• Christ and Church Life and Building Spirit and Bride

    基督與召會
    生命與建造
    那靈與新婦



    As a lover of Christ and a pursuer of truth, I write down my joys, memories and reflections.

    May God lead us all into the secret of His presence, and build us into the oneness of His body in love.
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Seven Lectures on the Prophetical Addresses to the Seven Churches-Lecture 3-4

(Delivered in London, 1852.)

<05042E> 287 {file section b.}

LECTURE 3

We saw in our last lecture that the character of judgment runs through the whole of the book of Revelation – first of all among the churches, and then in the world. So that we have the Lord walking in the midst of the candlesticks, exercising judgment, taking notice of all that is going on, and saying, “I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” And we also saw the importance of remembering the distinction between the church as seen in Christ in heaven, and seen on the earth, as representing Christ. We are partakers of His life, and united to Him in heaven; but it is equally true that He has set the church as a vessel to bear His name before the world, “the epistle of Christ known and read of all men.” We also remarked, that the responsibility of the church down here does not touch the question of salvation in any wise; and also that God’s faithfulness to individuals does not touch the judgment of the corporate body bearing His name. God had promised in His faithfulness to carry them on to the fulness of His glory; but, at the same time, He must judge them for failure in the responsibility in which He has placed them down here. We must not confound His judgment of the vessel set in testimony on the earth, and His faithfulness to the church – the bride, united by the Holy Ghost to Christ in heaven. But, moreover, God judges His saints individually for their good by exercising their hearts and consciences in warnings; and bowing under His judgments, they are blessed, while “the simple pass on and are punished” (Prov. 22: 3), and at length, as a body, are spued out of His mouth, while all the trials, discipline, and chastenings turn to the profit of the church as to its heavenly calling. In the address to each church there is a peculiar revelation of Christ made, with which the peculiar judgment corresponds; and also special promises, suited to their special need, meeting the exercise of the heart in order to sustain it, and pledges given to the faithful.

288 We have seen that the very first thing that characterised the church, looked at in its responsibility as pictured by Ephesus, was, that it had departed from the power of its original standing, “left its first love.” Nor is the subject now the supply of grace from the Head; it is no longer “that which every joint supplieth,” but the giving of reproofs, warnings, and promises, to act on the hearts and consciences of individual saints in their responsibility down here.

Another thing which it is well to remember here is, that we shall never find the object of the address to be the power of the Holy Ghost actively at work to form and gather. If it is judgment which is spoken of, it clearly cannot be, for Christ can never be said to judge the work of the Holy Ghost. It is power working in grace, if the Holy Ghost works. Christ, in exercising His judgment, is shewing forth His estimate of the practical use which has been made of the work of the Spirit after it has been given. The first great truth is, that the Lord looks at the church as responsible for all the love of which it is the object, and expects a return; and if He finds it not, but finds departure from the first love, which is only the sad commencement of greater failure, then He says, “Repent, or I will remove thy candlestick out of its place.”

Then, again, mark another thing. It is not individuals who are judged here, but churches (although individuals may hear and profit by the warnings). Thus the Spirit speaks to the churches; but there being no response from the church, no repenting, no doing the first works, no returning to the first love, the candlestick is to be removed. And then the address comes individually to him “that hath an ear – let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

But although as a church it has failed, and the candlestick must be removed, still there is such a thing as individual energy to overcome. And mark here that it is overcoming in the condition in which the church found itself. The responsibility of individuals is that of overcoming where they were. This was very different from the state of things when the fulness of blessing was poured in by the Holy Ghost. There was now that within the church which was to be overcome, not in the world merely. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” He will revive the heart of the faithful one by promises to sustain it against the snare of Satan in the world; but when decay has come in, then the conscience necessarily becomes exercised as to maintenance of their standing where they were. Snares, difficulties, and dangers had come in; for we must remember, that the church had fallen from its first love, when Smyrna was addressed; and the moment the church is addressed by the Spirit, as a fallen church, it ceases to be in itself the place of security for the saint; he cannot take for granted, that, in walking with it, he walks according to the power and will of God. A fallen church cannot secure me from error; being itself under judgment, it cannot be a guarantee for anything. In truth it never was, but apostolic power and energy, which sustained and watched over it, while the apostles lived. (See Acts 20: 28, 29, and 2 Peter 1: 15.)

289 Then individuals are singled out, for the church can no longer warrant me in this or that. The church may be right in this or that, but I have to make good my security against, or at any rate independent of, the church by the word of God; for I must discern what I can follow, and what I cannot, by the word of God applied by the Spirit. But then this state of things by no means supposes that there was no blessing, that there was nothing excellent left in the church; for we find the Lord recognising and commending many things. But surely I need scarcely say, how amazingly important is this principle, that a failing church ceases to be a guarantee; and, therefore, I have to judge in individual responsibility what I am to receive and what I am to reject. The church has been, as set up of God, a place of blessing as regards individuals, a guardian for Christ of the state they were in, as being the vessel and expression of the power of the Holy Ghost, the proper result of His working; but it is not so at all now that it has left its first estate; and, as we have remarked, the apostles alone ever maintained it in it practically, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, the church of Corinth, etc. Our responsibility, however, never changes; nor can Christ fail in needed grace for the state in which the church is.

I would here take the opportunity of making a remark on the word “development,” which Satan has brought in as a very favourite word. Now there is perfect and entire infidelity involved in this thought of development in the church of the Living God. There is nothing in God to be developed; He is the perfect unchangeable source of all. Now what God has called us to is a perfect revelation of Himself in Christ, as we saw in 1 John 1: 1, 2. There was the manifestation of that eternal life which was with the Father; and it is clear that there can be no development of that which has been manifested unless we can get something beyond the perfection of Christ, in whom all fulness dwells. God is light; Christ was the true light; and this shone out fully in the revelation of the glory of His Person, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And can we get anything better or fuller than this “Light”? Can we add to this revelation of “Truth”? There is much to be learned about Him; but it is a Person that is here presented, and not a doctrine. If it were a doctrine, merely, we might get something added – another doctrine; but it is not a question of doctrine merely, but a living Person that has been revealed. Well, then, if it is Christ Himself, what more can be revealed? We cannot add to what God has wrought. Alas! man may decline from it, as was the case at Ephesus. They had left their first love; they had left something: there is no development in that. Of course we may ever learn, and should ever be learning, more about that which was revealed at the first; but God ever brings out each thing perfect in the beginning. For God cannot set up anything but what is perfect, anything that is inferior, or contrary to His mind.

290 Thus man in innocence was set up perfect in that innocence, and Adam fell. The priesthood of Aaron was perfect in its kind, but there was failure in Nadab and Abihu. Whatever God has planted, He has planted wholly a right seed according to His mind. Whatever comes from God must be perfect, and cannot be made more perfect by any other operation whatever. This is a very simple truth; but it is one which cuts up by the roots and overturns a whole system of thoughts and feelings which would put something between our souls and Christ. It is not that God cannot reveal in the creature more than He has yet revealed, and accomplish what is better than what went before. He does so: the Second Adam is clearly infinitely more excellent than the first. But the thing that He sets up is absolutely perfect, as the expression of His mind in that thing. Man cannot improve or add to it. The thing set up for us is the perfect manifestation of God in Christ; hence the notion of development is rejection of the true object, or blasphemy. So John says, “that which was from the beginning,” when he would keep the saints secure. But even as to glory, as in man’s responsibility, that passes away. God had “planted thee a noble vine; how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?” From this cause – that, directly a thing is put into a man’s hand, there is departure.

291 Then we get another principle. This departure having come in, God uses Satan’s power, acting through the world’s hostility, for two ends: first, to exercise the divine life in a saint; secondly, to hinder a further departure from the Lord. This is the “tribulation” they were to have; and, therefore, when we come to Smyrna, we hear of persecutions. If you take the history of the life of Christ, it was an exercise of trial and suffering until He reached the cross; it was not that He needed it to deliver Him from any existing evil; it only brought out His perfectness more fully, that He might be made perfect in the just result, in glory as man, of what He was morally. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things that he suffered.” The manifestation of all that was in Him was brought out through opposition and slighting. His path became darker and darker down to the cross. He had to overcome Satan, and says for others, “to him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father on his throne.”

The second end to which God uses Satan’s power, in persecutions and trials to the saints, is to hinder a further departure from Himself. There is a constant tendency in the heart of the saints to take rest in prosperous circumstances, because the flesh naturally turns to that which is agreeable in the world for rest, the result of which is a decay of vitality within; but this will not do. Therefore God says, “Arise and depart, for this is not your rest, it is polluted.” Persecution is the natural portion of the church of God, while down here, in a world of sin. And when the church began to take rest at the beginning, God was obliged very soon to bring in persecution amongst them.

In Matthew’s gospel, the Lord beautifully unfolds the spirit and character of the kingdom in the sermon on the mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit”; “Blessed are the meek”; “Blessed are the pure in heart,” etc., etc. Blessing is the character in which He introduces the witness He was bearing. God was shewing what was blessed in His sight. Then the grace of Christ was just beginning to be manifested, shewing the natural consequences of the principles and moral character of His kingdom. The miracles which He had already performed had attracted the attention of crowds from all the surrounding country, and He thereupon explains to those who heard the true spirit and character of the kingdom, which they, indeed, thought of quite otherwise, and tells who are the blessed; but at the end of the gospel in chapter 23, it is “Woe! woe! woe!” instead of blessing. “Your house is left unto you desolate; for I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” It was because the opposition of man had been fully brought out by the perfect manifestation of what Christ was. The beginning of Matthew’s gospel was the blessed outflow of what was in His heart, while the course of His life brings out what was in their hearts, and hence the word, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,” etc.

292 To return – God sends us tribulation, opposition from without, to bring out grace and to hinder the constant tendency to decay; with Christ it was always and only to bring out grace. Thus God uses Satan as an instrument to work out blessing even for the church. Take Job, for instance. How wondrously was Satan used of God for blessing in Job’s case! It is God who begins the conversation with Satan, and He knew perfectly well all He was doing in attracting Satan’s attention to Job, and says, “Hast thou considered my servant Job?” Satan’s malice was quite ready to plague and persecute him; but this malice of Satan was used by God to bring Job to that which was necessary for his blessing – the knowledge of the evil that was in his heart, which he could not have so learned any other way. Then, again, take Paul. He was taken up into the third heaven, there to get such a sense of the power of God as would fit him for his peculiar service to the church and the world, and such a revelation of the glory of Jesus as was proper to sustain him under all the trials he must inevitably pass through. And what is the use the flesh would make of this? Why it would puff up, and say, “Now, Paul, you have been into the third heaven, and nobody has been there but you.” So there was given to him a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him; and for this he besought the Lord thrice that it might depart from him; but no, it cannot be removed, lest Paul should be exalted above measure. But he gets this assurance – “my grace is sufficient for thee.” That which became strength to Paul, as far as himself was concerned, was that by which he learned his own weakness – the “thorn in the flesh, the messenger to buffet him”; for it then became a question of Christ’s grace and strength, and not Paul’s. And now Paul can say, “Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

293 It seems astonishing that God should use Satan as an instrument to try the saints with, and not interfere to deliver: but so He does, as we see here; for He says, not “I will cast you into prison,” but “the devil will cast some of you into prison”; but could not the Lord have hindered it? Of course He could; but as the trial was needed, had He hindered the devil from so acting, He would have hindered them from the blessings which would result from such a trial. Take, again, the case of Peter. The Lord said, “Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee.” What? that Peter should not be sifted? No, not a bit; for Peter needed sifting, because he had confidence in the flesh. But the Lord prayed that his “faith might not fail”; that is, that Peter might be sustained under his trial – his heart not lose its hold on Christ, but be assured of His love, and get the intended blessing. And to such trials of faith Peter alludes, when he says, “That the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” And when Satan had sifted the chaff from the wheat, then the Lord would use him as He said: “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

When the church had fallen – had left its first love, she has to be put in the furnace, to keep the world, its allurements, and its evil, from acting on her own evil tendencies, while remaining in a body of sin and death. While she was walking in the freshness of her “first love,” the world had no power over her. Christ was too vividly the object before her for her to sink into other affections which leave the heart open to the reasoning of unbelief. But when the.” first love” was departed from, then the church became the prey of her own evil flesh, acted on by the evils around, therefore she must be put into the furnace, the place where Satan persecuted, to prevent her getting into the far more dangerous place where Satan dwells, that is, the world.

294 Verse 9. “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, but thou art rich.” Christians were poor and despicable in appearance, when the church was first set up. Leaving their first love, they were in danger of falling in with the current of the world’s reasonings; and the Lord lets loose the prince of it against them, makes them find their sorrow where they were in danger of finding a false ease and joy, but the true character of enmity of the world, instead of its false allurements, which draw them into it, and away from the Father’s love; and they sink into the insignificance and poverty which the world’s opposition sets the saints in. “But thou art rich,” says the Lord. These poor despised few possessed divine and exhaustless riches. They had got multiplied in the world and enlarged, and then there was a tendency to rest in the effects produced and not on the Lord; and the Lord, loving them too much to suffer this, must put them into the furnace to make them lean on Himself. For He will cast the church on its own proper portion altogether, and therefore He uses the hostility of the world to drive it back into its own proper hopes and privileges. But for this it would seem strange that the Lord should leave them to be tried “ten days,” were it not to teach them that heaven is their portion and not the earth; that they are not to remain on the earth, but to pass through it as pilgrims and strangers, to glorify Him who, when down here, was a stranger, and who now in glory is a stranger to the world, as the world. But then this shews also that the trial is measured. God may use Satan as a rod, but he cannot touch a hair of our head beyond what is allowed.

But the church must be brought to the deep consciousness of the state from whence she has so deeply fallen. Hence, Christ not only suffered the devil to cast some of them into prison, but says also, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” They may be martyred, and what then? Jesus gives them a crown of life. The church had slipped into the world; still, where living faith was in exercise, the effect was to give Christ His true place, and to strengthen all. When once it came to the question of giving up Christ, there were martyrs, perhaps even amongst the worldliest. This is often seen. Just so it is now, in the day in which we live. Christians are largely seeking just what the world seek, wealth, power, and influence: these three things are just what the Lord had not. And can I be said to be a stranger where I have power and influence? Certainly not; and if the Lord turns the current against them, then they must pass through the furnace. The church must give up a heavenly Christ and a crucified Christ, if it take the world up in any sense as its portion. The church of God cannot associate the world and religion without losing its true character.

295 The object of Judaism was to associate religion with this world, with the earth: and thus God proved whether man could be attracted to God Himself through earthly things being associated with Him. To this end God gave them a magnificent temple, gorgeous dresses, splendid ceremonies, music and singing, that He might mingle the tastes and feelings of nature with Himself. But all this, mark, needed a priesthood between them and God; for it was not the presence of God, as light, in heaven, and peaceful communion with Himself. These earthly things do but keep the soul at a distance from God. For, wherever the world is connected with religion, priesthood must come in, because, the moment you get man as he is, he cannot stand before God; he cannot stand in the light and therefore needs a priest.

But we now are brought nigh; we can stand in the light as God is in the light: we are priests; and as to our standing in God’s presence, there is no need of a priesthood between God and us. Christ suffered without the gate; and the moment the blood of Christ, wherewith we are sanctified, is taken into the holy place into the presence of God, our association is with heavenly places, and no longer with an earthly city (for there is no holy city now); and we are taken outside the world altogether (and the world, as religionised in a fleshly way, for that, for us, is the camp. “Let us go out therefore unto him without the camp”) and inside the veil with Him. It was exactly what the apostle was teaching the Hebrews. They could not go on with religion with a worldly character, with Judaism, which was God’s earthly religion. Hence, too, it is the apostle says, if he had known Christ after the flesh, he knew him no more. He was only a heavenly Christ to him.

Carnal ordinances connected man with God under Judaism; but, Christ being rejected, His followers have His place of acceptance in heaven, and rejection on the earth. The cross or heaven. Now there is no middle thing – Christ is wholly heavenly; and we are raised up to sit in heavenly places in Him. The moment the church loses the sense of its heavenly place in Christ, the Lord in His faithful love lets loose the power of Satan upon us, just that we may learn that the very world that we are seeking to religionise is the place of Satan’s throne. Of course in such case we shall be sure to have the world and its thoughts about religion entirely opposed to us; but then we shall have Christ and His thoughts with us, who says, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer,” for “I am the first and the last, which was dead and is alive.”

296 The character of Christ in the address to this church is as “dead and alive.” Christ is not merely divine – God – but He is also the One who was dead and is alive again for evermore. Looked at as man He has been rejected and cast out; so that, like Mary Magdalene, we must get either an empty tomb (for that is all the world is, if we seek Christ) or a risen Jesus. If your heart is fixed on Christ, all you will find in this world is the tomb of Jesus, and nothing in it. Then we have nothing to do with this world, for if we are in spirit with our Head in heaven, we have all our blessings there. But then it is a constant difficulty, in a world like this, to get and to keep the heart and soul up to this; but it must be done. For otherwise, if we do not cleave to the world, the world of itself will cleave to us; and if decay comes in, and the first love is left, then “tribulation” must come, that we “be not conformed to the world.” This was the case with the church here. They had left their first love, therefore they had to be put through this course of trial, to keep them in remembrance that they were not of the world. Judaism crept in – development, etc., etc. – ” intruding into those things which they have not seen, vainly puffed up by their fleshly mind,” instead of being a despised few, a little flock. Their numbers increased amazingly, so that they made a fair show in the flesh. In fact, you find the whole thing rapidly conformed to the likeness of the Jewish hierarchy. Then persecution comes in and blows upon it all; and if there was persecution even unto death, where there was a living faith in a living Lord, though such a one may die here, he shall not be hurt of the second death. The history of these times proves that the living power and truth in the church was not in its doctors, but in its martyrs.

297 Pergamos. “I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat [throne] is.” Here we get another and more subtle character of evil. The Lord gives credit for all He can. The church had gone through persecution, and had been faithful. “Thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith,” when Antipas, my faithful martyr, was slain. But now it was not merely worldly persecution without (that assailed but purified the church), but doctrinal corruption within. The church of God has its place of responsibility in the world where Satan’s throne is. If this ceases to be a persecuting world, because the church has ceased to be a heavenly witnessing church, still the church is living there; that is the place where, as to its external forms, it still is, and has been ever since the epoch here referred to. It is not a question here of individual conduct, but of the corporate position of the church.

People have a notion that Satan ceased to be the prince of this world when Christ was crucified. Now, I would just say, that it was at the cross of Christ that Satan emphatically became the prince of this world. He was it always, really, as to man’s heart. But till Christ was rejected, it might have been hoped that some means might find, or cause to spring up, some good in man; but the cross proved and determined the subjection of man’s heart to Satan, so as that nought could deliver it as such. Of course the cross was virtually the destruction of his power, for there Christ destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. Then, in a sense, as to the accomplishment of the work which was to effect this, as to righteousness before God, his power ceased, his head was bruised, though the fruit of this accomplished work is not yet brought in by power. Man had been tried in every way, and, lastly, in the Jewish system, had been put under responsibility by law, and tested on the ground of obedience. There he had failed, but he is ready to think that, if he could do all he liked, he would set all right. He was put to the test in this, by the committal of power into his hand, in the person of Nebuchadnezzar. In both ways he failed, that is, in the Jews, and in the representative of the imperial power. Christ came. Satan risked everything in getting rid of Christ, but it only ended in his own defeat; still he is for a time left to lead the world out of which Christ has been cast, which, in its universal and varied forms, is the instrument of Satan (as we see at the Lord’s crucifixion). Satan, the prince of this world, came and found nothing in Christ; but the chief priests, Pharisees, Pontius Pilate, Jews, and Gentile power were all led of him. And even His own disciples forsook Him, through their dread of Satan’s power manifested in the world. In a word, the whole world was led by Satan to reject Christ, and from that moment Satan is the manifested prince of this world: for until Christ was rejected by the world, Satan could not be displayed as the world’s prince. And the Lord owned him such, calling him “the prince of this world, saying, Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me.”

298 The church of God has been taken entirely out of the world to be associated with God’s Prince in heaven; therefore Christians have no business to be dwelling, as their place of abode, their home, where Satan’s throne is, living in the world and as the world. But, alas! the church has practically slipped off from “holding the Head,” and has taken an earthly character. If “to me to live is Christ,” it is not Christ to be standing in worldly religion; for man in the flesh must have something between him and the Head. The difference between the Christian and the religion of the world is of the most absolute character. “If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living [that is, alive] in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?” A man in the world must have ordinances. How can he get on religiously without them? But ordinances are not Christ; they have been nailed to His cross. There is no possibility of escaping the religion of the world, ordinances, and the like, but by knowing and walking in the power of a dead and risen Christ. Man in the flesh must have a religion of ordinances between him and God; but if united to the Head in heaven, nothing can be wanting to bring him nearer, for he is one with Christ; and if he is not one with the Head, then he is separated from Christ. Put anything whatever between Christ and the soul, and all is gone. The position then becomes a totally different one.

This corrupt tendency to association with the world brought in persecution, but with it the suited promise, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” It is quite true that the Lord causes trial, but never do you find that there is with Him any moral acquiescence in evil. He cannot tempt by evil doctrine. The Lord had taught them the evil of this corrupting association with the world, by turning it into a persecuting world; but He could not send Balaam’s evil teaching; for it would be impossible to talk of Christ’s sending moral temptation as a rod for the correction of the saints. He may permit it in His holy wisdom. The effort of the enemy in Pergamos would not like the tribulation spoken of in Smyrna. Balaam would associate them religiously with the world – a sadder evil than Satan’s openly persecuting power.

299 In Ephesus, we had the first point of departure, leaving their “first love.” In Smyrna they were put into the furnace. Persecution had not attained Satan’s ends – faithfulness even unto death had crowned the sufferers with a martyr’s honour: but here a new danger arises. They were dwelling where Satan’s throne is. The world is the place of Satan’s throne; and now corruption, pleasing to the flesh, associating the church with the world, is taught. The enemy is working within. “Thou hast them that hold the doctrine of Balaam.”

Thus there is an amazing and most instructive difference between the persecution of Smyrna and the seduction of Pergamos. In Smyrna the Lord says, “The devil shall cast some of you into prison that you may be tried. Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.” “I have died for you, and now do you be faithful unto death for me.” In Smyrna the Lord would not step in to hinder the consequences of the position they were in, but turned them to the maintaining the declining church in its own true character, giving the assurance of the everlasting and heavenly promise, a crown to the faithful. But in Pergamos, the fact of their dwelling in the place where Satan’s throne was shews itself in another way. And the Lord could not, without judging the world itself, remove the snare by acting on the world itself. You have got satanic subtlety acting in concert with the world, and by its spirit in the church – a false prophet leading it into association with the place of Satan’s throne where it dwelt – the world that had ceased to be a persecutor. You have got Balaam there; not Jezebel yet.

A most terrible and frightful character is that of Balaam. The question had been already raised on the ground of Israel’s failure, whether God would bring them into the land – whether Satan, through his instruments, Balak and Balaam, could hinder Israel’s entrance into Canaan. The effort was to get Jehovah to curse Israel, but they could not. For, as between Him and the accuser, “God saw no perverseness in Israel,” neither was there any possibility of using Satan’s power against the people of God, as Balaam said, “There is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel.” God held Balaam’s lips and forced him to speak blessings instead of cursings, in spite of himself. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” When the devil comes as an adversary, he has no power; the secret of his power lies in coming in as a tempter and seducer. When Satan could not prevail in getting Jehovah to curse Israel, he seduced them into wickedness, leading them “to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication”; and then how could the holy God bring them in? (See Numbers 25.)

300 In Pergamos, Satan comes within the church as a seducing Satan; while in Smyrna, Satan keeps outside the church as the persecuting Satan. Therefore in Smyrna they are exhorted, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer.” Weakness is in “fear”; the danger is in fear. When the saint is out of the persecution, he often trembles as he looks at it and becomes frightened; but when once he is thoroughly in it, if he has faith, he looks out of it up to God and finds he never was so happy. Thus he is separated from the world and made to feel what his own proper portion is. But as the church of God is dwelling on Satan’s territory, if he has not this persecuting character, then he gives her as much of the world as he can (for, as Satan says, “all that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it”); and if it can be said of the world, that “thou hast made the church rich,” then the world will have the heart of the church, instead of her risen Head, “for where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Balaam was a prophet, though a false one, and could use the name of Jehovah, and declare he must speak by His word only; and we find his spirit here coming within the church to make it at ease in the world. The wicked servant (who said in his heart, “My lord delayeth his coming, and began to eat and drink with the drunken”) was treated as a servant still, though a wicked one. If Satan can only make a Christian comfortable in the world, his end is gained. Then they might go and eat in the idol temple, etc.

In Nicolaitanism we have the flesh acting in the church of God; and in Balaam it is the spirit of the world, brought in by the false prophet, coming in, and in a seducing way, to bring the church into league with the world, to make the church quiet and comfortable in the world that killed Christ.

301 We get a teacher here, a kind of religious instructor; as it says, “them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel.” “So also hast thou them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.” In the former case, in Ephesus, it was “the deeds of the Nicolaitanes”; but here it is a doctrine allowing of evil deeds – antinomianism and worse – that which was not against the law only, but against Christ, internal corruption connected with, and helped on by, association with the world without. It is very sad (and our hearts ought to bear the burden of what passes within the church) to see how the church still declined, after tribulation had brightened it up for God after its commencing failure at Ephesus (for the root of evil was there), and returning ease made it content to dwell where Satan’s throne was, and then, of course, the door was opened for evil doctrine, false teaching, connecting fleshliness with spirituality, which is antinomianism. Satan did not desire to persecute where he could corrupt; for Satan’s persecutions only brighten the soul up for God, while the seducing corruptions of Satan imperceptibly separate the soul from God. There was not yet the full ripeness of wickedness as in Jezebel’s time, but only the teaching the doctrine which allowed these evil deeds; but in the next church we see there are children born of this evil, the evil being their moral birth-place.

We see the Lord’s eye and heart had followed them to where they dwelt, even to Satan’s throne, as He said, “I know where thou dwellest”; and from thence (that is, from the spirit of association with it) He would call them with this word of warning, “Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” Here the word is spoken of judicially as a sword out of Christ’s mouth. In such a state of things the word of God is the source to which the saint is drawn. The promises now become much more individual: “To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the hidden manna.” It was hidden faithfulness which was to be sustained by the promise of this hidden manna (seen indeed in one sense, because the fruits would be manifested to all around). The church as a body was dwelling in the world; then, as a necessary consequence, comes the secret life of the heart of the faithful soul with God in the power of the word. It is the inward link with that which never changes in its character, sustaining secret fidelity to God. And what a difference is this from the judicial use of the word – the being fought against by the sword of Christ’s mouth (the living members being associated with the Christ who suffered on earth, but is now in heaven)!

302 The manna signifies the Son of God become incarnate to give life to our souls, His entering in humiliation into all our circumstances, and is the provision for the daily walk through the wilderness: for we find the manna spoken of in connection with Jesus as the living bread sent down from heaven. “This is the true bread which cometh down from heaven,” John 6. But what then is the hidden manna? The manna for Israel was spread around the camp; and they were to gather it daily for their food. And so likewise is Christ to be the daily provision of the soul while in this wilderness world; but this is not the hidden manna. There was to be a golden pot of manna laid up before God, and when the Israelites had got into the land, they were to have the memorial of what they had enjoyed in the wilderness. This hidden manna is the remembrance of a suffering Christ down here – the memory of what Christ has been in the wilderness, as a man, an humbled, suffering man, and who is God’s eternal delight in heaven; and in our eternal state, he that has overcome, he that has been faithful in separation with Christ from the world, will have the everlasting enjoyment of fellowship with God in His delight in a once humbled Christ – the same kind of delight, although in a different measure. If we are walking faithfully with a rejected Christ, instead of letting Balaam into our hearts, we shall enjoy Christ thus down here in spirit; but we cannot enjoy Christ in our souls, if we are mixed up with ungodliness in the world: if we pretend to it, then it becomes Nicolaitanism. But in proportion as we get and apprehend the secret of what Christ was in the world, in our souls, shall we feed upon Him; but this cannot be, if we are walking in the spirit of the world. Even the presentation of Christ in the gospels we cannot enjoy, unless it is as food for the soul. A man may say that truth is very beautiful; but if it only feeds the imagination, it does him no good. God did not give His Son to suffer down here, and then to be played with, but to feed upon.

303 The “white stone” gives the general idea of a vote in favour of any one; it is the secret mark of approbation from one to another. There are public joys in heaven common to all, thousands and thousands of voices in communion and praise, echoing the song of praise. And there are joys we share in Christ together here; but He must have our individual affections as well as our common affections. My own peculiar joy in Christ you can never know, neither can I ever taste yours; and this is true of the highest affections. “A new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” That name would have no meaning for anybody else but him to whom it is given. Christ reveals Himself to the soul in such sort that a stranger intermeddleth not with its joy. Individual joy, personal communion, is distinct from, though it enhances, the universal joy; and that individual joy which we know down here will never be interrupted. This promise, as do all those to the churches, relates to the future time of heavenly blessing; but it is also the source of joy and strength now. The Spirit of God makes us anticipate the day. We may have now in spirit this “white stone” from Christ, this secret expression of His grace and love, which others cannot have for me, neither can I have it for them. How this makes this “white stone” worth everything else! What a secret source of strength it is, even though all the world think me wrong, if I have the white stone of Christ’s approbation, acquired in following the word, but known in the heart! But, I say again, I must judge all by the word, that sword of His mouth that disarms and purges all the workings of Balaam. Then I do not mind – let the world talk about things as it pleases, Christ has talked to me, and in the coming day of glory will own all He has said to me.

It is sorrowful enough what a Balaam is teaching in the church; but then, mark, there cannot be any trouble among the saints that does not bring out the faithfulness of Him who waits to bless the “overcomer,” and thus bring the soul into communion with Christ in a way that nothing else could. For nothing gives the blessed consciousness of Christ’s approbation as between the soul and Himself, like faithfulness where evil begins to corrupt. If it is false teaching within, the word (as in persecution, and with all else) is “Overcome.” He that has an ear to hear what the Spirit saith to the churches is to be overcoming that evil whatever it be that besets the church.

304 Thyatira. The hour forbids my doing more than just looking for a moment at Thyatira. You get this difference when Jezebel comes in; it is a prophetess still, but she herself becomes the mother of children; a whole class of persons are born of this corruption. Of persons who were dallying with this corruption and evil (as well as souls simply led astray) He says, “These will I punish except they repent.” But those whose moral existence is derived from this corruption, I will kill them – as He says, “I will kill her children with death.” But the moment you get this condition of the church, as the begetter of corruption, then comes in the judgment of the nations: “as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers”; and the heart of the believer is led to the coming of the Lord, “I will give him the morning star.”

I am glad to close with this promise, it is full of blessing. Meanwhile the Lord Himself becomes to us the hidden manna. May He give to us and all His saints to avoid everything like Balaam’s spirit and teaching. We are one with Jesus, members of His body; we are of His flesh, and of His bones, and nothing but this union with Christ will abide; as the knowledge of our union with Christ, and the realisation of it in our souls, is the only safeguard against the seducing spirit of the day in which we live. The Lord give us to be faithful to this blessed truth of being one with Him who is at God’s right hand. Then people may try to get between me and God by their ordinances or their priesthood; but I can say, “No; I am brought too near to God for you to come between us; and also too near to God for you to bring me nearer. There is where grace has set me; and all else is but pitiable nonsense.”

We are called upon to judge evil in the church, for God cannot accept Balaam and Jezebel, if we can. Therefore, may the Lord give us to remember that failure within the church is to be judged. We are called specially to take heed to this in the day in which we live, that the church, being itself under judgment, cannot be a guarantee for faith or anything else whatever.

305 LECTURE 4

I alluded in a few words the last evening to the church of Thyatira on account of the connection of Balaam and Jezebel: Balaam being a prophet acting among the saints to seduce them; and Jezebel, a prophetess, established within, being a farther advance in evil – not merely a seducer, as Balaam, but a mother of children there, as Jezebel, having children of this corruption.

And now we get (in this part of the chapter) into what we may call new ground. Two things mark this. The Spirit of God, who rises far above all our failure, directs the eye of the faithful remnant to the coming of the Lord Jesus. And the expression, “he that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches,” is no longer in connection with the address to the church in general, but after the promises to them that “overcome.” And this marks out the remnant as separate from the body in general. The position of the remnant is specially marked out as being no longer in connection with the general body of the church, but with the place in which those stand to whom the promise is sent, as “to him that overcometh.” In the address to this church, and to the three following churches, the exhortation to hear is placed after the special promise.

The distinguishing element which we found brought into the last church (Pergamos) is, that the world is the place of Satan’s throne. Therefore the church must be in either of these two positions – a persecuted suffering church in the world because of faithfulness, or lose that character and be brought to acquiesce and go on in the world.

We saw in Ephesus decline marking its state – “thou hast left thy first love.” In Smyrna, persecution comes in, “the devil shall cast some of you into prison,” thus brightening them up for God. And afterwards, in Pergamos, corrupting instructions go on within; and all these, not with respect to individual failure, but to the corporate state of the church, it being that which was characterising the church at certain periods of time in this dispensation. In the address to Pergamos, we find the seductive teaching going on to corrupt what was within, but not as yet established and settled within, so that what characterised the within should be productive of evil. The motherhood of evil was now in the church.

306 Balaam the false prophet was seducing, and joining the church to the world. “Thou hast them that hold the doctrine of Balaam”; and to the “overcomer,” the individual promise and blessing of the hidden manna and the white stone are given. But now there is something farther – ” thou sufferest that woman Jezebel.” Here the evil was allowed. We saw that, when Balaam failed in getting God to curse Israel, he then tried to bring them into trouble through association in evil with the people of the adversary. This has now succeeded in the professing church.

In Thyatira, therefore, we have a still more terrible state of things than in Pergamos. There was not only the evil teaching – those who “hold the doctrine of Balaam,” but a person established within, having children of this seduction; not merely seducing God’s children into it, but Jezebel was, so to speak, so much at home there, that children were born, finding their home and birthplace in the evil, yea, springing from the very corruption itself. But then mark that, in this increased evil and wickedness, we find also increased energy on the part of the faithful ones; for God had a remnant in the midst of the evil, whose faithfulness shone out the brighter by reason of the dense darkness around. We see this exemplified in Israel’s history. In the midst of idolatry, worshipping the golden calf, or under a persecuting Jezebel, men of power, like Elijah and Elisha, were raised up in a special power of testimony for God, thus manifesting that God was and is ever sufficient for His people’s need.

When evil is at such a height as to make it impossible for the faithful ones to go along with it, then they get into a more advanced state of knowledge and power in separation from it (although it may be one of much more trial) than they had when the church was in a more prosperous condition. In the times of Elijah God preserved His name in a most special way. The whole nation of Israel had got so dreadfully bad, that God would be obliged to cut them off; but the time had not yet come. But in the time of Elijah they had nothing rightly in order; there was neither temple, nor sacrifice, nor priesthood at Mount Carmel; nevertheless God was there for the faithful few, in a way that the people at Jerusalem had not the knowledge and enjoyment of; for the mighty power of God was there to give testimony to the word of His prophet. And so again with Moses, he went on faithfully with the Lord while Israel was failing all around him. It was not when Israel was going on well that Moses was the nearest to God, but when they had all gone wrong. When the golden calf was made, then “Moses took the tabernacle and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp”; and then he went to meet with God, and there “the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.” And we find God referring to this in Numbers 12 as gloriously distinguishing Moses. When Aaron and Miriam spake against Moses, and not on Moses’s going up to God on Mount Sinai, God says, “Were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses, who is faithful in all mine house? With him will I speak mouth to mouth.”

307 When Moses met God in the tabernacle outside the camp, he was more excellent, so to speak, than when God called him to the top of Mount Sinai. Indeed, we find it a constant principle in Scripture that, where there is most manifest and universal failure, there God brings out in His faithful ones far greater testimony and power than had been known in the body as a whole, thus shewing, as Jethro says, “In the thing wherein they dealt proudly [by their sin and rebellion against God] God was above them” in grace and power. It was so in the time of the Lord Jesus, who was a most blessed and glorious example of this principle; being the Lord Himself, who brought out the fullest and most blessed testimony of grace and righteousness to bear upon the ways of the world, and of His own people, at the moment of Israel’s and the world’s darkest and deepest sin of crucifying God’s Son. For at the very time that Israel’s heart was made fat – when they were in a condition to receive seven other spirits more wicked than him that had of old possessed them, ready to merge into that last state which was worse than the first, then God, who had before spoken to them in divers manners by sacrifice and type and prophets, spoke to them by His Son, in the Person of the meek and lowly Jesus.

This is the case when Jezebel is come in here at Thyatira. “I know thy works, and the last to be more than the first.” The effect of the condition of the professing church was to drive saints into a kind of energy they had not before known. So indeed has it ever been in the history of the church in what has been called “the dark ages.” We find the most faithful testimony, such a measure of devotedness (which I am sure I should be glad to see now in any way) unknown at other times, men hazarding their lives to witness for God; but how little of this in our day of ease and slothfulness!

308 “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and works, and the last to be more than the first.” Here we get the love and the faith working, which were wanting in Ephesus; and now the Lord says, I will encourage them with “hope,” so that we get faith, hope, and charity, the three great principles of Christianity. Although not produced in their own happy order, as in Thessalonians, still they are all here in a way. And mark how quick-sighted God always is, to take notice of the good things, and that before He speaks of the evil things.

We get this character of judgment in Christ here. “These things saith the Son of God, whose eyes are like a flame of fire, and his feet like unto fine brass.” Fire is a symbol of unfailing judgment; this penetrated everywhere, as the eye of God. But what does He first see? He sees at once, no doubt, through this terrible evil; but He notices first what delights His heart in these poor saints that nobody cared anything about. He sees that which is delightsome to Himself in the despised few; and while His feet, like unto fine brass, mark the unchangeable character of that righteousness which God (in His spiritual dealings with and claims upon man) manifests down here, and which sustains His pure and infallible judgment. Hence the altar of sacrifice in the tabernacle was of brass, and which in man was divinely accomplished in Christ, and characterised His Person; yet the eye of God rests upon the very least spark of faithfulness in the midst of evil. There is not one throb of the heart that beats true to Himself, in the midst of abounding iniquity, that passes unheeded by him; and this is what sustains the heart in the midst of untoward circumstances. And happy it is for us to know (in the simplicity of faith) and realise in power in our souls, the full meaning of those two little words, “I know,” thus walking in the happy consciousness that the eye of God is upon our walk and ways.

Verse 20. “I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel,” etc. Now the church, taken as a whole, is characterised by suffering the evil; it is not now as before, “thou canst not bear them that are evil”; there was now the full public allowance of this spirit of evil which was in the church. This was going much farther down the scale than merely having the evil teaching among them: “thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants.” They suffered a woman, having a professed character in the church, “who calleth herself a prophetess” – a false one surely, yet one who professed to hold and teach the word of God in the church. “I gave her space to repent, and she repented not.” Thus we see God does not all at once deal in judgment with her, but gives her time for repentance; He has patience with her, but she does not repent. He was not dealing with the heathen here: to them He preaches the gospel, that their souls may be won to Christ. But here was one who called herself a prophetess in the church, teaching God’s servants to “commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols,” and God deals with her on this ground of her profession. He “gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she repented not”: therefore He must execute judgment.

309 And mark, that there is no mention made here of a candlestick. He gave her space to repent; but it is not said here, “I will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” – for Jezebel is not indeed acknowledged as a candlestick. There are two characters of judgment, for they were not all the children of Jezebel. To commit adultery is a common figure in Scripture for tampering with evil, particularly idolatrous evil, because it was God’s people giving themselves to others than Him. First, “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.” Secondly, “And I will kill her children with death.” There are those that are not her children, but people who have to say to her, who are content to associate and have fellowship with the evil. Them I will punish, they shall eat the fruit of their ways: “and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts.” I will see who are content to float down the stream with the evil, or who make a stand in faithfulness to me. Them that have committed adultery with her, that have tampered with this spirit of false prophecy, “I will cast into great tribulation, except they repent”; but those who are her children, who have got their Christian place and name in virtue of this false doctrine, they shall have full judgment, “I will kill her children with death.” It is not merely tribulation for them, for they are objects of full and complete judgment: time having been given them for repentance, those that are born of her shall be visited with immediate judgment, “I will kill them with death.”

310 How sad it is, how very sad, to see Christians, as we often do, tampering with such evil. Take, for instance, the Galatians: there were saints there who were tampering with Judaism, who wanted to bring in the law; it is not that they were not Christians, but they were mixed up with that which was utterly hateful to God. Paul, therefore, says to them, “I stand in doubt of you,” though afterwards his faith links them with their risen Head, and in virtue of Christ’s unfailing grace, and their completeness in Him, he says, “I have confidence in you through the Lord.” It requires great watchfulness, for the soul is ever in danger of being mixed up with principles which God utterly hates. In Colossians they were not holding the head; they were putting something between the head and the members. The apostle Paul is in an agony when he sees anything coming in to separate the saint from his immediate, proper, and personal connection with Christ. If it be a true Christian that is thus tampering with evil, he must be put into tribulation to be brightened up for God; and if he be not converted, then there is nothing before him but judgment. So all who in the public Christian world of the day tamper with the corruption of Christianity, represented by Jezebel in Thyatira, will be cast into desperate distress, if they repent not of their deeds. It is a very solemn thought, but a true one, that God having taught the saints that they are one with Christ, he who puts anything whatever between them and the Head, virtually denies Christianity. It was the great truth given to the apostle Paul to unfold; it was what he received specially from the Lord: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” Therefore it was that it puts Paul’s mind into an agony, whatever it might be, whether works of the law, priesthood, or anything else, which, coming in between the soul and Christ, denied the great truth he had learned, the very truth that he was converted to, that the church was one with Christ, members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.

This blessed truth, held in the simplicity of faith, gives power to the soul, and sweeps everything else away; and it also sweeps through the whole course of the Christian’s daily life, if he has anything between his soul and Christ. If I were a Jew I should want something on the earth, and some one between me and the God whom I obscurely know; but I am a Christian, and therefore all I want is in heaven. But again, if I am a Christian, I am united to Christ, I am one with Him; if therefore united to Him, one with Him, nothing whatever can come between us, so that in attempting to bring in anything between us, it is actually setting aside Christianity altogether. Many Christians would be dreadfully frightened did they know how many things they are putting between themselves and Christ, thus virtually denying their oneness with Christ in heaven. If you would bring a priest on earth between me and God, any other than Christ in heaven, you at once destroy my privilege, for if Christ be a priest and I am one with Him, I must be a priest also; but is this priesthood carried on on the earth? No; the place of His priesthood is in heaven. An earthly priesthood doubly denies Christianity. It makes the system and standing earthly, and it denies our association with Christ. If I were a Jew I should go to an earthly temple, and rightly so; but being a Christian, when I go to God, it must be in heaven. Being one with Christ, I can have no place of worship on the earth, though my body may be there. Christ Himself being cast out of it, I am in heaven, and if I am to use any priest on the earth, I must leave heaven to come down here to use it there. The priesthood is exercised in the place to which it belongs. An earthly priesthood was suitable where God was between the cherubim behind the veil on earth. A heavenly one has its place of exercise in heaven. Yes, dear friends, if our souls are washed in Christ’s blood, everything we can possibly want is in heaven. “Our life is hid with Christ in God”; and then, necessarily, such “a High Priest became us who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.” The good Lord only give His own blessed truth more power in our souls, and then all the questionings of earthly priesthood, ordinances, and the like, would soon vanish. I must have a true priest in heaven or not have a true Christ for my soul.

311 Now mark the character God takes: “I am he that searcheth the hearts and the reins.” You shall not escape me; and however plausible the evil may be, and however you may put the name of the Lord upon it (as Israel put Jehovah’s to the golden calf when they said, “These be thy gods, O Israel . . . tomorrow is a feast to Jehovah,” Ex. 32: 4, 5), still it will meet with full judgment, because you have put my saints lower than I have put them in Christ, and have idolatrously corrupted the truth of God.

312 Verse 24. From this verse and onward the Lord is taking up the faithful remnant, and therefore we find Him taking another way of dealing. “But unto you I say [and to], the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine [in committing fornication, and eating things sacrificed unto idols], and which have not known the depths of Satan, I will put upon you none other burden.” This abstaining from the evil, though very blessed, still is not the soul growing up from strength to strength into its full portion in Christ; “but that which ye have hold fast.” I am going to “kill her children with death, but that which ye have hold fast till I come.” This is what He now directs their faith, the eye of their souls, to – His coming. He does not expect them to get back to the point from whence the church departed, but directs them onward to His coming. I am going to execute judgment. “I will kill her children with death.” Therefore you must not expect Jezebel to get right, or to be in the condition of a candlestick. No, your eye must rest upon another thing; and here comes in the hope. Still it is not presented in the form of the bright and blessed hope they got at the first, like the Thessalonians, where they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven.” It now has a different character, being presented as a refuge to the faithful, because “in the place where righteousness should have been, behold iniquity was there.” This is the comfort held out in the midst of the wreck of everything, “till I come.” The Lord does own the “works, and charity, and service, and faith, and patience,” that do exist. You have only got this little now, “but that which ye have hold fast till I come.” It is one thing to have the coming of the Lord presented as a relief to a faithful few, in the midst of the evil and corruptions of the Jezebel state of the church, and another and very different thing to have it as the bright and blessed hope of the church to sustain it and to lift it out of the corruptions of the world. But it is not merely the fact of His coming: the brightness of Himself who comes can alone satisfy the heart’s desire.

Verse 26-28. Now He opens out the consequences of His coming to the nations and to the church. “To him will I give power over the nations.” This is a remarkable expression, and we do not find any such when the church was in full prosperity. But now, when the professing church has got into the position of being the greatest possible trial to the saints, and its association with the world has made that which bears its name the mother of children of corruption, the faithful ones in the midst of it all have special promises on which to stay their souls. We know from history, how in the darkest times men of faith have had to wend their way through evil in the church, and fearing detection by those who called themselves by that name, and under bitter persecution from the ruling power in the earth. The nominal church being really Satan’s power by corruption exercised through the nations. And so it is here; the saints, having faith and patience, go on persevering through every difficulty, if it be Jezebel and her children with the name of the church on the one side, and persecution of the nations on the other. The promise is association with Jesus Himself, the bright and morning star; and where there has been faith in this, there shall be power over the nations. The world that, under Satan’s power, has been the trial of saints, shall be subjected to them. “He that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end [in the midst of that corruption which has still the name and responsibility of a church], to him will I give power over the nations.” (In Matthew 24 we get the same thing as to principle, though not as applying to the same point of time: “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.”) “And I will give him the morning star.” Thus He is giving to the faithful remnant, while in this condition, the special consciousness of union with Himself. The difficulty of the position in which they found themselves was, that all around them were turning to Jezebel and her corruption, to eat things sacrificed unto idols and to commit fornication. And then they cry, “What am I to do? “to which the Lord replies, “Follow me – keep my works unto the end,” and then you shall have my portion at the end, “even as I received of my Father.”

313 We see here, in the promise made to the faithful, two characters of the coming of the Lord pointed out. The first regards their position as to the world – it is as “power over the nations”; then, secondly, their own proper blessing, the morning star. With regard to the first, there is a reference to it in Psalm 2: 9. The church of the living God in its walk on this earth ought to have judged the world; but now, having committed fornication with the world, it has no power to judge it: therefore the Lord says, “I must”; for the church having failed in the holiness and separateness of its walk to condemn the world, the Lord must give testimony to what the world is in judgment. (See Psalm 2.) If the persecuted ones bowed to the authority of the world, as ordained of God, still morally they were separated from it. And from the corruption of Jezebel they stood wholly aloof with horror, let Jezebel’s influence be what it might. They were honoured by being martyred. The powers of the world at the close will be associated against God’s anointed, but in spite of all He will take His power over the nations. And what is the church’s place and portion there? Christ is now sitting on the right hand of God, and the Holy Ghost is come down to gather the church; and after the saints are taken to the Lord, then He will come forth and judge the world.

314 “Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion” – “I will declare the decree” – “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.” Son is not used here in the character of eternal Son of the Father, but, as born in the world, the man set up in glory to rule over the earth. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance.” Christ is not doing this now; He is not now praying for the world. The moment He asks God in respect of it, judgment on the world must ensue. “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron.” In John 17 Christ says, “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.” He leaves it out of His requests. He is not now breaking the nations in pieces, but is sending forth His blessed gospel to gather souls out of the world; and the Holy Ghost is sent down to join them to Himself, thus forming the church. But when He asks for the nations, it will be to dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel. This will be the judgment of the living. And hence the word of warning at the close of Psalm 2, “Be wise now therefore, O ye kings,” etc. “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry”; for if you do not bow to this summons, thus giving you in patience, opportunity to repent, you must bow to the wrath of the Lamb. “To me every knee shall bow.”

And mark here what the church’s portion is as one with Christ: “To him that overcometh will I give power over the nations,” etc., as I have received of my Father. And of Christ it is said, “He shall rule them with a rod of iron.” The world must be set right and He will execute judgment upon it, and when He comes to do it, the church will be associated with Him in it; but now she is dwelling where Satan’s seat is, with evil on every side, and cannot touch it by way of setting it right. And, therefore, it is, as if Christ should say to His faithful remnant, “Do not you be afraid, do not you be uneasy on account of persecutions, nor yet about the corruptions of Jezebel: only ‘keep my works unto the end.’ “This is the time of patience and lowly faithfulness. Do you walk through the world as I walked through Israel, “and I will give you power over the nations,” “even as I have received of My Father.” The power shall be yours when I take Mine and reign. This is the special character of association with Christ in power.

315 But meanwhile what are we to do as regards setting the world right? Nothing, and this the flesh cannot understand. We are not to meddle with the raging of the heathen, nor yet to concern ourselves with the alliances of nations (while still remembering that we have to submit to the powers that be, as ordained of God, and obey them), nor yet to defile ourselves by touching the evils of Jezebel, but to wait on God. “Keep my works unto the end” and wait patiently; for when Christ shall have the upper hand, so shall we. Our interests are His and His are ours; they are so enwrapped together that they cannot be sundered. The force of that expression in Colossians: “If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why as though living in the world are ye subject to ordinances?” – is just this: He is hid in God and so am I (that is the reasoning); His life is ours. “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” He so refers our state to His, that, if He is hid in God, we are hidden too. And if His appearing is spoken of, “when he shall appear, we shall appear with him in glory.” Thus, being entirely one with Christ while He is waiting on the Father’s throne, we are called to wait with Him in spirit down here.

I might notice by the way, that in Psalm 110 there may be some explanation of the expression, “of that day knoweth no man, neither the Son.” The Son is sitting at the right hand of God and is looked at prophetically as waiting there, as Jehovah said unto Him, “Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Therefore, in this sense the Son – as prophetic minister of revealed truth, and as such He spoke in Israel (see Heb. 1) – may be said not to know the day nor the hour; for, as Paul says, in Hebrews 10, He is “from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool,” when they will be made ours also. Wherefore in the address to Philadelphia, we are called upon to keep the word of His patience, and if He is waiting, it is no wonder that we have to wait also; and it is Himself that is the very best part of what we wait for.

316 This is the proper and peculiar portion of the church – association with Him; the other, that is the power over the nations, is merely the fruit and consequence of it. He must judge, but to you He is the “morning star.” Judgment is His “strange work.” He is slow to wrath, but He must execute judgment, because He cannot allow iniquity to go on for ever; for He is going to take possession of His own throne, and He cannot have a throne in connection with Satan and his evil, and therefore He must put the evil down, for He cannot allow it; so that antichristian power in the world must be cast down, as He cannot set up His own throne and let that exist. As it is said in Psalm 94: 20, “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee?” It could not be. Therefore He must do His strange work: but His proper work, so to speak, is to shine in His own heavenly brightness-our proper place to be associated with Him there.

“I will give him the morning star.” And who is it that sees the morning star? He who watches while it is night. All see the sun in its brightness; but those only who are not of the night, yet knowing that morally it is night and are looking for the morning star – those, and those only, see the morning star and get it as their portion. They are children, not of the night, but of the day; and, therefore, look they for the day. When the star rose that hailed Jesus, who was born King of the Jews, there were Annas and Simeons waiting for the consolation of Israel. And who were Anna’s friends in that day of darkness? Simply those who were looking for redemption in Israel, and to them she spake of Him. In them was made good that word in Malachi – “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another.” We see they knew each other, and they enjoyed the comfort in spirit by the truth of Jesus of what follows in the prophet: “To you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” These were a poor despised few who were but little known and less cared for; but they were “waiting” for redemption in Israel, sensible of the ruin and of the evil, because alive to God’s glory and to the privilege of being His people. In them, feeble as they were, we find a much brighter mark of faith than we do in Elijah when he was calling down fire from heaven. They were not setting the temple right, but were speaking together of God’s thoughts. Elijah was setting outward things to rights, but had not faith for inside things.* In God’s unfailing grace to the remnant he had no just confidence. Law was the measure of his apprehension; but the Annas and Simeons had the secret of God in their souls (“the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant”), and were walking in the narrow and silent path of faith, not setting the temple right, but speaking to all that were waiting for consolation in Israel. But were they content with the state of things? No; but in separation from evil, they waited for the consolation of Israel, which could alone set the evil right. And just so it is in our day. The Christian cannot change Jezebel, nor can he be mixed up with the mere temple-worshippers, the so-called religious systems of the day. He walks, while leaving them to the judgment of the Lord, far from violent attacks upon them, in quiet separation from all the evil, patiently waiting and watching during the long dark night of sorrow for the morning star of the day of glory. “To him that overcometh will I give the morning star”; and this morning star is Christ Himself. And He is in this way known to those, who, though in the night, yet are not of the night, being children of the day. The morning star is gone before the world sees the sun, before the sun rises, before the day appears. But before the sun rises, there is the morning star for those who are watching in the night. The world will see the sun; but the morning star is gone, as far as the world is concerned, before the sun rises. So we shall be gone to be with the morning star before the day of Christ appears to the world; and when Christ shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory.

{*Note the character of Christ here. Perfect under the law Himself, He, by the unfailing patience of His grace, bearing all things, makes good the bringing of the voice of the shepherd to every sheep in the fold. Poor Elijah, devoted as he was, brings down fire on the disobedient, but does not reach the seven thousand that God knew. Christ refuses to bring down fire. He bears the judgment, while He kept the law, and at all cost made Jehovah’s voice reach the poorest, most guilty, most hidden of the flock. The consequence is – as indeed the cause-the sheep of the flock are His, and all power of judgment is given to Him over all.}

318 There are three passages which refer to this morning star, to which it is important to refer you. In 2 Peter 1 he says, “We have also a more sure (that is, confirmed) word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well to take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn and the daystar arise in your hearts.” Israel’s prophets had prophesied the full day of blessing on the earth, saying, “Arise, shine, for thy light is come.” “A King shall reign in righteousness.” And their testimony was confirmed to the disciples by the vision on the holy mount. They prophesied, too, of events coming on the world which marked out its judgment in all its forms of rebellious will and power – of Nineveh and Babylon, and the beasts which should arise upon the earth – of Jerusalem and its portion as departed from God: and judgment was thus pointed out, so that there was a warning light, which in the midst of the darkness of this world itself gave a light which recalled him that gave heed to it to avoid the crime of human will which led on to divine judgment. And this they did well to take heed to, until the day-star arose in their hearts, because it was the light in a dark place. But the day-star itself was something yet more excellent.

The prophecies, indeed, are plain, their warning clear; they guard me from being mixed up with the spirit of the world, whose judgment is announced. In Revelation, I read of unclean spirits like frogs, going forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. If I do not even exactly understand who and what the frogs mean, still the grand import of the prophecy is evident. They are not the power of good; they lead the kings of the earth to the battle of the great day of God Almighty. It is thus a light shining in a dark place, the night of this world’s history on the absence of Christ. But the morning star is Christ Himself, as we see in Revelation 22. He is the bright and morning star. He will be the Sun of Righteousness to the world when He appears; but then there will be judgment. The wicked shall be as ashes under the soles of the feet – as stubble – and the day of the Lord as fire. But the star appears to them that watch, before the sun appears to the world; for, as I can understand by the prophetical warning that this dark place is going to be judged, that “the night is far spent, and the day is at hand”; yet so night it is now, whatever people may think. And I want the morning star in my heart (the hope of Christ before the day, coming to receive the church to Himself – for the morning star is given to them that overcome) to cheer my soul through the long and dreary night, which is yet darker now than it was then, but still far spent, as the darkness of the night always thickens till again the dawn of another day rise beyond on the other side of heaven and the morning star appear to fix the eye of the watchful and waiting soul, and cheer the heart with a sure and certain hope. And what, then, do we want of the things of this dark place, which is now under judgment for having nailed God’s Son on the cross? Do not you, therefore, be seeking the riches, the honours, the power of this world, on which Christ is coming to execute judgment. One ray of the glory of Christ will at once wither up all the glory of this defiled world like an autumn leaf. Do not you, therefore, go on mixing yourself up with the world and heaping up riches. What will you do with them when Christ comes? Remember the Lord is at hand. But do I keep separate from this world merely because it is going to be judged? Certainly not. My whole portion for time and eternity is in Christ; the day-star has arisen in my heart. I am separated from the world by affection, and not by fear.

319 We have the coming of Christ as the morning star as a distinct thing from the sun-rise; for, when the sun rises upon the world, it will be for judgment. (See Isaiah 2 and Malachi 4: 1-3.) But beside and before all this, we have our portion in Christ; we are not of this world, we are redeemed out of it, and belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, and shall join Him on high before He is manifested for the judgment of this world; and therefore the thunders of judgment cannot touch us, because we are seated with Him in heaven, from whence the judgments come. In Revelation 4 we have a most blessed and comforting picture of the position of the church. There are the twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones, round about the throne, from whence the thunders, the lightnings, and the voices come: and they continue perfectly unmoved. But was this insensibility? Certainly not: for, when God Himself in His holy character is mentioned, immediately they fall down and cast their crowns before Him. Neither is this holiness the cause of any fear, when the living creatures proclaim the threefold holiness of Him who sits upon the throne; it is their worship breaks forth, and they fall down, and cast their crowns before Him in the full sense of the blessedness of Him who sits alone upon the throne. Christ, then, is this Morning Star, and if the day has dawned, and the day-star has arisen in our hearts, we know our association with Christ Himself, as within that place from which the judgment proceeds.

320 At the end of the Revelation we have the place of the Star again; Rev. 22: 16. The Lord brings us back from the prophetic testimony to Himself – “I Jesus have sent mine angel” – ” I am the root and the offspring of David [this is in connection with His being the source of promise and heir of it, as King of Zion – ‘Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies’], and the bright and morning star.” But the moment He presents Himself as the bright and Morning Star, “the Spirit and the bride say, Come”; the Holy Ghost in the church says, “Come.” This response is what is connected with Himself. The mention of Himself attracts and awakens the answer of the Spirit. This is the character in which the church herself has to say to His coming. God, in the love of His own heart, has associated the church with Jesus, and the very mention of His name awakens the cry, “Come!” for it touches a chord which gives an immediate response; and therefore He does not say here, “Behold, I come quickly.” The question here is, not when He will come, but that it is Himself that is coming. He does not speak of His coming, blessed though that thought is, but He reveals Himself; and this it is that awakens the response of the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost. We are for Himself, and shall be with Himself: it cannot be anything short of this, for He calls us “his body.” What a glorious place this is! Not merely wonderful, but glorious – identification with the Christ of God. No explanation of prophetic scripture (however nice and true it may be – however useful as a solemn warning as regards this world) can ever take the place, in the soul that is taught of God, of knowing its living union with a coming Jesus, and of the present waiting for Himself. No mere explanation of His coming as a doctrine is the proper hope of the saint. That hope is not prophecy; it is the real and blessed and sanctifying expectancy of a soul that knows Jesus, and waits to see and to be with Himself.

The bride alone hears the voice of the Bridegroom, which at once calls out the expression of her desire of His coming. To this He responds, assuring her of it; and then the Revelation closes, leaving this as her own expectation, whatever He may have previously communicated to her concerning the judgment of this world, to which she does not belong. The Lord Jesus is represented as departing Himself, and coming and taking His bride to be with Him. Then, when the world is saying “Peace and safety,” sudden destruction cometh upon them, and they shall not escape.

321 Paul closes 1 Thessalonians 4 with these words, “So shall we ever be with the Lord.” And is that all? Yes, that is all; for to the heart which has learnt to love Him he can say no more. Then he adds,* “Of the times and seasons ye have no need that I write unto you.” Ye are the children of the day, you wait for that. No explanation of this, as a doctrine, can ever reach the heart. You cannot make a person understand a relationship: to understand it he must himself be in it. An unquickened soul may understand in a manner what prophecy means; but nothing short of the sense and taste of being connected with Christ Himself can give the desire of His own personal coming. And why? Because for this the relationship must be known. In Revelation 22: 16 the relationship is known, affection is awakened, and there is the immediate response.

{*I have no doubt that the direct connection of Revelation 5 is with verse 14 of Revelation 4, verse 15 to the end of chapter 4 being a parenthesis.}

Take a case: a woman is expecting her husband; he knocks at the door. Not a word is uttered out of his mouth; but his wife knows already who it is at the door, for it is he whom she loves that is there, and thus the natural feelings and affections proper for a wife are awakened, when the chord is touched by that which acts on them. But then the link must be in the heart; the affection must be there to produce the response; the chord which vibrates with this blessed truth must be there to be awakened by it. There is such a consciousness of union with Jesus, through the power of God’s Spirit, that the very moment He is spoken of in this character, the chord is touched, and the instinctive cry is, “Come.” No amount of intelligence, merely, will produce this. And what a difference between expecting the Lord Jesus, because He has made me and His saints a part of Himself and His bride, and looking for His coming to judge poor sinners! Now mark the practical effect of this looking for Jesus: it takes us clean out of the world up to heaven. If my heart is right in its affections for Him, I am looking too straight up on high to take notice of the things around me. Plenty of things there are around in the world, plenty of bustle and turmoil; but it does not disturb the blessed calm of my soul; because nothing can alter our indissoluble relationship with a coming Jesus, as nothing should divide us in hope.

322 To see the coming of the Lord Jesus for the church changes the character of a thousand scriptures. Take the Psalms for instance – those which speak about judgments on the ungodly, such as “the righteous washing their feet in the blood of the wicked.” We are not the persons who say this. It is the language of Jews, and of godly Jews too, who will be delivered through the rod of power smiting their enemies, when all the tribes of the earth will wail because of Him. But do I want my enemies to be destroyed to get to Christ? Certainly not. I shall leave them to be with Him. It is a sorrowful thought indeed, though we recognise the just judgment of God, that such judgment will be accomplished upon those who despise Him and His grace. But as for me, I am going straight up to Christ in heaven. My place is in Him, while He is hid in God, in the nearest and most intimate union. I belong to the bride, a member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. When we have hold of this blessed centre, Christ, and with Him, therefore, of God Himself, then every scripture falls into its proper place; and we get a spiritual understanding by the Holy Ghost of things in heaven and our connection with them, and things on earth and our separateness from them; and, above all, our hearts get into their proper place, for, being set on Jesus Himself, we are waiting for Him. When He shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory, but we shall be for ever with the Lord.

May the Lord give us such an apprehension of redemption and of our position in Him as may so fix our hearts on Himself that we may be daily walking down here like unto men that wait for their Lord, who has promised to come and take us to Himself, watching in the midst of a night of darkness, aware, that it is the night, although we are not of the night, but watching and waiting for the day, having the morning star arisen in our hearts! May the Lord keep us from idols; and above all from aught that savours of Jezebel, that we may be in dread, for fear of grieving Him in any of those things which have come in to spoil and corrupt that which He once planted so beautiful, to be for the manifestation of His glory in this dark and evil world.

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