Fragment on Revelation 3-4

 •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 6
The contrast between the addresses to the church at Sardis and Philadelphia is similar to what is found in 1 Thessalonians, where to the world the coming of Christ is spoken of as a thief in the night, but not so to the saints in the world. " Of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need, that I write unto you." The professing church at Sardis will have the character of Christ's coming in judgment.
Verse 2. " I have not found thy works perfect." No decay of spiritual life ever lowers God's standard of holiness in the church. The church at Ephesus is reproved for losing first love-here it is " works," v. 1. All resources of spiritual government and power are perfect in Christ. " These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars." Christ has the perfectness of seven spirits and seven stars.
Whatever we have to do in this world-common occupation, business, anything-the great object is to represent Christ. If my soul is knit to Him (" my soul followeth hard after thee "), we shall measure all our path as to how far we can do justice to Christ. " If thine eye be single," etc. There may be a hundred wrong ways, but I must take care to get into the right one. Whether I have made much or little progress as a Christian, I must have Christ my object, as the end; Christ will be reflected all down the path, then every step onward will be brighter and brighter. It is not going fast on the road, that is the great point, but going always in it (the faster the better too), " forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forth to those things that are before, I press towards the goal for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus." We must have our hearts set upon Christ, though, in one sense, not nearer Christ at the end than at the beginning; in another, we are a great deal nearer. The fact of our resurrection is not nearer, but we are nearer in the moral effect of the expectation. Of the church it is said, " that he might cleanse it by the washing of water." In one sense it is perfectly clean, but in another it is getting cleaner through the application, by the Spirit, of the word to the individual members of Christ's body, and so producing in the whole moral likeness to the image of Christ. So the outward fact of resurrection is, and may still be future, but it is the power of the truth of resurrection wrought in his heart that Paul desired.
There are some in Sardis of whom it is said, " they shall walk with me in white," but the Philadelphian state is one of far more blessing. There is energy in the midst of Sardis encouraged, but there is approbation given to Philadelphia" hast kept my word." The great exercise of faith will be keeping the " word of Christ's patience," for the days are come in which it is said, " Where is the promise of his coming? " The heart set on Christ Himself gets such a sense of His blessedness, that it is kept fresh in the hope of seeing Him. " For we shall see him as he is," it is said, not " shall be." We shall see Him as He is now, the glorified Man, and we should so realize Him now, and so realizing Him, I have so tasted what He is, that I want Him to come. In one sense He cannot come, but is waiting in patience till His word be fulfilled. " All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." He waits, He has not got it yet; and I must wait. My heart has got such a connection with what Christ is, is so knit up with Him, that it can find no satisfaction in anything else. " My patience "; " He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied." The Father's will is that He shall lose nothing.
The character of the promise to him that overcometh corresponds with that which they were exercised in. What is the promise? He shall be a pillar in the temple of my God; it is not said, the temple of God merely. Mark the number of times "my" comes in in this verse. You have been associated with My patience, and now you shall have the same association with God that I have. "Thou hast a little strength." See what little strength comes to: a crown then! Great strength now, is mixed with carnal things, and will be weakness then. " I will keep thee from the hour of temptation." Mark that word " from." Does the Lord delight in trying His people? No, He would rather keep them from it, but He must try us for our good. Still, we may well use that petition, " Lead us not into temptation," for it is a sad thing if God is obliged, as in Job's case, to try us by throwing us into Satan's hands for the destruction of the flesh. There will be trial come upon all the world; as long as there is a grain of wheat in it, He will sift, sift, sift it, till every grain is separated; but He will not have us to be so separated. " I will keep thee from the hour," etc. If the saint goes on in the consciousness of little strength, keeping the word of Christ's patience, in fellowship with God's long-suffering, he will be kept from it.
In passing through the wilderness God gives us two things as means of blessing down here-the word of God and the priesthood of Christ. There is the promise of entering into His rest, and to everything that comes in between our apprehension of that rest and us, the word of God comes as a twoedged sword. The word of God is " sharper than any two-edged sword," etc. What tends to unbelief? Every thought and intent, every little root that strikes into this world, everything not from God, everything that separates from our desire to see Jesus and be with Him. We are in the wilderness, but every heart rests either in Egypt or Canaan: it is Canaan in hope, or Egypt in heart. Whatever does not bear the thought of God separates from Him, as the word shows us. Sorrow, affliction is not wrong, but if the will does not submit, it is rebellion, and that is wrong. All open sin is cut up by the word, the two-edged sword. All our weakness and infirmity are borne by Him who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. We must be going on with Christ, and in the consciousness of going on. " Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."
" I will write upon him my new name ": He will stamp it on those who overcome as associated with Him in the temple of His God. He will give us His own portion as risen and heavenly.
The inscription to the epistle to the church of the Laodiceans (or in Laodicea, as in the margin) differs from those to the other churches, inasmuch as here it is the character of Christ in Himself, apart from the body, instead of His relationship with the church. Christ remains the same, although the church is gone to ruin. God could put His Amen on Him if the church fail ever so, and He is available for every opened ear. The titles belonging to the Lord are applied to each, answering to the condition of the church; and here there is the positive declaration that He will spue them out. There is nothing owned-all good shut up in Christ-but there is rebuke and chastening. He is outside, standing at the door and knocking, " if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him." There is the entire definite and final rejection of the professing church pictured, no hope held out but judgment, positive and definite, prophesied of-nauseous to Christ, as lukewarm water.
There is, however, love at work still, as with Israel in Jer. 2. Repentance is called for, but, of course, God knew the body would not repent. " Behold I stand at the door and knock." These words of invitation to those who hear are of a different character from those in Canticles: " The voice of my beloved that knocketh; open to me," etc.; where it is awakening the heart afresh of the Jewish people, who had been asleep a long time, stirring up the stupid, sleepy thing, by appealing to the affections. Here it is at the close of the testimony Christ is seeking to gather up any lingering desire after Him; but the promise to those who overcome, though most blessed, is of a lower and more general character than that given to the other churches. To sit with Him on the throne-this is what all will have who reign with Him a thousand years. All who are raised reign with Him. To the other churches there is something more special promised-this is only trenching on the kingdom. But Christ Himself will come in to him, " and sup with him, and he with me." He says Christ will come, and give you to enjoy with Him at His table, not come down with you to your things.
Verse 17. " The wretched one " is more literal. If a person says, I have got Christ, and so is careless about his walk, thinking he has got all he wants, it might come up to this state of things. But the whole description seems to apply more to those who have not Christ at all. They had got all that could make a fair show in the flesh-numbers, learning, prosperity-like Babylon, which says, ' I sit as a queen, and have need of nothing.'
Verse 18. " Gold." Divine righteousness is what the soul wants in order to be with God. " White raiment " shows the purity of the righteousness of Christ. The wisdom spoken of in Proverbs is a spirit of value for these things.
It is a dreadful thing to be associated with a form of things, when the spirit and life are wanting. The fig-tree was, as regards Israel, an exhibition of this state. The thing to be overcome in such a state of things is lukewarmness; and to be able to overcome lukewarmness you must be hot yourself. " Moab had not been emptied from vessel to vessel." Affection to Christ in hidden ones, as individuals, may be found, but faith is not so much brought out in the assembly-a strong manifestation of the declension in the corporate state of these Christians and of the fact that man spoils everything God sets up amongst men.
Verse 19. " As many as I love I rebuke and chasten "convicting the conscience. Nothing is healed until that is done; it is not only an expression of His displeasure, but bringing it home to the soul-it is to " as many as I love." Whatever amount of exercise of conscience there may be, it is a proof of God's love; this is comfort to many a troubled soul. Men often speak of judgments as if they were from man, not God, but man's heart rebels more against God than against man. Job complained of God more than of the Sabeans. It is because God touches the conscience. It is a sorrowful thing when God's voice is not heard in the chastening. There are more pains taken with this Christian than with any. It is a different thing from Paul in 2 Cor. 12, where he says, " Though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved "; as if he said, I shall not cease to love you, though the way I take to show it to you makes you love me less. Here the meaning is, although they did not love Him, but were sunk amongst the rest, He would not give them up.
" He that hath an ear," etc. Christ is a Son over His own house. " To him that overcometh... even as I also overcame," etc. Christ had to go through all this, and to overcome. Blessed grace! He has made us heirs and joint-heirs. Let us take a lesson from Saul as to overcoming. He overcame the Ammonites; but the Philistines, whom he was specially raised up to conquer, he never overcame. If people do not do the thing they are sent to do, it does not matter how much they do.
Notice that this address to the Laodiceans is a threat-it is not said, Except ye repent-not the fact of its accomplishment: their moral condition. They will be totally done with morally, but the Philadelphian state of the true Christian may run into it-only we must remember, the " spueing out " will be after the remnant are gathered out of it, after the church is taken away. The outward state may go on to Antichrist, and then be given up.