Fragment on Revelation 2:8-17

Revelation 2:8‑17  •  18 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Last time we were speaking of the character of judgment running through this book of Revelation. We see the Lord in these epistles judging the churches, and then the world; we see Him taking notice of everything: " I will judge every one of you according to his works."
It is well to see the difference between the church as seen in Christ, and as on earth representing Christ. She partakes of His glory, as united to Him; and as a vessel contains His glory, and represents it on earth-the " epistle of Christ, known and read of all men." Responsibility down here does not touch salvation in any wise. He had promised, in His faithfulness, to carry them on towards the fullness of His glory, and He judges them for failure in the use of the responsibility He laid upon them. God's own people are profited by it, but the " simple pass on, and are punished," and at length, as a body, they are " spued out of his mouth."
All chastening is intended to turn to profit for the church. In the address to each church there is a particular revelation of Christ corresponding to the peculiar judgment, and there are special promises to each. It is not here the supply of grace from the Head for the body, as in Ephesians, but the responsibility of individuals in their walk. Another thing we have to remember is, that the object of these addresses is not to show the power of the Holy Ghost actively at work. If it is judgment, it clearly is not this. Christ cannot be said to judge the work of the Holy Ghost. It is power in grace if the Holy Ghost works, but Christ's judgment is His estimate of the practical use made of the privileges given. The Lord looks at the church as responsible for all the love of which it is the object. The candlestick is to be taken away when there is no profit. It is not individuals judged here, but churches-what " the Spirit saith to the churches," and there is no return found; therefore it is to be taken out of its place.
Then the address is to " him that hath an ear, let him hear." There is individual energy to overcome, and it is overcoming in the condition in which they were-it is overcoming things within, not overcoming the world. " This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith "-there was that as well, of course; but here it is overcoming evil in the church. We must remember that the church has fallen from its first love, when Smyrna is addressed; and the church ceases to be a place of security to the saint, the moment the Spirit so addresses the church as failing; therefore individuals are singled out. I get myself as an individual singled out, but the church addressed. I have to make good my certainty by the word. The church may be right in this or that; but I have to discern by the word what I can follow, and what I cannot. This is a principle of great importance. It is not that there were no blessings for these churches-they were highly commended in many things. But the churches were being judged by Christ's word.
Development is a common word in use now, but it has in it the principle of infidelity. There is nothing in God to be developed. The word is a revelation of God in Christ. In
John 1 we find it said, " That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which our hands have handled of the word of life: for the life was manifested," etc. It is clear there can be no development of that which has been manifested. Unless we can get something beyond " God is light," there can be no development. There is much to be learned about Him; but it is a Person here presented, not a doctrine. If it were a doctrine, we might get something added; but it is not a question of doctrine, but a living Person that has been revealed, and in the address to this first church we find that they have left their first love-they have left something; there is no development in that. God cannot set up anything but what is perfect, nothing contrary to His mind, or inferior to His mind. Look at man. We see him brought out perfect, but he could not keep his first estate. Then there was a perfect priesthood established, but there was failure in Nadab and Abihu. He " planted wholly a right seed." What comes from God must be perfect, and cannot by any other operation. There may be decline, and there is decline. This is a very simple truth, but it cuts up by the roots a whole system of thoughts and feelings and judgments.
Then we find another grand principle brought out here. He exercises the heart by bringing in the hostile power of the world to hinder decay, and to separate from the evil around- and this is tribulation. Take Christ Himself, see His perfectness as the Servant of God: " He learned obedience by the things that he suffered." Much brought out through trial, opposition, slighting; His path led, darker and darker, down to the cross. He met Satan's power, and even the wrath of God. He overcame all, and is set down with the Father on His throne, and in it all, it only brought out the growing manifestation of the perfection in Him.
There is another thing with regard to us. Persecution and trial are used to hinder our departure from God. There is the constant tendency in the heart to take rest in prosperous circumstances, the flesh turns to what is agreeable in the world; but it will not do. God says, " Arise, and depart hence, for this is not your rest." Persecution is the natural portion of the children of God. When the church was taking rest at the beginning, persecution soon came in. In Matthew the principles and character of the kingdom were brought out in the sermon on the mount: " Blessed "-" Blessed ""Blessed," etc. Blessing is the character, and then the grace of Christ was just beginning to be manifested; the miracles had begun to be performed, etc., and God was now showing them what was " blessed " in His sight. Towards the end of the Gospel, instead of blessing, it is, "Woe"—"Woe"—"Woe"; "your house is left unto you desolate "; because the opposition was fully brought out by the perfect manifestation of what was in Him.
God sends us tribulation, opposition from without, to bring out grace, and to hinder decay. With Christ it was always and only the former. But take the case of Job: God uses Satan as an instrument of blessing to him, as He does with the church. About Job God begins the conversation, " Hast thou considered my servant Job? " etc.; and God uses the trial to bring out to him what Job had never known before. Then, again, take the case of Paul. He had to be taken up into the third heaven, to get such a sight of the glory as to fit him for the peculiar service to the church to which he was called. Then what use would the flesh make of this? It would puff up. Then a messenger of Satan is sent to buffet him, and he prays that it may be removed. But he is not to be rid of the thorn in the flesh, but gets the assurance, " My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness." This it was that strengthened him for after service, not the being in the third heaven and the sight of the glory, in one sense, for it was to be God's strength, not Paul's. Take another case in Peter. He needed to be sifted, because of the self-confidence in him: therefore the Lord allows Satan to sift him, but He prayed for him. When confidence in self was pulled down, then he could be used to help others.
It seems astonishing that God should use Satan as the instrument to try the saints here; but it is so, and He says, " the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried." In this church we find the state is decaying (they have lost their first love), and God has to put her into the furnace. She gets into the place where Satan persecuted before; she gets where Satan's seat is. " I know thy works, and tribulation, and thy poverty (but thou art rich)." God knew that they were rich, they were multiplied in the world, and then there was a tendency to rest in the circumstances put into, instead of in the Lord Himself. The Lord would not suffer this. He must put them into trouble, because He would make them lean on Him. He would cast the church on her own proper position altogether. He will give them to find the hostility of the world, in order that they may be brought back to know their own privileges in their own real position. How strange that the church should need persecution, not only that Christ should suffer them to be cast into prison, but also that they were to be faithful even to death! And the promise to them is " the crown of life." They may be martyrs, but there is positive blessing and honor for them. Christians are seeking what the world does. If the Lord turns the current, He puts them through the fire. If the church has the world, in any sense down here, it must give up a heavenly, a crucified, Christ.
You cannot associate the world and religion, but it was the object of Judaism to connect them. It set about to mingle the tastes and feelings of nature with God, and whenever the world is connected with religion, there must be priesthood let in, because the moment you get man as he is, he cannot stand before God. But now Christians are priests-no need of an order of priests between God and you; you are a heavenly, not an earthly people. " He suffered without the gate, let us also go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." The moment the blood is carried into the heavenly places, we are associated with Him, and we are taken outside the world altogether, and connected with the heavenly places. Judaism connected the two. Our place is outside the camp, and inside the veil, with Him. Carnal ordinances connected man with God under Judaism; but when Christ is rejected on earth, the place is in heaven, and there cannot longer be the mixture of the two. We are raised up together, and made to sit together in the heavenly places in Him. We have no middle thing if Christ is our portion. The moment we lose the sense of this, God must let loose the power of Satan to keep us in a straight path.
The character in which He addresses this church is as the First and the Last, One dead and alive. Looked at as man, He is dead to this world, cast out and rejected. We now must, like Mary Magdalene, get an empty tomb, or a living Christ. If your heart is upon Christ, all that you can find in this world is an empty tomb with nothing in it. Then you have nothing to do with the world, for all heavenly blessing is yours. The constant tendency is to slip away from this, because, if we do not cleave to the world, it cleaves to us. This was the case of the churches here. They needed to be put through the fire to separate them from the world. Judaism had crept in; then development (Gnostics, etc.), " intruding into those things which they have not seen, vainly puffed up by their fleshly minds." Then persecution comes, and blows upon all this. The history of these times shows that the living power in the church was not in its doctrines, but in its martyrs.
Verse 13. " I know where thou dwellest, where Satan's throne is." Here is another and more subtle character of evil. The Lord gives them all the credit He can. It has passed through tribulation, sent on account of worldly corruption from without, but here there is doctrinal corruption within. It is in the world where Satan's seat is, and it has been living there ever since. (It is not a question here of individual conduct, but of the corporate position of the church.)
It was at the cross of Christ that the world emphatically became the seat of Satan-not that, as some say, his power was then defeated. The world had been first put under man, tried on the ground of responsibility; then it had been under trial in the exercise of power in Nebuchadnezzar. Satan risked everything upon getting rid of Christ, but then it was his own power was really broken-he just destroyed himself; but he has ever since led the world (as the universal instrument of Satan) to reject Christ; from that moment he is the prince of this world-until that rejection he could not be said to be so. It was when Christ was on the cross he led the mind of the world. The church has been taken out of the world, to be associated with the true Prince; but alas! it has taken an earthly character. But if it is taken up, and rejected with Christ, then what has it to do with the world? " Why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances? " etc. There is no possibility of escaping it in any other way but as being dead with Christ. Ordinances are not Christ. They have been nailed to the cross of Christ. If we are dead with Christ, we are dead to ordinances. Man in the flesh must have something between him and the Head. If united to the Head, there is nothing wanted to bring near.
" But I have a few things against thee. Thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam." He had taught them the evil of this corrupting association through a persecuting world; but Christ could never say, " There is Balaam's teaching for you." He could never talk of the moral acquiescence in evil as the proper trial of the saints-not like the tribulation before. You have got Balaam then, not Jezebel yet. Balaam would associate them with the world, but Christ says I have passed through death for you, and now you must for Me. He would not step in to hinder the consequences of the position into which they had brought themselves, but He could own their faithfulness.
Balaam could not succeed in enchantment against Israel. The question was whether Israel might pass into Canaan, and Balaam (a frightful character) was employed to hinder them if he could. The effort was to get Jehovah to curse His people, but he could not, and he was forced only to bless. There is no possibility of using Satan's power against the people of God. God held the lips of Balaam, and obliged him to bless in spite of himself. " Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." He has no power as an adversary. It is as a tempter he has power. When the enemy could not succeed in bringing a curse upon the people, he sought to seduce them into wickedness, and then how could God bring them in? (Num. 25). In this church we find he has come in as a seducing Satan, instead of being without as a persecuting Satan. Then they were exhorted to fear none of those things which should come upon them. Weakness is in fear. When we look into the persecution we tremble. Out of it we look out to Christ, where there is faith. Thus the faithful one is separated from the world by that persecution, and made to feel what his own proper portion is. But when the church is on Satan's territory, he says, You shall have as much as you like-as much as ever I can give you-for I will seduce you into it. In enriching them with earthly things, he seduces them from God. Balaam was a prophet, but a false prophet, just as the evil servant who hid his lord's money was a servant, though an evil one; and we find him coming in within the church (ver. 14), and if he can make it all ease in the world, comfortable in the world, his end is gained. Then they might go and eat in the idols' temples: doctrine of the Nicolaitanes follows-internal corruption. In Nicolaitanism we see the flesh acting in the church; through Balaam the world had come in. It is very sad to see how the church declined after the tribulation had brightened it up for God, and our hearts ought to bear the burden. By being thus associated with the world, by being content to dwell where Satan's seat is, they had got the door open for evil doctrines-Antinomianism, a fleshly religion of demons. Satan did not want to persecute when he could corrupt. Here it is only teaching false doctrine, in the next church we see there are children born. The promise to the faithful here is a very sweet and peculiar one.
The word is that by which Christ draws the church to Himself. He comes out with a " sharp sword with two edges," V. 12. The word of God is the resource of the faithful, and the promise is more individual. In the sorrow and pain of seeing those belonging to God not departing from iniquity, there is bound up in the heart this link of secret fidelity to God which associates them with a suffering Christ. They shall have to eat of the hidden manna. It was hidden faithfulness which was to be rewarded with this hidden manna; the fruits, indeed, would be manifest to all around, but it was a secret between God and the heart, an inward link with that which never changes in its character. What is this hidden manna? We find manna spoken of as the bread which cometh down from heaven: " My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven." The manna for the Israelites was spread about the camp, not hidden. Christ is the provision for daily walk. But besides this they were to take a pot, and lay it up before Jehovah: when they had got into the land, they were to have the memorial of what they had enjoyed in the wilderness. So we in heaven shall have God's eternal delight in what Christ has been down here as the suffering Christ. The memory of what Christ has been in the wilderness is God's eternal delight With us, he that has been faithful with Christ in rejection from this world will have the everlasting joy of fellowship with God in the delight in Christ as the suffering Man, which He had and has and will have forever. It will be the same kind of delight, though of course always in different measure. If we are walking faithfully with a rejected Christ, instead of letting Balaam into our hearts, we shall enjoy Christ down here now; but we cannot enjoy Him while we are going on with the world. If we so pretend, it becomes Nicolaitanism or Antinomianism. Even in the Gospels what enjoyment can we have if walking in the spirit of the world? The imagination may be fed, but the soul is not satisfied. God has not given His Son to be played with, but to be fed upon.
There are public joys in heaven, thousands of voices echoing the song, but there are secret ones also. Joys with Christ we all share in common, but He must have our individual affections as well as our common affections-" a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." That name has no meaning for any one else but him to whom it is given. Christ reveals Himself to the soul, " and a stranger doth not intermeddle with its joy." Christ has joys for us as individuals, and my joy you cannot have, and yours I cannot have. This joy of communion will never be interrupted, and individual communion will not hinder the universal joy. This promise specially relates to the future, but it is the source of joy and strength now. The Spirit of God makes it anticipative of that day. We may have now this " white stone " from Christ, this secret expression of His grace and love to my heart. Others cannot have it for me. How it makes this white stone more precious than anything else, though all the world may think I am wrong! Of course, I must judge of all by the word. The world may talk about things, but Christ has talked to me, and He will own in that day all He has said to me.
What a sorrowful thing that Balaam should be teaching the saints! But, never mind: there is no trouble whatever in the church that does not bring the soul into deeper communion with Christ than anything else could. Then is the opportunity afforded for overcoming the evil within.