In the Old Testament there are very clear prophecies concerning Judah. (Israel had no prophecy. Israel rebelled against God during the time of Jeroboam, and it was the nation which perished first. Evidently, God was not pleased with Israel and rejected her. So Israel had no prophecy.) Judah’s prophecy continued through to the Lord Jesus—we can see this from the genealogy in Matthew 1. In the Old Testament there were many prophets whose work had no other purpose than to show us how things will be in the future. For example, Daniel prophesied concerning the condition of the nations. After Judah perished, Gentile nations would be raised up one by one in the following 2,500 years until the coming again of the Lord Jesus. Hence, well-known prophecies, such as those in Daniel 2, 7, 9, and 11, are very detailed concerning the Gentiles. In addition to the prophecies concerning Judah and the Gentiles, there is still the church of God in God’s plan. Where is the prophecy concerning the church? When we read the first seven Epistles by Paul, there are no prophecies. It seems as if there are some in Matthew 13, but they are not detailed enough and not sufficiently clear in reference to the church, because they refer to the outward appearance of the kingdom of the heavens. Therefore, we may say that only Revelation 2 and 3, the latter seven epistles, show us the prophecy of the church. Thus far, we have briefly studied through each one and have seen that each has been fulfilled. We have already seen the prophecies which the Lord has shown us and the fulfillment given by history. We thank God that the prophecies have already been fulfilled; it is therefore much easier for us to read the seven epistles according to their fulfillment.
Through these seven epistles the Lord desires to provide us with a guide on how to be overcomers. The Lord is especially telling us how we should behave in order to overcome, and so, through the fulfillment of these epistles, He shows us the way to be an overcomer on this earth. Therefore, this is related to the way in which each one of us walks.
As we look at these seven epistles together, we see that each epistle is divided into four sections. From the first epistle to the last they are all alike. First there is the name of the Lord Himself, then the condition of the church, then the reward to the overcomer, and finally the calling to those who have ears. In each epistle the Lord shows us who He is, what the condition of the church is, what He will give to the overcomer, and then He appeals to those who have an ear that they may hear. There is a calling to the overcomers in every church; each has its own special feature, and the Lord’s rewards to the overcomers are also different.
So we should learn that regardless of the condition the church, whenever any church has a problem, if we are faithful before the Lord, we will discover what we must do. The Lord shows us the way to deal with the problem. The Lord says He is the way, He is the reality, and He is the life (John 14:6). So no matter in which epistle and under what circumstances we are, the Lord does not want us to pay attention to the situation, however bad it may be; rather, He wants us to see who He is. Revelation recovers the seeing. Concerning the knowledge of the Lord, we see it by revelation just once. Once we see it, all failures pass away. We must see before God that the difficulty of the church is quite urgent. In this situation we cry for help, but the Lord says that only those who know Him have help. In each epistle the Lord makes one statement about who He is. Will such a Lord as He be able to deal with this situation?
As it is with the church, so it is with ourselves. In difficult circumstances, we must know the Lord who is contrary to our difficulty. Other problems are secondary. The solution to all problems depends on how much we know the Lord. Some are able to bear much, but some can bear only little. The strength to bear, whether much or little, depends on how much we know the Lord. Thus, at the beginning of each of the seven epistles, attention is given to who the Lord is. If a man does not know the Lord, he will not be able to know the church. Many are quite satisfied with the condition of the church today because they do not see. They have not seen who is sitting upon the throne, and they have not seen the different aspects of the glory of the Lord and His virtues. If we know the Lord, we will discover man’s sin and the church’s sin. The solution to the whole problem depends on how much we know the Lord. Those who only know a little of God have little revelation of God and are more tolerant with presumptuous things. But for each one who stands before the Lord, the Lord removes the toleration for that which is not according to His will. Once we receive revelation before the Lord, He removes everything that is not according to His will. Then we know that if we want to be holy, we will have the Lord; if we do not want to be holy, we will lose the fellowship of the Lord.