A Challenge to Christians
Asia is the venue of the vari-sided message, or - if you like - the seven messages. Asia was representative of first century Christianity: that is, Asia had received all the primary and essential apostolic teaching. Paul called it "the whole counsel of God." But some thirty or more years had passed since Paul wrote his great circular letter to Asia and so soon after completed his ministry. In that period - only about thirty years - serious decline had set in in the majority of the churches. The character had changed. Divergence had taken place. The standard had lowered. Measure had been forfeited. The churches were living on a past. The fine gold had become dim. Form had taken the place of life, and works went on without the primary love. It is painful to have to accept the fact that, in even the fullness of the apostolic times, such a change could take place in a comparatively short time. It surely says that, to have had so much is no guarantee of final consistency. This is an age-long peril; the peril besetting the path of anything which had a great and wonderful beginning under the hand of God! It is not difficult to find all over the world the dead shells of what once was a mighty testimony to the sovereign movement of God; a "candlestick of pure gold." We do not dwell on this aspect for the moment, but move on with the positive method of the Lord to meet it.
So we are brought back to the introduction: "The unveiling of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to shew unto His servants" (1:1). While the whole statement as to the "shewing" is immediately related to "the things which must shortly come to pass," it is essential to note that this whole unveiling is based upon, and issues from, an unveiling and presentation of the Person of God's Son, Jesus Christ. All that follows in the whole book is intimately connected with the personal presentation. The phrase: "to show unto His servants" come to relate - at least in the first place - to the churches in Asia, and, of course, to John. This full-length presentation of Jesus Christ will occupy us in this present consideration. Note carefully that the Person - in His full and meticulous delineation - is so closely linked with the churches as to "hold them in His right hand" (1:16, 20), and also "walketh in the midst..." (2:1). The point here is -
The Intimate Association of Christ With Conditions
It is not a contradiction or confusion to see Christ in Heaven and at the right hand of God, as Paul and Stephen speak of Him, and then to hear John say that He is imminent and immediate in the churches on earth. And this is shown to be so even when the churches - the true churches - are in a poor and bad condition. It may come to be that because of certain conditions, as in the case of Laodicea, where Christ is represented as on the outside of the door; nevertheless, He has not deserted and abandoned. We shall see that the real force of this first section is the deep and pained concern for His Church in her state of declension.
At this point we should sit back and allow ourselves to register the forceful impact of a serious fact. Taking not one whit from the Lord's command and commission to evangelized the whole world, it was after the world that then was had been evangelized that practically the entire New Testament was written to Christians who had responded. After "Acts" there is not one book of the subsequent twenty-six comprising the New Testament which was written to the unevangelized and unsaved. This surely is forceful enough (apart from the contents of the books) to convince us that the Lord is - at least - as much concerned with the "follow up", the saved, as He is to evangelize! The law of God, both in nature and in grace, is "full growth," and anything less than that is either abortion or stultification; it is sub-norman, or un-normal, and it speaks of defeat and frustration of purpose and design. God is not like that, and Himself suffers in any such condition. We shall come on this again later, but it must be from this consciousness that we begin. If that has impressed us sufficiently, and only if so, we can proceed, and in doing so we shall at once be confronted with -
(continued with # 8 - (God's Ultimate Standard)