, and that 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"; for "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Thus we learn, in Paul's instructions to Timothy, that the only sure and safe standing-place of the man of God, in this day of increasing iniquity, is the holy Scriptures; and that, in the plain godly use of them, as he and his mother and grandmother, pious women, had studied them - the very same holy Scriptures he had read from his youth. It is not authority or power (not even the power of the Spirit of God) that the saint can trust to for guidance, apart from the simple written word of God.

374 We learn, then, from these scriptures to which we have been referring, that the immediate occasion, object, and inner spring of all the terrible judgment which is coming, is the professing church itself. It ought to have been God's witness on the earth, Christ's epistle known and read of all men; but, having become corrupt, it is this professing church that primarily and definitely brings down the wrath of God. Oh! beloved friends, there cannot be a more solemn subject than this, that not only will Israel and the beast fall under judgment, but, according to God's own word, the professing church will come under the same condemnation. I apply the word 'church' here to Christendom, that which professes to bear the name of Christ. There is the same testimony in John's epistle, "Even now are there many Antichrists." I have no doubt but that the Antichrist will arise among the Jews, and he will be a full manifestation of that spirit of Antichrist which even now denies the Father and the Son, and also denies that Jesus is the Christ. It is indeed most fearful to think of that apostasy bearing a religious character as it does; that which characterises the many Antichrists is the denial of Christian truth, and though there will be a full apostasy, still it will be an apostasy from the doctrines of Christianity. How soon did the spirit of it come in! how very soon was there cause to say, that "all men seek their own, and not the things of Jesus Christ!" May the Lord graciously open the eyes of His saints, to see the tone and real character of these last evil days, and to remember, that though He has had long patience while He is gathering out souls for salvation, and in this sense to "account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation" - that His judgment, though delayed is not changed; for the word is gone forth out of His mouth, and the only remedy for the present evil is in judgment.

375 From the very beginning we see the principles of corruption coming in. The testimony for God failed. The tares were sown, thus the crop was spoiled in the field; the mystery of iniquity was working. In the address to Laodicea we find the Lord shewing the evil principles which came in at the beginning producing the double character found in Laodicea. The object for which the seed had been sown in the field was spoiled. Instead of being witness for God, the church says, "I am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing." Thus we find there are two points of special importance as characterising this church of Laodicea - great pretension to spiritual riches in itself, and neither hot nor cold as regards Christ. First, there is great pretension to spiritual riches; but then as to life, they had the form of it, but not the power - "thou art neither cold nor hot." It is not positive hatred to Christ, but it is not positive zeal for Christ. It is the church going on in outward comfort and worldliness, and at the same time making great pretensions to spiritual riches, which is a sure sign of poverty; for, whenever we see such great profession to possess within itself the riches of God, we shall be sure to find poverty. And why? Because those riches can only be found in Christ. When the church says, "I am rich and increased in goods [making itself the vessel of grace instead of Christ] and have need of nothing," it boasts of riches within itself. Thus in so doing, it neither puts its "amen" to the promises of God in Christ Jesus, nor is it the true and faithful witness for God. The church ceases to be this, directly it looks away from Christ as the only source; and when it takes itself to be the vessel of riches, it then necessarily becomes a false witness instead of a true one. For the moment I say the church is all this or that, or the church is what I am looking at and not Christ, the eye is completely taken off Christ to the church; I am looking to IT instead of to Him, however much I may pretend to honour Him. The faithfulness of God is not the question here, but our failure. This is of the last importance as guarding against deception.

In Philadelphia they were not possessing all that they were endowed with in Christ: they had but a little strength, and all that the Lord could say of them was, that they had kept His word, and had not denied His name. While there was felt poverty in the church, Christ was delighting in them, and could say, I am for you, and I am coming for you. "I will make them of the synagogue of Satan to know that I have loved thee." But directly there is the pretension to riches in itself, when the church is taking riches and accrediting itself with them, instead of Christ's delighting in it, there is an expression of positive disgust - "I will spue thee out of my mouth." And if we look at the professing church at the present day, we shall see how it is getting into this state, rich in itself. When I find but very little strength, while the word is kept and His name not denied, then I can say, "Cheer up; the Lord is coming soon." For acknowledging I am poor and have but little strength is not necessarily unbelief in Christ; it is not necessarily denying what we have in Him for our use when we lean upon Him for strength because we have none. It is the body drawing the fulness from the Head. But when I find in a church this thought of fulness and riches in itself, then I say, You are going on towards Laodicea, whose end is to be spued out of Christ's mouth. The church of Laodicea having the thought of fulness and riches within herself, was perfectly ignorant of her state before God - "Because thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked." Therefore, says the Lord, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see."

376 The church was not looking to the Lord for these, and, therefore, was wanting in every one of them. Gold is divine righteousness - the great contrast to human righteousness - and is that which characterises the standing and riches and foundation of the saints. "The white raiment" is the works of the saints, which are the fruits of believing in divine righteousness. They are consequent upon the possession of divine righteousness. Human righteousness is quite a distinct thing from the righteousness of saints; for the righteousness of saints flows from hearts set at liberty by divine righteousness If we look at the Fakir in India, or the Dervish in Turkey; we find plenty of works, but never anything that is founded on redemption. The works of the Spirit flow out from the Spirit which has been the seal of divine righteousness to the soul; these saintly works are the fruits of the Holy Ghost in us. Here, then, is the "white raiment," which those at Laodicea were lacking. Therefore, they had not got even the righteousness of saints, for, being without divine righteousness, they could have no practical spiritual righteousness, no saintly works; as it is said that the "fine linen is the righteousness of the saints." They were also wanting in "eye-salve"; for they were as blind as nature could be to the things of God, and without spiritual discernment in anything, and yet they were saying, "We see": therefore their sin remained. Thus, having neither divine righteousness nor the consequent fruits of the Spirit, and still remaining in the blindness of nature, Laodicea wanted everything. There was abundance of pretension, while all that was real before God was wanting, and all that was fictitious was there.

377 But the Lord does not yet give up all dealing with them; but here in Laodicea the Lord takes an outside character; for when the nominal church has got practically into a Jewish position, then the Lord takes His stand outside, and calls to individual souls that are within: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice." The Lord desires to gain attention; He wants to be admitted. He warns the church of what is coming upon it - of positive judgment; but until that judgment is executed, He goes on necessarily in the exercise of His own blessed grace. But its objects are individual, for the church is given up. "If any man will open the door, I will come in to him, and I will sup with him, and he with me"; he will have his portion at my table. "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne."

Now, mark, this is apparently a great promise; but to me it seems the very least, as it is merely a place in the heavenly glory. They are told of no special association with Christ, such as we find in the promise to Pergamos, or even to the faithful in Sardis or in Thyatira. Nor is any thought of individual nearness, exclusively the portion of the bride, revealed as a motive. Reigning with Christ is merely the public display of reward and glory, which is a very different thing from the secret intimacy of the "hidden manna," and the "white stone." The knock was heard, and through grace obeyed; and they go up to heavenly glory. They have overcome, and, therefore, surely they must have their reward, "to sit with me on my throne." These also have their part in the "first resurrection," and, as such, they reign with Christ. But as much might be said of the two witnesses. They went up, and their enemies beheld them." They sit on thrones; they have their reward, but the reward just amounts to the fact, that they have got their place in the glory. But there is not the same intimacy, there is not the special delight, there is not the Philadelphian joy of Christ having the church for the sake of herself, and the church having Christ for the sake of Himself. Still they get their place in the glory.

378 The solemn testimony of the Lord is, that the professing church is to be spued out of His mouth; and this ought to come home with more sorrow in our hearts than the judgment of the world, having a much more terrible character to the heart than the judgment of Antichrist himself, because it is something that disgusts Christ - that is nauseous to Him - from its having had a kind of outward connection with Himself. And hence the importance of this, if we think of that in the midst of which we are. And in speaking of the professing church in the day in which we live, I mean what is commonly called Christendom, bearing the name of Christ, but in works denying Him. We find Christ's heart, thoughts, and nature, utterly rejecting that as disgusting which had been professing to be standing in connection with Himself.

There will be at the close much more connection between Judaism and nominal Christianity than people generally suppose. The lamb with two horns, the false prophet of Revelation, assuming the character of the Messiah, will play into the hands of the Roman emperor. From the very beginning the corruption in the church has had this double character, of idolatry, worshipping of angels, etc., and Judaism. Take the Colossians: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit," or "judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days"; and again, "Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels." Then take the Galatians: by Jewish suggestion they were observing days, months, times, and years. The tendency has ever been to mix up Christianity with Judaism; and when Judaism is set aside by God, it is nothing better than heathenism. (See Galatians 4:8-10.) Carnal religion, the Gentilism of worshipping angels, philosophy and vain deceit, on the one hand, and the Judaism of keeping days, months, and years, on the other, had entered the church at the first, and were the occasion of Paul's warning against the going back to the beggarly elements, and that Jewish bondage from which they had been set free.

379 As he says, "After that ye have known God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements whereby ye desire to be in bondage?" God had taken up the flesh in Israel, to prove that there was nothing good in it; He had allowed the Jew to follow the tendency of man's religion, in giving them the law, and ordinances, and sumptuous apparel, and gorgeous buildings, with the sound of trumpets and the like. But now Christ is come; and He is "the end of the law for righteousness," by which the Galatians were delivered from all their heathen ignorance and false gods. But then they go back, and, by embracing Judaism, they really got back again, as if still alive in flesh's life, in this world, into the old heathenism, the spirit of which is the religion of the flesh. As figures, God may have used these things to try man till the promised Seed was come. But now it has its own character, as before in heathenism, without God in any way - the righteousness of the flesh, which will take up with anything which will give a form of fair covering. Therefore the tide of corruption which set in at the beginning - this turning back to beggarly elements-religiousness in the flesh, that will settle itself in ordinances, seeking anything but eye-salve - will go on increasing till the end, being all one principle; and thus coalesce with what is formally Judaism, and Judaism with it in a full idolatrous character. The deception of the present day is Judaism; it is that which is satisfied with anything which takes the form without the power of godliness.

It is that principle of Babylonish idolatry which will ultimately govern through the beast. The spirit of infidelity will accept anything but the claim of the truth; it will accept Judaism as such, and it will accept the Babylonish system as such. And the consequence will be, that the unbelieving Jews will be seduced by the Babylonish power, taking the form of Judaism in the East, while in the West it will be open Babylonish idolatry. And most solemn it is to think that this world, through which we are walking, is to be the scene of all these things. And however much the professing church may now be the pride and boast of man, at the end it will as such be spued out of Christ's mouth, with every pretension even to the full power of the Holy Ghost, but with nothing that gives Christ His value, but attributing all the value to itself, accrediting itself with it.

380 May the Lord keep us in the Philadelphian condition - it may be with but very little strength - yet keeping the word of His patience, and in the sensible enjoyment of perfect association with Himself, who has set before us an open door, and will keep it open until He comes and takes us to Himself.


The preceding notes of lectures, whose object was the practical edification of the saints of God, leave room for expressing with more precision what I believe to be the successive states of the church, to which the moral condition unfolded in each of the church respectively applies.

The reader of the "Lectures" will remember, that he is not to expect in any case to find the active energy of the Spirit of God which produces the blessing of the church, but the form or condition of the professing church after that energy has been in operation and man's responsibility comes into play. There may be a measure of blessing, or great culpability. But the energy of the Holy Ghost cannot be the object of judgment

The first church indeed shews the decline of the saints from the first condition of blessing, produced by the power of the Holy Ghost. This sufficiently indicates the epoch to which it refers, while it characterises, in a general way, the result for the whole professing church, as a system established by God in this world, as a light in the world (and as such the church is considered here); not in its safety as the true living body of Christ, according to the power of redemption secured by the unfailing power of Christ.

It had left its first love. This was the point which marked that man had failed under the blessing of God. If the church as seen in the world, did not return to do its first works, it would be removed. This was already its state in apostolic days, immediately after its first planting; for such is man. Responsibility under the gift of the Holy Ghost, failure, threat of removal if there was not a return to its first state - such is the word to Ephesus. She is called back to the work of the Holy Ghost, in practical result at the beginning. There was much that was yet good, among other things maintaining the bonds of natural relationship as moral ties, and the judgment of those pretending to authoritative teaching. But there was practical departure of heart from Christ.

381 This soon paved the way for putting the church into tribulation (for a limited time, however). The poor of the flock, the faithful ones, would be subject to injurious accusations from those professing to have established claims to be God's people, and persecution from without. This characterised the church. This state lasted from Nero to Diocletian.

After this, another state of things characterised the church. It had gone through persecution, and there had been faithful martyrs. The world, where its earthly dwelling was, had been its enemy. Now doctrines, or rather teaching, came in, which led it into association with the world - to commit fornication, and eat things sacrificed to idols; so, when he could not curse and destroy as an enemy, Balaam had not done with Israel; he counselled corruption as a friend. There were also doctrines that led to evil deeds, that sanctioned the breach of direct moral ties. Personal faithfulness was called from the midst of the evil. This went on from Constantine - was creeping in before, but now characterised the church, and continued to do so till it became an established system; and popery, as such, was the mother of children in the professing church.

Such is Thyatira. Jezebel is not simply a prophetess to seduce God's servants, as those who held the doctrine of Balaam; she is the mother of children. Those that associated with her would be in great tribulation - her children under utter judgment. Here already the call to hear is after separating the remnant. In the first three churches, it was still in connection with the whole body; and, further, all repenting and restoration of the body at large is dropped, and Christ's coming held out and the entire change of dispensation as the hope of the saints. This closes, I apprehend, the general prophetic history of the whole body at large.

We have next protestantism (I do not say the Reformation, as a work of God's active power in the Holy Ghost, but), the great public result among men in professing Christendom. Christ is seen therefore afresh with all in His hand for the church. As to the church itself, it has a name to live, but is dead. It is not Jezebel producing children of corruption, and whoredom, and idolatry; but there is no answer to what has been received and heard. It would be visited as the world in judgment at Christ's coming. (Compare 1 Thess. 5.) It may be remarked that the general characteristic states go down to the end, as Ephesus, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and, of course, Laodicea, though some may begin late.

382 But all was not to be left in this state. There was not to be restoration of strength. If I may so speak, the seven Spirits and seven stars were useless in Christ's hand, if it was not to condemn. But there would be a company true to Christ, keeping His word, not denying His name, having only a little strength, but the door open before it. Christ's character, not His power, is put forward; and consistency, obedience, dependence, and owning Christ, are marked by the Holy Ghost as characterising those whom Christ would shew He had loved. They were comforted with the thought that He was coming quickly.

The result remained, apart from these despised ones - the result to the general professing body. It was not Jezebel-corruption, but lukewarmness, having a high idea of what it had, but without divine righteousness, without spiritual discernment, without the fruits of a spiritual character. It was spued out of Christ's mouth. Such was the end of the professing world as distinct from Jezebel. Thus the whole characteristic history of the professing church is given from the apostles' days, till it is utterly rejected, or judged by the judgment of God: a warning given already to Ephesus, but executed, after marvellous patience, in Jezebel and Laodicea, Christ then, as in His title in the address to Laodicea, taking the place of witness, which the church had not been able to maintain. The Lord give us now a true Philadelphian character.