The Orthodoxy of the Church, Chap 1, Section 3 of 3


John was the one who was closest to the Lord, because he leaned on the Lord’s breast (John 21:20, 24). The Son is in the bosom of the Father, and John was in the bosom of the Son. Yet the day he saw the Lord, he fell at His feet as dead, because He is the Judge. Formerly, we saw Him as the Lord of grace; now we see Him as the Lord of judgment. But the judgment here is the judgment of a priest, for it involves trimming. On that day it will be entirely judgment. Every one of God’s children must one day meet the Lord’s fearfulness and holiness; then they will no longer reason. Light disposes of all reasons—it not only illuminates; it also kills. The illumination in every part of the Bible kills the natural life of man. Men may have many reasons, but before the Lord they are all gone. All men will fall dead to the ground just as John did. The farther a person is from the Lord, the greater is his self-confidence; but it is impossible for him to bear the light of God. We must be dealt with by God at least once.

The first part of each epistle tells us who the Lord is, and the word that follows is based on this revelation of the Lord. He who does not know the Lord cannot see the church. The church is the continuation of the cross; there is no such thing as knowing the cross yet not knowing the extension of the cross.

These seven epistles start with the Lord and end with the call to the overcomers. Who are the overcomers? What are the overcomers? Are they special ones, those who are above the ordinary? In the Bible the meaning of the overcomers is that they are the normal, ordinary ones. Those who are not abnormal during the time of abnormality are the overcomers. Most people are below this level. The overcomers are not above this level, but at this level. God is calling the overcomers today to rise up and walk according to the normal pattern in the beginning. The will of God never changes; it is just like a straight line. Today men fall, fail, and continually go downward; but the overcomers are recovered anew into the will of God.

Here we see two more matters: First, the church is the golden lampstand, and the Lord walks in the midst of the lampstands; second, the Lord holds the seven stars in His right hand, which are the angels of the seven churches.

Each of the various kinds of metals spoken of in the Bible has meaning: iron typifies political power, brass typifies judgment, silver typifies redemption, and gold typifies the glory of God. The glory of God is one thing that no one knows or comprehends. Although it is difficult to comprehend the holiness of God, we can still comprehend it. The righteousness of God can also be understood. But the glory of God has never been known, because it is the one characteristic that belongs most uniquely to God. The church is made of gold. The people in the church are born of God, not of blood, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man. The church has absolutely nothing to do with man. Some ask what the work of wood, grass, and stubble is. Wood, grass, and stubble are the works of the flesh. The work of gold, silver, and precious stones is that which is entirely of God.

These seven epistles were written to the angels of the seven churches, differing from the first seven Epistles written by Paul. Paul wrote to the churches, although we see that there were all the saints, overseers, and deacons, especially in the book to the Philippians. Here the epistles were written to the angels of the seven churches, not directly to the churches. However, they were the words spoken by the Holy Spirit to the churches. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. The word angel in Greek is angelos. This word represents one who is a messenger. Many people, after reading Revelation 2 and 3, have tried to find similarities between the last seven epistles and the first seven and have injected all manner of wrong explanations regarding the messengers. Who is this messenger? The messenger spoken of here is singular in number; the epistles were written to a singular messenger. However, this singular number is corporate in nature; that is why, at the end of each epistle, the calling is to the overcomers in plural. This messenger is a corporate messenger who can represent a minority in the whole church. At this point the way of God is different. Formerly, the church stood before the Lord; now the messenger stands before the Lord. The light of the lamp is inferior to the light of the star. The Lord has chosen the inextinguishable starlight and said that this is His messenger. This star is in the Lord’s hand. Today a group of people is a messenger in the eyes of the Lord; thus, the nature of the church today is entrusted to them. When the church has a problem before the Lord in her outward appearance, the Lord sees a group of people—a messenger—who can be the representative of the church. Formerly, the representatives of the church were the elders with position and office; now the responsibility of representing the church is given to the spiritual messenger. This messenger is not necessarily the elders or deacons. Today God places the responsibility upon whoever can represent the church. Those who can represent the church have the responsibility committed to them by God. Today it is not a matter of position and office, but of having real spiritual authority before God—to such ones God turns over the responsibility.

Revelation is written to the “slaves” of God. Therefore, unless you are a slave, you will not be able to understand. He who is not bought with the blood and constrained by love to be a slave cannot understand Revelation.

John wrote Revelation in A.D. 95 or 96 at the time Domitian was Caesar in Rome. Of the twelve apostles, John was the last to die; therefore, the church of the apostles ended with John. When John was writing, the seven epistles were prophetic. Today when we read the seven epistles, we also must regard them as prophecy. However, when we consider them today, they have already become history. John was looking ahead, while we are looking back.

Now we will look at the seven churches in the seven epistles one by one.

© Living Stream Ministry, 2021, used by permission