*[These notes also in circulation with the date 2009. Perhaps the earlier date is correct.]
I have read those first chapters of Revelation over many times and each time I read them, I find something new. This story begins when John was a prisoner on the Isle of Patmos. Rev1:4, “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace…” This message began as a message of peace. We can have all kinds of treasures in this life but if we don’t have peace, we have nothing. We can have joy but if there’s no peace, we don’t have very much. John wanted to give his people this message — this message of peace.
Peace doesn’t depend on circumstances but on ourselves. Jesus told His disciples in John that if they went into a city or a home where no peace was, it shouldn’t affect their peace. It didn’t mean they shouldn’t be concerned about it, but it shouldn’t affect their peace. I don’t want to be at peace myself yet have a wrong spirit; I don’t want to be at peace with myself but condemn others, either. That’s a dangerous position to be in. We must learn this peace by yielding ourselves to God. Like our sister has already told us, “without reputation, and without hesitation.” We blame others for our faults but peace doesn’t come by getting our own way. I would rather lose an argument and keep my peace than win an argument and lose my peace.
We heard this morning about Jesus and all that He faced. He was despised and rejected, but His response never disturbed His peace. How much can we apply to our own circumstance and to our own life? There’s no such thing in this world as an excuse or reason for a bad spirit. There is nothing that gives justification for a bad spirit. It is just taking what Jesus has taught us and lived before us and applying it to ourselves daily. John said, “I, John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” He was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day. Sometimes we have difficulty being in the spirit on the Lord’s Day and we won’t receive the blessing, or what feeds our soul, if we are not.
It tells us he heard a voice behind him and John turned. How many times have we had to turn from our own thinking and attitude? John was in the spirit that day, yet he had to change and turn. I don’t think I have ever been at a convention where I’ve heard so much about the need of changing and turning. Each of us knows what needs changing in ourselves. John saw seven candlesticks when he turned, and in the midst of them was One like the Son of God. He saw Jesus when he turned, “clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.” He saw the human completely covered. Isn’t that what this is all about…Jesus only? He first showed John something very useful before He showed him anything else.
In these messages to the seven churches, He spoke first to the church at Ephesus, that they had lost their first love. Why do we always think about this church losing their first love and don’t ever think about the positive things concerning them? God showed John the situation first and then He showed him the positive side before the negative and how it could be corrected. This speaks of our attitude, our conduct, and our testimony. Nothing is wrong with that, but this church had lost their first love. God said, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”
He told that church He would remove their light out of the community. All the good we do won’t substitute for our love of God, and then the rest will fit in beautifully. It’s like a house that’s perfect except for the love that doesn’t exist between the couple. There is no fellowship and no communication. What good is that? If there’s no repentance, the light goes out. I have seen several people like this and you can’t put a finger on their testimony, but their love for God is lacking. They look down on others while lifting themselves up, and soon the light goes out. One man asked me once, “What have I done wrong?”
It wasn’t because he had done wrong; it was because he didn’t have the love of God. It’s like the girl who once went with a boy to a gathering and was told by him, “My folks aren’t home, so let’s go over to my house.” She said, “Take me home.” He said, “Are you afraid your father will hurt you?” “No,” she said, “I don’t want to hurt my father.” When we argue about the good things or the bad, we will never come to any conclusion unless the love of God is superior to every other thing we face. We must repent and ignite again that love which satisfies the heart of God.
What do you think when you think of Peter? Do you think of him as the one who denied Christ? He did deny Christ BUT he also said, “This is the Christ.” Jesus told him that “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” and Peter said, “I will go to death before I will deny Thee.” I respect that and I believe Peter meant those words. Jesus knew Peter’s spirit was willing and He proved it. Jesus looked at Peter only once and it caused him to weep when he was rebuked. It says he wept bitterly. To change our attitude we need to look at the positive side of things, and if we do, our attitudes will be changed.
We can think about Thomas, too, and it’s his doubting that we remember, not the positive things in that man. Peter [Thomas ?] only doubted one time, and isn’t that what we remember? John told those churches many good things before he told them the negative. Nothing is secure if there isn’t love first. Jesus didn’t find fault with the next church in Smyrna but He told them, “I know your works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil; and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” He told them about their attitudes. He knows everything about us. You might be in poverty, but if the love of God is in your life, you are rich. Often we feel we are rich if we have more than our neighbour or poorer if we have less. That is how we measure things but Jesus said, don’t worry about those things — “be faithful unto death, and if you are, you will have the crown of life.”
There are times when an awful struggle rises up within us and we face difficulties and pray and ask why, but this is not a prayer of faith. He told them, “…ye never denied my faith.” False doctrine and immorality are two things God despises and will continue to despise until the day that Christ returns. But this isn’t the first thing he thought about. We read of the positives first and then the negatives, and then he tells them to deal with the problems. It’s these things that must be put out first before we can even repent.
Mercy and forgiveness are two separate things. Mercy gives a person another chance, but if they don’t repent God doesn’t forgive them. Rev2:20, “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.” That woman Jezebel was in the church of Thyatira, but do we think about that first? The reason we must deal with wrong things first is to perfect the Lord in us.
Rev3:20, To the church at Laodicea, He said, “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.” He didn’t have much good to say about this church but He gave them another chance. He opened the door in His mercy to them, but mercy doesn’t put treasure in heaven. Mercy just gives us another chance—another opportunity to do better; to do right. Mercy is not forgiveness but another opportunity.
I tried to put myself in John’s shoes that day and wondered what would I have done? There was no one for him to consult with as he was all alone, yet he had to write this letter to the churches and address these problems that were within. Without doubt, he was distressed and might have questioned, “What am I to do?” But we read that He looked up and beheld a door open in heaven, and immediately, he was in the spirit. Sometimes it seems every door is closed to us, and that isn’t the time to be discouraged but a time to look up as John did. He saw a throne and a rainbow around the throne, he saw the One sitting on the throne and his spirit was calmed.
We see many things in the world today, many things in the kingdom too, that shouldn’t be there, and we sometimes become disturbed. I do, and then I look up and see God still sitting on the throne. John remembered that there was a God sitting on the throne; He remembered the covenant with His people. We don’t see those things by looking down or around us—we see them by only looking up. John received a revelation that day that no other man has ever received before or since, and I appreciate that the Lord can speak to us like that, sometimes like a trumpet and not in a still small voice. It takes a trumpet sometimes to sound out and awaken us from our sleep.
If we keep in the spirit we will see so much. If we look heavenward, amidst the troubles and trials of our life, we will be calmed. Revelation 7:4 says, “And I heard the number of them which were sealed; and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.” Some people think these 144,000 will be the only people who will ever set foot in heaven, but let us read on a little bit further. It tells us in verse 9, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”
I just love that picture of those who were washed by the blood of the Lamb. Those palms speak of victory. They were there because they had washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, not because of their own righteousness or their own goodness, but because their garments were washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. One of the grandest things that Jesus ever taught was forgiveness of sin through the blood of the Lamb. All my sins can be washed away by His blood. I would like to be there on that day to lift my voice up in praise and harmony with them that gather round the throne in heaven, but I realize I need to lift my voice up in praise and harmony today.
How many times have you heard a person say in their testimony, “My desire?” It’s good to have a desire and I like to hear it but there’s a difference between “my desire” and “my accomplishment.” We will still have to choose or lose between the good and the bad, etc. First we must overcome these things now or we won’t be there on that day, for no promise ever comes without a fulfillment of certain conditions.