Revelations 2, you will well remember in this part of the Bible, there was a message sent to seven companies of God’s people – to seven churches. A message was sent to each one of these seven. The number “seven,” as you know, is the symbol of completeness. It is my thought that the message that was sent to those seven companies of God’s people really embraces every possible condition found amongst the children of God in any generation. That is to say, in this company of people here today, every one of us may find exactly where we are and what God thinks of us – if we are honest with ourselves and honest with God and honest with the word of God – every one of us. The message that was sent to those people might just as well have been written to us gathered here today. It might just as well have been written this week and sent from the Lord Himself, because it embraces every condition, from the most commendable to the condition where not one word of commendation could be given. It is interesting, and you might find it a nice study, to look up a number of places where this word “seven” is used. There were seven offerings in the Old Testament that made complete service. Seven nations in the land of Canaan that must be brought down – destroyed, before those people of Israel could walk and enjoy that promised land God had promised them. Seven nations that were to be brought down. Then if you will look on the map in your Bible sometime, you will notice that once in the promised land they were surrounded by seven nations. After God had brought them into the land of rest, where they knew the grace of God and getting victory, still there were seven nations round about them to hinder them at the first sign of weakness. The Philistines, Amalakites, Ammorites, Edomites, Midianites, Moabites, and up on the north the people of Tyre and Sidon. Every one of those nations represents an influence that is ready to move in upon the children of God when they are not watching the borders of their life.
When we come into the family and kingdom of God, every one of us knows something about a struggle and fight. The combat is deadly. We have cruel, deadly forces against us. Every person this year who has known something of the help of God – has known something of a fight. If we have not been struggling, we have been losing ground. Story of a little boy coming home with a black eye. Somebody asked, “Who gave you that black eye?” He answered, “Nobody gave it to me. I had to fight for it.” Maybe we don’t always get all the victory but we are fighting for it, fighting hard for it. There are seven nations surrounding your life and mine in this world that are ready to move in. David went to recover his border. Territory had been lost and victory was lost for that time. He went to get the territory back. He went to fight for it. It wasn’t going to come by sitting in a rocker and wishing for it. The secure border means we are enjoying this house of God. If that is not ours, if we have lost territory, we have lost some of the joy and salvation of God.
Of those seven churches of Asia, there were two of them where there was not one word against them. Do you think it is possible to have come to this convention after this past year, and there isn’t one word from God against you? You would like that, and so would I. I have the feeling there are people in this meeting with not one thing against them. I do not mean they are perfect. I mean to say they have a perfect purpose. Every desire of their life is toward God. They have a perfect willingness to do His will with a perfect love for God, to serve Him. Because that is present in their life, God has nothing whatsoever to say against them; no complaint to make.
There were three others who received some commendation but there were reservations with it. Complaint was made with the commendation, and with the complaint a remedy was given. It is very nice to notice, as God looks upon us and sees the wrong, before discussing the wrong to us or with us, He is discussing a very good thing about us. As we look into our lives, we may see the worst first. We may even see the worst first in others and not in ourselves. It is a very wise person that knows what to take to themselves in a convention meeting and in any meeting. Some people, because of weakness of body and an imagination that is not so healthy, if someone speaks about Judas, they assume they are Judas. If someone talks about some person doing very badly, they feel that is them. We do not need to stretch the seams of the coat of everything that is spoken in meetings like this, trying to put it on what doesn’t fit. Just put on what comes to us, what will apply to us. If it does apply to us, let us put it on. Let us put it to ourselves to have a willingness of mind and heart to make it possible for God to make these meetings what they should be. If commendation does not apply to us, let us not take it. If it is censure we need, let us not take the commendation. If it is encouragement God is wanting to give us, let us not blame ourselves where God is not blaming us. Let us not make it harder for ourselves than God is making it. There were two companies of people in Revelations with not a single word of commendation. Nothing God saw fit to say well about them. Their condition was deplorable. Maybe we have people in this meeting in all seven conditions, who will find themselves, if honest, in all seven conditions in the messages sent to these churches.
Ephesian church – Each of these people were given a little different look, from a different angle, at Jesus Christ. The vision they were given was to be profitable. First ones were those that saw Jesus as having the seven stars in His right hand, walking in the midst of seven golden candlesticks which represent the people of God. Jesus embracing all the children of God in all the world; all the virtues. There were seven beatitudes that made the pure light of God. Seven colors that make up perfect sunlight, seven candlesticks that made perfect light. These saw Jesus with the seven stars in His right hand. I am not sure, but if those seven stars represent the elders of churches, there is a very nice thought in it. All the men who are elders are in the hand of God, or that is where they ought to be. God holding them in the hollow of His hand. The message sent to the elder of the church. One of the crying needs of this house of God will always be for elders worthy of the name, who have that shepherd’s heart of God over the little flock that God has made him overseer of. Elders in this work of God, over the little churches. We will have a strong house of God if we have strong elders of God’s people. It will help us to have a strong house if we have men worthy of that designation. Elders in the work of God and in churches of God with Jesus walking in the midst of them. It is a sobering thought to think of the Lord Himself being in the midst of this company and every company of God’s people, walking in the midst of His house and looking over the light given out by the candlesticks. Being the husbandman, looking at the condition of churches and making note of what condition He is seeing us to be in. This first church had a sobering thought: the Lord has been looking over our company and is sending us a little word of how He has found us and what we can do to remedy it. First of all, He told them of all their labor and faithfulness in many ways. He had not forgotten any of it and reminded them of their labor. ‘You have not been weary, but kept on, have tried those that say they are apostles and are not.’ They were people of discernment and knew this was pointing them to Jesus. They knew people that were helping them. The people you will be safe to follow now and in future are the men and women that will help us to become more like Jesus, not less.
One man told me of someone coming to his home and trying to lead him astray. Told me he had just a couple of questions in his mind, “Is this man wanting me to become more like Jesus? Is this man trying to make peace?” He had tried him, found him lacking. Always we will be safe to follow men and women who are pointing us to Jesus by word and by life. People who are promoting unity and peace in this household. Those people at Ephesus were saying they were apostles but the Lord said they were false. They were leading people away from the glorious pattern of Jesus Christ. After all the good things then He said, “I have somewhat against thee.” This was their fight and they lost it. He said, “You have left your first love.” Probably I am right in saying today that the great struggle for all of us will be the redeeming of that “loving first” of God. First love means ‘loving first.’ That our fellowship with God Himself means more to us than anything else in the world. Our spiritual condition today could be largely measured and indicated by the amount of effort we have put forth to have fellowship with God Himself. The level of affection for Him and the love we have for being alone with Him. The people of Ephesus undoubtedly had a lot of pleasure in fellowship with God’s people. Where they were lacking was the old relationship of love and affection going out to God Himself. The love to be in fellowship with Him, of gleaning from His Word themself. In Proverbs, we read of those who forsook the guide of their youth, of their early days, the old warmness of love gone. In Malachi 2, it is likened to a husband and wife, and the love was waning. The affection going elsewhere and he said, “Let none deal treacherously,” Nothing could be more grievous in a worldly family than to see the love waning, nor in the family of God. This is evidenced by the thought, “I don’t have to read that chapter, I know what is in it. I know what is in the Bible. I have gotten along 25 or 30 or 35 years, and I know altogether what is there. I don’t feel the need of prayer.” In that case, we are leaving the first love and God is grieved. He said unless it was corrected, He would take away the candlestick. It doesn’t mean that He will bear with us, that he is willing to take the secondary place in our life. Either He gets the first place or we are removed. Where there is no love of God, there is no life in God. In the Old Testament, every morning the priest was charged with burning a little fresh fuel on that altar. What could be more grievous, even though it was a sacrifice, a sacrifice without Him coming first. The sacrifice is unacceptable unless He is first in the affections. “Repent and do the first works.” If that love has grown weak and something else, business, other people, or whatever, has come in between us and God causing us to forsake the guide of our youth, the guide that led us into fullness of that fellowship, let us return to that, making a true and full surrender without a bit of reservation. Let us be seeking fully and sincerely that God will restore us where the warmth of that love would burn again. Those who are loving God first are the people that have the joy. This is a dull, dreary, wearisome way if God is not first. There isn’t any pleasure, no thrill, no joy, if God has been the secondary figure in our relationship with Him. The Lord warned them to “repent or else I will not come to thee. I will take away the candlestick and remove it.” Then He said, “To him that overcometh…” We will overcome in this fight, and this is the struggle, if we keep that fire burning brightly. Maybe some days, because of some experience, it is burning rather low, but it can be started up and new fuel put on. It would be grand if all these days there is a lot of fresh fuel put on the altar of our life, that there might be a nice incense going up to God. “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life..” R.V. – “I will give him abounding life of Christ.” Do you like to meet people that have abounding life? The life of God abounding in them. A story about a Methodist preacher. He was ill and he sent his wife down to the drugstore to get a thermometer. She wasn’t much on those words, not having much education – she forgot the word thermometer, and finally got a barometer. She attached it to him and the reading was “dry and windy.” The indicator of this life from God is our fellowship – fellowship with Him in His sanctuary, and the Lord God is sanctified in their hearts, and they are drawing from that source that keeps life abounding. If we fight this battle and overcome, we will be given from this tree of life that is from God.
Church at Smyrna had not a word against them. They are one I enjoy talking about and reading about. Not a thing said to them except encouragement, a little boost along the way, because everything in their lives was in order. He said, “I know thy works.” First of all, look at the vision they saw of Jesus. “These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive”. That was the vision they were given. He was the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega, the eternal pattern. That was clear to them. There never was another, never will be another; God’s eternal Pattern. They also saw He was the one who died, was crucified, but He lives, and He lives eternally. He died, He lives. This is what the Lord wanted them to understand and be encouraged by. He said, “I know your works.” You live where the conditions are not conducive to an easy walk with God. You are in financial poverty, but you are rich. “Rich,” what a grand statement! What a grand statement God could make to mortals in this meeting; and I would surely like to think there are some in this meeting to whom God could say, “regardless of your condition financially in this world,” that as far as His Kingdom goes, “You are rich in God, in grace, in power, in all God is giving. Rich in knowledge, wisdom, faith; all the valuable treasures of God. You are rich.” What would it mean to them? Maybe they were feeling rather despondent in the terrific struggle they were engaged in. But the words from God came to them, ‘though your poverty is evident in this world, yet you are rich. You will have tribulation for ten days. Some of you will be cast into prison. Be faithful unto death.’ Now in the beginning of this message they were told of Jesus who died and now lives, and lives eternally. Now He tells them, ‘You also die.’ Faithful unto death; dying, dying, dying. Don’t get weary. Don’t give it up. Don’t get discouraged. Be faithful unto dying, dying, dying. There are some characters that come to my mind in connection with this little statement. Luke 16, Lazarus in poverty, destitution with sores all over his body but was faithful to God. Lazarus lived the dying life. He knew what it was to die, die, die all along the way of God. Die to self, to this world and to pride. The day came when, released from this body at the end of a dying life, he was taken to the bosom of the Father where the second death has no power over him. Jesus sent the message to Smyrna, “He that overcomes will not be hurt of the second death.” He that overcomes, keeps on dying, keeps on sacrificing, will not be hurt of the second death. In Hebrews 11, you read of another company of people similar to Lazarus. They were destitute, afflicted, tormented, and it reads, “of whom the world was not worthy.” The world is not worthy of those characters. It never has been worthy of those grand characters that have walked this earth and have kept up this dying life. “Be faithful unto death and he that overcomes will not be hurt of the second death.” Eternal night has no power. The rich man who saw Lazarus, or could not see him, passed by and could not see the dying life. He wasn’t appealed to by a dying life. That man did whatever he wanted. Whatever he desired, he obtained it. Whatever was the desire of his mind he was going after. Because he knew no death here, he knew death hereafter. All the desire of his flesh and mind lived on – all was there. The worm did not die, the fire was not quenched. He knew eternal death and eternal night because he knew no death here. It is to the credit of every person in this meeting if you have, to some measure, been keeping this death working in you day by day. Saying “no” to one’s self and “no” to every desire that is contrary to the will of God. To him that overcomes, death has no power. Night has no power over that mortal who is proving that power and grace of God in their life.
Pergamos and Thyatira – I will group these two together because their condition is somewhat similar. There is a little variation, but not enough to make a distinction between them. The vision of Jesus those two obtained, the first one at Pergamos. They saw Jesus with a sharp two-edged sword. The church at Thyatira saw Him with eyes as flame of fire and His feet like fine brass. The vision of Jesus that they saw is the vision that all are going to be searched to the innermost recesses of the soul, “discerning between the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It divides between soul and spirit, and with the searching eye of God. To that church at Thyatira the message is sent: ‘…all the church will know that I am He that searches the reins and the heart.’ It isn’t what we are pretending today, what others may think of us today, what we may even be thinking of ourselves, that is counting so much. It is what the all-searching eye of God finds, and His perfect judgment. His feet were as of fine brass indicating the fine judgments of God we are being tested by. His word enters, burns, penetrates, to the innermost part of the soul, even to thoughts we might not be aware of ourselves. Now to these two companies the main thing against them was that there were those among them harboring a little doctrine that was wrong; a little idolatry (maybe a whole lot of idolatry). There was that in their hearts and minds that grieved God. Some harboring doctrine of Balaam who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before God’s people. Maybe the Moabites and Ammonites brought in a little doctrine not approved of God. They desired to put out the eyes of God’s people and to cut off the garments. To make them naked and to cause them to come to shame. The true meaning of idolatry is a thought mistaken for a substance, a picture mistaken for a reality. We have a thought of God but not a substance. We have a mental picture of what God wants, but not the reality. We have made ourselves a little god, and it is only an idol. We could be in this meeting and this company today, and be guilty of idolatry in God’s sight by having thoughts of God that are not true. We could have thoughts about ourselves, in every way a high thought. I have been reading about certain kings in the Old Testament. It reads that they followed in the ways of David, their father, but the high places were not taken away nor the groves taken away. They just allowed some thoughts of their own to remain; a nice shady grove. They convinced themselves it was alright to do what they wanted to do. Human nature is very adept at convincing itself that the course I want to take is the one that is best to take. Now, that is idolatry. It was a stumbling block to God’s people, and brought in spiritual fornication. They were trying to serve two masters at the same time. They were trying to be true to God and true to something else at the same time. So, the Lord was grieved as He searched out their hearts. It would be very, very profitable if we would be honest with ourselves, to be honest to the “nth” degree in these meetings. It is hard and it takes courage to be honest with ourselves. To be honest with this Word of God, means that when it fits us, we say, “That is me, and I must do something about that, and I will take that, it is for me. That is the Word of God and the Way of God, and I must walk in it.” It takes courage to face it up. The Lord told them what He saw about them. He told them, “Repent, or I will come to you quickly and fight against you with the sword of My mouth.” The Word of God will cut you down and cut you off; either set apart or set aside. I know nothing more tragic than a person once in the will of God and now set aside, a castaway. Once they were in His hand, now a castaway because they did not fight for this, to be honest with God, so of no more use. What a contrast to some men and women who maybe at 80 or 90 years of age. I know some brothers and sisters in this house of God in their 70s and 80s who are doing the best work of their lives, not castaway, because of fighting this out and allowing the Word of God to cut them down. I was in a home in Michigan recently, talking around the table about some of the teachings of the Bible, and it came up about some we know who were so useful even in their advanced age. The lady said, “We have been married 40 years and I have some tools in the kitchen that I had when married.” She went to a little drawer and pulled out an old battered fork. The handle was even charred from having been too close to the fire at some time and some of the tines were bent. She said, “There are some jobs that nothing else will do just like this old battered fork does.” To me it seemed like an old person, battered with the years, so useful in the hands of the Master. No one else could do that particular job just like this person, because of being in the hands of God. The man went outside and came in with an old battered hammer.
I don’t know how many handles that hammer had had. It was one of the original tools he had possessed 40 years before. He said, “When a special job comes up, this is the hammer for me – it just fits.” Those people were just enjoying the honest thought of being in the hands of God. Not a castaway, every lofty thought brought into subjection to Christ. (II Corinthians 10) Every thought and imagination about God brought down and brought into submission and obedience to Christ. Having the willingness to bring it down. He said, “He that overcometh in that fight, I will give him to eat of the hidden manna. I will give him a new white stone…” The person who fights that out and overcomes, I will give him to eat of the mystery of the Kingdom of God, that will thrill them, and also thrill others of God’s family. It will not merely be some interpretation, so cold and dead. God gives them the hidden manna because they are conquering in the fight. He says, “I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows except he that receiveth it.” There will be a fellowship between that person and God that only the two of them know. There will be the trust of God placed upon that person, only the two of them know. A new name that only he that receives it will know; intimate fellowship because of overcoming in the conflict.
To the people of Thyatira He said, “He that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.” This is because he has power now over himself, or herself. No one will ever reign with the Lord unless they have power over themselves. No one who is a victim of the world or of pleasure will ever reign with God. Only those having a power to reign over themselves will have authority over God’s people. Only men and women who have rule over themselves and over their spirit, will have any authority to rule and help God’s people. They and they alone. Power over the nations because power over themselves. “I will give him the morning star.” He will have the dawn of light, the first ray of light in darkness. “I will give him the morning star.” The next is not a good one – Sardis. He said to them, “He that hath the seven spirits and the seven stars, (Seven Spirits of God the Holy One) “I know your works and you have a name that you live, but you are dead.” Now, think that over. Sometimes there are people of whom it is said, “Well, they are dead.” They attend the meetings so irregularly, or spasmodically, and are so lacking in any heart or evident life, that people say, “Oh, they are just about dead.” That wasn’t the condition of these people. They had a name to live, They were at the meetings, in the midst of everything and had a name to live. Other people thought they were living and going on and doing well. They did not fail to give their testimony or pray in meetings. But He said, “I have not found your works fulfilled before God.” Your works are imperfect, your works have not been fulfilled or completed. You say what you are going to do, but you don’t do it. You make vows, but you don’t do them. You profess, but you don’t follow it up. You profess much, but no evidence to follow it up. You are in meetings but it never makes much difference in what you are doing. Your works have not been completed, you have not and do not keep your vows. Could it be possible there are any individuals in this meeting that that would have to be said of them? They have a name to live, have made the vows. I have heard this said, “I will not make any vows this convention because I haven’t kept those I made last year.” That is a disgrace to any of us. I would mean we have a name to live and are dead. You read of men and women in this Bible that made vows and when God came for those vows, it cost them everything, but they paid. They made promises to God and God helped them in their petition and they paid in full. Let us not be so cowardly as to fail to make a vow when God moves us to make it. It is said the sacrifice of fools is by people who make vows and do not keep them. When we go into the house of God, let us watch our feet and be more ready to hear than to give the sacrifice of fools.
The condition in Sardis was that no works were completed. They had no victory. I have failed, and failed again. That is not salvation, not the glorious way of God. There is provision made for failure; when they fall down they get up to do better. But this matters: to have no intention of really going out to pay the price and foot the bill of what we have vowed. “Repent!” You know what you have heard. Instruction as to what you are to do to recover your steps. To reverse your steps; and to keep what you have heard of God. He said, “If you overcome in this, I will not blot out your name from the Lamb’s book of life.” “But even there are a few names in that company that have not defiled their garments: and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy.” God did not overlook the individuals here and there that were fighting on and trying to be true. The remedy was to keep the Word they knew. He says, “He that overcometh, 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.”
The Philadelphia church received a much nicer message with everything good. He showed to them this vision of Jesus as the holy and true One. The one that had the key of David, the keys of Heaven. The One who openeth, and no man shutteth. He said, “You have a little power, you have strength, you have kept My Word, and have not denied My Name.” There are others who have tried you, but you have power, you have kept My Word. What a contrast now, there is an open door for you and no one can ever shut it because I have set that door open for you. I would surely want to think there are people in this meeting who that word could come to, because you have a little power and have kept the Word of God. You have not denied His name, have not sought an easier way for yourselves and have not tried to make an easy way to walk in. Because you have kept His Word and not denied His name there is an open door. Then He promised them, “He that overcometh , 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 new Jerusalem, which comes down out of Heaven from My God; and I will write upon him My new Name.” “I will make a pillar in the eternal Kingdom of God (there will be a place given to him in that house of God)” Other people have been able to depend on him. Therefore they occupy that place in God’s house, they who overcame in their struggle.
Laodicean church – “Those things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot.” Imagine the nauseating effect that had on God. He said I cannot accept of you, or receive of you, the whole thing is so haphazard. You say, “Maybe I will and maybe I won’t, maybe I am there and maybe I am not.” Isaiah 1 – God said, “I cannot away with them” – I cannot stand it – the whole thing is a sickening mess. You say you are rich, increased with goods. To Smyrna He said, “You are poor, but you are rich.” To these people He said, “You are rich, but you are poor.” They said in their prosperity, “We have need of nothing.” There is something about financial prosperity that is desperately dangerous. I have known of a few casualties in my time because of some financial success in this world; even spiritual casualties. The Lord said, “You do not know you are miserably poor.” You are not getting anything out of service to God like you should and you are not getting joy that could be yours. “I counsel you to buy of Me the gold tried in the fire” – you need a little of the endurable riches of God. The more we go after the riches of this world, the less time we have for the durable riches. “Anoint thine eyes with eye salve that thou mayest see.” Nothing will help us to see better than the eye salve of truth, and if the word of God says you should leave something, you should leave it. If God’s Word says that is questionable or wrong company, better get out of it. “That you may see, be clothed.” “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with My Father in His throne.” “I stand at the door and knock, and if you will open the door, I will grant fellowship to you” That is fellowship with God. There wasn’t any fellowship then in Laodicea. Business was too brisk outside, engulfing them and overwhelming them. There was no time left for the Lord to come in for a season of communing. The whole service was haphazard. “I want to come in and grant fellowship.” Do we have a consciousness in our own heart of the lack of this communing that would keep our service alive, that would help us be wholehearted, a little more of the white raiment that we might cover the nakedness of this human service and that which would help us. “To him that overcometh…” Oh, the promises to the overcomers, to those that fight this battle successfully. But remember there is a terrific struggle. We are not playing. We have daily forces against us, all the powers of the night are against the children of God. But it is altogether possible for you and me to live this coming year so that when we come back to convention again there will not be one word of God spoken against us. There is everything to strengthen our hands to go on for another year if we are willing to fight that battle in the strength of God and the grace He will supply.