CHAPTER II

 

A Vision and Letters

 

(Revelation 1-3)

 

 

            Next, after his title, John tells us his reason for writing the book, “to show unto His {Jesus Christ’s} servants things which must come to pass swiftly.” (The original Greek expression as in Luke 18:8 refers to the swift succession of events rather than to their immediate appearance.)  When once the time is up and Jesus Christ is about to come, He will come suddenly.  Jesus Himself describes that coming as like a thief in the night when no one is expecting Him to come; no one sees the signs of His approach, excepting those faithful ones who are wide awake watching for Him.  When He comes to reign on the earth, the preparations for His coming will go forward silently (stealthily, like a thief’s coming), and then very rapidly.  Exceedingly merciful is it that all will be prepared for Him to take His throne and rule so quickly, for that method means as little suffering on the earth as possible to work such a tremendous change in its control.

 

            Then, John tells us that Jesus sent His angel to show and explain all the visions to him.  And because he writes up what he has already seen, he writes in the past tense as though it had already happened though it has not.  We will also be obliged to describe it this way sometimes as well.  You must always remember this point all through our book.  We will follow John’s plan and often speak as though things had already happened which have not yet taken place.  Because John follows this plan, so must we when we are describing John’s book.

 

            A blessing is pronounced upon all who study this book.  “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein.”  In early days before printing, books were scarce and dear, and many could not read.  Therefore, each church had a “reader” who read the Scriptures to the people.  We still have Scripture readings in church services, but such reading is not so important in our day since all have Bibles and can read for themselves.  It ought not to be that people should have such difficulty in understanding this book since a blessing is pronounced on those who hear it.  Yet, almost everyone who writes commentaries on The Revelation makes a mystification rather than a revelation out of it.

 

            They seem to think one must know a great deal about history and have a fine education to understand it.  However, those who first got the book were not educated people.  Every pretended explanation of the book which makes it seem so difficult to understand is to be rejected.  The Lord meant that common people should understand Him.  Before we get through it, you will find it quite understandable and interesting thanks to learned men like Dr. Seiss, who have

given us a clear and natural interpretation of the book.

 

            After the blessing, John says, “for the time is at hand.”  In these days, certain religious teachers talk a great deal about the different “dispensations.”  With two you will be familiar—the Jewish dispensation and the Christian dispensation.  The Jewish dispensation ended when the Holy Spirit descended and filled the early disciples on the day of Pentecost.  Since that time, we have lived in the Christian dispensation.  When Christ comes, another dispensation will come with Him.  The expression, “the time is at hand,” means that the Lord’s second coming will be the next great event on God’s program.

 

            The “John” who wrote this book was, of course, the beloved disciple who leaned on Jesus’ breast at the last supper (John 13:23).  He wrote also the Gospel and the Epistles of John.  When he grew old, he lived at Ephesus in Asia Minor.  Because of His preaching the Gospel, he was sent into exile to a small island called Patmos, not far from Ephesus.  Supposedly, he was working as a slave in some mine on the island when he saw these wonderful visions which were given to tell him in particular what would take place just before and just after Christ’s return to rule over the earth.  John was sometimes on earth and sometimes lifted up in his spirit to heaven in the visions. 

 

            The Holy Spirit took complete possession of him so that he saw things far off in space and time.  In space, he saw different parts of the earth and heaven often at the same time.  In time, he saw that which had not yet come to pass though he saw them eighteen hundred years ago.  For example, you discover what John meant when he wrote in verse 10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.”  “Day” in the Bible often means a long space of time, not simply twenty-four hours.  We read frequently of the “day of the Lord.” (I. Corinthians 5:5; I.  Thessolonians 5:2; II. Peter 3:10; Malachi 4:5; Joel 2:11, etc.) which means a considerable length of time when the Lord comes again to rule or the time of the final period of judgment at the end of all time. 

 

Since John wrote, we have become accustomed to worship on Sunday instead of Saturday as the Jews.  Also, we call Sunday “the Lord’s day.”  Rather than meaning, “I was in the Spirit on Sunday,” John apparently meant that he was carried forward by the Holy Spirit to the time when the Lord will come to rule on the earth, which is the “Lord’s day.”  John could not have seen all he has written down for us in one single day.  Therefore, no point could be made in his saying, “It was Sunday.”

 

            His first vision was one of Christ Himself in all His glory as the King.  Pause and read it in the first chapter, verses eleven to sixteen.  At the end, Jesus Christ Himself explained all its meaning to John.  Then, He instructed John to write down three things:

 

1.      The things which thou hast seen,”—that is the vision which John describes here.

2.      The things which are” will be described in the letters to the churches in the next two chapters.

3.      And the things that shall be {shall come to pass, R.V.} hereafter” or more exactly, “after these things.”

 

John was about to be shown things to be written down at once as they then existed in the different churches as well as things that would take place when Christ should come again.  Of course, he did write them down; and they comprised The Revelation.  First of all, Jesus dictated seven letters while John wrote them—dictated them just as a businessman dictates letters to his secretary to write out and send off.  How very sacred these letters are!  Other parts of the Bible tell us about Jesus, but here Jesus Himself does the writing.  He writes these letters in the same sense as Paul wrote the epistles.  Paul had a secretary to whom he dictated and who wrote his epistles for him.  Do you know what proof we have?  Search and see.  However, these letters are more wonderful than Paul’s who wrote his epistles before he died.  Jesus died, was resurrected, went to heaven and stayed about sixty years, then came back and wrote these letters through John to the seven churches.  These are most sacred letters.

 

            Although these letters were meant, first of all, for these particular churches in Asia, they were meant for us too.  How do we know?  If we did not know it in any other way, we would know it because each letter calls upon everyone who has “ears to hear” to listen to what “the Spirit saith unto the churches,” in those letters.  Therefore, as long as ears appear on a person’s head, these letters will be meant for that person.

 

            The very contents of the letters show they were meant to cover a considerable period of time until near the time Christ comes again.  The first letter threatens, “I will come . . . and remove thy candlestick” (2:5).  The second one says, “Be thou faithful unto death,” (2:10), showing they would die before His coming.  The third letter contains the threat, “Repent; or else I will come . . . and fight against them . . .” (2:16).  The fourth letter affirms, “Hold fast . . . till I come.”  (2:25). The fifth one says, “if thou wilt not watch . . . I will come on thee as a thief . . . “ and refers to a future church or else it would have said, “if thou dost not watch” (3:3).  The sixth letter says, “Behold, I come . . .” {“See I am coming} (3:11).  The seventh one declares, “Behold I stand at the door and knock . . .” (3:20).

 

            Do you see these churches are each one in time a little nearer to the Lord’s return than the church just before in order?  More than seven churches in Asia existed when the Lord dictated these letters.  Also, churches in Palestine and in different parts of the Roman empire were there because the apostles, particularly Paul, and evangelists had gone all over, preaching the Gospel and founding churches.  Since Jesus calls upon all who “have ears to hear” to listen to these letters and because “seven” is the number which means perfection or completeness, these seven churches stand for the complete Church for all time and in all places.

 

            Besides, the name of each church, although it is the actual name of each place to which a letter is sent, describes something in that church to praise or to blame.  “Ephesus” means “giving way,” and the fault found with this church is they had left their first love.  In other words, they had given way to the spirit of the world and did not love Christ as much as they had formerly.  “Smyrna” means “bitterness.”  According to what Jesus tells them in the letter, this church was to suffer the fiercest persecution; and He sends them words of comfort and cheer.  “Pergamos” means a “citadel.”  This church is told, “Thou dwellest even where Satan’s seat is.”  The ruling power of the place was statanic. 

 

“Thyatira” means “unwearied in sacrifices,” that is, ceremonies.  Although it was a church full of “works,” these works were more than their “charity and service and faith.”  In fact, these works are threatened because of their being mixed with idolatry and uncleanness.  “I will give unto every one of you according to your works.”  (2:23)  “Sardis” means “renovation,” and this church is told to “hold fast and repent.”  “Philadelphia” means “brotherly love,” and this church is the only one except Smyrna with which Jesus finds no fault.  They keep his new commandement, “Love one another, even as I have loved you.” “Laodicea means “judgment” or “opinion of the people.”  This church thinks it is very wealthy, but it is very poor in spiritual things.  God has a different opinion from the high opinion it has of itself and says, “I will spew thee out of my mouth.”

 

A beautiful promise is given to those that overcome in the Christian life to each of the seven churches.  Because those same promises are given for us as well, we will repeat them:

 

1)     To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the tree of life

     which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”

2)     He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”

3)     To him that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”

4)     “He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him

Will I give power over the nations:  and he shall rule them with a

rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to

shivers:  even as I received of my Father.  And I will give him

the morning star.”

5)     He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white

raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life,

but I will confess his name before my Father and before His

angels.”

6)     “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God:  and I will write upon him my new name.”

7)     “To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His Throne.”

 

May God help us all to come oft “more than conquerors” through the blood of Jesus Christ.  May we obtain the blessedness of all these promises, which would never have been sent to us if they were not well within our grasp.

          CHAPTER 3