Dear Brother G,
I have typed out these suggestive details as they have occurred to me. I hope that they will be of value to The Forum.
In the letters to the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 2 and 3) we view three aspects of Divine truth. First, there is the historical in which seven literal assemblies are seen, each standing upon its own base, responsible to the Lord alone and yet bound together because of a common relationship to the One, Christ, Who walks in their midst.
Second, there is the practical aspect in which light in thrown upon the problems of church life in order that we may move collectively to the glory of God. For example, the seven lamps blend their light to throw their united rays upon that blessed One in the midst. The Lord presents Himself to each assembly in a way that is calculated to meet its need. He, and He alone, has the plumb line to measure the behaviour of His own. He calls to repentance every church, and holds out a way of recovery for every condition. When an assembly becomes incorrigibly bad He, and He alone, removes the lampstand.
Third, there is the prophetical aspect. There is no doubt that these seven churches were chosen because of their spiritual conditions to represent seven distinct stages in the history of the professing church from apostolic days till the coming of the Lord. In this prophetic sketch we have what is genuine and then what is but a mixture of good and bad. I submit that the genuine is described in three ways: by the stars, the overcomers, and the spiritual ear. That the over-comers are the saved ones amid a mass of profession is proved by the seven promises made to them, promises that will be realized by all saints. It is an overcoming that will be true of every child of God. See 1 John 5:5-6; Rev. 12:11. Moreover, the overcomer in Rev. 21:7-8, is contrasted with the fearful and unbelieving whose doom is the lake of fire.
The mixture is represented by the seven lampstands. In the parable of the virgins we see ten lamps of testimony, but five had no oil in them; they were spurious. Similarly in the seven churches we read of those that had the doctrine of Balaam, those that were a synagogue of Satan, and of Jezebel, all of whom are enemies of Christ yet embraced in the professing church. They are clearly distinguished from the angels of the churches. In other words the stars represent the Church which is His Body and the lampstands represent the professing church with its mixture of good and bad.
The stars symbolize the true Church in her:
SPIRIT: The word angel suggests spiritual representation (Matt. 18:10; Acts 12:15; Luke 7:24, messengers or angels). The true spirit of Christianity is not found in Jezebel or the synagogue of Satan but in genuine believers. The spirit of Christian witness must be traced to what is real among the mass of profession. The light of witness is not only the light of truth but the light of life. It is truth working its miracle in the lives of those who believe it, and in those lives the Spirit of God manifests the true spirit of Christianity.
CHARACTER: The Lord’s people are identified with a Risen Christ, and His Names are called upon them. Is He the Son? They are sons. Is He the Anointed One? They are anointed ones. Is He the Firstborn? They are His brethren. Is He the Morning Star? They are stars to shine for Him in the night of His rejection. Is He the Sun? They are as the sun. They carry the responsibility to reflect the beauties of Him Who hath called them out of darkness into His marvellous light.
POSITION: Stars shine in the heavens. The Church though in the world is not of it. She is seated with Christ in the Heavenly places. The Philippian Church is compared to stars that shine down upon a dark world (Phil. 2:15), and “they that turn many to righteousness shall be as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).
INFLUENCE: “Canst thou bind the sweet influence of the Pleiades” (Job. 38:31)? “The Pleiades are bound together with such amazing attractive energy that they draw our whole planetary system and sun around them” (Fausset). Another has said that the harmony of the whole universe can be traced to the sweet influence of the Pleiades. The origin of every philanthropical organization in the world has resulted from the influence of the Church. Picture a world without these if you can. As the light of God’s testimony spreads it civilizes all, moralizes many, and saves the few. The witness of the Church on earth saves the world from utter chaos and destruction. The mystery of lawlessness cannot climax in the Man of Sin while the true Church remains in the world (2 Thess. 2:6-8).
WORKS: The voice of Divine wisdom through the church rings out in clarion call, “Seek Him Who made the seven stars” (Amos 5:8). View the wise men from the East as they are guided by the star to Christ, and learn that the mission of the Church on earth is to attract and guide all men to Christ. Like John the Baptist we are but a voice that cries in the wilderness. His ministry is echoed by the Church, “Flee from the wrath to come ;” and “Behold the Lamb of God that beareth away the sin of the world.”
SECURITY: The stars are in His right hand. Do they represent just a favoured few? Nay! “All His saints are in Thy hand” (Deut. 33:3). None shall pluck the feeblest from that hand (John 10:28). There is a close connection between the portrait of Christ in the Song of Solomon chapter five and this one in Revelation chapter one. In the first we read of rings on His hands, the symbol of all authority; in the second, we read of stars in His hand. Behind the commission of the Church in Matthew 28 is the authority of her Risen Lord. Her commanding orders are: to make disciples of all nations, to baptize the converts in the Name of the Trinity, and to teach them to observe all things that are taught in the Word of God. His promise, “Lo, I am with you alway” is her support in the midst of the forces of darkness and wickedness.
Sincerely in Christ,
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“I know enough of flesh to distrust it utterly; I know enough of the blessed God to trust Him fully.”
J. B. Stoney—Quoted by W. Fereday in “Elijah”
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The Lord did not tell Peter to flog the flock, but rather to feed the flock.