The Prophetical Addresses to the Seven Churches: Lecture 6

Revelation 3:7‑13  •  46 min. read  •  grade level: 8
We only touched a little upon the general features of the church of Philadelphia last evening, just so much as was needful to connect it with the preceding church of Sardis. We will, therefore, now turn again, the Lord helping us, to consider more particularly the details of the church of Philadelphia; and in so doing, we would notice, in the first place, that the most prominent feature in this church of Philadelphia is, that it is one of special blessing to meet a special need. For, after all the display of terrible evil through which we have had to pass, in the previous condition of the churches, now that we have reached Philadelphia, we find it to be all mercy and blessing.
It is very blessed to observe, that however poor and feeble God's people may be, even though the faithful ones be reduced to a remnant of individuals, He never forgets them. His eye is ever upon them to give them out of His own resources, according to what they need and when they need, at the time that surrounding things are darkest. When both the church and the world have arrived at a state of felt darkness, then the few who are faithful have the most " light in the Lord." For the life of faith is always nourished and sustained by the faithful grace of Christ, according to the power of that which draws upon it-according to the difficulties through which it has to pass.
It is another question whether the Lord's people are to be used in testimony by Him in time of failure; this will be according to His wisdom. We see this exemplified (as we have before remarked) in Israel; the failure of the golden calf was met by inward spiritual power in Moses putting the tabernacle outside the camp. And when the open and avowed worship of Baal prevailed, then God raised up Elijah and Elisha with great outward manifestation of power; but then the seven thousand faithful ones were hidden of God. The Lord may not choose to put the outward honor of testimony upon that which has failed. Still He gives the needed grace and inward power of life to sustain the individual soul; and this, as regards the saints now, flowing from the Head in glory for the nourishment of the body on the earth, can never fail. Thus, as regards gifts in the church, for instance, those which were for signs (" sign-gifts " as they are sometimes called, and a testimony to the world, signs being for those which believe not, as " tongues," " gifts of healing," etc.), these may be all gone; but never can those gifts be removed which flow down from the Head to sustain the members of the body; for " no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it even as the Lord the church."
In the epistle to the Ephesians, where the church is so specially brought out as the body Of Christ, we find the gifts for the church spoken of as being " for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Here we have not a word about the sign-gifts, while in Corinthians we have " gifts of healing," divers kind of tongues," " interpretation of tongues," etc. Thus we see in Scripture two characters of gifts distinctly marked out: first, the sign-gifts, as in Corinthians, which were public signs attached to the church for outward testimony, whereby to attract an unbelieving world; secondly, those gifts which flow from the Head for the nourishment of the body. This nourishment must ever remain. It may come in the way of outward testimony, or direct from Christ Himself in the way of grace; but there must always be this supply from the Head. This is just what we get brought out in the Philadelphian church; for that which characterized it was weakness-only a little power, but a much greater nearness to Him who is power, a greater degree of affection to the Lord, more intimacy of communion with Him, and in the promises made to it a much more definite identification with Himself.
Weakness is that which characterized the church of Philadelphia, but then it was without reproach from the Lord. And we must ever remember this, that though God may give an outward display of power, such as gifts of healing, tongues, and the like, as a testimony to the world, or these may all have come to an end, yet at all times, either with or without this outward manifestation of power, the sense of weakness is competent strength if mixed with faith. There may be trouble of heart along with this sense of weakness without unbelief. There was this sense of the surrounding sorrow in the Lord Jesus. " Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour." But thus we see the sorrow was the very thing which immediately linked Him with His Father.
But, alas! in us there is too often such a getting into communion with the sorrow itself, such a turning of our souls to the thoughts of sorrow, as to lead to the distrusting God's competency to meet it. For, instead of saying, " In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul," we are turning about in the multitude of our thoughts to think what is to be done, and thus looking at and occupying ourselves about circumstances, or what we find within us, so as to keep God out altogether; but this was never the case with the Lord Jesus. For the moment the hour of sorrow appeared before His soul, the immediate cry was, " Father, save me from this hour." But if we are thinking about our own weakness in any other way than to lead us to immediate dependence upon the strength of God, God with us and God for us, it is unbelief.
It is not, moreover, a sense of the greatness of God's gifts and revelations to us in which our strength lies. For signs and miracles do not give inward strength; they may confirm His word to us in times of trial, but can never impart inward strength; and it is of importance clearly to understand this. Take, for instance, the case of Paul, who was caught up into the third heaven, and heard there things which it was not possible for him to utter. An amazing thing this, and doubtless it was a kind of back-ground for Paul's soul to rest upon in his trials, his having been in the third heaven. But it did not give him inward strength. On the contrary, the flesh, without God's overruling care, would have been puffed up, and this is not strength; but when he got something that made him sensible of his own weakness, then strength from God could come in. And so it is with us: our hearts are so treacherous, and our flesh so wicked, that if not watched against, we should abuse everything that the Lord makes known to us. We need not stop here to inquire what Paul's " thorn in the flesh " was, although it is often made the subject of much fruitless inquiry, out of mere curiosity; but this we would remark, that each one of us will have a different thorn according to the danger we are in. Thus much we know from Gal. 4:13, 1413Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. 14And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. (Galatians 4:13‑14), that it was something which tended to make him despicable in the flesh, thus producing sensible weakness in his ministry. And, therefore, Paul cried thrice to the Lord to remove it; to which the Lord replied, " My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Paul must realize this sense of weakness in order to learn where real strength lies; and then he can glory in his infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon him; as he says, " When I am weak, then am I strong."
There is always strength in looking to God; but if the mind rest upon the weakness otherwise than to cast it upon God, it becomes unbelief. Difficulties may come in. God may allow many things to arise to prove our weakness; but the simple path of faith is to go on, not looking beforehand at what we have to do, but reckoning upon the help that we shall need, and find when the time arrives. The sense that we are nothing makes us glad to forget ourselves, and then it is that Christ becomes everything to the soul. There is real strength in pursuing the simple path of obedience in what we may have to do, whatever the trial may be. So it was with David when he had to fight. " The Lord, that delivered me out of the paw of the bear, and out of the paw of the lion, will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine." It was no matter to David whether it was the lion, the bear, or this giant of the Philistines; it was all the same to him, for in himself he was as weak in the presence of one as the other; but he went on quietly doing his duty, taking it for granted that God would be with him. This is faith. Mark the contrast with this in the unbelief of the spies sent by Moses to spy out the land. They trembled and said they were but as grasshoppers in the sight of their enemies, thus quite forgetting what God was for them, and making it a question between themselves and the Anakims, instead of between the Anakims and God. But where there is a simple reference to the Lord, then " I can do all things through Christ strengthening me." When trouble comes in, we must not be looking at ourselves, but, knowing that we are nothing but weakness, simply look to the Lord as everything in the way of strength for us.
The case of Philadelphia was one of decided weakness, but faithfulness; there may be great apparent power and yet weakness itself. As the Holy Ghost says in 1 Corinthians, there may be the speaking with the tongues of men and angels, the understanding of all mysteries, and all knowledge, and yet there may be, at the same time, the most perfect weakness, because all this was not done in communion with God. There is nothing more dangerous than to have the outward manifestation of power going beyond the inward association and communion of soul with God; the life within must be equal to the outward display of power. We have lately alluded to this in the case of Elijah.
" These things saith he that is holy, he that is true." Here in Philadelphia we have the Lord in His moral character, and not in the character of personal power as the Son of God, but as the " holy and the true," presenting Himself as a standard of judgment as to everything inconsistent with Himself, and suiting Himself in grace to the condition and need of His faithful ones, and by His truth giving a means of judgment, and security of heart and confidence to the saints. And we also find Him disposing of means in favor of the church, in such a way that, if He opens a door, none can shut it, or if He shuts a door, none can open it. Thus there are the two things: He is the holy and the true, to those who trust in Him; and He has also, not here indeed the display of power, but the key of power (as Jehovah said of Eliakim to Shebna in Isa. 22:2222And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (Isaiah 22:22): " The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder, so he shall open and none shall shut, and he shall shut and none shall open "). So that, where there is this weakness, He encourages the church to look to Himself as the holy and the true, and trust Him; and where there is this resting on His title to open and shut, and this trust in His Person, and conformity to His character, the church is perfectly secure, no matter what may happen. Let all the power of man or Satan do their worst, if I am resting in Christ, who is perfectly true, and He has opened a door, neither man nor devil can shut it.
How analogous is this position of the Philadelphian church to that of Christ when He was on the earth! Everybody sought to shut the door against Him; Pilate, Herod, Scribes, Pharisees, and the whole nation of the Jews were all trying to shut the door against Christ. Christ, like the Philadelphian church, was in the midst of an order of things which God had once instituted, but which had entirely failed; for in Christ's time there was no ark, no Urim and Thummim, no Shekinah (the glory of God's presence in the temple). All that had really constituted the sensible display of power and testimony was gone, and, instead of Jehovah having a throne in Jerusalem, they themselves had fallen under Gentile power and were slaves to man's throne. And hence arose the exceeding subtlety of the question the Jews put to our Lord. " What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar or not? " If the Lord had answered No, it would have been the denial of God's chastisement for their sins; and if He had said Yes, then it went to the denial of His title as Messiah. But (the Lord perceiving their wickedness), His reply to them amounted to this, " You have brought yourselves under this dominion because of your sins, and therefore now you must submit to its authority." Not only " the powers that be are ordained of God," and as such we submit to them; but in Israel's case it would have been denying God's chastisement upon them for their sins (as it is said, " we are slaves this day because of our sins ").
So the Lord Himself submitted to paying the temple tribute. But though Israel, as a body, failed in their faithfulness to God, yet God could not fail in His faithfulness to them, for His Spirit remained among them, as we learn in Haggai; and therefore we find there was a little remnant in the Annas and Simeons, who were waiting for redemption in Israel (as it is said in Malachi, " They that feared the Lord spake often one to another "). Thus we see it was a condition of thorough darkness, and when He who was the Light comes in, He is at once rejected. Well, what then? Was the door shut to Him? No: " to him the porter openeth." Christ came in at the door, not, like all the pretenders that came before Him, climbing up some other way; but while working in divine power Christ came in by God's own appointed way, and no man could shut it. He is become God's appointed way to us; He said of Himself, " I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved."
Whatever links our position with Christ, as an example and pattern, is in truth a blessing to us; for was there ever one that went through all with such unfailing, lowly faithfulness to God as He did? Note the contrast of His lowly path with that of Elijah's; and what do we see? Elijah was going on ministering with great outward power, bringing down fire from heaven to destroy the prophets of Baal, and thinking himself to be the only one that was left that was true to God; whereas God had seven thousand that had not bowed the knee to Baal, whom Elijah had not found out. Christ was content to be nothing in a world where man was everything and God was shut out. He was content to be treated as the very offscouring of the earth; and yet, at the same time, there was not a single lost sheep of the house of Israel that His voice did not reach as the voice of the good Shepherd (let them be the vilest of sinners, a woman of Samaria, an adulteress, or a publican), that His eye did not discover. Thus, in virtue of His very humiliation, He puts those who now have but this " little strength" into the very same place which He Himself took, and then, as the porter did for Him, He opens the door for them, which none can shut.
We are waiting for the glory: " the glory thou hast given me I have given them "; and while thus waiting we have to pass through that which has " Ichabod " written on it (the glory hath departed). The testimony of this dispensation in its public power is gone, never to be recovered. What the Lord is pressing upon them is, that they are not to suppose that the evil, such as that of Thyatira and Sardis, can be put in order; but He says, " Behold, I come quickly! hold that fast which thou hast that no man take thy crown "; that is, keep the word of My patience till I come. Thus we find ourselves in circumstances analogous to Christ; for when the Lord says, " Behold, I come quickly," it is to the end that we may get into greater likeness to Christ's position, and although trying and humbling, yet one of blessing, finding ourselves just in the same position which Jesus took, with the same promise-an open door which none can shut. This is present faith; it is not much strength that we want: the thing most needed is greater conformity to the position of Christ.
Observe another thing peculiar to this church of Philadelphia. The Lord does not set about canvassing their works, but leaves the heart of these poor weak ones satisfied with the consciousness that He knows them. To the other churches it was not so; He notices the character of their works. To Sardis He said, " I have not found thy works perfect before God." But it is sufficient for us that He knows our works. 0 what a comfort it is, for if we had to look for perfection, as in Sardis, we should find it very troublesome to give in the account. The mixture of things, the little faith, would dismay us. In fact, none of our works have answered to the grace received. There is plenty of activity, there is much that man may approve, but taking the general character of service, how difficult to find that which God can approve! Then again, if we get occupied with the state of things in the world around us, and in the church of God itself, our hearts would sink within us, did we not fall back on this most blessed truth, that Christ knows all about it.
But then does He say that they have nothing? No; He says, "Thou hast kept my word." That which characterized Christ must be the characteristic of the church of God. Christ could say, " Thy word have I hid in my heart "; and this is especially the characteristic of faithfulness in the last days. Paul in writing to Timothy says, " In the last days perilous times shall come," and there would be a terrible form of godliness without power; for even then the mystery of iniquity had come in, " and evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse." But the safeguard is, " but continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them, and from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures "-the plain written word, what we call the Bible, read from his youth. Security would not be in the manifestation of outward power, nor yet in miracles, but simply in the written word. This was the instrument of blessing; this the recognized authority with Timothy. Of course the grace of God was needed for his conversion. I refer to this now, as the keeping close to the word is the special security of these latter days (namely, the special authority of the word of God itself, just what Timothy, as a child, found in the Scriptures); and added to this, of course with Timothy, was that which he had learned from the apostles, equally inspired, and which was thus a known immediately-divine authority in a person " of whom," says the apostle, " you have learned it," and which since has become the written word to us. The written word of God is where all our security lies through grace.
The Lord does not say " You have strength," but " You have kept my word "; and then further He does not say " You have known me in this or that character," but " You have not denied my name." The Lord's name means always the revelation of what He is; as if He be called Christ, He is the Anointed One. The Lord is here saying, that as you have stuck fast to Me as revealed, now I will make them which have a false name and pretenses " to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." Here we get the two characters contrasted; and also mark the emphasis on the word " My ": it is Christ's word upon which I am called to rest; " My word" -the word of Christ Himself, to come in personal communion with Christ Himself-not even the church's word. Suppose, for instance, I take the church's word, that is, to assume that the church has authority; but if I take Christ's word, then I have the authority of Christ Himself; and it is by the word of Christ that I must judge everything about the church itself. And the word of Christ connects us with Christ, His name and Person; and these are the two things which are especially essential for us to have, to enable us to walk contrary to the seductions which we know are peculiar to the last days. It is seductive power which characterizes these times, " evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse." " These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you."
In speaking in a general way of the character of the times, we look for seductive power. There will be a distinct and definite Antichrist, who will show it in another way, but " even now there are many Antichrists "; therefore we have " earnestly to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints." If he, whose coming is after the power of Satan, with signs and lying wonders, shall prevail against those who " receive not the love of the truth that they might be saved," we have need to hold fast that which will guard us against him who will come in as an angel of light; but it is those who have not received the love of the truth who fall into his snares. And this safeguard we have in the word of Christ Himself- keeping the word of His patience, and not denying His name. It must be an individual thing, for seductive power, having come in, marks the times in which we live to be " perilous times," not by open persecution and the like; but as the serpent beguiled Eve by his subtlety, so our minds are in danger of being corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ. And what have we to deliver us from this? Is it the outward manifestation of power, miracles, etc.? No, we have no outward power wherewith to meet Satan, we are weakness itself" thou hast a little strength "; but our safeguard is in this, each soul individually for itself, holding fast the written word of Christ, and not denying His name.
It seems not much to say of them, " Thou hast kept my word and hast not denied my name," for there was not much done by them. But, dear friends, when the seductive power of evil was there it was saying everything of them; when all that was going on was to the setting aside of the written word, they kept it; and when everything went to the denial of Christ's name, they did not deny His name. That which is a great thing in God's sight is, not the calling down fire from heaven as Elijah did, but the being faithful amidst surrounding unfaithfulness. So likewise it did not seem to be saying much for the seven thousand who did not conform to the gross act of worshipping Baal, merely to say that they had " not bowed the knee to Baal," but it was, in truth, saying everything for them, because they were surrounded by all those who did bow the knee to Baal. So likewise the church of God was at first set up in power, but tares were plentifully sown among the wheat, and that which marks out the faithful ones is simply this, that when the seductive power of evil comes in, they are not seduced and led away by it. It is not in the manifestation of outward power, but simple faithfulness in walking with God in the midst of evil. Thus in the church of Philadelphia there was faithfulness of walk which gave them inward power, although no outward display of power.
" Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie." Here we find this individual faithfulness in a secret walk with God, contrasted with those who cling to something established, where there was abundance of form, a fair show in the flesh, boasting themselves to be Jews, and attempting to set up again that which used to be the outward characteristic of the people of God, not seeing that " new " thing which God had now set up, and which now puts the heart to the test. They do not reject the. word of God (the Jews did not either); but it is not God's word that governs them. The Jews received the Scriptures, but they rejected Christ, and killed Him; as Jesus Himself said, " They will put you out of the synagogue." Nor was it without the notion that they were serving God in doing so: " The time cometh that he that killeth you will think that he doeth God service." But this was pure rejection of the light God sent: " And these things will they do, because they have not known the Father nor me." Any old truth which has gained credit in the world so as to be accounted orthodox, fails to put the heart to the test. It accredits nature: one is esteemed for it. If I can take religion and accredit myself with it, instead of having the heart put to the test by it in the exercise of faith, I may be quite sure that it is not the religion of God. Though it may be the truth as far as it goes, it is not faith in God. That is what this synagogue of the Jews were doing. They were setting aside Christ's name and Christ's word, for that which could be rested upon where there was no heart for Christ. Tradition, ordinances, ancestry, etc., were the things they loved, and not the word of Christ for themselves. It is quite true that the Jews had been God's people; but they had rejected and trampled under feet the name of Christ. And this is what makes all the difference; for now that Christ has been manifested what God is looking for is faithful obedience to His Son. Faithful adherence to Christ now is everything.
" I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." God did not own these pretenders to religious antiquity as His people. All they would get was just to know that Christ had loved this poor despised remnant: " To know that I have loved thee! " See now what the heart has to be satisfied with-not the present acknowledgment from those who profess to know God, while in works they deny Him, but the calm, settled confidence that Christ loves it. This it is which puts the heart to the test. If you want present enjoyment, bright pictures set before the mind, taste gratified, imagination fed, men gained, something of " reverend antiquity "; Christ is not in any of these things. " He is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever "; and He Himself is the Truth-" holy and true." And if we have the love of Jesus as a present thing in our souls, we have all we want in Him.
There are plenty of people asking, What is truth? With such these pretensions may have weight. The synagogue of Satan may be religion, ancient, and reverend, full of gorgeous attractions, and what has authority over the flesh (and accepted for us by those who, like Pilate, asked What is truth? and then crucified Jesus, who is the Truth, to please the priests of the day). The character of these last days is just this, that men are always seeking, and never coming to the knowledge of the truth. I have no need to be asking, what is truth, if I have it; what a man seeks he has not got. A man that is always hunting after truth acknowledges by his actions that he has not got it. Christ said, I am the truth; He is the center of all truth, and is the ground of everything that connects us with God. An infidel will raise doubts about everything, but establishes nothing; but we want something that is certain. The moment we have the Person of Christ, we have the Truth: " no man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Do I want to know what God is? what man is? I get in Christ a perfect picture of what God is to man, and what He is as a man to God. It is all in Christ: of course we have to advance in the knowledge of it. The heart that has Christ wants not the synagogue of Satan; the heart that has received His testimony has set to his seal that God is true. The soul knowing this is in the simplest way kept from evil. I have got grace too as well as truth-" Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
When I was living in a lie, it was grace that brought the truth to my mind; and what can a soul want more? It has sorrow indeed, by reason of the defiled place through which it is now passing; but there is no more uncertainty about its portion, it has got all in Christ. There is nothing wanting to add to the secret blessing. " I will make them to come and worship before thy feet " (that is, in the sense of doing homage) " and to know that I have loved thee." We know it now, not as deserving it indeed, for it is all of grace; but we have the present enjoyment of it through Christ's presence. We know that love of Christ which passes knowledge indeed, and the Father's love too; as He says, " I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them." The world does not know it now, but in that day the world shall know that the Father loved us as He loved His Son. When the heart gets hold of this love of Christ to it, it rests there; it is satisfied with the present enjoyment of Christ's love, although those around know nothing of the approbation it conveys to the heart. The Lord is now in various ways weaning our hearts from everything around us, in order that we may find, in the testimony of His personal love to us, that which strengthens our faith, settles the conscience, and guides the heart. Christ says, " I am the door," and that is the warrant for the sheep following Him out. In the time of Christ there was the Jewish order of things which God had set up; and there was no warrant for getting out of this Jewish system until Christ went out; but the heart, drawn and attached to Christ, had the special warrant of going after Him outside the established system-" following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth."
In this church of Philadelphia we have the promise which met the hope which the faithful had of being with Christ in glory. Identification with Him in His position connects them with Himself, and with the word of His patience. They had not all the professing church of one mind with them; and they were not yet enjoying the full result of His love (not having Christ personally and fully present with them, I mean); and if Christ's love is to be the guide of my conduct, what the heart wants is, that Christ should be with it, for if we love a person we surely want to be with him But having Christ in our hearts, we are keeping the word of His patience. Such is a trying, sifting, purging, exercising time, no doubt, but we must wait. And mark, further, how this blessed identification and connection with Himself is kept up all through, as it is not simply the word of patience, but " My patience." And why " My patience "? Because Christ is still waiting (see Psalm He); and it is this which determines all our conduct, for if Christ is waiting we must wait also. Christ has to wait in a state of expectancy, so to speak, in the exercise of patience, for the Father's time; and it is in this sense, I doubt not, that He is said not to know the time which the Father hath put in His own power. Christ has done all that was needed for His friends to present them to God, and is set down at the right hand of God, " expecting till his foes be made his footstool." Christ is waiting until He gathers in all His friends before He does, as He says, His " strange work " on the earth, in dealing with His foes. And hence this word of " My patience " is just what is needed, for we are waiting for that day of which Christ tells us (John 14), " I will come again and receive you unto myself."
We see all creation groaning around us, waiting for that day; and we too groan within ourselves, waiting for the redemption of the body; but all is in disorder till then. Where are the Jews, " still beloved for the fathers' sake "? They are as vagabonds and wanderers upon the face of the whole earth, without priest, without teraphim, without anything, as a teil tree and an oak when it has cast its leaves, though the Lord is working among them. If I look at the world all is sin and misery. If I look at every created thing it is groaning. Look at what calls itself the church: the universal cry is, " Who will show us any good "-who is satisfied with anything? I do not speak thus in the bad sense of dissatisfaction; but there is nothing on which the soul can rest. It is no matter: take whatever system you will. The general feeling is, that all the foundations of the world are out of course. The raven indeed may go and light upon some dead floating carcass; but the dove can find no rest for the sole of her foot, save in the ark. And what have we in the midst of the dense darkness of the night on which to rest our souls? Nothing but the certain expectation of the coming of the bright and morning Star. How long will Christ be waiting till He can deal in judgment, and when can He do this? When He has got His friends with Him, then He begins to act in the character of Judge, not indeed that He will at once cut them all off, but then it is that He will take to Himself His great power. What He is specially waiting for is, that those who have His portion should be with Himself and as Himself. We are predestinated to be conformed to His image. " He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied," when He gets His bride with Himself and as Himself. If the mighty man, the mystic man, the man-child of Rev. 12 is to act, He must first be complete (of course He is so, essentially so, in Himself, but as Head over all things to the church which is His body). The head and the body must be united before He can act as having this title before the world; because the mystic man as a whole cannot take it until the church is. taken up to Him. For not until then-until the church, the body, is united to the Head, Christ, in heaven-is the mystic man in that sense complete; and therefore, the church must be taken up before Christ can come in judgment.
What is the great hindrance to the full blessing of the church now? All from the beginning have failed: Adam, man before the flood, Noah, man under law. Then take Christianity- how have the tares been sown among the wheat! Priesthood, through the influence of Satan, taking the place of Christ, and our union with Him. After this-summed up in the final apostasy, the acting of judicial power to set aside the evil begins. The first act of power, when the mystic man is complete, will be to cast Satan and his angels down (Rev. 12:99And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:9)), to cast them out of heaven; and they are never seen there any more at all, but they are cast down into the earth; and then the devil has great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time; and, in his great rage, he stirs up all things in his full character of adversary against the Lord Jesus Christ. Then the Lord will come with His saints to execute judgment upon the earth. He must set things to rights by removing the evil. And as soon as His enemies are made His footstool, then He brings in the fullness of blessing. But we must keep in mind that the judgment is consequent upon the association of the church with Christ. The mystic man must be complete, in that sense of it, before He can execute judgment. Then Christ takes an entirely different character. Until He takes us up into the glory, He is presented as a Savior (and even then, there will be doubtless-after the church's removal-a saved remnant). But then the acceptable time is ended; and then in " righteousness he doth judge and make war." And when He comes forth thus, we shall fully understand why it is the word of His patience now; for till then, till He take unto Him His great power and reign, we are linked with Him in heart and mind in the word of His patience; and the blessing of this to us is our association with Christ Himself, the perfect linking up with Christ in all things. As a Man (not at all touching the divine glory of His Person, but as taking the official character of a servant) Christ has to wait until God in His good pleasure puts all things under His feet; and this, I doubt not, as I have said, is the meaning of the words-" of that day knoweth no man, neither the Son, but the Father." But thus linked up with Christ, and having His present love as the satisfying portion of the soul, we had rather wait and have it with Him, that have it before Him. Thorough association with Christ Himself is the proper character of the church of God; for it is not merely that it is blest, but that it is associated with Him who blesses. We are His bride: this is our proper place; and whenever we descend from this, we get away from the full power of God's thoughts of love about us and about what He has made Christ to be for us.
Whatever is said of Christ in the day of glory, we find the church is associated with Him in it all-in His Melchisedec character, for instance, the highest place in authority as King, and the nearest in worship as Priest: we also are made kings and priests. Eve was associated with Adam in the dominion; but there was nothing in the whole creation which could have had this place. As it is written, " for Adam there was not a help-meet found for him "; but when Eve, as the bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, was brought to him he could say, " This is now [now, this time, for that is the force of the original], bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh." There was a help meet found for him. This is equally true of the Lord and the church, for He can say, " now this is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh," and can rejoice and delight in the production of His own love.
The Lord forbid that we should sink down from this our true place; and may He give unto us a deep and abiding sense of our being thus linked up in full blessed association with Himself; for the heart of Christ could not be satisfied without it, and neither should ours. It is not a question of our worthiness (for in ourselves, as in flesh, we are vile sinners), but of Christ's affection. True humbleness is not to think evil of ourselves, but not to think about ourselves at all. But, mark, it is a much harder thing to forget self, than even to have evil thoughts about self. If we are not humble, we must be humbled.
" Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee," etc. The Lord says, If I own you as keeping " the word of my patience," and not as having any strength, but as in connection with myself, then " I will keep thee," etc. Thus He connects us with Himself, a poor feeble folk though we be, like the conies who were but a feeble folk, yet made their nest in the rock. " I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come on all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Now as regards the consequences, what a comfort is here! It was not a question of strength at all, but of being kept from a terrible time that was coming, " to try them that dwell upon the earth." These last words describe the moral condition of a class.
Do you suppose that God takes pleasure in afflicting His His people? No, in truth He does not want to put you into temptation; but if you have got into a position in which you are mixed up with these dwellers on the earth, upon whom the hour of temptation is coming, you must be dealt with to be delivered from that on which that dreadful hour is coming. The gospel is preached now, and is taking out souls from the world; and the whole thoughts, feelings, desires, and affections of the saints should be looking out for the day of glory. And if they have got into Christ's place of patience, they do not want sifting as the world does; but if they are mixed up with the world, they must be sharers in the troubles of the hour of temptation which is coming to try those who dwell upon the earth, or practically sifted before to be rescued from it. A time is coming when the beast will blaspheme those that dwell in heaven, but he cannot touch them. When we know our heavenly character, it makes us strangers and pilgrims upon the earth, instead of dwelling here, and seeking our portion here; but those who are dwellers here must come into this hour of temptation which is coming to try those who dwell on the earth. And mark here, that this is a distinct thing from the tribulation spoken of in Matt. 24 That time of trouble is confined to Jerusalem; as it is said in Jeremiah, " it is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it." But here, this is a time of trouble, " which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Those who have kept the word of Christ's patience now, He will keep from that time. If the Lord is now getting fruit from them in a way which this temptation is intended to produce, then there will be no need for them to be tried by it.
But now, see how He encourages them: " Behold, I come quickly," as if He should say, " You must go on " bearing My lot in patience, and in the cross too, if you will share My lot and glory; but " I come quickly." It is not His coming, as presented to Sardis, as a thief in the night; but what Christ would press upon the church now is, that His return is a speedy thing. He does not tell them the moment, but puts His coming before them as their comfort, joy, and hope, and thus fixes the heart upon Himself; as it is not so much that He is coming quickly, but that it is Himself that is coming, " I, Jesus," etc. etc. Oh! if the heart has tasted God's love, what comfort it is after all to rest in Himself, as at the close of this book. After Christ has led the mind of the church through those things which He is going to do on earth, then He brings back the heart of the church to Himself-" I, Jesus."
That which characterizes the church of Philadelphia is its immediate connection with Himself; it is Christ Himself who is coming. It is neither knowledge nor prophecy that can satisfy the heart; but the thought that Jesus is coming to take me to Himself is the blessed hope of one who is attached to Him by grace. Prophecy concerns Christ's coming to the earth; but my going to Christ is the proper and blessed hope of one united to Christ by faith. I solemnly respect and reverence God's warning about coming judgment, etc.; but it is not a matter of affection. God's purposes about Jerusalem, Babylon, etc., of which prophecy speaks, are most important and instructive to the mind; but the affections are not drawn out by knowing about the doom of Babylon, and Antichrist. I love Christ; therefore I long to see Him. But prophecies of coming judgment do not connect the spirit and heart with the Person of the Lord Jesus.
Then we have this warning: " Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown?' Oh! may the Lord give us to keep His word, and to be looking for Him as a present thing. If the devil could take away the hope of the Lord's coming as a present thing, this would be taking away our hope and crown. No man or devil can take away anything from us, if we have but that clear sense of faith which connects us with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as a present thing. To lose this is to lose spiritual power; and anything that robs us of spiritual power in our association with Christ, is to rob us of present blessing, and of that which is the path towards our crown. And, beloved brethren, we are now going through every kind of thing that is likely to rob us of our crown- everything which puts faith in a coming Jesus to the test, and calls it in question.
In the case of the ten virgins, they all slumbered and slept; the wise were as fast asleep as the foolish, and at midnight, when the cry was made, " Behold, the Bridegroom cometh " they all rose and trimmed their lamps. There was no difference in this respect; but the one had the oil of the Spirit, the other not; and between the cry going forth and the actual coming of the Bridegroom, there was plenty of time for the lamps to be going out if not supplied with oil; and hence the manifest difference between the virgins was in the supply of oil which they had. If the first thought in the hearts of the foolish virgins had been the Bridegroom Himself, they would have been thinking of the light that He would want when He came; but they were occupied with other things, satisfied with merely keeping company with the virgins. The dress, and the lamps without the oil, would suffice to place them among the company; but alas! without the oil they could not keep their lamps burning for their Lord till He came. Still, there were those who were fitted to receive Him, " and when the Bridegroom came, they that were ready went in with him to the wedding, and the door was shut." And so it is with us. The cry has gone forth, and between this and His actual coming the Lord is testing us whether our hearts are set upon Him or not.
We have now only time left to consider the promise: " Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God," etc. Here we see how definitely all the promises are connected with the time of glory-the " new Jerusalem "-here the heart is lifted up into its own proper dwelling-place. Are we taking the position of heavenly dwellers while walking this earth? Remark in how thorough a manner the saints are connected with the heavenly Jerusalem, the eternal dwelling-place of him that overcometh. He shall be in God's temple, in contrast with the synagogue of Satan, in the full enjoyment of the things of God (every purpose of His love fully brought out). " Him will I make a pillar." He who was a faithful but weak one in the earth, when the professing church was great but not fulfilling the purpose of God as the " pillar and ground of the truth," shall then be the very pillar of strength, and that the very strength of God, because there had been firmness against the power of seduction.
It is always " my God." Throughout Christ keeps up this connection with Himself. He was once in appearance the weak one on the earth; He says, " I have been rejected and you have taken the place of rejection with Me, and I know you have been faithful to Me; I go to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God." He is the patient One who waits the Father's time for the glory which is due to Him, and we have part in His patience.
" I will write upon him the name of my God," the way in which Christ as a man knows God: " You shall have that name publicly set upon you, as you have not denied My name down here-' the city of my God,' waited for in faith; this is your place." Abraham looked for a city, whose builder and maker was God. It was a heavenly city they wanted for themselves on the earth, even when the flesh had built one here. This heavenly citizenship shall then be stamped upon the faithful, in the city of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the stranger on the earth. If men are looking for an ecclesiastical stability, a present establishment of things, they can have it now; but then it is not according to God's word: if content to walk simply with Christ now, waiting until God owns a city as His (" the city of my God "), they shall have it then: it comes down out of heaven from God. When Charles II was away from his country, those who were attached to his person felt themselves strangers in the land while their master was absent. And so it is with the Christian now; he belongs to Christ; he is a child of the day, waiting for Christ and the day of His appearing.
" My new name." It is not the old name of Messiah, but His wondrous new name, taken as the result of a heavenly redemption. We shall have what is stable then, though we have it not now in one sense.
May the Lord give us to know what it is to be really associated with Christ Himself, and to know this blessed thought of God about us, " that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace," etc. He has associated us with the object of all His infinite delight-His eternal delight; for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, and therefore have the privilege and portion of Jesus Himself. May God keep our hearts untainted by this present evil world and in freshness of affection to Himself. This can only be by keeping in communion with Christ Himself. To know our portion in Him, to know the value of His name, gives courage and strength to keep His word and not deny His name.