Unveiling of Jesus Christ
The Concordant Version
the messenger of the ecclesia in Ephesus write: `Now this He is
saying Who is holding the seven stars in His right hand, Who is
walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
6And he said to me, "These sayings are faithful and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, commissions His messenger to show to His slaves what must occur swiftly. 7And lo! I am coming swiftly! Happy is he who is keeping the sayings of the prophecy of this scroll."
8And I, John, am the one hearing and observing these things. And when I hear and observe, I fall to worship in front of the feet of the messenger who is showing me these things. 9And he is saying to me, "See! No! a fellow slave of yours am I, and of your brethren, the prophets and those keeping the sayings of this scroll. Worship God!" 10And he is saying to me, "You should not be sealing the sayings of the prophecy of this scroll, for the era is near. 11Let the injurer injure still; and let the filthy one be filthy still; and let the just one do righteousness still; and let the holy one be hallowed still."
12"Lo! I am coming swiftly, and My wage is with Me, to pay each one as his work is. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Origin and the Consummation. 14Happy are those who are rinsing their robes, that it will be their license to the log of life, and they may be entering the portals into the city. 15Outside are curs, and enchanters, and paramours, and murderers, and idolaters, and everyone fabricating and fondling falsehood.
16"I, Jesus, send My messenger to testify these things to you in the ecclesias. I am the root and the race of David, the resplendent morning star. 17And the spirit and the bride are saying, 'Come!' and let him who is hearing say, 'Come !' And let him who is thirsting come. Let him who will, take the water of life gratuitously.
THE darkest hour of earth's history leaves the people of God without a light to guide them if we take the seven epistles to ourselves, as well as those of James and Peter and John and Jude. How can the era of judgment use the doctrines of grace? And how can we find anything for us in the stern demands and threats which characterize God's dealing with His earthly people in preparation for the millennial reign of righteousness?
No lengthy interpretation of these seven epistles is necessary once we grasp their true place in the crisis which comes at the end of this eon. Like gems they fit in their settings. Difficulties not only disappear, but are turned into helps.
Ephesus is the only place in these epistles which seems to connect us with Paul's ministry. While the words "to Ephesus" were not in the original draft of Ephesians as prepared by Paul, it seems certain that the letter was sent to Ephesus as well as to other places. Paul had spent a long time in that city. The question arises, if the doctrine here set forth is so much below the level of his teaching, how could this letter have been sent to them? The answer is simple. It is sent to Ephesus, not as it was in the days of the apostles, but as it will be in the Lord's day. Then this epistle will have its true application. The One like a son of mankind does not walk in the midst of the lampstands now with a sharp two-edged saber issuing from His mouth.
The highest reward to the overcomer falls far short of the lowest place in the present grace. Only those who repent, and return to their first love and do the former acts may eat of the tree of life which is in the center of the paradise of God. This paradise will be on the earth. Every believer today no matter what his conduct may be, is blessed with every spiritual blessedness in Christ. His faithfulness and sufferings may be rewarded with still higher dignities and glories than this, but he will never descend to the highest award offered to the conqueror in Ephesus.
On the other hand, what a delightful prospect for one who lives amidst the judgments of those days! Though offering no attraction to us, a place in paradise will be a rare inducement to one who is striving to stem the tide of evil in the day of His indignation.
Those who have adhered to the historical fulfillment of these epistles have had much ado to account for the Nicolaitans. History knows nothing of any such cult. The attempt to connect them with Nicholas, a proselyte of Antioch, one of the seven deacons appointed by the apostles (Acts 6:5), is without any foundation in fact. This is the only body of people definitely named. The history of the church abounds with the names of heretical sects, not one of whom bore this appellation. The conclusion is obvious. No such cult has yet existed.
The Nicolaitans are referred to only twice (Rev.2:6,15). First the Ephesians hate their acts. Some in Pergamos hold their doctrine. On the principle that these churches represent stages in the church's history, this sect existed from the beginning until the Reformation, and should have been very prominent. It has been applied to the clergy, but we fear the clergy did not disappear at the Reformation. They are still with us.
The name, as shown in the sublinear of the Concordant Version, is composed of two words CONQUER-PEOPLE. It seems to refer to some conqueror. If we can find out who this conqueror is, we shall soon see who the Nicolaitans are.
There are many conquerors in the Unveiling, but only one who is hateful to God. At the opening of the first seal a victor's wreath is given to the rider on the white horse and he came forth conquering and that he should conquer (Rev.6:2). His presence is followed by war and famine and pestilence. He is the false Messiah. In the next section of this scroll he appears as a wild beast. Of him it is written: "And to it was given to do battle with the saints and to conquer them" (Rev.13:7). Here is the Nicholas, or conqueror of the people, whose adherents are the Nicolaitans. He it is who will conquer the two witnesses (Rev.11:7). He it is who scatters the power of the holy people (Dan.12:7).
His conquest of the two witnesses carries him to the zenith of earthly power, especially in the sight of Israel. The witnesses were able to hold their own against all who came against them. Fire devoured all who would injure them. Their testimony was upheld by superhuman power, yet the wild beast is able to conquer them. No wonder they cry "Who is like the wild beast?" "Who is able to battle with it?" No wonder that the whole earth marvels after the wild beast (Rev.13:3,4).
How can we miss the evident conclusion: The Nicolaitans are the Israelitish worshipers of the wild beast. They are the Herodians of the end time. Hence they are hated by the Lord and those who are true to Him.
The doctrine of the Nicolaitans is associated with the teaching of Balaam (Num.25). While we may eat things sacrificed to idols, so long as it is not offending the conscience of others, it will be a sign of apostasy when the wild beast sets up his image. Hence it is punishable with death (Rev.2:16). The worship of the image and its accompanying lewdness is the height of apostasy and of this the Nicolaitans are guilty. Their end is seen when the true Conqueror comes on His white horse (19:11) when the votaries of the wild beast are killed by the saber which comes out of His mouth (19:21).
In Smyrna the victor receives the wreath of life. The "crown" here spoken of is not the regal crown denoting rule. It is the award of effort, the prize offered to those who can win it. Do we get life thus? The gracious gift of God is eonian life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.6:23). We will never wear a wreath of life, for we do nothing to win it. We may win a wreath of righteousness (2 Tim.4:8), even though we may not be famed for our just conduct toward our fellow man. Real righteousness today consists in love for the advent of Christ.
Our life is hid together with Christ in God (Col.3:3). What appeal, then, can there be to us in the promise to the conqueror in Symrna? He will not be injured by the second death. Neither will we, whether we are faithful or not.
Though such a reward cannot help us, it will be full of encouragement in the days to come to those who stare death in the face at every turn. Many, no doubt, will be faithful, and die the first death, and thus find immunity from the second death by their martyrdom.
The ten days of affliction has been variously interpreted. Some say it refers to ten separate persecutions, some to ten years of oppression. History knows nothing of ten days which are so marked as to call for such special mention.
If, however, we refer this to the future, at the time of the fifth seal (Rev.6:9) all need for mutilating the text is gone. By faith we understand that the pogrom under the fifth seal will last ten days.
The Lord's attitude in Pergamos is impossible in this day of grace. No saber issues from His mouth. He does not battle with His own.
The awards to the victors—the manna and the pebble—have no point for us. No literal manna falls, and the figurative manna—spiritual food—is free for all. The pebble, signifying an allotment in the kingdom, would be no reward for us, for we could make no use of it unless we desert our higher heavenly heritage.
In Israel, however, in the days which are swiftly coming, it will be an unspeakable boon to be sustained by manna through the time of trial and find an allotment in the land in the millennial kingdom. It is a reward worthy of their most earnest effort.
Antipas (2:13) needless to say, has not yet appeared.
We shall rule messengers in the celestial realms: Israel will rule the nations in the day of Yahweh. The voice of prophecy is clear on this point and is acknowledged by many who "take" these seven epistles for the church. The conquerors in Thyatira must certainly be Israelites, for they are given authority over the nations, and they shepherd them with an iron club.
The Lord's coming to the unwatchful ones in Sardis will be as a thief (Rev.3:3). We, however, are not in darkness that that day should overtake us as a thief (1 Thess.5:4). But, you say, suppose we should not watch? The answer is plain, God did not appoint us to indignation, but to the procuring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who dies for us that, whether we are watching or drowsing, we should live at the same time together with Him (1 Thess.5:9,10).
No amount of unfaithfulness will take from us the life we have in Christ. Paul speaks of certain ones "whose names are in the scroll of life" (Phil.4:3), in such a way as to suggest that this applies only to a class. It is evident that some of his helpers were of the Circumcision (Col.4:11). And the use of the phrase elsewhere makes it evident that it applies only to those whose life is contingent on their behavior, hence their names may be erased. Such a thought is absolutely impossible for those in grace. Hence we have already a greater security than comes to the conqueror in Sardis.
The prize of the Philadelphian conquerors is as earthly as any of the rest. A place of honor in the millennial temple and the New Jerusalem cannot be coveted by any who have learned their high calling in Christ.
Who, in these days, profess to be Jews, and are not? When have they worshiped before the feet of true Jews?
Only the Laodicean promise has some likeness to present truth. Those who conqueror will reign with Him. But now it is those who endure who will reign with Him (2 Tim.2:12).
Is it not remarkable that the highest reward, that of reigning with Christ, is the only one which is not lower than what we possess by faith, apart from faithfulness? Yet it is evident that the throne here mentioned is the earthly throne which He occupies as the Son of Mankind. Our rule will be universal, and in the celestial realms.
The fact that there are seven epistles doubtless is significant especially as each one ends with the injunction, in the plural, to hear what the spirit is saying to the ecclesias. Just as Paul's nine epistles to seven ecclesias are intended to be read by all, so these letters, though addressed to individual ecclesias with reference to their special condition, are intended for them all and will be read by all. They are a marvelous picture of Israel's condition at the time of the end.
The messages to the seven ecclesias, together with chapter 22:6-17, constitute the closing prophetic ministry to Israel. They belong with the prophetic scrolls of the Hebrew Scriptures, along with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the minor prophets. Is it not most fitting that He Whose spirit spoke in the prophets of old, should Himself consummate their ministry when the time of fulfillment is near at hand? Let us remember that a prophet was not the normal means of communication with God. There is no provision for the office in the law. There are no prophets in the millennium. There will be none in the new earth. Only when priests are apostate and where kings are corrupt do we find God calling a spokesman to announce His Word to the people. At the time of the end Israel will be far from God. No king will rule them in God's fear. No priest will instruct them in God's ways. In their deepest defection and extremity, the Anointed Himself takes up the role of Prophet and adds this glory to His many honors.
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