THE GREETING AND
Contrast with the greetings in the epistles—The
divine Name here—Shaddai, Jehovah, Father—The seven Spirits: why
seven?—Is. xi—Hidden beauties—"from Jesus Christ"— three-fold beauty, awakening a corresponding three-fold response—Who
sings this: the Jew or the Church ?—The Enoch-warning, "He cometh
!"—This our testimony to the world; not the rapture—The divine
(V. 4-6). "The Greeting,"
which reads literally:
"John to the seven assemblies which are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from Who Is, and Who Was and Who [is] to Come; and from
the seven Spirits which [are] before His Throne; and from Jesus Christ, the
faithful Witness, the First-born from among the dead, and the ruler of the
Kings of the earth.
"To Him Who loves us, and washed us from our sins
in His blood, and made us a Kingdom, priests to God and His Father: to Him the
glory and the might to the ages of the ages. Amen."
How full of
significance is this greeting in its strong contrast to that in all the
epistles we have hitherto read. In the first place we note that it is neither
to one specific assembly, nor to the assembly as a whole scattered all over the
earth. It picks out just seven assemblies, all of which are in Asia. But the
number seven has in itself the idea of unity, inasmuch as it is the well-known
number of completeness or perfection. Surely, then, this number is selected to
give us, in some sort, a picture or view of the Church as a whole. There are
other assemblies or churches, in Asia, that are here omitted, as Colosse.
Clearly, then, there was a divine intent in selecting seven; and not only are
we justified in recognizing this, but are really compelled to do so. Every one,
who has read the bock at all, must have noted how strangely it has everywhere
marked on it this number of completeness. It is everywhere; and the closer
one’s study of it, the more this fact is discerned. Not only is it
prominent on seals, trumpets, vials, etc., but even certain words again and
again occur in it exactly seven times in a way that can only be accounted for
by design. Is it not to tell us that God’s written revelation to man is
completed by this Book? That, in it, He has completed all that He has to say to
us in this way, till we are at Home with Himself? The seven churches then will
give us a complete view of the One Church in seven different conditions.
Asia is of course not the continent we know by that name, nor even
Asia-Minor; but only a province in the extreme west of this, bordering on the
Aegean Sea. We have the old familiar greeting of grace and peace; but no longer
are these from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ; but from Him Who Is,
Who Was, Who is to Come - and this is too significant to pass without
attention. We not be satisfied with reading. We must seek to hear.
Moses was sent to the captive Israelites, he desired to know what to say to
those who should ask who sent him. The answer was, "I am that I am." "I am,"
"the ever existing One," hath sent thee. And again in Ex. vi we get, "I am
Jehovah. And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the Name
of God-Almighty (El Shaddai), but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them."
But does not this look like a contradiction? Not known by the name Jehovah to
Abraham! Did not Abraham repeatedly build an altar to Jehovah (Gen. xii :8),
and call upon the name of Jehovah (Gen. xii:8)? So Isaac (Gen. xxvi :2 and
Jacob (Gen. xxxii :9), and yet God was not known to them by His Name Jehovah!
How can this be accounted for? It is a difficulty, and infidelity seizes on it
with delight. But Wisdom’s children ever justify her, and they wait,
confident not merely of an explanation, but of a profound truth and blessing in
that explanation. We only truly know what we use, and we only use what meets
our present need. Abraham in one sense clearly knew God as Jehovah, and built
altars to Him, yet he entered not into what that Name meant for him. He did not
walk with, rest upon Him, revealed in the character expressed by the name
Jehovah. It was but an external acquaintance with the Name; not a knowledge
with power. But God had revealed Himself to him as El Shaddai. The One able to
do anything and everything, and Abraham thus "walked with God," and God tried
him, to see how he had learned this first lesson, that He was teaching man.
Abraham had learned It by heart, for he counted that God was able even to raise
Isaac from the dead. He knew God as El Shaddai.
But Israel in Egypt
needs to learn another lessons They are the children of the patriarchs, and yet
are they in bondage. Does God live? Is He, and Is He faithful to His promises?
The Name "Jehovah" answers this, and it is under this Name Israel shall finally
be saved and brought into blessing, and she shall sing, "For His mercy endureth
forever" when at last she has learned that Name by heart, as she shall in a day
soon to come; for it is in this character God meets her need; and let us repeat
we only truly know what meets felt need. Is it not ever so? Surely nothing can
be in one sense more simple than the gospel of our salvation.
understand it, but those who, since it is adapted to their felt needs, take it
in, and use it. They that received the seed on good ground alone understands
the word, as Matt. Xiii :23 tells us.
For the poor believer now, with
no external deliverance; no literally divided sea, or stricken rock; no.
constant evidence to the very senses, of His care, in clothes never wearing old
and foot never weary - what does he need? To know Him in a closer, sweeter
character than ever. To cry no shadow of doubt or show of distance: "Father,"
and that is how we learn Him now by the Son’s gracious teaching (Matt.
xi). But of Father you will not find so used in this Book from beginning to
end. How can this possibly be accounted for, except that it has a different
Evidently, then nothing can be more profoundly and
suggestive than this Name coming ‘Who Is, Who was, Who Is to Come." Will
it not catch the ear of Israel on earth? At least will it not suggest even to
us this further truth that is, as the earth with its government is the primary
theme of the book, the children of the fathers, to whom were the promises, will
be the medium by which that government is to be displayed ? Surely this is
harmonious with all preceding Scripture. God tells out His grace by the church
in heaven ; His government by Israel on the earth. Thus, when that book,
written within and without, that tells of God's purposes as to the earth to he
brought into effect, is to be opened, how does the Only Worthy One present
Himself? As "the Lion of the Tribe of Judah; the Root of David."
not here do we so see Him; for the greeting goes on "from the Seven Spirits
which are before the Throne.We know perfectly well that this language must not
be taken literally as though there were actually Seven Persons; for the Third
Person of the Trinity is One ; yet just as the seven churches express the seven
characters of the one church, so the seven Spirits are the seven complete
characters of the One Spirit, and this strongly confirms our view of the unity
of the seven churches. You remember that we get something very like this in Is.
xi :2, "And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom,
and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge,
and of fear of the Lord." Here, as in the One Lampsland with its seven lamps,
we get first the main shaft in "the Spirit of the Lord," and then the three
pairs of branches on either side, in the various characters. It is no longer
Unity that is the prominent idea, as it is today, when "by One Spirit are we
all baptised into one body"- "and have been all made to drink into One Spirit,"
i Cor. xii :ii but the activities of the Spirit in sevenfold, or complete,
By looking a little closer at that lovely antitype of the
Lampstand, we shall only see, as always the case with His work, finished
beauties. There are clearly three pairs, but each pair has its own peculiar
sphere in harmony with the threefold relationship of man by his tripartite
being. We may call them personal or self-ward, earthward, Godward.
The first pair, 'Wisdom and understanding"- the
personal qualities of the Lord. What He ever is in Himself irrespective of any
The second pair,
"Counsel and might." Evidently, from the first word, this pair has others in
the same sphere as Himself, in view, whilst the second word suggests power to
carry out what He knows of right in this scene. It is the earth to which men
are in relationship by the soul.
"Knowledge and the fear if Jehovah" clearly speaks of a relationship with Him
who is above, the word of knowledge being that always used for the knowledge of
God. It is the relationship of the Spirit with God. Body, soul and spirit all
absolutely controlled by the Spirit of Jehovah.
But now comes another
greeting "from Jesus Christ" in threefold beauty. First as the "Faithful
Witness ;" so shall we see Him later in His letter to Laodicea. Next as "the
first born of the dead." And finally as "The prince of the Kings of the
It tells out the whole blessed story. He was here as the one
only faithful witness amid the lapsed testimony of Israel. Aye, but in this
devil-ruled world, the witness is only the martyr, and, as such, He was slain.
But all carries out God's counsels. He is the first of the dead to be raised,
and He shall yet have the crown of all the earth.
What wonder if such a
sight awakens a responsive song? What wonder if immediately we have, as if from
some unseen chorus that cannot keep silence, a joyous doxology: "To Him that
loves was not this love one of His manifold perfections that made Him the
faithful witness? "And washed us from our sins in His own blood."
it not to this that God turned that death to be for us? And did He not raise
Him from the dead, as evidence of its perfect sufficiency and effectiveness?
Aye, no angels are singing here, but it is all who know His name Jesus
"And hath made us kings and priests unto God
and His Father." So that Love works on. And if He is to be King, as He
surely is, not alone will He reign, but the objects of His love shall be with
Him; for 'tis
"Love that gives not as the world, but
All it possesses with its loved co-heirs."
Do you not
see, dear reader, with me, that each form in which this Blessed One presents
Himself is met by its corresponding cry of responsive delight? And do not you
and I too want to add our little "Amen" to the ascription of "glory and
dominion to Him for ever and ever?"
There can surely be no possible
uncertainty as to the company that is here singing. Who in all the wide
creation can thus boldly declare that the Lord Jesus Christ loves them? You may
answer that all the elect, whether angels or men, know this. Granted; but who
could add, "and washed us from our sins in His own blood ?" Angels are quite
silent now, and must leave this sweetest melody to the redeemed from among men,
and of these, the church alone could so sing; for no Israelite ever knew thus
surely the infinite blessing of a redemption accomplished. No blood of any
sacrifice he ever offered could thus make him perfect. And this saves us from
the more modern error of taking the whole book away from the Lord's people of
this dispensation, and giving it exclusively to the Jew, or Israel. It is
simply impossible to think of any Jew in unbelief in the present day, or any
pious remnant of the future, when in the gloom of that tribulation in which
they suffer the "terrors of God," raising this joyous song. They greatly err
who exclude the church from her part in the book. For how strong, how sure, how
clear is the joy - there is no question and no veil. Sin has been a barrier,
but is so no longer - this company like Enoch is walking with God; and a joyous
happy walk that ever is.
But not only did Enoch walk with God; he
lifted up, in his day, a prophetic voice to the evil about him. To him, in that
holy walk of separation, God told the secrets of coming judgment, and Enoch
prophesied, saying: "Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints to
Surely it is another Enoch that now again utters
exactly the same prophetic warning, only now it is not a single person, but a
company, yet with but one testimony, one voice, since indwelt by One Spirit.
"Behold He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they which
pierced Him, and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him."
Yes, one may enjoy the comfort of this thought; that every single one who can
share in the song can share in the prophetic warning. We differ to our shame
amongst ourselves in details, but there is not one, no matter what the
differences, who has been "washed from his sins in His blood," but knows surely
that "He is coming with clouds ;" we are "of one heart, of one mouth here." But
may we not go a little further thus hand in hand? Can there be the slightest
question as to point of time that is here in view? It is the revelation in
power and glory of the earth-rejected Jesus. The world saw Him last with every
mark of its hatred on His holy Body: His Head, still bearing the marks of
thorny crown, was bowed in death; His hands and feet were still nailed to the
shameful cross with a dead thief on either side; His side was pierced with the
spear; and there it looked on Him, as it went its way that Friday evening so
long ago. It has never, from that hour, seen Him since; for then Love and Faith
alone were permitted to wait upon Him, and only to His Own dear people did He
show Himself alive after His resurrection.
But how sharp the contrast!
Once more as of old "He maketh the clouds His chariot ;" and, in a majesty that
is no less than divine, every eye beholds Him. No saint or angel are here
noticed, although He shall not lack such attendance. He must have the
unrivalled place, the undivided gaze of every eye, and when that is the case
there is little room for controversy. "They also that pierced Him"- not the one
hired soldier whose spear proved that He was dead - but all the hatred and
unbelief that lay focussed, as it were behind that spear; all fleshly enmity
that is on earth at that time (for it is the earth that is in view) shall
clearly see Him then. Is there one element of joy for them that dwell on the
earth in this revelation? Not one, for wails resound as the kindreds of the
earth who rejected its King, see Him coming in a power they can no longer
resist, to claim His own.
Who would or could confound such a scene of
solemn judgment with that joyful morning when we are caught up in the same
chariot, the clouds, to meet Him in the air? Then there is nothing but grace,
now there is nothing but judgment. Then there is nothing but song, now only
wails are heard. Oh, no, Enoch had gone long before the judgment - flood poured
over the earth; and the church, that is here heard, both singing and
prophesying, shall too have been translated to her home long before - God be
thanked! Yet should we learn that the burden of our testimony to the world
today is not one syllable of that rapture which should ever be held strictly a
family secret, not to be spoken of to the world to which we should ever
faithfully witness alone of the return in glory and power of the One it
A still more solemn voice is now heard confirming the
prophecy with "Yea, amen" (which words belong to verse 8 not 7, as in our
A.V.). I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is, and who was,
and who is to come, the Almighty.
A reference to the other places where
a similar declaration is made leaves no doubt as to the Speaker. It is the
Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Jesus of the New. He who is "The Word,"
begins and ends all speech. His voice spoke all creation into being in the
beginning; and He alone shall be heard at last, in that same creation, saying
"It is done." For who, or what, can resist Him. He is The Almighty.