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Saviour. “ For whether we live, we live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we die unto the Lord : whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living."* This is information most consolatory to his church. The state of the dead, and the time and circumstance of their departure thither, are under the control of the merciful Saviour. He has the charge of the intermediate state. Those that sleep in Jesus are present with him, in his safe keeping —" the prisoners of hope.”
That the seven epistles to the seven churches of Asia, which compose this first vision in the Revelation, represent the actual state of religion in these respective societies, and denounce their future destinies as churches, seems to be beyond all doubt. But it is equally plain from the general style of the addresses, and from the application accompanying each,—“ He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches," -- that these churches are selected as specimens and examples to the whole catholic church. Each may be considered as forming an historical allegory, representing all churches of a similar character to the end of time, and showing, in its predicted fate, what every church in like circumstances may hope for or expect :t and showing how, in the case of most of them, the individual believer is to maintain his integrity, in the midst of a corrupted society.
We remark, moreover, that each church, in the usual style of prophecy, is addressed in prospect of the coming of Christ, to take account of his servants :
* Romans, xiv. 8.
+ Dean Woodhouse.
and even when the prophecy seems to forebode the dissolution of the church, in the taking away of its candlestick, still the faithful remnant are summoned against that day.
It has been conjectured, from the addresses to two of these churches, and the events of history so far corroborate the conjecture, that they shall survive every trial, even the oppression of Mahometism, which now rests so heavily upon them, to see the day of Christ. These are Smyrna and Philadelphia. To the first it is said, “ Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life :" to the latter, “ Behold, I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”
But, whatever may be the warrant for this conclusion, there is a language held to every one of the churches, which assures to the individual that overcometh, a share in the blessings of that day: and the language held to the remnants in some of these churches, especially in those of Thyatira and of Laodicea, is so express and distinct, that it throws considerable light upon our general subject - the business and concerns of the second advent. To the remnant in Thyatira it is said :
Chap. ii. 25. " But that which ye have, hold fast till I come, and he that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron : and as the vessels of a potter, shall they be broken to shivers ; even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star."
This promise renders it clear, as we have often inferred before, that every faithful follower of Jesus Christ shall, in some sort, participate in the power and
authority of the Redeemer, when he comes to judge the world, and establish his kingdom.
In the second Psalm, it is a grant of God to the Messiah:
And I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,
This the Redeemer has received of his Father, and this honour he bestows on all his saints; on every one "that overcometh." What the "gift of the morning star" may indicate, perhaps we know not as yet. I should conjecture that it applies to the faithful remnants in Thyatira-or in such like churches-that shall be alive at the eve of that glorious day, when the Son of Man is revealed and that they shall be among "the wise," that shall perceive the signs of their Lord's coming; and, while the world around them is sunk in darkness, and in sleep, so that that day shall come upon them unawares; these faithful servants, watching for their Lord, shall perceive the day dawn; "the daystar shall arise on their hearts;" a harbinger of "the Sun of righteousness," that shall arise on them "with healing in his wings." "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
What is said to the remnant of Laodicea is nearly equivalent:
Chap. iii. 20. "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 will sup with him, and he with me."
This language is illustrated by the general precepts
respecting watching for the coming of Christ, as servants for their master's returning from the wedding-feast. The parable of the twelve virgins will also illustrate it. The stress is laid on the servants' being ready, and immediately prepared when the Master comes : not to hear the knock, betokens the slothful unawakened servant that will be rejected. It follows ::
“ To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me upon my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father upon his throne."
Both these promises are important in the view of our subject, inasmuch as they clearly ascertain the fact, that the promise of the kingdom, in its utmost glories, belongs to all the faithful people of God, and is not, as some have supposed, the peculiar portion of holy martyrs, or of those who in this life have been called to sustain particular sufferings and losses for Christ's sake.
I have selected these blessings pronounced on the faithful, in these two churches, as most illustrative of our subject. But “ to him that overcometh,” in the address to each of the churches, will be found a promise that refers to his happy condition, when the kingdom of God shall fully come.
7. “I will give him to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
11. He “shall not be hurt by the second death.” 17.“ He shall eat of the hidden manna,” &c.
Chap. iii. 5. “ The same shall be clothed in white raiment, and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life ; but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels."
12. “ Him will I make a pillar in the temple of my God,
and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is the New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.”
The Opening of the Main Vision of the Revelation.
The second vision of the Revelation, which may be considered, whatever new scenes are introduced, as lasting to the end of the book, commences in the fourth chapter. As every thing in this vision has a reference, direct or indirect, to the coming of Christ, in his kingdom, and as it details, in regular series, the course of events in the history of mankind, that will lead at length to the development of this glorious era, we must not entirely omit any part of it, but at least so far note those parts of the prophecy which belong not immediately to our subject, as to keep in view the connexion of the whole.
Invited, in the vision, to ascend the heavens, the prophet seems to see the appearance of a kingly or imperial throne. The robes of him that sits thereon, compared to the brightness of precious stones, rather than to an earthly dye, are clearly represented as being of the royal purple. They were to look upon like jasper and a sardine stone” - like to that jasper which is of the colour of sardine stone, or carnelian. *
“ The rainbow like an emerald,” whatever the particular colour
- αριστη ή πορφυρουσα.