(Notes of Addresses)
FIRST ADDRESS: Rev. i. 10—ii. 17.
In the Book of the Revelation we see the Lord Jesus in His judicial character, judging first the church and secondly the world. With the first it is in His priestly grace, acting on our behalf in heaven. The church is not here viewed as the Body of Christ, but is looked at as a responsible witness for Christ in the world; as Paul said to the Corinthians, ‘‘Ye are the epistle [not epistles] of Christ’’—the representative of Christ in the world while He is absent. The church is indeed a faulty epistle, but the world only learns of Christ through the church. The world should learn something of Christ in each of us—in one way from you and another from me, and jointly we should give a bright testimony.
The Lord Jesus is walking up and down in the midst of the assemblies. See verses 13-16. John falls at His feet as dead—the same John who had pillowed his head on the Lord’s bosom when He was here. John sees Him now in glory as Judge. The Lord speaks and assures John of Who He is, the First and the Last, the Eternal One, as in Isaiah xli. 4; xliv. 6; xviii. 12.
John was about to see things likely to make him tremble, but the Lord told him He was now the Living One and had the keys of Hades and of death. Hades is not a place but a condition; when it is said a man is in Hades it means he is not in the body.
The Lord assures His saints of His perfect power over all that can harm them. The Lord Jesus has robbed Satan of his power.
In these seven Epistles, all professing Christians are addressed.
The Church of Rome began as the church of God. But when evil is allowed to go on unjudged, the company of so-called Christians ceases to be an assembly of God, and the place of an obedient Christian is to ‘‘come out’’ from it. ‘We cannot come out of the professing church, but we can separate from evil.
What the Lord Jesus approved of when these addresses were written He approves of now. What He hated then He hates now.
The Epistles answer in order to what has actually taken place in the history of the church. They have a moral application to us: ‘‘He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the assemblies.’’ What the Lord has said He says to us now, and it is individual in application.
This gives the Epistles great importance. In each one, character, failure and reward answer to each other. The Lord still walks up and down. ,He sees all—the bazaars, entertainments, etc., etc. Nothing escapes His notice. ‘He mentions what He can approve—works, labour, patience and suffering—‘‘for My name’s sake hast laboured and hast not grown weary [fainted].’’But because He loves them He has to tell them, ‘‘Thou hast left thy first love.” We may labour and suffer for Christ, but when the spring of action is. not love. to Him, then He is not satisfied with these labours. He cares about our love and seeks for it. Nothing makes up for loss of love to Him. Love is satisfied only by the return of love. Mercy and compassion find satisfaction in their own exercise, but not so love.
Lukewarmness is the cause of failure. All seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ. This is where failure came in first.
In the first three letters, the assemblies are called upon to get back to the place from which they had fallen. The church left her first love early in her history. Has she ever repented and got back? Her end will be removal from the place of testimony in the world.
The Lord Jesus commends their attitude towards the Nicolaitanes, who it is thought by early writers were immoral and licentious persons living when Christianity first began.
But there is something very sad to notice here. Evil is inside, not merely outside. The overcomer has to overcome evil within done in the name of Christ. What is the remedy for loss of love to Christ? Feasting on His love. He is the Fountain of it.
“Paradise of God’? does not mean the Paradise where Adam dwelt, but the heaven where God dwells. There one who overcomes will dwell, and God will be his joy and satisfaction to all eternity.
The Lord reminds the saints of His suffering and death: in this world. They were poor and despised here but rich in His sight.
We find ritualism here, Gentiles taking Jewish ground. In Ephesus it is clericalism, persons saying they are apostles and are not.
Wholesale persecution did not begin in the early apostolic days. Probably it was at this time that Paul and perhaps. Peter perished at Rome during the first great persecution by the Imperial Power.
But prior to that the persecution was limited, and was not carried on by Gentiles; only by Jews.
Many hundreds died in the Smyrna period, but the Lord promised them a crown of life. You may die the first death, but the second cannot touch you. This persecution, the duration of which was limited, though not literally, to ‘‘ten days,” ended about A.D, 313. It also acted as a check on the declension that had set in.
About A.D. 313 Constantine arose within the Roman Empire, and looked about for support to gather the Christians around himself. He professed to adopt Christianity. He stopped the persecution and overthrew the enemies of the church. Those who had been trodden down now found themselves in honour. Constantine’s soldiers were ordered to be baptised. A Council was formed and the Emperor sat .on his throne as chairman.
Seemingly Christianity had defeated paganism, but in reality true Christianity became swamped. This is what is brought out in the address to Pergamos. What the Lord Jesus thought of it can best be told by the first verse (ii. 12).' The Lord has ‘‘the sharp sword with two edges.’’? He comes to them as Judge,
“I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is.’’ Pergamos was a corrupt, idolatrous place, and the assembly in a bad state through forgetfulness of Christ.
The Lord knew where they dwelt. Suppose nowadays a young Christian in a godless home, the Lord knows where he dwells,
“Thou holdest fast My name and hast not denied My faith.’’? We can easily fall into indifference and in a measure forget Him and the assembly. But He knows, it is no matter of indifference with Him.
“I know your works.’’? He knows when we give up something for Him. He knows when we go to the gospel meeting despite its being a wet evening; He knows when we are absent from meetings and why.
In Pergamos, the church forgets her pilgrim character and settles down where Satan’s throne is. Roman Catholicism developed out of this period.
But the Lord Jesus approves what He can. They had not denied Him. And before He tells them of the development of evil He makes mention of what His grace could commend.
G. F .C.