Love: The Supreme Test of the Church
"His great love wherewith He loved us" (Ephesians 2:4)
We come now to the close of the New Testament, the consummation in the Book of Revelation. A great deal of reading ought to take place at this point for which we have not the time. Will you open the Word at the beginning of the Book of Revelation and glance down through the first, second and third chapters as the first main part of this book, hurriedly recalling what is there, and helping as best you can as we go on by noting details also?
We have said that we are here in the consummation, and I think I shall have no difficulty in having your agreement that, when we come to the Book of the Revelation, we do come to the consummation of all that is in the Word of God; that is, it is a gathering up of all at the end to a final settlement. That at least we can say about the Book of Revelation. Whatever may be our ideas of interpretation of the many things here, we are all agreed that here we are at the end and everything is being gathered up to a final settlement. At this point we must just ask a further question. Have we not much to go upon that we are now nearing that final settlement of all things, that we are in the days of the consummation of the ages? Is it necessary for me to gather up all the proofs and evidences and signs to prove that? But I think there again I have you agreement. We certainly are in the end times.
If that is true, then it is a matter of supreme importance that we should recognize what are the primary and ultimate factors with God; and if those factors are at all at issue in our considering them together at this time, then our meditation must take on a significance which is altogether beyond our own. It must be a very solemn and consequential time, and it must demand and receive from us a definite act of putting away every other kind of thought and consideration. There should be an open-hearted seeking of the Lord, with no prejudices, no suspicions, no curiosity, nor anything that is casual or indefinite. We must come, and, with all our hearts, take the attitude that if God is going to say to us that which with Him is of primary and ultimate consequence, we must note that and we must be in it.
I tarry to lay emphasis on one further matter. I am intensely concerned that we should not be just occupied with a lot of Bible matter. This is not just a theme that is being taken up, a subject, with all the subject matter about it being brought out. No, a thousand time no! If this is not God's message to us, well, we had better cut it short and go and do something else.
Well, then, let us come to this book of the Revelation. We take chapters 1 to 3. I have many times made great efforts to resolve these three chapters into one clear meaning, but I have always finished with a sense of defeat. There has been something true and right, but in the thing that I was after I have had a sense of defeat and frustration; and when we come to certain details in these messages to the churches, such as Jezebel, Balaam, the Nicolatans, somehow we seem to have got into a realm of the technical. The thing has not become a concrete, definite, positive message, it has escaped me. I knew what those things meant in principle, but what I so much wanted to do was to find one resolving thing which gathers them all up and makes them as a whole single message for the Lord's people. Until now, as I say, I have felt defeated every time, all through the long years. I am wondering if I have got it now; we shall see.
Love the Master-Key to the Whole Bible
It seems to me at length that the master-key to the whole Bible is in our hands when we come to this. The master-key to everything is love; and if you will look, I do not think there is any doubt but that you will come to see that all that is here is gathered into that one matter of Divine love. We are in the consummation of love in this book, and it begins and ends with the Church.
Love the Key to the Vision in Revelation One
You take, then, the first chapter, and what is the key? The key to the first chapter and also to the whole book is to be found in the words, "Unto Him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by His blood; and He made us a kingdom, priests unto His God and Father." You can see love in almost every word of that great sentence.
But alongside of, or following on, that statement, you have the presentation of the risen and glorified Lord, and He is presented at once in that marvelous designation "Son of Man," the title of kingship, the redeeming kinsman. "Unto Him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins" - the title, you see, belongs to One Who has come right into our estate, and eventually into our state. That is the theme of love. Oh, how great, how comprehensive, is that Son of Man, flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone, to redeem us unto His Father! He is described in that matchless presentation, verse by verse, step by step, and when you have read it all and noted everything that is said about Him, every detail of Hi person and of His adornment, you find it is the sum total of love.
He is "girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle." Every word speaks of Divine love, the breasts, the gold, the girdle. The girdle is the symbol of strength, of energy, of intention, of purpose. You mean business when you gird yourself. The robes are no longer flowing for leisure, loose for reclining. The girdle is golden, symbolic of the very nature of God Who is love. Above the rest that girdle seems to me to include all the other features, give meaning to everything else.
I am not going to mention in detail all the features of this Son of Man as given to us here. What I am trying to convey to you is that this inclusive presentation of the risen and glorified Christ is the comprehensive presentation of love. "But," you say, "is that true? - because some of the terms used are terrible, awful. John fell at His feet as one dead when he saw Him. Is that the effect of love? Would it not be truer to say that this is the Lord All-terrible, rather than the Lord All-loving?" But think again. It is love, but not our idea of love. We have to reconstitute our conception of Divine love. This One here is described as "the faithful and true." Have yo never been in the hands of the Lord in discipline, in breaking, yes, in shattering, being poured out like water on the ground, and afterward have had to say, "Thou wast right, Lord; it was the only way. It was a terrible experience, but Thou wast faithful with me, faithful to all the highest and deepest principles of heaven. it was not in anger and judgment, but in faithfulness and mercy to my soul that Thou didst do it." We have to reconstitute our idea of love. Here John says, "When I saw Him I fell at His feet as one dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, 'Fear not.' " This is not judgment, this is not destruction, this is not death and condemnation. The right hand is the token of honor, of favor. "Fear not; I am the first and the last." Everything is in My hands and in the end it will be all right; I took it up and I am going to finish it; fear not."
(continued with # 14)