And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:17-20)
The stupendous vision of Christ as the Alpha and Omega, the Ruler of heaven and earth, the great Overcomer of sin, death and the grave, is the essential prelude to the Book of Revelation and the essential key to the understanding of it. The prostration of John before the vision is an assurance to the Church that her destiny is in the hands of One to whom all power and worship belong. Who fears God has none else to fear in heaven or on earth. He who prostrates himself before the Eternal will never lie helpless in the hands of those powers which were powerless to destroy this One or to hold Him captive in the grave.
Moreover, as the Vision of Christ moves in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, holding in His hand the seven stars which are the ‘angels’ of the seven churches, we are to understand that this is the character which Christ sustains throughout the Book, and therefore the Book of Revelation is for the Church and for no-one else. It is in this capacity alone that He reveals Himself to John, the suffering representative on Patmos of the Church Militant on earth.
That the Seven Churches to whom the Book is addressed were themselves symbolic of the whole Church in her age-long witness and her never-ending conflict with evil, is clear from the words, “He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (see Rev. 2:7, etc) appended to each of the seven messages in order, as they are addressed to the churches in chapters 2 and 3. These enigmatic words of Christ are the same which He used in Matthew 13:9 (and elsewhere) to describe a saying or a parable hidden from carnal understanding and revealed only to those in a spiritual state of repentance and faith, capable of receiving it. “It is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given ... Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear”.
(Matt. 13:11, 16)
This is our warrant for declaring that the messages to the Seven Churches are enigmatic and for all time, and can only be understood spiritually, and not confined to those long defunct churches in Asia to which they were first directed. Readers will therefore observe that not just a part, but the whole of Revelation is addressed to the Church by Christ, in His capacity of divine head and redeemer thereof - moving in the midst of His Seven Golden Candlesticks and holding in His right hand the Seven Stars of her authoritative guidance in the dark night of her warfare on earth.
There is yet one further proof remaining to show that our Book of Revelation is for the Church without interruption from beginning to end, and therefore the whole edifice of prophetical misconception erected from the days of poor Edward Irving (1830) to the present, of a divided Second Coming of Christ, of a secret removal of the Church from this world to make way for a completely independent Jewish interpretation of the entire Book from chapter 4 onwards, it without foundation. We refer to verse 19 of our chapter:
“Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter”.
Futurism, in its eagerness to separate the Church from all part in the conflicts and consolations of the Book of Revelation has made a fatal and thoroughly artificial division between the first two time-tenses of this verse, and the third. That is, it allocates to the Church the clauses, “the things which thou hast seen and the things which are” but excludes the Church from all the rest, “the things which shall be hereafter”, in pursuance of its theory that this ‘hereafter’ belongs to a day which has not yet dawned, even nineteen centuries after John saw his vision. By this artificial device Futurism has persuaded generations of Christians since the middle of last century that the Church has no part in the great prophetic movements of chapters 4 to 20. Of this clause Dr C I Scofield (one of the chief advocates of the “no church in prophecy” theory) writes, “Things which shall be hereafter - i.e. after the church period ends, 4:1 – 22:21”. Again the good doctor writes, “It is noteworthy the church is not mentioned in chapters 5-18”; and again, “The word ‘church’ does not again occur in the Revelation till all is fulfilled”. We leave our readers to consider for themselves these extraordinary statements. We might point out that the only two occasions where the name “Jew” occurs in Revelation are in Dr. Scofield’s ‘church section’ (2:9; and 3:9) and each time these Jews are described as ‘the synagogue of Satan’. Yet we are invited to believe on such slender evidence that the Church is not, and that the Jews are, the chief objects of the prophecy of this great Book.
It might be pointed out that “Israel” is twice mentioned in this Book - the ‘sealing’ of chapter 7, and the gates of the heavenly city (21:12) bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. But chapter 7 has features which remain to be elucidated when we reach that chapter (we hope to prove that this is a spiritual and not a natural Israel which is in view). The names of the twelve tribes designate the gates of the eternal city and are to be taken in association with the fact that the names of the twelve apostles are found in the foundations of the wall of the same city. We might be pardoned for supposing that we have a complete picture here of the true Church of the redeemed from Old and New Testaments - the one church of Jew and gentile ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets’. (Ephesians 2:20)
Where the apostles are, the church is, for they were certainly not apostles of the earthly Israel - and away goes Dr. Scofield’s naive statement that the Church is not found anywhere in Revelation after chapter 3 (or is it four, the good doctor being ambiguous as to his starting point). The Church is certainly built upon the foundation of the apostles, but Israel (after the flesh), never.
The answer to all this confusion as to the meaning of the verse, chapter 1:19, is very close at hand, namely in the following verse 20 which Futurism has entirely overlooked:
“The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks”.
What John is recording is that the whole of the time periods covered by verse 19 have to do with the mystery of the Church’s history. The sequence of time is unbroken. We pass without break through past, present and future, and all belongs to the Church - to the mystery of the Seven Candlesticks and the Seven Stars.
DR. CHRISTIE on verse 19
We know of no writer in modern times who has done so much to expose this false treatment of a plain and simple statement of an unbroken period of time, as the late Thomas W. Christie, BA. Camb., MRCS Eng., who wrote an unusual commentary on the Book of Revelation. It is not necessary to follow Dr. Christie in many of his positions, to appreciate the help he gives on important details. He flourished in the second half of the 19th century, was a citizen of Liverpool, trained for the Church of England, but refused ordination at the last moment because of an apprehension (based on certain events taking place in the Anglican Church at that time) that his liberty to go freely where he would, to preach the Word of God, would be curtailed. He therefore resumed his practice as a surgeon, and preached the Word of God freely, and without charge.
On the text now before us he wrote as follows:
To an English reader of unprejudiced mind, to say nothing of spirituality, that expression of Christ, “Write the things which shall be hereafter”, and again, “the things which must shortly come to pass” (verse 1), and that in contrast to things that were past, “the things which thou hast seen” and to things that were transpiring at the time, “the things which are”, requires no comment or explanation. But not so in the case of religious authors who approach scripture only to make it square with the peculiar theories of the schools to which they belong and the systems they are determined to erect. (Amongst the mischievous Futurist theories which we shall have to refute as we proceed is that which attempts to make the events of this Book of Revelation a blank to the Church of God for the last one thousand eight hundred years; and which asserts that, with the exception of those bearing on the seven churches of Asia, all the events are still future from our day, instead of from the day of John to whom the vision was first shown and to whom those words were first spoken.
I stop for a moment to confute those writers on this point, and here, out of the Greek, which it will be my duty to show they are utterly ignorant of, while continuing quoting it in support of their theories. The simple English as we said is plain enough, but the Greek word here used to express the --- continuation of that past and present of John’s day, is if possible, more precise. It marks by the auxiliary ‘mello’, ‘about to be’, the imminent future, and in this Revelation of John is beautifully precise, showing that no matter how long the chain of events, it is one unbroken chain: the last link ending with eternity, as the first was connected with the present around him, and that again to the past: “Write the things which thou has seen (ha Eides), and the things that are (ha eisi), and the things which shall be hereafter (kai ha mellei ginesthai meta tauta)” or, which are on the point of happening, as for example, a person about to follow on the heels of a messenger sent to announce him – “He sent them two and two before his face into every city whither he himself would come” (emellen ersxethai - Luke 10:1); or, of one besought to come instantly and save another on the point of death (eemelle apothneskein - John 4:47).
That, reader, is the simple English word, “the things which shall be hereafter” and its precise original in the Greek, ‘about to be’, in which the Lord conveyed to John the unbroken chain of events from His first to His second coming; but which is wrested in the effort to revive the heresy of a terrestrial millennium. We build no doctrine on the mere sound of a word or of a date, but the truth which they corrupt we wrest out of their hands: and that we do since our simple purpose is to show from this Book of Revelation, the faith of our fathers in the wilderness, that as Christ came once into the world to save His people from their sins, so He will come a second time to judge the world in righteousness; and that the interval between those two events, is a world of “evil men and seducers waxing worse and worse”.
(2 Tim. 3:1-13)
In short the Lord was telling John that what he was to write concerned the entire history of the Church, past, present and future, an unbroken cycle of time the events of which belong to the Church and to her alone. This must be clear to any mind not already tinged with an artificial theory of very late invention.
THE NUMBER SEVEN
The Churches are seven in number because seven in the Bible is always the number of completeness. Therefore, however much there may be in the seven messages having applicability to the temporal state of the churches in John’s day, must be considered in relation to the state of the universal Church throughout all time, as applicable today as when John first began to write. In short the messages are, and must be, prophetic. They must be considered in the threefold dimension given to John – “The things thou has seen, the things which are and the things which shall be hereafter”. As the writer of Ecclesiastes enigmatically informs us, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun”. (Eccles .1:9)
THE NATURE OF PROPHECY
This is a convenient point at which to observe that there is much in this Book which presents in parabolic form the outstanding events and epochs of Church history, but we must never fall into the error of making that history so exclusive an element as to render irrelevant any portion of the Book to readers of whatever age or century. “All is for all” in this great Book, as in the analogous prophecy of the Lord in His Olivet discourse (Matthew 24). That discourse has been the battleground of many conflicting interpretations especially in modern times, all because so few have understood the nature of prophecy, which is not to present us with an almanac of events to be ticked off one by one as they occur, but to prepare the people of God for trial and testing, and raise their expectations of deliverance. In the Olivet discourse may be found predictions which belong as much to the apostolic age and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 73, as to the end of the world - and were so intended to belong. Prophecy is always clear enough to keep alive the faith and hope of the humble and the penitent in evil times, but not so clear as to excuse in any age, the curious and the careless, and indulge them with such a confident reading of the future as permits them to relax the vigilance of faith and hope.
Prophecy is always enigmatic and must be interpreted by the event.
It is because the Jews of old time did not understand this that they did not recognise the times of Messiah even when He was walking their streets. The purport of prophecy is always that which is expressed by the Saviour in the Olivet discourse –
“Take heed that no man deceive you.”
“See that ye be not troubled.”
“He that shall endure to the end shall be saved.”
“Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.”
“Watch therefore: for ye know not at what hour your Lord doth come.”
“Watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is.”
(See Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21)
The Book of Revelation was not given that people might know at any moment in history what is the immediate future of mankind, and it is a deplorable thing today, not only that there are so many men writing so many books confidently pinpointing the future, but that there is an eager Christian public to make the buying of their books a profitable commercial enterprise.
With these cautions we proceed to examine the Messages to the Seven Churches of Asia and their threefold significance.
THREEFOLD SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES
Chapter 1:20 proves that these seven churches are symbolic. Does Christ claim as His only parish these seven named churches of Asia Minor, long since defunct? The three named heresies, Balaam, the Nicolaitanes, and the woman Jezebel, are not identifiable under those names in Church History, despite the anxious (almost frantic) efforts of historians to tell us that Nicolas and Jezebel were real persons - even going so far as to blacken the fair name of Nicolas of Antioch (one of the seven ‘deacons’ of Acts 6:5), as the guilty party. As for Jezebel, who would give so disgusting and disgraceful a name to their living offspring? The names are symbolic of the heresies they so worthily represent as we hope presently to elucidate.
The picture of Christ moving in the midst of the Seven Candlesticks and holding in His hand the Seven Stars which are the authority and administration of those Seven Churches is conclusive of His entire reign throughout all time over the universal Church, and His presence with her through all her trials and vicissitudes till history shall have run its course.
Moreover the state of the then existing Seven Churches of Asia, as described in the letters of chapters 2 and 3, are a conclusive indication of the period of time when John received the Book of Revelation.
Attempts are being made to prove that Revelation was written in the time of the emperor Nero, before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 73. But the Neronic persecution of Christians arose over the burning of Rome, and was confined to a narrow area in the vicinity of Rome. It did not extend to Asia or any of the outlying provinces of the Empire. When John was exiled to Patmos he was living and working in Ephesus, among the Churches named in this chapter -all of which were clustered in one densely populated province in Asia Minor. The Neronic persecution was without any prophetic significance. The first general persecution of the Christian Church did not take place till the end of the first century, during the frightful reign of Domitian.
Moreover the state of the Churches described in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, marks them as being of the sub-apostolic age. The state of the Church of Ephesus, for instance, is manifestly different from that described in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. There we had one of the most spiritual churches then existing; now, in Rev. 2, we have a Church which has left its first love.
The apparition of the doctrines of Balaam, Nicolas, and Jezebel, and the rise of the Synagogue of Satan (see Rev. 2:6, 9, 14-15, 20) are the first whispers of the rise of Antichrist, foretold by Paul (2 Thess. 2) but announced by John in his epistles (written a generation after Paul’s death) as being already present.
(See 1 John 2:18; 2 John, verse 7).
The names Balaam and Nicolas mean in the Hebrew and the Greek respectively, precisely the same: “The Destroyer of the people”. John wrote in Greek for people who did not know the Hebrew and therefore we have the two designations for the same error. It is elucidated by reference to the appearance of Balaam in Numbers 22-25. Balaam was not permitted by God to utter his curses against the Church of the Old Testament: “He hath blessed and I cannot reverse it”. (Num. 23:20). But Balaam, unconverted, even by his own true prophecies, sought with king Balak to destroy the people with subtlety- by the encouragement of intermixture with the heathen through mixed marriage. Israel would thus cease to be Israel and be beyond the divine decree of preservation. Balaam’s policy was to subvert the divine decree by introducing heathenism to Israel. In this he justified his own name as a destroyer of the people.
The Lord in Revelation takes up the ancient figure and, in the medium of Hebrew and Greek, warns the ‘visible’ Church that heathenism was knocking at its doors. It had not yet succeeded in it destructive work (it would take centuries for the error to develop into its final form) but as John warned in his first and second pastoral epistles the principle was already at work. Paul felt the first breathing of it a generation before, when he wrote, “The mystery of iniquity doth already work, only he who now letteth will let until he be taken out of the way”. (2 Thess. 2:7)
The destroyer appears under other Hebrew-Greek designations in Rev. 9:11
“They had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name is in the Hebrew tongue Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Appolyon.”
WHO IS ANTICHRIST?
No, dear reader, not some coming Antichrist. Not Napoleon, not Mussolini, not Mr. Kissinger-but Satan himself rebuilding again on earth his own shattered empire by reproducing in the Church Visible the old heathenism under Christian designation. The name of the discredited gods of old time - Baal, Ashtoreth and the rest -are forgotten, but their worship goes on under a Christian disguise - truly a ‘mystery of iniquity’. Who does not recognise in this, a description of the Papacy? The mystery of iniquity predicted Paul was hindered or held back from its full development by the contemporary heathenism which dominated the world for the next three centuries. He who hindered the full development of the new heathenism artfully intruded under the Christian name, was Caesar. It was not possible for Balaamism to rise to its full power til Imperial Rome had fallen, and with it the ancient gods who had no more the aid of the secular power to sustain them. With the fall of Imperial Rome the throne of Caesar became vacant - and we all know from history who moved into the vacancy.
The philosopher Hobbes wrote:
If a man consider the original of this great ecclesiastical dominion he will easily perceive that the papacy is no other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire sitting crowned upon the grave thereof. For so did the papacy start up on a sudden out of the ruins of that heathen power.
Professor Mandell Creighton (one time Bishop of London) wrote:
The Roman Church is the most complete expression of Erastianism (that is, State Religion), since it is not a Church at all but a State in its organisation; and the worst form of State, an autocracy.
Professor J. S. Whale writes:
In historic Catholicism, apostolic Christianity has come to terms with Paganism, largely by incorporating it.
These quotations are taken from Prof. Whale’s volume on “The Protestant Tradition”, a sane, balanced and scholarly appraisal of the Protestant period of Church History - a period which in our view is now at an end, the Reformation having now joined its Roman brother as part of the general apostasy, of which more in a future section of our study of Revelation.
All the evangelical world is waiting for the emergence of a personal antichrist, but all the evangelical world in this respect is very much mistaken and does not know its own glorious history. The great Protestant Reformation is over and done with. The Counter-Reformation launched by the Jesuits is likewise over - it no longer has an enemy to fight.
By what base prophetical alchemy have whole generations of good evangelical people been cozened during the last 100 years into confusing the blessed Holy Spirit with the Roman emperor! They have been taught that ‘he who now hindereth’ the appearance of antichrist, is none other than the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, who will have to take Himself away, or be taken away out of the world altogether, along with the Church, so that the Wicked One may appear; whereas as we have just shown, he who hindered the appearance of antichrist was Caesar, who, so long as he was there to maintain the political and Pagan nature of the Roman empire, stood in the way of that historic rising of the Papacy which all our forefathers in the faith had no difficulty in recognising as “the Man of Sin’. As Pope and Pagan were both shorn of most of their power by the Reformation (as John Bunyan so pungently describes in Pilgrim’s Progress), many of our friends may wonder how Pope and Pagan will survive till the Second Coming of Christ, as Paul predicts they will. But Pope and Pagan in our day have made one of the most marvelous ‘come-backs’ in history, and Futurism has need to beware lest its confident prediction that the Church will not go through any great tribulation in the future, will at any time now be falsified by the event. We predict nothing, but we have a duty to warn.
We have to learn to distinguish between the Church Visible and the Church Invisible. The former is the Church in her mixed state, as man sees her; the Church Invisible is that spiritual core which only God can see, just as in the days of the Israelitish kingdom the nation as a whole was the visible kingdom of God but they were not all Israel which were of Israel, as Paul declares. Never more than a minority of the nation were true believers. These ‘who looked for redemption in Israel’ (Luke 2:38) were the true spiritual life of the nation. In the vivid description of Isaiah, it was as it the case of the oak which casts its leaves in winter; though dead to outward appearance it has within itself the life principle awaiting only the season of renewal to clothe the withered stem with verdure:
“As an oak whose substance is in them when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.” (Isaiah 6:13)
We may not despair therefore of finding individual life ever in the midst of an apostate church, whether it be Rome or Greek Orthodoxy, or the true piety still existing in many a Protestant church which has lost its faith and its message.
Even where there are churches and congregations of whatever name which adhere to the evangelical testimony, and which insist on saving faith as the ground of membership, experience proves only too well that all is not Israel which professes so to be. The final test is described by Paul – “The Lord knoweth them that are His, and let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity”. (2 Tim 2:19)
We must anticipate therefore that this principle works in those Seven Churches to which the Book of Revelation is addressed. There were churches almost overwhelmed by error; some like Sardis, which had only a name to live but in fact were dead (spiritually). Nevertheless, “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white for they are worthy.” (Rev. 3:1-4)
The Lord claims the overlordship of each of the Seven Churches no matter what their internal state. He knoweth those who are His in every church, and encourages them to continue in the faith. Each message of the Seven concludes with the exhortation “to him that overcometh”. Error, persecution, apostasy - all are permitted by the great Head of the Church, for only by adversity can faith be proved and refined and only by perseverance, repentance, rebuke, warning, encouragement, can the true Church (that is, all the regenerate who have the spiritual token, their Father’s name in they foreheads) be discerned. We are in this world to overcome the world and to overcome in the warfare against sin in our members, that we might be approved at the last. Not that our salvation is other than an act of divine grace, but the proof that grace is working with us and in us, is that we persevere to the end and overcome at the last.
Therefore we see these Seven Churches as representative not only of actual conditions existing at the time John addressed to them these messages, but of conditions which may be expected to reveal themselves in the individual believer to the end of time. They are contemporary conditions as well as historic. We believe they are more. We believe that seven successive phases of the Church’s history in her march through time are discerned, and though this has often been discounted, and as oft put forward without wisdom and discernment, we believe it has an important place in our interpretation.
We see as phases of universal Church History, the following scheme:
PLAN OF CHURCH HISTORY
First phase: Patmos to the Fall of Rome (A.D. 100 - 400, approx.).
The sub-apostolic church. Still sound in faith but the mystery of iniquity already begun to challenge the evangelical faith. Nicolaitanism knocking at the door.
The persecuted church. The true flame still burning despite the ten persecutions
under the Caesars (corresponding to the Ten Days tribulation of Rev. 2:10).
Second phase: Rise of the Papacy to the Reformation (400 - 1500).
PERGAMOS, THYATIRA, SARDIS
Rise of the papacy and the development of the Dark Ages, Nicolaitanism and Balaamism (the subversion of the gospel by the new heathenism) leading to the ultimate goal of Jezebelism , which is the full development of the apostasy headed up in Papal Rome. The priests of Baal now openly established by the Jezebel authority.
Third phase: The Reformation Church (1500 - 1900).
The evangelical testimony re-established and planting its banners in the uttermost parts of the earth.
Fourth phase: The decline of faith (1900 - to the final conflict).
The rise of rationalism in the Church. The new atheism enthroning itself on the ruins of the Protestant Reformation, leading to the divine judgment on the institutionalised Church. The purified remnant of believing people increasingly outside the formal boundaries of ‘Christendom’.
This plan is put forward tentatively. It is not suggested that history can be confined within well-marked sectional boundaries. Much which is typical of one phase may be found in all other phases. There is however a broad development of the Church’s history on the lines indicated.
We do not regard this plan as being any concession to the strict historicist view of the Revelation. Historicism claims an almost mathematical precision in its fixing of the onset of events or their termination. We have not said, and do not say, that there is no history in the Book of Revelation. What we do say is that divine history subordinates human history to itself, and deals with the meaning which is behind the events - the CAUSES AND PRINCIPLES of history as contemplated by the Almighty God whose decrees work secretly in the affairs of the Church taking account of all and directing all to the great consummation.
Hence whatever of the events of the Church’s history may be discerned in sequence in the opening chapters of Revelation, everything is there for the benefit of the Church in every age. We believe it to be a principle of prophecy that no prediction or foreshadowing of the divine purpose can be fully ascertained except by the fulfillment of it. Sufficient is discernible for the Church to be encouraged or warned, as in the case of the holy expectation of Messiah’s advent just prior to the glorious and mysterious incarnation at Bethlehem.
If we are correct in assessing the different periods of Church History in the messages to the Seven Churches, it is only because we live after the event or are able to perceive the significance of contemporary history. We do not forecast the future but we try to see where we are on God’s great clock of time. We repudiate the date-fixing of the Historicists and their confident forecasts of what is to come. We say frankly, we do not know except that the final outcome of all history will be the triumph of Christ when all enemies are made His footstool. We ARE confident that that triumph will be in heaven and not upon earth. We do not envisage an earthly millennium with a universal reign of the saints on a renovated earth because this is forbidden by the fulfilled prophecies concerning the nature of that kingdom Christ came to establish. We believe there can never be a time when Christians will not have to carry the cross, and wage warfare against sin. The “golden age” is the gospel era, which has lasted well nigh 2,000 years and which (we believe) may be nearing its end, as the Second Advent draws nigh.
“Far down the ages now,
Her journey well-nigh done ....”
Maybe there is more of time ahead of us than we think, but we cannot be wrong in looking for the coming of Christ at any time. Are we not encouraged by the last chapter of Revelation to respond to the great words of Christ to His servant in these eager terms? –
“Behold I come quickly”.
“Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus”.
We cannot be wrong in looking for His coming even though a little while with Him may be a lifetime or an age with us. But we can be very much wrong in following the unbelieving rabbis in interpreting the Old Testament prophecies of the kingdom in literal and material terms, for by those methods the Kingdom was hidden from their eyes and Messiah was crucified.
We believe and are confident that the Church and not natural Israel is the final phase of the Lord’s purposes on earth. We identify the Church with the prophecies of Jewish restoration because we believe the New Testament does so. We cannot agree with Dr. C. I. Scofield that the Church simply does not appear in O.T. prophecy. His note on Zech. 11:11 reads, “The Church corporately is not in O.T. prophecy”. In that same passage he says that ‘the poor of the flock’ described there are ‘those Jews who did not wait for the manifestation of Christ in glory, but believed on Him at His first coming and since. Neither the gentiles nor the gentile church, corporately, are in view’. This disastrous conclusion is unsupported by any argument or proof, and it gives a wry appearance to the faith of those suffering Jews who believed in Christ without waiting for the real coming of His kingdom: This logically absolves Jewish unbelief for 2,000 years past, of all blame.
If the New is the interpreter of the Old Testament, then the NT Church is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Kingdom Christ came to establish. The Church is the last phase, and we already are in “the last time” as John categorically declares in his first epistle, chapter 2:18 –
“Little children, IT IS THE LAST TIME: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby WE KNOW THAT IT IS THE LAST TIME”.
“The last time”, according to John and also to Paul, is the Church time. There is nothing after the Church and nothing but eternity after the Second Advent of Christ. The Irvingite division of the second coming of Christ into two phases, one secret and the other public, separated by a period of time, long or short, is destructive of the entire prophetical scheme of the New Testament and has thrown the evangelical world into its present confusion. More, it has rendered of non-effect most of the grandest sections of the prophetical scriptures of the Old Testament, denying them (as Dr. Scofield does) to the Christian Church, and opening the door to all the vast speculation and forecasting of the future, which has robbed the Church not only of her heritage but rendered impossible the exposition to the Church of more than half the Bible. It has destroyed Old Testament exegesis and impoverished the pulpit. It is as deadly a thrust, we believe, at the foundations of the Church as Mr. Spurgeon warned us about in his heroic Downgrade Controversy. We should like to have known what he would have made of the present state of prophetical exegesis, if he had lived long enough to see.
This is not a digression from the study of the Book of Revelation, for these are principles without which the Book cannot be realistically approached. Is it necessary to enlarge upon this when we are confronted with the flood of pamphlets and books purporting to explain the Book of Revelation in terms of horrible events concentrated in three and a half years of time to take place when the Church is supposed not to be here to pass through those horrors? Of what worth is this great Book unless we can approach it with the assurance that as the first chapter is for us, so by consequence is the whole in every part, the property of the Church?
JUDGMENT BEGINS AT THE HOUSE OF GOD
It is a prevailing error of Futurism that the Church has no part in this Book after the first three chapters. But it is necessary to see the opening chapters as being preparatory for the rest of the Book. The Church must first pass under judgment, before the ungodly world which opposes her is brought under the stern divine discipline. “Judgment must begin at the house of God” says Peter (1 Pet. 4:17). There is much to be put right in the Church, much indeed, and by reason of that fact we ought to be humbled. The judgments unfolded against the enemies of the Kingdom of God might lead the believer to regard himself as privileged and immune, but there must be no sparing of ungodliness in the Church.
Even the ‘good churches’, Smyrna and Philadelphia, against which no evil is alleged, are under the exhortation to continue faithful unto death (2:10), to “hold fast lest any take their crown” (3:11) . Unceasing vigilance and care are the conditions of preservation and of overcoming. Conflict is to be the rule of the life of the Church on earth. There is no crown without the cross; no finishing without continuing. Overcoming, a word which is applied to all seven states of the Church, is not a description of a higher state of spirituality attained by a few Christians in this life (as some schools of the Higher Life have strangely taught). It is the essential element of all true faith and belongs to the final triumph of the soul over sin and death.
In our examination of the messages to the individual churches symbolically presented in chapters 2 and 3 it is important to observe that each is prefixed with an aspect of Christ’s power and authority for the most part (but not entirely) drawn from the appearance of Christ to John in chapter 1.
Thus to Ephesus (in danger of having her candlestick removed) He is represented as the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks in the midst of the candlesticks. To Smyrna He is ‘the first and the last’; to Pergamos He is the one with the sharp sword; to Thyatira He comes with His eyes like a flame and His feet like fine brass. Sardis sees Him as the One who has the seven Spirits of God. For Philadelphia the figure is taken from Isaiah 22:22 where Christ is predicted as the Possessor of the key of David, who opens and shuts according to His sovereign pleasure - a fitting text for a Reformation Church. The final Laodicean apostasy sees Him appropriately as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” - for He who is the beginning is also the end. Let our age be warned.
Each message also is concluded with a glorious promise to the faithful who overcome in the conflict with Satan and sin, thus:
Ephesus: The tree of life.
Smyrna : No second death.
Pergamos: The hidden manna and the new name.
Thyatira: Power over the nations.
Sardis: White raiment and the Book of Life.
Philadelphia: A glorious place in the heavenly temple, the name of God, the name of the city of God, the new name of Christ written upon them (showing their abiding portion in the glory of that eternal world).
Laodicea: Consummation - Man sits with Christ in His eternal throne and the purpose of God in the creation of man is at last fully realised.
“The seven promises combine to form one picture of the future bliss of heaven” (Speaker's Bible).
The appropriate symbols of the Vision of Christ as applied to the case of the individual churches show Christ’s sufficiency for every phase of the Church’s experience. He is armed with every virtue, power and authority to guide and preserve His true Church through all the conflicts and perils of her earthly journey as described in the remaining 19 chapters of Revelation.
She would need all this provision and inspiration found in Christ and His promises, in the overwhelming dangers which were to come. But why should the Church be so troubled and tried? Why must the world be allowed so much apparent power over her, seeing Christ is omnipotent and all-sufficient?
The answer is: because she must overcome in order to find her true rest and peace. Trial and conflict exercise her faith and patience, and prove her trusting, obedient love. What are the inducements and supports offered to the Church to continue in patience and faith to the overcoming of her enemies? This is answered in the terminations to the seven messages. All relate to the life to come and indicate under wealthy figures what heaven will mean those who attain its felicity. What the Bride seeks is not to found in this life; but in the foretaste and the pledge of it perceives that the greater portion is to come. The marriage heaven will immeasurably surpass all that this world contains for her. “If here it is so blessed, what will it be up there?”
The following lessons should be noted:
1. Christ always appears to the Church in the form suited to spiritual state at the time, whether for blessing or for judgment.
2. The condition of the Church varies and the true people of God are often a poor and despised minority.
3. Christ is as ready to encourage and commend the small amount of faith as He is to judge and punish the unrepentant and the apostate.
4. All true believers are ‘overcomers’ for only they who overcome enter at last the heavenly paradise.
5. The mystery of trial and temptation. Christ’s parting counsels to the apostolic representatives of the Church (John 14-16) were designed to prepare His Church for trial and tribulation. The path to glory must be one of blood and pain and struggle and the cross. Why? That we may learn true spiritual values, that faith may be proved, that the qualities of patience, experience and hope may be developed, and that we may be enriched beyond measure after the things of the Spirit; above all, heaven itself must be enriched by the fruits of faith, patience and love, self-sacrifice, devotion to Christ when all is against us, and Christ must be exalted by the proven devotion, even unto death, of His redeemed.
LEFT HER FIRST LOVE
Much that is in the messages to the Seven Churches we must leave to the individual believer to work out for himself, or the chapters of Revelation would require a book to do justice to them. We can but point out as in a sketch the principal features of the prophetic and spiritual messages.
EPHESUS, the Church which, despite many commendable virtues of faithfulness and service, had left its first love. Jeremiah 2:2: “Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness in a land that was not sown ...” That primitive, fervent devotion to Christ so characteristic of our youth, the time of our espousal to Christ; that early love of courtship and marriage which the soul clings to the Beloved; that self-dedication, which gives away its freedom and itself in glad and ecstatic yielding to Christ; which covenants and resolves and pledges; which trusts with a faith which purifies the heart and makes sin and the world seem far away - how easy to lose it by familiarity: How quick the fires of devotion can die down, how often the sense of purpose and dedication be lost, and the sense of wonder at the sound of His name be overcast by earthly clouds?
“Jesus the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast.”
So sang the saintly Bernard.
Or holy Rutherford, imprisoned for Christ’s sake, finding the words he sought in the Song of Solomon,
Oh, I am my beloved’s,
And my beloved’s mine.
He brings a poor vile sinner
Into his house of wine ....
Or seraphic Charles Wesley,
Oh that I could for ever sit,
like Mary at the Master's feet.
Be this my happy choice.
My only care, delight and bliss,
My joy, my heaven on earth be this
To hear the bridegroom's voice.
The Ephesian Church had not gone so far as to forsake her Saviour and find substitutes for her Lord. She was still orthodox and sound, active and ‘successful’, but the holy fire had died down. Only the fervent flame of consecrated love for Christ can keep a Church or an individual from decay and disaster.
“I will remove thy candlestick out of its place except thou repent” says He who holds in His hand the Seven Stars and moves in the midst of the golden Candlesticks. We are not to reverence antiquity and tradition so much as to suppose that churches are necessarily eternal. Christ will not hesitate to remove a candlestick and extinguish the light in a church - or a nation. Let not Rome boast of its antiquity or its supposed apostolic succession. It is what a church is NOW which matters. God did not spare the Jewish church under the Old Covenant, but hurled it from its privileges into an age-long dispersion. No church can live on its tradition, however glorious its history.
The story of Revelation is the story of the triumph of Christ and His people over the world - a world headed and organised by the Evil One to overcome the Church by outward persecution or by inward subversion. At the time of writing of the Revelation, the ‘mystery of iniquity’ (that is, Christianised Paganism) had not fully formed itself but it was there in principle, waiting in the wings until the enthroned Paganism of Rome should be abolished. Satan would then transfer his seat from Caesar’s throne to the Papal throne. Already the principle was at work in the tendency among these thoroughly orthodox Ephesians to substitute their orthodoxy for love of Christ and pure devotion to Him. They truly hated ‘the deeds of the Nicolaitans’ and rejected the false apostles who were subverting the apostolic teaching. The deeds of the Nicolaitans were the adulterous mixture of the doctrine of Christ with subtle compromise with idolatry and Paganism. When John wrote, “This is the true God and eternal life; little children, keep yourselves from idols”, (1 John 5:21) he was warning his little ones against that prelude to all heathen apostasy in the Church, the inward idols of the heart - divided loyalty to Christ. Christ was in effect being denied, though still honoured in Name.
At the end of time, when Satan enjoys his Little Season of final liberty before judgment (Rev. 20), the Evil One will rend his hypocritical garment of Christian masquerade and cast it from him, so as to appear in all his naked, undisguised paganism and atheism. We cannot for certainty tell at what stage of time we may now be but it seems that Satan is doing just that today. These are the days when all that is called God is being trust aside with contempt. The Protestant apostasy is worse and more dangerous than the Roman for at least Rome has never denied the Apostles’ Creed, and holds fast to the standards of Athanasius and Nicaea. It is now fashionable, and mostly so in English nonconformity (what is left of it) openly to deny, or tacitly to tolerate the denial of the Godhead of Christ, without which the Holy Trinity is destroyed and God is dissolved. In America also this process is far advanced.
“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God .... He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”. (Rev. 2:7)
The promise to the symbolic Church of Ephesus that those who ‘overcome’ would eat of the tree of life in the Paradise of God settles several questions. Man by sin was excluded from that Edenic tree which, though an actual tree, represented a pledge of immortality to man under the Old Covenant of Works. There are no trees growing heaven, but we are in the region of figure. The reality of that which was symbolised in the Edenic tree, namely life eternal, granted to those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ. In Christ man is restored to his original place in creation and finds the fulfillment of his destiny. By God becoming Man that which was lost is restored. Believing man receives again, not only that which by transgression he lost, but far more, infinitely more, for by mystic union with THE SECOND MAN, THE LORD FROM HEAVEN, he is elevated to the throne of the universe as Christ declares in that final message to the Church of Laodicea (chap. 3:21):
“To him that overcometh will I grant to
SIT WITH ME IN MY THRONE .....”
At so great a price, so high a destiny.
All superstition about where paradise is should likewise be dispelled by these words. Paradise is the immediate presence of God, the final reward of the saints; they enter it at death and are in joy and felicity till the final resurrection which shall not alter their place or status, but shall be the moment when, soul and body reunited, all the redeemed, in one tremendous and simultaneous moment will be transformed into the glorious likeness of the Saviour Himself. Their poor bodies, rescued from death and the grave -the same bodies in which they lived and moved and suffered here below - will be raised incorruptible, as His was raised. Their graves will be emptied - as His was emptied. In the body He arose, who had already been in the Spirit in the paradise of God. Did He not say to the dying thief, “TODAY, thou shalt be with me in paradise”? He reappeared amongst His disciples the third day in the identical body which went into the tomb, for it still bore the marks of sacrifice - the five wounds which He still bears in His glorious body in heaven. So shall the redeemed enjoy that same liberty, in the body, but a body transformed as was His, and appearing in His very likeness:
"He shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” Philippians 3:21
THE MARTYR CHURCH
SMYRNA, the second of the Seven, is the martyr church. Her tribulation of ‘ten days’ indicates her prolonged trial at the hands of Imperial Rome. Ten persecutions are listed by church historians. The numeral could refer to that, but it has a yet deeper significance. Ten is the number of perfection, and ten days is a perfect and complete period of time. It could mean in human measurement three centuries of time, but Revelation is speaking in terms of divine time, for prophecy is of that nature. Ten days of God’s time mean that it will not last longer than just to fulfill His purpose. It is strictly limited, and its commencement and finishing are determined by divine decree, not by the caprice of men or the malice of Satan.
Smyrna is exhorted to be faithful unto death, for the promise to her is that she shall ‘not be hurt of the Second Death’. This is the confidence of all martyrs who fear not those who destroy the body.
THE FEATURES OF ANTICHRIST APPEAR
PERGAMOS is the third church. In her began to appear the features of antichrist. She is the post-martyr church, when the people of God rest from the cruelty of their enemies. Outward prosperity breeds carelessness. The memory of the martyrs was with her. “Antipas” was well-known to her (v.13), but the heathen were pressing into the Church and corrupting it - represented Balaam and the Nicolaitans (v.14-15). If the papacy is the manifestation of antichrist, then certainly it was about this time the Bishop of Rome began to gather power and prestige.
But who was Antipas? Attempts have been made to identify this name with Timothy of whom tradition says he was martyred at Pergamos while John was in Patmos. Others have it that it must be Polycarp, contemporary with John, who rendered up his life for Christ’s sake in a glorious martyrdom. We believe it was neither of these two great and noble confessors. The name Antipas is enigmatic and not intended to represent an actual person. Antipas, means, in the Greek, “Against all” and denotes all martyrs for Christ, who stand against all the power and spite of this world and love not their lives unto the death.
JEZEBEL AT THYATIRA
THYATIRA is the fourth church, and in her we see the rise of the woman Jezebel. No such lady of that name is known except the wicked wife of wicked Ahab, Israel’s worst king. It was she who established Baal worship in Israel (and more beside) for she was a Phoenician and brought with her the polluted religion of Tyre and Sidon. She stands here for that deliberate idolatry which throws all pretence to the winds and comes out into the open as the enemy of God. The mystery of iniquity was now working fast and openly and the visible church was being crushed and oppressed by the heathen masquerade represented by the full-blown pride of the Papal institution of new idolatry which is the old idolatry with a Christian name.
The “power over the nations” promised in this church to those who overcome, is the power of the preached word which is the sceptre of Christ by which He, through His Word faithfully preached, dashes the nations in pieces as a potter’s vessel (v.26-27; compare Psalm 2:9). During the worst of times God raises up His reformers and protesters, as He did during all the period of the domination of antichrist and his kingdom of oppression, deceit and violence.
CHURCH OF THE DARK AGES
SARDIS, the fifth church is well named, for the name is taken from the Greek word which means sordid or defiled. This is the Church whose state is described as “having a name to live, but is dead”. Sordid with the pride and lust of this world, this church none the less contains “a few names even in Sardis which have defiled their garments. These shall walk with me in white.”
Sardis is the final stage of that degeneration which began in Pergamos, developed openly in Thyatira and now comes to maturity in Sardis. We name this as the Church of the Dark Ages when the Roman apostasy came to the full and armies of priests and monks and nuns, ignorant, corrupt, poured over Europe and the east. The minds of men were blighted, their liberties crushed, their lives embittered. The temple courtyard was ‘given to the gentiles’ (Rev. 11:2) - that is, devoted to heathen superstition, but Satan could not touch the inner sanctuary which was ‘measured’ for preservation and inviolable sanctity (Rev. 11:2). These were the ‘few names’ even in Sardis, who kept their garments clean. Even in the worst days of darkness and superstition God left not Himself without witness. There were pious priests and monks, humble believers too among the common people. Wycliffe and the Lollards in England; the Beghards and Beguines, distinguished for piety and good works on the continent, mystical men like John Tauler and Philip Suso, John of Wessel (the harbinger of the Reformation they called him - he died the year Luther was born), Jan Ruysbroek and Thomas a’ Kempis in Holland, Savonarola in Italy, others in Spain and France, aye, and we may not forget the peerless Dante, the aristocrat of Florence, converted from profligacy and vice, who traveled alone, in his own great poem, through the Inferno of his great sins, the Purgatorio of his conversion, to reach the shores of Paradise where the heavenly Beatrice (whose name means beatitude) awaited him - these and thousands more were among the precious ‘few’ in Sardis who kept the faith alive and now walk in white with the Lamb in heavenly felicity.
THE REFORMATION CHURCH
PHILADELPHIA is the sixth church. Time is hastening on. A thousand years of darkness is giving way to the dawn of a new day. God finds His man. The name is Luther. All the means were to hand. The printing press, newly invented, was there to print the New Testament in Greek for Erasmus, the sage of Rotterdam – and the Ninety-five Theses (propositions) of Luther. By these two instruments - the Greek Testament, and Luther’s interpretation of the gospel as the means of free justification by faith alone - the world was shaken, the sun of truth began to shine brightly again in the sky, the shackles fell from men’s minds, the triple crown on the head of antichrist trembled to its fall, Philadelphia succeeds Sardis, and God sets before her an open door which none can shut. Yes, this is the Reformation Church. This is the epoch which exposed the falsity of that usurping system which by sacramentalism, sacerdotalism, legalism, and secularism, held the minds of generations in bondage till men sighed under the tyranny and longed for light. The Reformation was the greatest event in church history after the apostles. It was the rebirth of the church. All the working of divine providence in history combined to produce it. For centuries the patience of God was preparing the way. The political scene combined with the intellectual and the spiritual to bring it about the fall of Constantinople to the Turks brought the Greeks with the Testament to the universities of Europe. The Italian renaissance prepared the minds of men for a great revolution in learning. Art flourished as never before. A fresh generation of young men in Europe sought eagerly for the new learning. No price was too high to pay. Simultaneously the world suddenly doubled in size. It was the age of Columbus and the intrepid mariners of Spain, Portugal and England. Telescopes were sweeping the sky and bringing fresh astral worlds to view, introducing the expansion of science on scale not known since the days of the pyramids. Galileo with his telescope rightly claimed that he had enlarged the world by 100,000 times. Alongside of it all was the appalling state of the Papacy. That institution did not want for intelligent Popes, patrons of science and the arts, but they were for the most part corrupt men, monsters of vice and intolerance. The papacy owes a debt to the Reformatio which it has never acknowledged - and is never likely to. At least this river of new life released by the Reformation cleaned out the worst of that Augean stable.
The sovereign nature of that mighty work of God in the 16th century is evident in the combination of historic events which prepared the way for it, the simultaneous raising up of national figures who were to be the leaders of the enlightenment. Modern evangelicaldom, with its emphasis on personalities, money and method (budgets of half a million sterling were as nothing in some of the, recent ‘campaigns’) - evangelicaldom, we repeat, would do well to consider the modesty of God’s budget at the Reformation, when the emphasis was upon men and not money. It was the poor scholar of Europe whom God employed in His mighty task - that the excellency of the power might appear to come from God and not from man. The Methodist revival was not distinguished for its emphasis on gold either.
It was thus that they of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews and are not, were made to fall down before the simple messengers of God (verse 9). Here again of course we are in the region of symbol. The Jew as such is not in sight, but the Christian Church (visible, that is), had followed the pattern of the Jewish Church which boasted of its patriarchal succession (as false Christianity boasts of its apostolic succession) and was ignorant of the true nature of the Church: “He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the flesh, whose praise is not men but of God”. (Romans 2:28-29)
THE REFORMATION IS OVER
But hearken to that roll of distant thunder: The grace of the Philadelphian age is passing. There is a threatening sky. The age is passing on to – LAODICEA.
The last church, the church which if we mistake not, is taken to represent the state of affairs which prevails at the end of history.
The Reformation is over - everyone knows that. The release of the human mind four centuries ago involved consequences which were inevitable, fallen man being what he is. Freedom to think became freedom to rebel - to rebel against all authority, human or divine, and the human race has still to learn the lesson that what it calls freedom becomes the worst bondage of all. Freedom to sin is no freedom at all; it is slavery. Freedom from the laws of God means bondage to the devil and Satan. The dragon of ecclesiastical tyranny is only a shadow of the great devouring dragon of atheistic unbelief which now stands to devour the human race.
The Laodicean church belongs to the Laodicean age: the boast that we are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing - no, not even of God or Christ and true religion. This is the boast of the modern world and its church, and it is now paying its price to the devil who is a hard taskmaster, as was his old time friend in ancient Egypt - Pharaoh.
The Protestant churches have fallen. The Reformation is over. The unbelief which arose in Britain in the 17th century, which crossed over to Germany, and reappeared in the 19th century as theological rationalism, has at length captured the Protestant churches (or the most of them), and devastated them. In Britain and Western Europe churchgoing is at the lowest ebb since the fall of Paganism. With the rise of theological rationalism came its stable companion, scientific rationalism. The doctrine of evolution displaced God by making Him irrelevant to creation. The error spread into the political world and produced dialectical materialism - communism. But Satan remembers his friends, and it is a fact that the Church of Rome has staged its greatest revival in history. The Pope, alone among the great religious figureheads, has increased in international credit. The world does not mind his medieval obscurantism. It accepts him as a respectable figure wielding power and prestige -which is what the world delights in, these being the values which it really exalts.
CHARISMATA - A TOKEN OF THE APOSTASY
The true Church is more and more assembling outside the visible Church, but has her problems just the same. With the doctrine of theology comes the rise of dubious religious and psychological experiments. “Charismata” is the great word. Let us all speak in tongues and the millennium will have arrived! Alas, it is now quite plain to be seen that the more charismata, the less theological exposition, and the weaker theology becomes the more cry for charismata is heard. There is no remedy for the present evangelical dilemma but a revival of worship and of the preaching of the Word. No, it will not mean full churches and popular pulpits. All that passed with the passing of the age of Spurgeon. Mr. Spurgeon saw the tokens of coming disaster but did not live to see the development. He would not have believed the present situation could have developed, but we, the present members of the true Church of Christ (by whatever other name we may be distinguished) have to live with the consequences of atheistic unbelief now come to full fruition.
What is the message of Laodicea for today? It is surely that great verse,
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him and sup with him and he with me. - Rev. 3:21.
No: Not Holman Hunt’s milk-and-water pre-Raphaelite picture of a Saviour pleading to come in, but the solemn warning of Him who announces His own Second Coming to the Church, that she might be roused from her slumber and prepare herself to meet Him, and with Him sit down at the heavenly wedding feast when the door is shut and outside is wailing and gnashing of teeth.
“Let your loins be girded about and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding; THAT WHEN HE COMETH AND KNOCKETH THEY MAY OPEN TO HIM IMMEDIATELY.” - Luke 12:35-36
See Song of Solomon, chapter 5, verse 2 from which the Lord takes these words.
Spurgeon on the Craving for a timetable of the Future:
I conceive that among Christian people of a certain sort, the abortive explanations of prophecy by certain doctors, satisfy a craving which in irreligious people finds its food in novels and romances. People have a panting to know the future. Certain divines pander to this depraved taste by prophesying for them and letting them know what is coming by and by. I do not know the future, and I shall not pretend to know. But I do preach this, for I know it, that Christ will come, for he says so in a hundred passages.