The Prophetical Addresses to the Seven Churches: Lecture 4

 •  41 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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 afterward, 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 characterizing 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 characterized the within should be productive of evil. The motherhood of evil was now in the church.
Salaam 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 Num. 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."
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 showing, 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!
" 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 characterized 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 realize 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 characterized 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.
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."
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 afterward his faith links them with their risen Head, and in virtue of Christ's unfailing grace, aid 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 b)dy 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.
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, 54And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 5And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the Lord. (Exodus 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.
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 Matt. 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."
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 Psa. 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 Psa. 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 honored 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.
" 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 Psa. 2, " Be wise now therefore, 0 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.
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 Ito 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 Heb. 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.
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 forever; 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 Psa. 94:2020Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law? (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.1 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 show 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.
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 Rev. 1 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 Rev. 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 honors, 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.
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 Isa. 2 and Mal. 4:1-31For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 2But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. 3And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts. (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 Rev. 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.
At the end of the Revelation we have the place of the Star again; chap. 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.
Paul closes 1 Thess. 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 learned to love Him he can say no more. Then he adds,2 " 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 Rev. 22:1616I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. (Revelation 22:16) the relationship is known, affection is awakened, and there is the immediate response.
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 coining 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.
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 recognize 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 center, 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 forever 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 savors 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.