Table of Contents
Revelation 3:1; 4:5 The Fullness Of The Holy Spirit
Revelation 3:7 The Key Of David
Revelation 3:8 The Church’s Little Strength, and the Lord’s Great Love
Revelation 3:11,12 The Philadelphian Conqueror
Revelation 3:16 The Charity of the Lord Jesus
Revelation 3:18 The Heavenly Merchant and His Goods
Revelation 3:19 The Love and the Discipline
Revelation 3:20 Christ’s Loving Earnestness
Revelation 3:21 The Victory And The Crown
“These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars.”— Revelation 3:1.
“There were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”—Revelation 4:5.
“And behold, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.”—Revelation 5:6.
‘The love of the Spirit’ (Romans 15:30) is too apt to be forgotten by us. We believe the Father’s love, the Son’s love—but do we as really believe the love of the Holy Spirit?
‘God is love;’ and that means that the Father is love, that the Son is love, and that the Spirit is love.
It was this loving Spirit who anointed the Son of God that He might preach the gospel to the poor. It was in the power of this loving Spirit that He wrought His miracles of grace and spoke His words of grace. It was ‘through the eternal Spirit that He offered Himself without spot to God’ (Hebrews 9:14) for us. And this ‘anointing’ or ‘unction’ presents Him to us under that character by which He was all along symbolized in the Old Testament—’the holy anointing oil.’
In this Book of Revelation it is as a lamp or ‘lamps of fire’ that He is made known to us—not the oil, but the lamp itself. He is both—He feeds the light in us, and He is Himself the light. Here we are (though not directly) taught much about this Spirit—as the Spirit of light, and love, and holiness—His personality, His vital agency, His divine and manifold fullness. Seven times over are these words made to fall upon our ears—’He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches,’ as if the words of this book were His, as truly as they are those of Christ.
We have much to do with the Holy Spirit—for what would the Bible be without Him?
What would we know of Christ without Him? A religion without the Spirit is wholly vain and unprofitable—like a sapless tree, a well without water, a vessel without oil.
Let us mark the characteristics, as given us in the Revelation, in connection with the emblems.
I. Light. The lamps of fire are emblems of His illuminating character and office. All true enlightenment comes from Him. As truly as Christ is the light of the world, so is the Spirit—the former more outward, the latter more inward. When fire is mentioned, it is generally in connection with the shekinah-glory; and, as was the fiery pillar of Israel, so are these lamps of fire to the Church. The saint needs light; the Church needs light; the world needs light. From the Spirit comes the light. It is sanctuary light, temple light, light from the seven-branched lamp, or seven lamps which give light to the holy place.
II. Power. The seven horns represent Him. Power is with Him; divine power; omnipotence. It is power for defence, for attack, for victory over enemies. He is the spirit of power. As such He does His works in us, and enables us to do the work of God. In our conflicts, labours, sufferings, ‘fightings without,’ and ‘fears within,’ we have the Almighty Spirit on our side, helping our infirmities.
III. Wisdom. The seven eyes are the emblem of His omniscience. His eyes are everywhere. He sees us through and through. And He comes in to us as the Spirit of wisdom. The four living ones are represented as full of eyes before and behind, implying the fullness of the all-seeing Spirit, as if they were thus ‘partakers of the divine nature.’ As the Spirit of wisdom rested on Christ, so His wisdom rests on us—for out of His fullness we receive. Wisdom comes to us, not directly, but from and through Him. We were blind, now we see; we see afar off, within the veil, the things which eye has not seen.
IV. Spirituality. They are called Spirits—invisible, yet real; not corporeal, yet real; something which may dwell in us, and influence us—unseen, unheard, unfelt. Spirits, yet not shadows; spirits, yet infinitely personal and real.
V. Completeness. Seven is the ‘number of perfection’ in Scripture. It is the complete and perfect Spirit who is represented—without defect or weakness; altogether full; full in light, and wisdom, and power. That fullness is divine, not human or finite; the fullness of God; fullness without measure or end; fullness which was completely realised only in Christ, but in us according to our measure.
VI. Variety. This is also indicated by seven. Not mere fullness; but fullness in variety—variety in fullness. Not the uniform fullness of the unvaried sea, but the fullness of the varied earth and sky; all different parts connected together, and making up that wondrous perfection which mere unvarying infinity could not exhibit. The Spirit, with His manifold gifts and graces, is thus represented—the varied perfection of his gifts, as well as the varied glory of His person; a glory like that of light, whose perfection of whiteness is the result of variety in colour. These seven Spirits are what we need, to meet the varying cases and characters of the saints.
VII. Universality. These lamps of fire burn before the throne. As (when the veil was rent) the seven-branched candlestick would appear to be standing before the mercy seat, so these lamps of fire are seen burning before the throne of God and of the Lamb. They are thus connected with the throne, yet they shed their light far and near over creation. The seven Spirits of God are sent forth into all the earth. They go out beyond the temple, beyond Israel’s land; into all the earth; to the nations afar off—’every nation and kindred.’
They are sent forth from the throne as royal messengers, to do the work of Him who sits upon the throne, as Christ speaks of the Spirit; ‘the Comforter whom the Father shall send in my name.’ As Christ was the sent of the Father, and also of the Spirit, so the Spirit is sent of the Father and of Christ. He is connected with ‘the throne,’ and He is connected with ‘the Lamb.’ He goes forth to testify of Him, to glorify Him, to reveal Him to the sons of men. This is the work which He is doing now, in a measure, and which, in the coming age, He will do more largely, filling the whole earth with the light of the glory of Immanuel.
Into all the earth He goes, far as ‘the gospel’ itself, revealing to men that ‘gospel,’ and revealing that cross of which it brings the ‘good news.’ For all the Spirit’s work gathers round the Lord Jesus, unfolding the divine testimony to His blood, and overcoming the resistance of the sinner’s heart, that he may believe that testimony, and be saved.
Into all the earth he goes, raising the dead, illuminating the dark, guiding the perplexed, leading back the wanderer to the fold. To the very ends of the earth these seven lamps are shining. Through them the darkness of the earth has been preserved from being total; through them, here and there bright lights kindled, in some measure dispelling the thick gloom that covers the human race. It is this Spirit that men are quenching. And when He is quenched, and the one Light departs—what will the darkness of the human spirit be! He will not always strive. He may even now be near departing. The long ages of His love may be near an end. O world! Your day of darkness is coming; darkness that may be felt; prelude of the blackness of darkness forever.
O Church of God! Grieve not this Spirit—quench not these lamps of fire. Bid Him welcome with all His gifts, to make you in these last days what you were when first He came down in His divine fullness, and wrought a work in you, and through you, such as amazed, and terrified, and enraged a world, until men in every city rose up, and with weapons of persecution sought to extinguish the new-kindled flame, as too bright for them to bear.
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write—These things says He who is Holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens, and no man shuts; who shuts and no man opens.”—Revelation 3:7.
Here is another of Christ’s names, or designations, or descriptions given Himself. There are seven in all, and this is the sixth. Let us consider this sixth.
I. He who is HOLY. Christ’s name here is that of ‘the high and lofty One, who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy.’ He is the holy One of God—hating sin, loving righteousness. Thus, while He is the holy One, He deals in love with the feeble, and makes their enemies to ‘know that He loves’ (verse 9). With all Christ’s infinite tenderness and pity, there is holiness conjoined, and He says, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.
II. He who is TRUE. This is frequently said of Christ—He is ‘faithful and true;’ the ‘true light;’ ‘the true bread;’ the ‘true vine;’ the ‘true witness;’ the ‘true God.’ He is—the reality, the truth, the substance, the wisdom, the filling up of all promises, and of all symbols. All the promises in Him are yes, and in Him Amen. His words are true, His works are true, His ways are true, His invitations are true, His love is true.
III. He who has the KEY of DAVID. Both as David’s Son and David’s Lord, He had a right to all that David had. Of David’s crown, and throne, and land—He was the rightful heir. But it is only of David’s key that He is here spoken of as the possessor. He had the key—the right and the power of opening the gate, and admitting those who had the right of entrance. He could open and no man could shut—this was grace. He could shut and none could open—this was sovereignty. This combined grace and sovereignty which He here proclaims is that which Philadelphia specially needed, for encouragement on the one hand—and for stimulus on the other.
The reference here is to Isaiah 22:22—’The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder.’ This was said to Eliakim, who was thus set up as a type of a greater than himself—a greater than David. Eliakim was royal chamberlain—a keeper of the house, like Joseph in Pharaoh’s palace. So Christ is represented as not only being the royal possessor of the house, but He also to whom the keeping of its gate was entrusted. He is ‘the door’ and He is the ‘porter too;’ He is the pasture and the Shepherd too. ‘All power is given to Him in heaven and in earth.’ ‘The Father loves the Son, and has committed all things into His hands.’ He has, we may say—many keys.
1. The key of David’s HOUSE. The palace is His, and He keeps the key of it, as the Father has given to Him. He opens and shuts according as He will. Would you enter David’s house? Apply to Him who has the key. He is the true David, the true Eliakim—He is David’s Son and David’s Lord.
2. The key of David’s CASTLE. Beside his palace, David had a fort on Zion which he took from the Jebusites—a stronghold against the enemy. So has our David a strong tower and fortress, into which we run and are safe. This is the true ‘tower of David, built for an armoury.’ Would you get into this impregnable fort? Apply to Him who keeps the key. He opens, and no man shuts.
3. The key of David’s CITY. Yes, the key of Jerusalem, both the earthly and the heavenly! ‘Open the gates.’ ‘Lift up your heads, O you gates.’ These cries shall be heard, the key shall be applied, and the gates flung open, and the great multitude that no man can number shall enter in. Would you enter in to this glorious city? You must go to Him who has its keys. No application was ever made in vain to Him. No other key but His will open the gate to you.
4. The key of David’s TREASURE-HOUSE. That storehouse contains all we need. The unsearchable riches are here—and David says to us, ‘I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich.’ But not riches alone—the bread of heaven is here—the hidden manna is here—the white clothing is here—the royal wine of the kingdom is here. All store of goods of every kind is here. Our David has the key. Would you be rich? Come and get freely all you need—gold, silver, gems, bread, water, wine and milk.
5. The key of David’s BANQUETING-HOUSE. Here the feast is spread—a royal feast; a bridal feast; a divine feast; a feast of fat things! The king brings us into His banqueting-house, and His banner over us is love. He spreads a table for us here in presence of enemies—He will spread it for us before long in the presence of the angels. He says here, Eat, O friends; drink, yes, drink abundantly, O beloved!
Some have said ‘the key of David’s harp,’ inasmuch as Christ is the theme of the Psalms of David, and they cannot be unlocked without Him. But this sense is strained, though striking. Yet David does sing of Him—’My heart is inditing a good matter. I speak of the things which I have made concerning the King.’ Messiah is his theme—his Alpha and Omega—his first and last.
What comfort (1) to a minister, (2) to a church, (3) to a saint—is the truth that Christ has the keys! The keys of the universe—the keys of every sphere of labour—the keys of life, of death, of the grave! What comfort is the truth that He has power to open and shut, at His own gracious pleasure! All things are in His power. The keys are in pierced hands! They hang upon the cross. Work on, O Philadelphian, with your little strength! He opens great and effectual doors—however many the enemies may be. He opens and none can shut. He shuts and none can open. How blessed when He says, ‘I have set before you an open door!’ O feeble Philadelphian, labour on. He is with you, and who can be against you? ‘I have set before you an open door.’
There are four tests, which, though not strictly connected with the text, I would hang upon it, as suggested by the key and the door:
(1.) Knock, and it shall be opened. He who keeps the key of every door is always ready to open—more ready to open than we to knock.
(2.) The doors of it shall not be shut at all by day, and there is no night there. An ever-open door! Sometimes it is said knock, and sometimes you don’t need to knock—for it is open. Just enter in—enter at once—enter in as you are.
(3.) The door was shut. Yes, shut at last! Then knocking is too late. For when He shuts, no man can open. Oh, that eternally shut gate! How dismal to those who, all their lifetime, saw it open, but would not go in! They might have gone in, but would not. This is their condemnation, and their eternal sorrow.
(4.) Behold, I stand at the door and knock. It is not merely we standing at Christ’s door—but Christ standing at ours! As if He would say to us, Take the key—open and let me in. Shall Christ’s knock be in vain? It is the knock of love, earnest, patient, condescending love. He really desires admittance. His knocking is no pretense. He wants to make our souls His dwelling. Admit Him, and be blessed!
“I know your works—behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it—for you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name.”—Revelation 3:8.
It is Christ’s gracious character and tender heart that come out so strikingly in these words. How considerate and patient! How gentle and tender in His words and doings!
How affectionate and loving towards those whom He might have blamed and condemned! Here is the love that passes knowledge—and here is what the apostle calls ‘the meekness and gentleness of Christ.’ He bears true witness of Himself when He says, ‘I am meek and lowly of heart.’ Who would be afraid to deal with such a Saviour, or to betake themselves to Him in any circumstances of sin or grief, or emergency or peril?
Let us hear how the Old Testament prophets spoke of Him and announced His graciousness, as Messiah.
He was to be ‘a hiding-place from the wind—a covert from the tempest—rivers of water in a dry place—the shadow of a great rock in a weary land’ (Isaiah 32:2).
He was to ‘feed His flock like a shepherd—to gather the lambs with His arm, to carry them in His bosom, to lead gently those that were with young’ (Isaiah 40:11).
He was not to ‘break the bruised reed, nor to quench the smoking flax’ (Isaiah 43:3).
He was to ‘bind up the broken-hearted, and to proclaim liberty to the captives’ (Isaiah 46:1).
He was to be ‘afflicted in all the affliction of His people, in His love and pity to redeem them, to bear them and carry them’ (Isaiah 63:9);
He was ‘to comfort them as one whom his mother comforts’ (Isaiah 66:13).
Let us see how He unfolded this graciousness, this tenderness, in the days of His flesh. We learn this from His own acts and words; from His affability and accessibility everywhere, and to everybody; from His attractiveness and winningness—His perpetual beneficence to all. What tenderness
in His tears over Jerusalem;
in His dealing with the woman that was a sinner;
in His acting to the widow of Nain and her son;
in His weeping at the tomb of Lazarus;
in His pity for the daughters of Jerusalem;
in His loving the young man who came to Him;
in His being moved with compassion for the multitudes;
in His treatment of children, both infants and those farther grown—laying his hands on them, taking them in His arms, and saying, ‘Of such is the kingdom of heaven!’
The Gospels are four portraits in different attitudes—but they all bring out the same tender love.
It is this tender love that He shows in heaven as well as on earth. It cheered John in Patmos; and it breathes through these seven epistles, and very beautifully in our text. What considerate kindness, patience, and gracious meekness are embodied in these words! There was something wrong in Philadelphia, but He touches on this very slightly and kindly. We might think there was unfaithfulness in such a way of dealing and speaking, but we know not what manner of spirit we are of. Harshness is not faithfulness—strong words are not convincing—still less melting or winning. Let us see here, two things—
I. Christ’s open door. The figure here is probably similar to those expressions in which Paul speaks of ‘a door being opened to him of the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 2:12); of ‘a great and effectual door being opened’ (I Corinthians 16:9); of ‘God opening a door of utterance’ (Colossians 4:3). In one aspect it as the door of service, and labour, and opportunity; in another, it is the door of success, and blessing, and power. It is the door both of service and success. It is an open door, not requiring even to be knocked at, but thrown wide open, that the Philadelphians might enter in at once, and without obstacle.
Christ, when He comes to men, finds a closed door; so He has to knock; but ‘before them’ He sets an open door. It is right before them, immediately in front; for this seems the true point of the word. They have not to seek for it; it is not far off nor hidden, but just before them, thus open, by Christ Himself. He who has the key of David has unlocked it and thrown it wide open. Christ with His own hand has opened it, and with His own finger points to it, saying, ‘Go in!’
Christ has thus two open doors—an open door for salvation, and an open door for service.
Go in, He says to every loiterer on the outside; Go in and be saved. See there, just before you is the house of salvation. I have set it before you open, and no one can shut it (either man or devil.)
Go in, He says also to each Christian—Go in and work. See, right before you is the door of service. I have set it open, and no man (or rather, ‘no one,’ whether man or devil) can shut it.
II. The Church’s little strength but true faithfulness. In tenderness and grace He now speaks to commend. ‘The Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.’ Three reasons are given for this consideration and love.
(1.) You have little strength. It was this Philadelphian feebleness that excited the compassion. Little strength! How tenderly He speaks! Little strength! Therefore you need an open door. You have no power to fight or struggle. Nothing but an open door will do for such little strength. The little strength and the open door suit each other well. He knows our frame, and remembers that we are dust. He pities our feebleness; and because we are ‘without strength,’ He interposes to help. The less of strength, the more of pity and of help. ‘To those who have no might He increases strength.’
(2.) Yet have kept my word. In spite of feebleness, she had held fast God’s word. This may seem a small thing in the eyes of man; not so of God. He lays great stress upon our keeping His word. His word! How God honours it, and those who keep it, even in utter feebleness! Keep my word, however feeble you are, is Christ’s message. Let it not go. His ‘word,’ His ‘truth,’ His ‘promise,’ His ‘gospel’—these are to be kept!
(3.) And have not denied my name. This is the least that could be said of any one who had remained faithful at all. It is not, ‘You have confessed my name,’ but simply, ‘You have not denied it.’ He accepts the very least. How gracious and pitiful! Do not deny Him! Surely He can ask no less. Love is here condescending to its uttermost. What grace is here! And what encouragement to the feeble and the tried!
Yes! all this is wondrous, in its exhibition of the tenderness of Christ. How these words should cheer us amid conscious darkness and deep-felt poverty—or in times of spiritual declension!
Hard and sore is our daily struggle! He sees it and is not angry; but pities, and loves, and helps. He sees us trying to bear up, yet often sinning—fighting, yet often overcome—endeavouring to master our weariness, yet often overmastered by it—labouring, yet often despairing of success—and, as He sees us thus overwhelmed, He pities us most tenderly, and steps in to help. He opens the door—He keeps it open—He cheers us with words of love—He comforts us in our tribulation and supplies us with heavenly cordials in our day of need.
“Behold! I am coming quickly. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.”—Revelation 3:11-12.
Again the trumpet sounds. ‘Behold!’ It is the trumpet of Advent. ‘Behold, I come quickly!’ The Master is at the door. What then? Hold fast! ‘Hold fast that which you have.’ As if one of the special temptations of the Church would be to let go her principles; to turn her back upon the truth which once she held; to contradict not only herself, but the truth of God. And all under that name of progress! “We are men of progress, therefore we must be tolerant! Narrow views are bigotry and narrowness; tolerance is advancement and development—large-mindedness and nobility of soul!”
Hold fast that which you have, that no man takes your crown! In letting go what we have, we lose our crown. Such stress does the Master lay upon consistent adherence to our testimony to His name.
Again the conqueror is set before us. For each of the Churches there is warfare, and victory is to be our aim. A daily battle and a daily victory! The good warfare and the glorious victory. Of this victory let us now hear the reward.
I. The conqueror is to be a temple-pillar. Not an outside, but an inside pillar. Not a door, nor a wall, nor any mere vessel or utensil; but a column, a fair and majestic column ‘in temple of my God.’ The interior colonnades or double rows of tall pillars in some churches and temples (such as that of St. Paul’s Cathedral, outside of modern Rome), set upon marble floors, upholding marble roofs and arches, are splendid beyond description. There the pillars stand, each in itself an obelisk or a monument, beautiful in their matchless symmetry, tall as the palm, and pure as the snow. Day and night they stand there, looking down upon the temple and its worshippers, listening to its songs, and veiled in its incense. They are part of the vast fabric; not like those who minister there, going out and in, but standing immovable in their surpassing beauty.
Such is the reward of the Philadelphian conqueror. An everlasting inhabitant and ornament of that sanctuary of which we read, ‘I saw no temple therein; for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple thereof.’ They shall go no more out! Their home is the innermost shrine in the heaven of heavens. Like Jachin and Boaz (1 Kings 7:15, 21), there they stand forever. As the Church is here the pillar and ground of the truth, so are they hereafter. As Barnabas and Cephas are called ‘pillars,’ because of their noble pre-eminence in upholding the truth, so are these conquerors to be. And as pillars were used of old for affixing royal proclamations, so that from them came forth the voice of the king, so shall it be with these conquerors. Like the seven pillars which Wisdom hews out for her house (Proverbs 4:1), they stand. Witnesses for Christ they were here, with ‘little strength;’ witnesses for Him they shall be hereafter, when that which is sown in weakness shall be raised in power. Here they kept His word and denied not His name; there they shall stand as His faithful ones forever and forever.
II. The conqueror is to be inscribed with glorious names. It is said of Christ that He has on His vesture and on his thigh a name written, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’
It is said of the redeemed in glory that they have their Father’s name written on their foreheads (Revelation 14:1); so here on these Philadelphian pillars are many names to be inscribed, each of them unutterably glorious. The inscriptions ennoble the pillar; and the pillar displays aloft the inscriptions to the gaze of ‘the great multitude that no man can number.’ These inscriptions are written by Christ Himself—’I will write.’ As He engraved Israel upon the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16), so does He engrave these names upon these temple-pillars, that they may be eternal witnesses to them in the glorious sanctuary; for throughout eternity His redeemed are to be His witnesses and His conquerors—pre-eminently so. All saved ones are to tell something of Him—His conquerors most. The inscriptions to be thus engraved are as follows:
(1.) The name of my God. This is the name which God proclaimed to Moses, the name which is the summary of His blessed character, as the God of all grace. As He made Israel’s names to shine out from the twelve gems of the breastplate, so does he make His own name to shine out from these pillars; quarried, hewn, polished, set up by the Holy Spirit, and engraved by a greater than Bezaleel or Aholiab—by Christ Himself. What honour! To be the marble on which Jehovah’s name is carved, and from which it shall blaze forth in the eternal temple!
(2.) The name of the city of my God. ‘God is not ashamed to be called their God, because He has prepared for them a city.’ And the name of this city is to be engraved on these pillars in connection with the name of its builder and maker. The city’s name is New Jerusalem, and ‘it comes down out of heaven from my God.’ The city is theirs; and, as its citizens, they are to have its name written upon them. Other pillars set up on earth by man have the names of deities, or kings, or warriors, or cities engraved upon them. But this inscription excels all in glory. It shines out in its own brilliance, irradiating the pillar itself, and the whole temple where that pillar stands.
(3.) My new name. This is the new name given by Christ, which no man knows but he who receives it—a name, the like of which has not yet been known on earth; a name which shall embody in itself some peculiar honour and blessedness which we know not now, but which we shall know hereafter. We need not try to guess it—we would but fail. It will be made known in due time, when the battle is won and the reward is given to the conqueror.
All this is because, with but ‘little strength’, this Philadelphian Church had kept Christ’s words, and not denied His name. The reward is to correspond with the service. For the keeping of the word, there is to be the recompense of the pillar with a divine inscription; and for the owning of the name, that inscription is to consist of the most glorious of names. Reward and service are ever made to correspond by Him who duly appreciates the service of His saints on earth, and knows the peculiar circumstances of trial or difficulty, or pain or weakness, in which the service was performed.
Small may be our strength in these last days. The tide of error, and sin, and worldliness may be running very strong. It may not be easy to confess Christ, or to hold fast His truth. But His grace is sufficient for us; and woe be to us if we give way to the errors of the age, or conform to its vanities, or seek to please its multitudes, either under the dread of public opinion, or the fear of not being reputed ‘men of progress,’ or the shrinking from more direct persecution and hatred! Faithfulness to Christ, and to His truth, is everything, especially in days when iniquity shall abound, and the love of many shall wax cold.
Fear not! The reward is glorious! The honour is beyond all earthly honours! The contempt and enmity are but for a day—the dignity and the blessedness are forever and ever!
What though men call you narrow-minded for cleaving to ‘old truth’—now obsolete, as they say; for ‘worship of a book,’ or biblioatry, as they call it; for the stern refusal to lower our testimony to our glorified Lord and coming King? Let us be content to bear reproach for Him and His word. The glory to be given us at His appearing will more than compensate for all.
“Neither cold nor hot.”—Revelation 3:16.
“He who is not with me is against me.”—Matthew 12:30.
“He who is not against us is for us.”—Mark 9:40.
“Neither cold nor hot.” This first of these texts proclaims as a ruinous sin what many regard as ‘a mere misfortune which cannot be helped’—lukewarmness. To be neither cold nor hot is an abomination in the sight of Christ, awakening disgust, and leading to entire casting away. It is not lukewarmness occasioned by the cold passing gradually into heat, but that produced by the heat passing into the cold. Once there was warmth; now that warmth and glow are giving way, and the hateful lukewarm condition is coming on. Church of the living God, beware of letting your temperature sink even one single degree. Christian man or woman, watch! Mark your spiritual thermometer; take alarm when it begins to go down, though but a hairbreadth. See that it rises, and rises from day to day.
How loathsome to the great Master is the tasteless, tepid, vapid Christianity of multitudes in our day! One can hardly tell what it is, or where it is tending. Neither cold nor hot! Making the best of both worlds; mixing up heaven and earth; a compound of zeal and indifference; a dilution of genuine religion, to such an extent, that the original element has almost disappeared. Alternate folly and wisdom; levity and seriousness; the ball and the prayer-meeting; the concert and the communion; the opera and the committee; the gay evening party and the mother’s meeting or the Sabbath school; the cup of the Lord and the cup of Belial mixed together—such is the condition of things among multitudes who name the name of Christ.
“He who is not with me is against me.”—Matthew 12:30. This second text points not so much to the lukewarm and half-hearted, as to the deliberately undecided—those who, from prejudice, or fear of man, or love of ease, wilfully stand aloof from Christ—while yet not openly joining with His foes. Their conscience says, ‘Join Christ; follow Him.’ But there is a lion in the way—they must take up their cross, and deny self; they must incur loss, or hatred, or shame. So they shrink back, all the while defending their indecision, and soothing their consciences with the thought that they do not oppose Christ or His cause. Of such Christ here says, he who is not with us is against us. He that stands aloof—afraid, perhaps, of being called a saint or a bigot, unwilling to commit himself to a life of decided religion, reluctant to come wholly out from the world, or set himself against its opinions and ways— is as if he were an enemy. For no man can serve two masters, or follow two religions. Why are you halting between two opinions? is God’s appeal to such; and Balaam stands in history as the awful specimen of the double-hearted.
“He who is not against us is for us.”—Mark 9:40. This third text speaks to a very different class from either of these. If Laodicea, with her lukewarmness, is the representative of the first, Philadelphia is the representative of this last—’You have little strength, yet have kept my word, and have not denied my name’. How cheering and gracious to the feeble-hearted the Master’s words, ‘He who is not against us is on our side!’ How like him who breaks not the bruised reed, nor quenches the smoking flax! How encouraging are His words, in circumstances in which we might have expected rebuke and sternness! He thus comforts the feeble-minded, supports the weak, and shows His patience toward all men. He accepts the will for the deed; the weak effort for the accomplished fact. If the spirit be willing, he overlooks the weakness of the flesh.
There is one Old Testament character which seems to illustrate this affirmation of our Lord—Abijah, the son of Jeroboam—who is evidently reckoned upon the Lord’s side, and yet all that can be said of him is that there was found in him ‘some good thing’ towards the Lord God of Israel. We may conclude the same respecting the seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal. They had not come out openly—they had been so timid that even Elijah did not know of their existence—yet in silence they had cleaved to Jehovah, and He owns them as His own. They had not been against Him—and He proclaims them as with Him.
How gently the Lord deals with fearful ones! How tender and charitable His judgments! He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. He heeds the faintest breath that goes up to Him; He despises no petitioner, even the most troubled and timorous.
There are two New Testament characters whose history brings out this—Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. They are for more than three years very timid witnesses for Christ. One can hardly call them disciples. They do not follow Him; and even when the council plots against Him, all the length they go is, ‘Does our law condemn a man before he is heard?’ Yet they are owned of the Master, and are examples of the gracious truth, ‘ He who is not against me is for me.’ And then what a reward they get!
What an honour is put upon them even for this weak protest! They are filled with boldness, and stand forward in behalf of Christ when all others have shrunk back.
‘The last becomes the first, and the first last.’
What grace is this! What tender love and condescension! What a charitable construction our Master puts on all we say or do! He makes the best of everything in our behalf. He puts the kindest possible interpretation on every effort, however faint, put forth for Him; on every word, however feeble, spoken for Him. And even when we speak no words, and do no deeds, if we do not deny Him, He says, ‘He who is not against me is for me.’
What encouragement is this to those who are cast down about their acceptance! They afflict themselves; they write bitter things against themselves; for they fear they are not the Lord’s. O sorrowful doubter, O weary, troubled spirit, hear the Master’s gentle, loving words, ‘He who is not against me is for me!’ He owns your feeble faith, and does not cast you off. And what encouragement to those who are depressed because of their poor, poor work for Him! He thinks more of your work than you do. He is well pleased with that cup of water which you gave to one of His brethren. He owns it now—He will own it hereafter!
“I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white clothing, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness may not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye-salve, that you may see.”—Revelation 3:18.
Christ’s love is here beyond all doubt—His profound compassion for the sinner; for the worse of sinners; for the sinner of Laodicea. Each word is full of meaning and of grace.
1. “I.” It is the Master Himself who speaks; speaks the very truth of God; speaks in deep sincerity; speaks as the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God. The words that followed are meant to embody and express all these attributes, these parts of His name, these features of His character.
2. I counsel. The word is a peculiar one, and resembles the prophets expression, ‘Let us reason together’ (Isaiah 1:18). I would unite with you regarding such counsel as the following. It is the invitation to joint counsel that makes the expression so condescending and so touching. It is not, ‘I command’—but ‘I counsel’. What greatness of love is here! What a desire to disarm all opposition, to prevent irritation, and to win the heart! Oh that you would take my advice! He says to the self-sufficient Laodicean, whose estimate of himself was so widely different from that of God concerning him.
3. You. The lukewarm Church; the worse of the seven; just about to be rejected with loathing. God has ever spoken His most gracious words to His people in their worst estate, as Jesus wept over Jerusalem when she was about to reject and crucify Him. For His is love to the uttermost—love that many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown. The most loving words in all these seven epistles are spoken to the worst of the seven Churches. What sinner, what backslider, then shall say—There is not enough of love in Christ for me!
4. To buy. For Christ, as we shall see, speaks here as a merchant, offering His heavenly merchandise for sale. And yet not for sale—for all is free! He speaks of buying, that those who come might know that they get His goods in an honest and righteous way, and that they have them as securely as if they had paid the full price.
‘Buy,’ He said in the Old Testament (Isaiah 55:1,3), where He also publishes the advertisement of His goods. ‘Buy,’ He says to Laodicea. ‘Buy,’ He says to us still. Buy of me! Of me—in whom is all fullness.
The words of our text are the words of a merchant; yet not of a merchant ‘seeking goodly pearls,’ but offering His merchandise for sale in a wondrous market—and at a wondrous price. Yet He does not speak as one wishing to make gain by His goods—He speaks in sympathy and love. But He evidently has to do with men who care neither for Him nor for His goods—who have made choice of another merchant, and set their hearts on other merchandise. He has to press Himself and His goods upon unwilling buyers, who do not appreciate His wares. It is for their own profit, not His, that He is thus urgent. Unlike other dealers in the market, He wants to make His customers rich—not Himself.
Here, then, we have the seller and the buyer. Who are they? For they appear so unlike other buyers and sellers—the seller so anxious to make the buyer rich—and the buyer so reluctant to be enriched.
The seller or merchant is the Son of God, in whom are unsearchable riches. The buyer is a sinner of Adam’s impoverished family; a Laodicean sinner; one of the poorest and emptiest of men; all the more poor and empty, because ignorant of his great necessities, and complacently fancying himself rich and full, increased in goods, and needing nothing.
It is upon this needy one that the rich merchant presses His wares—spreading them out before his eyes, and proclaiming both their sufficiency and suitableness. It is not often that love and wealth are thus combined—but here we have them both in blessed fullness—wealth sufficient to supply the needs of the neediest—and love, unselfish, generous-hearted love, urging on the needy the acceptance of its boundless treasures. It is not often that poverty and pride are thus conjoined; but here we have the extreme of poverty accompanied with the resolution to remain poor rather than accept the merchant’s offer.
This heavenly merchant no doubt speaks of a price; for He says, ‘Buy of me.’ May not then the rejection of His goods be on account of their being too high in price? That this is not the case is plain from the three following things—
(1) There is in these Laodiceans a manifest dislike of both the merchant and His goods, quite irrespective of the terms.
(2) The merchant means obviously to intimate to them that they did not need more to buy His articles with, than they were now buying the articles of others with, and that therefore price could be no stumbling block.
(3) He is manifestly, by His mode of speech, referring them to another of His advertisements or announcements, in which His terms are explicitly given, ‘Without money and without price’ (Isaiah 55:1). It cannot then be the price of His goods that is frightening away buyers. He knows this, and He continues to press His merchandise upon their acceptance, as something which they truly needed, more—something without which they would be absolutely and utterly poor. It is love, divine love, love to the needy, that makes Him so importunate; for He knows the extent of their poverty, their total inability to help themselves, and His own boundless treasures—the least fragment of which would enrich a world for eternity!
What then are the wares of this divine merchant? They are manifold, more—unsearchable. But there are three which He singles out as specially suited to the case of those Laodiceans—
These were the articles which they thought they needed least—but which He knew they needed most. The possession of these would be to them the abundance of blessing. Without them they would be wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
I. Gold. He offers gold for sale—gold not only of the finest kind, but which had passed through the fire, and been purged from all its dross. It is better than gold of Ophir, than temple-gold, than palace-gold—it is gold the like of which earth does not contain anywhere—the very gold of heaven! As gold is the chief medium of currency, by means of which men obtain in the market all they need—so we may say that the name of Christ is that by which we obtain all we require, in the heavenly market. His name avails the sinner for the purchase of everything. Making use of that name, he may demand anything and everything. Is he not then rich? What gold, in value and in efficacy, is equal to the name of Jesus? For thus it is written, ‘Whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do’ (John 14:13); and again, ‘Whatever you shall ask the Father in my name, He will give to you’ (John 16:23). With gold such as this, it seems impossible to be poor. All Christ’s unsearchable riches pass over to us—and we use them as if they were our own! They are our ‘currency,’ our ‘circulating medium,’ in the heavenly market. Nor is there anything which by means of them we may not obtain. Thus are we ‘rich toward God;’ and though having nothing in ourselves—’yet we possess all things!’
II. Clothing. Clothing was the first thing which man felt his need of, after he had sinned. Before he sinned, he was naked, yet needed no covering. After he sinned, he felt his nakedness, and blushed. He tried the fig leaves, but they would not do. He was still ashamed. He tried the thick trees, but neither would they do—he was both afraid and ashamed. At last God covered him. He took the skins of the sacrifices, and clothed him. That sufficed. The shame of his nakedness no longer appeared.
It is thus that God deals with the sinner still. It is from the slain Lamb that the true clothing comes. Nothing else will do. This does. The Laodicean sinner is so vain and so ignorant, that he feels as Adam did before he fell. He is naked, yet not ashamed. Hence the sharp words of the Lord, ‘You know not that you are naked!’ A sinner, yet ignorant of his sin! Naked, yet unconscious of his shame! To many a sinner now, may the Lord’s words be pointed—’you are naked, and know it not!’ But whether conscious or unconscious of your shame, here is clothing, fine clothing, that you may be clothed.
‘Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him,’ are the words of paternal grace. It is the best robe; for it is divine. It is fine clothing; for it is the very clothing of the Son of God. It is His righteousness that is to cover you. Then shall you be no more ashamed. You shall be able to stand before men and angels, more, before God—without a blush!
III. Eye-salve. ‘Blindness,’ not in part, but in whole, is the sinner’s lot. He is blind from his mother’s womb—’born blind.’ Yet he thinks he sees! Strange delusion! ‘Are we blind also?’ he says with the Pharisees. Ignorant blindness! What a calamity! ‘You know not that you are blind.’ But whether you know or not, here is eye-salve—heavenly eye-salve—better eye-salve than that with which Christ anointed the blind eyes of the body. Here it is—in Christ’s own hand. Here it is, all ready for you. Let Him anoint you with it, and immediately you shall see. Consent to take His eye-salve, and your vision is restored. With that restoration, what a world of glory opens upon your eye!
Here then are the merchant’s three articles—gold, clothing, eye-salve—riches, clothing, knowledge! He presents them all to you. And though He says ‘Buy,’ He asks no exorbitant price for His divine wares. His terms are wonderful—’without money and without price!’
Every day comes the heavenly merchant to our earthly market, with His goodly but despised merchandise. Patiently, lovingly He carries them about, presenting them to all He meets; seeking not to enrich Himself, but us; not to amass a fortune for Himself, but to provide one for us. Ah, this is love! Love that seeks another’s welfare, not its own. ‘I counsel you to buy,’ he says. Yet who takes His counsel? Who buys?
After having gone through the market-place, amid the crowds of earth, and found but little custom for His precious wares, He goes to the houses of those who have been refusing all His offers. He knocks and knocks, presenting not only His goods—but Himself also, as the blessed guest! There He stands, knocking and knocking! Not because He needs shelter or food, but because they need His company. The house and the table will be poor without Him. He knows this—though they know it not. Therefore He asks admission, that He may come in and bless them with His divine fellowship and love!
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten—be zealous therefore, and repent.”—Revelation 3:19.
How quickly a believer may become lukewarm! How quickly his love and holiness and zeal fade away! His cheek becomes pale, with the symptoms of deadly decline; or flushed with the passions produced by drinking the world’s cup, and partaking of the world’s fellowships.
Spirituality loses ground. Worldliness, either in a gross or a refined form, steals in. Reality in religion disappears. Enjoyment of prayer and the Bible ceases. Pleasure, politics, and exciting literature supply the place which the things of God once held. First love is gone. Joy and peace become strangers.
Religious formalism, routine, and ritualism are adopted, by which a man is enabled to quiet his conscience with a few external performances–while devoting the rest of his time to vanity or business.
The soul withers; the eye that looked upward now looks downward; and the once ‘religious man,’ who ‘did run well,’ takes the downward path into lukewarmness or death. Yet Jesus leaves him not. He hates divorce. He pursues His fugitive. He pleads with the backslider—’Return, and I will heal.’
I. The love. The ‘I’ here is emphatic, and by its prominence Christ presents Himself specially as—the lover, the rebuker, the chastener. His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor our ways His ways. He loves where others would hate. He shows His love by chastening where others would show theirs by indulging. “He who spares the rod, hates the child!’ ‘Whom the Lord loves He chastens!’ Herein is love—love to Laodicea, even in her lukewarmness. It is not ‘Repent, that I may love you.’ It is, ‘I love you, therefore repent.’ The lukewarm backslider, whether of Ephesus, or Sardis, or Laodicea—as long as he remains self-satisfied and happy in his worldliness, cares only for the love of the creature. He loves the world, and he would gladly have the world love him. This world would be his heaven—his gods and goddesses would all be here!
But when trial comes, and sorrow lays hold, and the deep consciousness of evil burdens, and the prospect of coming wrath rouses him, then he looks round and asks for love. ‘Is there anyone to love me, anyone that can love one so unlovable?’ The answer is, None on earth! But One in heaven! Jesus loves still. All Laodicea’s unloveableness has not quenched His love! The worst of the seven Churches is that which receives His fullest words of love—’that love which passes knowledge.
II. The discipline of love. Mark the way in which this love deals with Laodicea. It deals in tenderness, and yet in solemn severity. Instead of letting Laodicea escape, it takes hold of her, as a wise father of his disobedient child, and makes her sensible how much it hates the sin. Love cannot bear lukewarmness. It expects love for love—and will leave no method untried in order to win back the straying heart, however far it has gone, either in indifference or hatred.
(1) I REBUKE. He reproves by word and deed. His words are full of tenderness, yet also conveying solemn and searching rebuke. Such rebuke may be ‘His strange work,’ for ‘fury is not in Him.’ Yet He does administer the rebuke when it is needed—not harshly, yet sometimes severely—for He speaks as one who has authority, and who will not be mocked.
(2) I CHASTEN. What the chastening was we know not—it would be something specially suited to the self-sufficiency and worldliness of the Laodiceans. Perhaps they were stripped of their riches; perhaps visited by sickness and death; perhaps laid desolate by grievous sorrow; some heavy blow, or some long-continued trial stroke upon stroke, crushing and emptying them. The chastisement, we are sure, would correspond with the cherished sins, searching the conscience and breaking the heart in pieces. For the Lord leaves not His own, even in their backsliding; nor indeed any who name His name.
The unbelieving world may be allowed to go on unchecked in its wickedness and vanity, but those who call themselves Christ’s may expect discipline. By naming His name, they have brought themselves under His special rule, and He will deal with them as He dealt with Laodicea. They profess to be His, to have been bought by Him, to follow Him; they must therefore know His rod, and be treated differently from those who reject His sway and service. Discipline, because of permitted sin, because of indulged worldliness, because of defection from truth or holiness—discipline, it may be, of great severity—they must be prepared for. In faithfulness as well as love He will chasten. Whatever it may cost, they must be made to feel the evil of their ways.
III. The exhortation of love. ‘Be zealous, therefore, and repent.’ The word zealous contrasts with lukewarmness, and implies true warmth and fervour. While He says, ‘I wish you were either cold or hot;’ He shows by this word ‘zealous’ that He desires to see zeal quickened in this Church, and lukewarmness done away. Be zealous! Be fervent in spirit! Be done with coldness and half-heartedness! Rouse yourself into the fervour of your early days, before this lukewarmness falls upon you!
Repent also! Repent of your present miserable estate; of your apostasy, and declension, and worldliness! Repent in dust and ashes! Retrace your steps! Awake from your lethargy! Your estimate of yourself is high—come down from your loftiness. You say—I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing. Come down from the self-sufficiency, and learn that you are not what you think yourself to be. God’s estimate of you and your estimate of yourself are widely different. Know yourself—as He knows you. Take His estimate of your poverty and blindness, and cast yourself down before Him. You are not the Laodicea of other days. You must go back to your early zeal, and faith, and love. Be not high-minded, but fear. Abhor yourself—and turn from your lukewarmness!
All this is the language of love; it is the treatment of love. It is love that is rebuking, and chastening, and exhorting. Hear the voice of love—the unchanging love of Him who yearns over you in your declension, and longs to see you restored. This was the beginning of your love, as well as of your confidence. ‘We have known and believed the love which God has to us.’ Go back to this, and what you first got there—you will get there again. Know that God is love!
“Behold! I stand at the door, and knock—if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”—Revelation 3:20.
This is the sound of a trumpet. Yet it is not the iron, but the silver trumpet that here sounds out, ‘Behold!’ The church is asleep, and needs to be awakened; or she is busy with worldliness and pleasure, and needs to be recalled to Him whom she is forgetting. Jesus loves her, but she loves not Jesus; or at least has grown lukewarm in her love. Iniquity abounds, and the love of many waxes cold.
Laodicea is the worst of the seven Churches; of whom her Lord has not one good thing to say. She has not rejected His name, nor disowned His cross, nor departed from the faith; but she is neither cold nor hot. She is one whom it is difficult to know how to deal with or to discipline. If she were ‘cold,’ He would put her under special discipline; if she were ‘hot’ (‘fervent in spirit,’ Acts 18:25; Romans 12:11), He would commend her, and make her to become more and more fervent. But she is in the worst state of all—’lukewarm;’ distasteful and useless—and therefore she must be ‘spued out’—rejected as utterly loathsome, in the most loathsome way. Yet it is to this Church that the Lord sends His most gracious messages—loving her to the last.
As He sent His words of largest grace to Israel in their worst state, by the prophets in the Old Testament, and by His Son in the New, so He does to Laodicea. The tone of this epistle is marvellous for its kindliness; and the words no less marvellous for the generosity and tenderness. This is not the manner of men; but it is truly the way of the Lord—of Him who came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
I. The love of Christ. Herein is love. It is the love that passes knowledge. It is love not to the lovable and the loving, but to the unloving and unlovable. It is love to the worst of sinners, the worst of backsliders; love to those who had left their first love; who had once known Christ and His love, but had begun to go back. It is free love. It is large love. It is love irrespective of goodness in us. It is love which has broken through many a barrier in order to reach us; love which many waters could not quench, nor the floods drown. This whole verse and this whole epistle breathe true and unequivocal love. There is but one interpretation that can be put upon them—love. If they mean not this, what can they mean? This speaks out in every line. ‘I will heal their backslidings; I will love them freely.’
Here is the fullness of the grace of Him who wept over Jerusalem; who said, ‘him who comes to me I will never cast out.’ Here is the good news to all—for that which takes in Laodicea will surely take in the ungodliest, the farthest gone in declension and apostasy. ‘Return unto me, you backsliding children.’ ‘How shall I give you up? Can even Laodicea answer this question? It is one which God Himself leaves unanswered.
II. The patience of Christ. ‘I stand at the door.’ He stands, and He has stood, as the words imply—not afar off, but near, at the door. He stands. It is the attitude of waiting—of perseverance in waiting. He does not call from a distance—He comes. He does not come and go—He stands. He does not sit down, or occupy Himself with other concerns. He has one object in view—to get access to this poor Laodicean—and therefore He stands. Patiently and untiringly He stands. At the door of a backslider He stands. Day after day He is seen in the same posture, immoveable in His patient love.
‘Behold! I stand.’ Here, surely, is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ; the ‘meekness and gentleness of Christ;’ the patience of Him who endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself.’
III. The earnestness of Christ. ‘I knock.’ If the standing marks His patience, the knocking marks His earnestness—His unwearied and persevering earnestness—as if He were renewing the ancient oath, and swearing by Himself, because He can swear by no greater—’As I live, says the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the sinner.’
He calls as well as knocks; for He says, ‘If any man hears my voice.’ One of our modern literary men (Carlyle) has described the Bible as ‘that most earnest of all earnest books;’ and here is one of the passages which exhibit its unutterable earnestness. Christ does not merely speak or call to Laodicea. He is too much in earnest for that; and, besides, she is so much engrossed with the world that a voice would not reach her deaf ears. It needs knock upon knock to startle her. So He continues knocking; not forcing the door, or using violence, for God always treats us as reasonable and responsible creatures; and, besides, force cannot change the will or heart, and it is with these that Christ has to do; it is unto them that He is seeking entrance.
We cannot by stripes or angry words compel a man to love us. Hearts are not won either by force or gold. Only love wins love—only earnestness overcomes rebelliousness. Christ treats us respectfully as well as reasonably, as we treat each other when wishing to enter their dwelling, counting that dwelling sacred, and only to be entered with the consent of the owner. How condescending is the Master; how meek and lowly! How He exemplifies His own precept, ‘Knock, and it shall be opened!’ Hear His words of old, ‘It is the voice of my beloved that knocks, saying, Open to me, my sister my love, my dove, my undefiled—for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night’ (Song of Solomon 5:2). We ask—
(1.) HOW does He knock? By His word; His warnings; His invitations. By providences; by trials; by comforts; by sorrows; by joys; by family troubles and national calamities; by wars at home or abroad; by the confusions and distresses of nations. By convictions; by sermons; by friends; by the changes of the year. By His Holy Spirit ever working; every striving. By this message here.
(2.) WHEN does He knock? Continually. Day and night. All the day long. No man passes a day, no, an hour, without a knock—sometimes louder, sometimes gentler. He is always knocking; and His knocks seem to get louder as the last days draw on, and His coming approaches.
O sinner, O Laodicean, listen! The Lord is knocking! Listen! Do not let Him longer stand without. Open, and bid Him welcome.
IV. The appeal of Christ to the Laodiceans. ‘If any man will hear my voice, and open the door.’ It is—
(1) a loving appeal;
(2) a personal appeal;
(3) an honest appeal;
(4) an earnest appeal.
‘If any man!’ Here in another form is the often-repeated ‘whoever’ of other places; and the force or point of the expression is, ‘Oh that every man—every one of you!’ ‘If you had known’ is equal to ‘Oh that you had known;’ so ‘If any man’ means ‘Would that each of you!’ What an appeal! And is it to do some great thing? No! only to hear His voice and to open the door—only that. Christ will do all the rest. Hear, O man, O Laodicean! The Lord speaks to you from heaven. Is His voice inarticulate and inaudible? Does He not mean you? Are His knockings not for you? Are His love, His patience, His earnestness, not for you? At each door He knocks, saying to the inhabitant—Hear and open. No lost soul hereafter shall be able to say, He did not knock at my door, else I would have heard and opened.
O deaf Laodicean, listen and open, before it be too late; before He has gone away and left you alone in your worldliness. Lukewarmness may seem little now, but what will it be hereafter? Christ’s knocks may be unheeded now, but each one of them will come back to memory, when too late, to torment you forever. Oh hear and open!
Quickly, quickly, for the time is short!
V. The promise of Christ. This is threefold, and each of the three parts full of meaning and love.
(1) I will come in to him. His standing on the outside is of no use to us. No doubt His standing there tells us His love, and forms one of the great items in the good news which we bring even to such a sinner as that of Laodicea. But a mere outside Christ will profit us nothing. An outside cross will not pacify, nor heal, nor save. It must come in; and it comes in upon our believing. We hear the knock, and we say to the knocking One, ‘Come in, You blessed of the Lord;’ and immediately He comes in with His healing, saving cross; He comes in with His divine fellowship and love. The gracious promise is, ‘We will come in to him, and make our abode with him’ (John 14:23). The presence of the Lord Jesus in our dwelling, turns darkness into light. His absence is gloom; His presence is glory and gladness.
(2) I will sup with him. When He comes in, He does not give a hasty salutation, a brief ‘Peace be with you,’ and then depart. He sits down—not to rest Himself, as He did at Jacob’s well, but to sup with us, as at Emmaus. He comes in as a guest, to take a place at our poor table, and to partake of our homely meal. The King comes in—not to His banqueting-house, but to our earthly cottage. He comes in lowliness and love, as He entered the house of Zaccheus, with ‘Today I must abide at your house’ upon His lips. At this table of ours, it is He who shares with us what we possess; it is we who give to Him that whereon to feast, and not He to us. Such are the meekness and gentleness of Christ! So affable, so accessible, so condescending He is! The knock comes to every door. Who will shut Him out?
(3) He shall sup with me. Christ has a banquet in preparation, a feast of fat things—’the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ To this He invites us here, promising that they with whom He sups on earth shall hereafter sup with Him in His kingdom, when that shall be fulfilled which He spoke, ‘I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of God.’ The wise virgins go in to the marriage and the supper; the foolish are shut out. Here is the gracious promise, to be fulfilled hereafter when He comes again in His glory. He first sits down at our table, and then, while sitting there, He gives us the invitation to sit down with Him at His royal table, in the great bridal hall, where the marriage is to be consummated, and the festival held.
Now is the fast day—the feast day is coming. The absence shall be ended, the everlasting presence and fellowship begun. We have here a feast in absence, when we feed on the symbols of the body and the blood; but the feast of the presence is coming, when we shall feed on the divine ‘show-bread’ (or presence bread), Christ Himself being at once the provider and the substance of the feast. O everlasting festival, when will you begin? O song that never ends, when shall your first notes be heard? O lamps of the heavenly hall, when will you be lighted, to shine down on the great supper-table, in the King’s own banqueting-house, where we shall feast forever, and go out no more?
While Christ is thus knocking at our door, He is bidding us knock at His. ‘Knock, and it shall be opened.’ He will certainly hear our voice, and open the door to us. He will not be deaf to our voice, nor bar the door, nor keep us standing, nor send us empty away.
Whether the parable of our Lord as to the waiting servants (Luke 12:35-37) may not point to the same scene as that here in Laodicea, I do not say. They have some points in common. For it is the Lord that there is said to knock that His servants may open to Him immediately. There is, no doubt, a difference. In Luke He is represented as returning from the wedding to His own house. In the Revelation, He comes to ours. But still, in both cases it is He who knocks. His Church will be found in different circumstances when he comes. Then, as well as now, there may be many kinds of knocking; yet in all it is the same earnest desire on his part to be admitted, that is described. He wants to enter. His knock and His voice are sincere and loud. He will not force the door; but still He wants to be in.
O Church of God, do not keep Him out. How much you lose! For His absence, no outward prosperity, nor riches, nor numbers, can compensate. If He be kept out, all is sadness, and leanness, and poverty. If He be admitted, all is well. Happy the Church with which Christ is daily feasting. Happy the soul in which He has come to dwell, and who, in daily communion by faith, tastes the Bridegroom’s love!
“To him who overcomes 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.”—Revelation 3:21.
Three persons are set before us here—the warrior, the conqueror, the king. Or, putting the figure in another way, we have—1. The battle; 2. The victory; 3. The reward.
I. The BATTLE. Common life in this world is a warfare; and hence even worldly men speak and write of ‘the battle of life!’ Much more is the Christian’s life a warfare. It is an out and out warfare—for all here is hostile. It is called the good fight, the fight of faith, the good warfare.
(1.) It is INNER warfare. The 7th of the Romans is the description of this—the battle between faith and unbelief, between the spirit and the flesh. This war is private, solitary—with no eye upon the warrior; fought in the closet, on the knees, with the Bible as his weapon; not uncertainly, nor as one that beats the air.
(2.) It is OUTER warfare. The enemies are legion; the world, with all its enmities, snares, pomps, pleasures; Satan, with his principalities and powers—both of these in combination hating, persecuting, attacking. This is ‘the great fight of afflictions’ (Hebrews 10:32). Thus it is so far public—before men; ‘we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.’
(3.) It is DAILY warfare. It is not one great battle, but a multitude of battles—constant warring—there is no intermission and no discharge in this war. The enemy wearies not, ceases not—nor must we. We wake to warfare each morning, and go out to warfare each day. Everywhere we find the enemy posted, sometimes openly, sometimes in ambush. The conflict is life-long, and it is daily.
(4.) It is warfare not fought with human weapons. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. We do not war after the flesh. It is in divine strength; with the sword of the Spirit; clothed in the whole armour of God. It begins when we begin when we believe. Faith, instead of being the end, is the beginning of conflict; ours is ‘the good (or ‘glorious’) fight of faith.’
(5). It is warfare in which we are sharers with Christ. He first fought the good fight, as the Captain of our salvation—the Lord strong and mighty—the Lord mighty in battle. The inner warfare indeed was not His, but all the rest was. He fought, when here, the same battles as we; and it is into His warfare that we are called to enter. His battle on earth was ours; and our battle now on earth is His. Let us fight it with this remembrance and encouragement. We fight along with Paul, but we also fight along with Christ.
II. The VICTORY. Here it is spoken of as one great final victory, but in reality it is a multitude. As are the battles, so are the victories. There may be occasional defeats—wounds—losing ground; but the tide of victory rolls steadily onward. Inner and outer warfare ends in victory—we are made more than conquerors through Him who loved us. He fought and overcame, and He leads us on to victory—’Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ The brunt of the battle fell on Him—He routed the army, and it is with a ‘conquered foe’ that we have to do. Sin, hell, death, the world, the devil, He has vanquished, and He is now leading us on to the same victory.
Seven times in these chapters do we hear the glorious words, ‘To him who overcomes.’ Each Church had its battle and its victory—even Laodicea—so has each individual. No one can fight another’s battle—or win another’s victory. Each fights and wins for himself. Fight then, and win; overcome daily; nor faint until the long series of victories is summed up in the one great final triumph—the triumph of each saint, and of the whole Church of God.
III. The REWARD. In these epistles seven rewards are promised—a peculiar reward to each. To Ephesus, the tree of life; to Smyrna, deliverance from the second death; to Pergamos, the hidden manna and the white stone; to Thyatira, dominion and the morning-star; to Sardis, the white clothing; to Philadelphia, to be a pillar and to receive the new name; to Laodicea, a seat on Christ’s throne—each according to his peculiar battle and victory. In Laodicea there are warriors and conquerors—few, perhaps, but still some whose faith remained steadfast, raising them out of lukewarmness and worldliness. To these there is a brilliant hope presented—a seat upon Christ’s throne. In Laodicean times, and a Laodicean Church, be faithful and true!
(1.) A throne. Not salvation merely, or life, but higher than these—glory, honour, dominion and power. From being the lowest here, they are made the highest hereafter. Even out of Laodicea there come God’s kings and priests—heirs of the throne!
(2.) Christ’s throne. He has a seat on the Father’s throne as the reward of His victory; we have a seat on His as the reward of our overcoming. He shares with us His crown and throne. We are made ‘joint-heirs’ with Him. He is on the Father’s throne just now; He will shortly be upon His own. To a seat with Him we look forward; and, cheered by this hope, we fight the good fight of faith. We are sharers or ‘partakers with Christ’ in all things. We share His battles, His victories, His rewards—His cross, and His crown.
Let us look forward then, as well as backward. All the promises to these Churches bid us look forward. Amid toil, conflict, weariness, sorrow, backsliding, we have a hope!
Let us hold it fast; let us use it constantly. In the midst of Laodicean lukewarmness here is something to stimulate and rouse! When our hands hang down, let us think upon the throne—the throne and Him who gives it—the throne and Him who sits on it, and shares it with us. It will be glorious enough to compensate for hardship and conflict now! It may soon be here—we know not how soon. Events are rushing on—Antichrist is waxing strong; Israel is preparing to return; wars are rising; departures from the faith are multiplying; the gospel is going forth as a witness. The King is on His way. Behold, the Bridegroom comes! Let us watch and be ready.