Seven Lamps of Fire - George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 2 - HE WALKS AMONG THE LAMPSTANDS
God’s burden has always been for His people. You ask, Is He not equally concerned about the world? Of course He is—and that is why He left His church in the world to be the Light of the world. And when men say—"Don’t bother me with those far-out things—my burden is to reach the world for God"—How much more ignorant can we get? He left His Church here in the earth to shine with His Glory. And when the light of the lampstand flickers and goes out—we are but a dead light bulb, having the form of a light, but it is not shining in the darkness. The full glory of Heaven was here when Jesus was here. And when He went away, the full glory of Heaven came down again, to abide in His people in the earth. This is what the ministration of the Spirit in our midst is all about. I think most of God’s people recognize we are not walking in the glory of the Light that came at Pentecost. Why then are we content to abide in the fading glow of a dimly burning lamp, rather than coming back to the Light? He wants to walk in our midst with even more Light, not with less than what we had in the beginning. For the path of the just is that way—it shineth more and more unto the perfect day—and the Lord promised greater works through His people, than what He did when He was here, because He has all power in Heaven and in earth to invest in His people. . .
He shall Take of Mine and Show it unto You
God’s people have always been prone to fall short of His desire. . .and it is because we lack vision. We grow accustomed to the darkness, and think it is normal. But God declares He cannot rest, till the righteousness of Zion goes forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. Let us not think for one moment that we are intruding into forbidden territory, if we seek to appropriate the glory of Heaven here and now. Jesus admonished us to pray to the Father, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven". Do you think then that God is displeased with us when we pray that way? The apostle would remind us that what we now have in the Spirit, is really a portion of the powers of the world to come (see Heb. 6:5). Certainly much of what we are saying pertains to the next age. . .but He would have us partake of those powers here and now. How far may we go in that realm? Only as far as the Lord by His Spirit and His Word may lead us. All power in Heaven and earth is His, and the apostle Paul prayed that we might know "what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which he wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places . . ." (Eph. 1:19, 20). These are the dimensions of the power that is available in Christ. Our real concern, then, is not "how far can we go". . .for we can go no higher than the Spirit will lead us. Our real problem is to learn to abide in His yoke, and have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to us. Then there can be no presumption in seeking to go ahead of God, nor any unbelief that would cause us to fear the unknown way. The heart of God continues to cry out for His people to move on into those greater heights and depths in God, His concern always being lest we fall short of His desire, not lest we go beyond it (Heb. 4:1).
But we must guard our minds against presumption, in this matter of taking a leap of faith, or stepping out in faith. I don’t know where they got that from, unless they are thinking of Peter stepping out of the boat to go to Jesus. But Peter knew better than trying to do that. His petition was very clear: "Lord if You tell me to step out of the boat, and walk on the water—I will do it". There can be no faith, if we move out on our own initiative, rather than in the will of God. And only as we have presented ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice, can we prove what is that good, and well-pleasing, and perfect will of God. The very resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to His church. . .but only available as we move in the Spirit, and abide in His Presence. We are too short-sighted, like the children of Israel. They thought it was great when two men brought a large branch of grapes into the camp—carrying it on a stick between them. But when God said, "Now move forward and take the whole land"—well, that was just too far out. God told them to do that, and so there was faith inherent in that word. . .if they would just walk in obedience. . .But they refused to obey, and turned away in fear and unbelief. (See Heb. 4:2). Let us not think the few grapes and pomegranates we have received in spiritual gifts is God’s total answer. It is just the foretaste to urge us forward . . .. to move us into the fullness of God’s inheritance. I am afraid there is not much left of the fruit of Canaan in our midst, and even those grapes of Eschol, and the pomegranates and the figs of former revivals—are now but a fleeting memory of the good old days. Many are looking for a return of those blessed times of a past revival—instead of anticipating a still greater glory that lies ahead. For no matter how great those days were in the past, the full measure that God has reserved for His people is yet to be revealed. The Spirit of God abides here in the Temple that we are, that in union with Him we might receive the fullness of those virtues, powers, graces and riches that are in Christ Jesus. Think not that this would rob Christ of His glory—rather it will bring greater honor and glory to His Name. For Jesus said, "He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you" (Jn. 16:15).
What does this mean: Show it to us?
As long as our Lord Jesus is the High Priest on the throne of Glory interceding for His us, the Holy Spirit will be in His church to take from the exalted Christ, and show it to His people. I recall in earlier days how this left me with a certain sense of uncertainty, as to what He meant. To just gaze on things that He shows me? I am not interested in just seeing more truth, understanding more about the mechanics of doctrine. I didn’t feel it was enough for the Lord to show me something from the throne. I wanted to partake of it. But one day I understood that all that is in Christ, is Light. Therefore when He shows us something He is actually shining it forth into our hearts. He Himself is the Word, the living Truth. There is no concordance, or the best of dictionaries, that can define truth in any sense of completeness, so as to give us the full understanding of what God has in mind. We appreciate the scholarship that seeks to explain clearly what Bible words really mean, and I would not want to minimize that in any way. But we must know that the Holy Spirit alone can cause us to see the truth that is in Jesus. He shall take of Mine, and show it unto you. So I look up the word show in my dictionary and it says: to describe, to present to view, to point out, to display, to exhibit, to disclose, to appear, to come into sight". The definitions are good, but I am blind, or I cannot see afar off. I am also deaf, or hard of hearing. And my mind is slow to understand as I should. I want to see. . .I want to hear. . .I want to understand. So I come to Him in my blindness, and say: LORD SHOW ME THY GLORY! and yet I continue in my struggle to see. Then one day I feel His touch on my eyes, and I see dimly, like the man Jesus healed. . .and I observe men walking as trees. But He does not leave me in that condition, if indeed I long for truth and righteousness. He touches me again. . .and again. He continues to look upon me. . .again. . .and again. For He is Light, and when He shows us something "the entrance of His Word giveth Light". We must come to the Light. It is the Light of His presence that causes us to see. It is the Light of His presence that causes us to hear, and to understand. My dictionary cannot do that. Jesus said, "the light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light" (Matt. 6:22). Full. . .you mean completely full? With no shades of darkness at all? Yes, Jesus emphasized that—"full of light. . .having no part dark" (Lk. 11:36)
So this is the Lord’s answer to us who bemoan how little we see and understand. If He shows us we see it, because "He is the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (Jn. 1:9). And therefore He admonishes us to "walk while ye have the Light, lest darkness come upon you . . . and to believe in the Light, that ye may be the children of Light" (Jn. 12:35, 36). Children of the Light! Born into realms of pure and brilliant Light! All that the Father hath has been invested in Christ. He is pure Light, and Jesus tells us "the Spirit shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you" (Jn. 16:15).Changed. . .By Seeing Him
You and I cannot see Him and remain unchanged. We are aware of our darkness, and there is a tendency for creatures of darkness to seek out dark places, because their eyes are not conditioned to see the brightness of light. Yet He encourages us to "Come to the Light". . . for it is only Light that can dispel the darkness. Then He says, "believe in the Light" until we are born anew into realms of Light. Then as His Spirit abides within us—He is faithful to take all those virtues, graces, and all the excellencies that are in Him, and show them unto us with that penetrating, transforming Light from realms of Glory. Then His illuminated ones show it to others. And these enlightened ones show it to still others. And that’s what the ministration of the Spirit is all about, so that each member of the body participates in the Light and the Glory, and transmits the Light to others: That "we all, with open (unveiled) face beholding as in a glass (reflecting as a mirror) the Glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18).
John Writes to Brethren in Tribulation
John was on the Isle of Patmos because of His witness for Christ, and the Lord gave him the Book of Revelation to share with the church. John saw this One who was like unto the Son of man walking in the midst of the seven candlesticks in the earth. For John was in tribulation, and God chose him to be representative of His people, as your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. We know he was the beloved apostle—and an apostle is one sent of God to declare God’s message to the people. But he cannot do that effectively except he takes his place as their brother and companion. Every ministry sent of God has authority from Christ. . .all the authority that he needs for the faithful ministration of Truth to the hearts of others. But if his authority is going to remain strong in the Lord, and strong in the church, he must take his place as our brother, not as our lord and master. John was our brother in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. Moses went through the wilderness with the people, and suffered with them all the trials they experienced in that waste and howling wilderness. Caleb and Joshua who longed for Canaan, remained with the disobedient ones another 38 years, for they needed these men along the way to encourage them as they endured suffering and trial and tribulation. Ezekiel sat with the captives of the house of Israel. And Daniel went into captivity with the captives of Judah. God said He would shorten the days of tribulation, "for the elect’s sake". So His elect will be in tribulation, and will minister and give strength to others in tribulation, as John did.But what about the Day of Wrath? Doesn’t God say we have not been appointed unto wrath? Yes, but let us read His provision for that: "Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:4-8). It is as clear as words can make it: we are delivered from wrath because we are clothed with the armor of Light (Rom. 13:12)—because we are the children of light, because we are sober and alert, because we are wearing His armor, the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet on our head, as the hope of our salvation.
The Lord tells us clearly that it will be immediately after the tribulation of those days when men "shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" and He shall "gather together His elect from the four winds" (see Matt. 24:29-31). With God’s holy armor overshadowing us, we are fully prepared for any tribulation that might come, when His wrath is revealed from Heaven against the evil that is in the world. I say not these things to confirm a doctrinal position, but to encourage God’s people in this late hour to put on that armor, and to keep it bright and clean, for the Day of the LORD is near. The whole armor of God is totally sufficient not only to deliver us, but to make us effectual as soldiers in His army, to overcome "in the evil day, and having done all to stand" (see Eph. 6). Or as the old Weymouth translation says: "having fought to the end, to remain victors on the field".
I believe God wants to arouse His church to know that great tribulation is upon us, and there will be no rapture at the sounding of the first trumpet, but rather "at the last trump" (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16). Some nations have had their share of tribulation, and many martyrs are resting under the altar awaiting God’s day of vengeance. But the Lord encourages them: "that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled" (Rev. 6:11).
Understanding the Symbols
We are aware that the Book of Revelation is full of symbols, for we are told in the introduction to the Book that the angel signified it unto John—or made it known to him in signs, or symbols. We need the Lord’s wisdom, as we seek to understand what God would show us. But our quest must always be for the living Word. . .and not just an understanding of the letter of the Word. And we must recognize that heavenly things are not to be calculated by natural measurements, nor by man’s earthly time tables. It is not a case of spiritualizing the Word, in the sense of making the Word less real and less meaningful—for God’s order is: "first. . .that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual". And so the spiritual nature of things is higher than the natural. Knowing this we must be taught by the Spirit, and only as He gives understanding by the Spirit will we know what He means by numbers, and dimensions, and beasts, and dragons, and altars, and precious stones, and tabernacles, and temples. The Spirit is more real than the physical and the carnal. . .and God wants us to be spiritual men and women. It doesn’t mean we are to become intangible and invisible. The bread God gave Israel in the wilderness was spiritual bread, and the water they drank from the rock was spiritual water—because its origin was from Heaven, and its purpose was to make the people spiritually minded, as they ate of the bread, and drank of the water (see 1 Cor. 10:2-4). The Spirit has come into our lives to give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him—and only as we are taught by the Spirit, will we understand what God would show us.
One Like unto the Son of Man
John was in the Spirit, and this is what he saw:
"And in the midst of the seven candlesticks One like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in his right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength" (Rev. 1:13-16).He looked like the One that Daniel saw: "A certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in color to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude" (Dan. 10:6; also Dan. 7:9). The men that were with Daniel at the time didn’t see what Daniel saw, but His presence was so awesome that "a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves". And even Daniel, though he saw the vision, it robbed him of his strength, and his very flesh seemed corrupt and horrible in his sight, and he felt weak and helpless. How carnal must we be, if we can calculate and surmise WHEN the Lord of Glory may appear. . .with hardly any thought as to HOW we need to prepare our hearts for that awesome Appearing! If we could see the Lord of Glory stand in our midst—as John saw Him. . .as Daniel saw Him—how differently we would walk and work and minister in the church! How ignorantly we think of God, and speak of God, as our big and loving daddy! Certainly He is all of that to babes in Christ. But O how He longs that we come to maturity as sons of God. . .not losing any of those child-like qualities of simplicity, purity and tenderness—but fearing Him all the more as we grow older in Christ—knowing He is "Glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders"? (Ex. 15:11). "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him" (Ps. 89:7). We are talking about that holy fear for our Father, whom we love so much that we fear and tremble lest in any way we offend Him, or do those things that grieve His heart. "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name" (Mal. 3:16).
His Sacrifice. . .Totally Pleasing to God
He who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands as our great High Priest has everything that we need to conform us to His image and likeness, and bring us into the full intention of His purposes. For by His death on the cross He has fully dealt with the sin problem. It was there that our Lord became the true Sacrifice for sin, not only to redeem us back to God, but to deliver us from every vestige of sin and the curse that we inherited from Adam. Certainly we have inherited sins and sicknesses of one kind or another from father or mother or grandparents. But let us not waste our time on that, for there is an unbroken line of problems, habits, unclean things, sicknesses, infirmities of one kind or another that take us all the way back to Adam’s transgression. Then the Last Adam was born into our family, and on the cross He bore the curse of sin and death and all the sicknesses and frailties of the human race. When cruel, violent men took Him and nailed Him to the cross, it was because of their sin and ignorance and rebellion that they did so. They walked in darkness, and could not tolerate the Light that was in Jesus. But it was God who transformed the hatred and malice of men toward Christ, into a Sacrifice that was holy and well pleasing in His sight. For "It pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand" (Isa. 53:10). O mystery of all mysteries, "That God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:19, 20).
God’s Intention in RedemptionBut our Redemption covers more than release from the prison-house of sin, and reconciliation back to God. He wants us to know that He purchased us for Himself that we might become His own inheritance. . .His Church, His Body, His Temple, His Home, His Abiding Place. As the High Priest on the throne, yet walking in the midst of the lampstands by His Spirit, His desire is to impart all those virtues that are in Himself to His people in the earth, that we might become that cleansed and holy habitation that He desires for His praise and glory. When we come to this understanding we can no longer be satisfied to remain where we are now. . .for we are still far from that image and likeness of the Son, that God has desired. And if God cannot rest until this happens—as we draw closer to His heart we feel that same sense of unrest that He feels. Are we satisfied—just to make it inside the pearly gates—when we know God cannot be satisfied until the righteousness of His people goes forth "as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth" (Isa. 62:1)?
Boaz could not rest until he concluded this matter as Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer. The corn he gave her was good. But he must have her as his own, and his inheritance was to be her inheritance. God rested on the seventh day when He finished the work of creation. But it wasn’t long before man sinned and God’s rest was broken. Then God went on working. . .working in chosen ones in the course of history. . .until He would discover that ultimate rest in His Love: "The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty: He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing" (Zeph. 3:17). It was this longing for REST in God’s heart that gave birth to the whole plan of redemption; and do we just want to make it inside the gates and care less about God’s desire for a people in His image and likeness? Our High Priest in the heavens cannot rest until He has established righteousness in the church, cleansed her from all defilement, and made her to be that holy vessel that is compatible with the heart of God. Then the Son will say of His many brethren. . .and in the same breath: "Look at Me. . .and Look at these children that God has given Me". Talk about signs and wonders! These His sons and daughters are the ultimate sign and wonder that God is preparing for display before angels and before men. The Captain of our Salvation was made "perfect through sufferings" (Heb. 2:10). Our Captain came from Heaven to earth to find this quality of perfection, and do we think we just go from earth to Heaven to find it? He comes into our nature, that together with Him He may introduce us as signs and wonders in Israel: "Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given Me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion" (Isa. 8:18; see Heb. 2:13, 14).
Our Great High PriestAnd so we have a great High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary who is totally sufficient in Himself to accomplish the other half of our redemption. . .to take this company of redeemed slaves and so minister to them, and change them, and transform them. . .that they might become the sons and daughters of the Most High. They are to be fully graced and beautified with all the graces and virtues and perfections of the Son. Priesthood is the essence of His present reign in the heavens—"a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Ps. 110:4). He reigns as a "Priest on the throne" (Zech. 6:13). And His priestly ministration is for His redeemed people, for whom He shed His blood. He is endued "with all power in Heaven and in earth" to accomplish the desire of God’s heart. And like Aaron He bears on His heart and upon His shoulders the names of His people. In that first high-priestly prayer that He prayed while yet on earth, He was intentionally praying aloud, so His disciples would have some understanding of His exalted priestly ministry when He was raised into Life, and glorified.
"As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him. And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent" (Jn. 17:2, 3).
He prayed for His chosen ones that they would have this quality of life, that is called eternal life. . .and He defines eternal life as knowing the Father and the Son.
He prays for those whom the Father gave to the Son, that the Father would keep them from the evil one.
His people are to have the same glory: "the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one".
He emphasizes again and again, this quality of union with His people that would come about as they partook of the same glory that was on Him.
And then because of this glory that was first on the Son, and now on His many brethren the world would know "that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me". Then having finished the work on earth, He was glorified, and enthroned as our High Priest to intercede for us before the throne. John was "in the Spirit" and saw Him walking "in the midst of the seven golden lampstands" with majesty and awesome authority. He is prepared and qualified to deal with His church, no matter where they are, or what their problem might be. He speaks to the seven churches—and through these letters to all the churches to the end of time. He is totally sufficient for every situation. He gives John a message for each church. But there is always a church within the Church, as it was with Israel. "They are not all Israel, which are of Israel; neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but in Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Rom. 9:6, 7). He speaks to all, but His appeal is always to that one "who has an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying". That’s how it was in times of old: "The Lord sent a word unto Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel" (Isa. 9:8).
1. To the Church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7)He stands before the church at Ephesus as the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand. He wants us to know He has full authority over the ministries that He has set in the church. The prophets understood this kind of discipline in the hand of God. Jeremiah came to a sense of futility, because the words he spoke to the people from the heart of God—sounded like a joke in the ears of those who heard it. He finally decided, enough is enough. "I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His Name". So he tried to hold it in. . .and the fire that should have gone forth to others kept burning in his bones so intensely that he had to let it out (Jer. 20:9). It was no golden trophy in those days to became a prophet of God—it was rather a burden that brought reproach and shame. Isaiah also had the feeling that his ministry was a total failure. . .yet he knew he was hidden in the hand of God, and that the word he spoke was like a sharp sword. "He hath made my mouth like sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand hath He hid me" (Isa. 49:2). This is the secret of the true word. He who conveys the truth of God to others, must himself be hidden away in the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand. Only then will that word come forth as God intended: alive, powerful, penetrating, and "sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12). The whole body of Christ in the assembly ought to be a part of this ministration of truth. Special ministries are set in the church, to bring the whole body to this place of maturity—so that each member will be a ray of light in that particular Lampstand. We know this is scarcely happening, but this is God’s intention: and a faithful ministry will seek to edify the members of the body in such a way that each member will find his place in the body: whether it be the mouth, or the ear, or the eye—or some other vital organ. Only then will the body of Christ see clearly, and hear accurately, and speak with authority and purity. But the lampstand must be illuminated with the Light of Christ, if it is to be a true Testimony of Jesus in that particular area.
The Lord commends the Church at Ephesus for their labors, their patience, their hatred of evil, and for trying and proving the apostles who would visit their assembly. And so it appears they had good doctrine. But because they had left their first love He declared He would remove their lampstand—if they did not repent. We see a lot of excitement, a lot of emotion, and hear a lot of good music emanating from churches all over the land. But we can only wonder how many of them realize that the Lord has removed their lampstand—and that they are no longer the Testimony of Jesus in their community, that they once were. When the people of God leave first love—the Lamp of God will burn low, and will soon die out—no matter how good their doctrine might be. Their advertisements in the newspapers and in front of the church buildings may continue to announce that their church is one of the best—but the Lamp of God may no longer be there, and they do not know it. He calls the Church at Ephesus to repentance—but He appeals especially to those who have a hearing ear: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches". And to those who overcome He gives this promise: He will give them "to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God".
2. To the Church at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11)
He stands before this church as "the First and the Last". He presents Himself as the One "which was dead, and is alive". He is the fullness of all the graces and qualities that are mentioned in all the letters—but this is a suffering church, and He reminds them that He is touched with the feeling of their infirmities. For He Himself suffered much. . .was crucified and is now alive. He does not call them to repentance. No doubt their sufferings had already brought them to a place of repentance, and to a contrite heart. But the battle is not over yet, and He would encourage them to faithfulness and endurance. Again His word goes forth to all. All may not embrace it, but He knows there is power in the spoken Word to make it effective in those who "hear" it. They had suffered much, but the test is always this: "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life". Again He appeals to those who "hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches". And to these overcomers, who stand in jeopardy of their lives daily, He reminds them. . ."He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death".
3. To the Church at Pergamos (Rev. 2:12-17)
Here the Lord is seen holding "the sharp sword with two edges". The people are living in the midst of a stronghold of Satan, but they will find the strength and power they need—in the sharp sword with two edges. They are holding fast to His name, and keeping the faith, and at least one of them had been martyred. But the Lord had a few things against them. Our Lord requires a church that is holy and clean, and He must deal with the few things that are troubling the church. A little leaven may leaven the whole lump. There were some who held to the doctrine of Balaam, the false prophet who counseled Balak to invite Israel to come and worship their gods, and to eat things that were sacrificed to their idols, and to commit fornication. These unclean spirits of Balaam abound in the world about us—and like the men of Israel who bowed to the gods of Moab, the church has opened her doors to many unclean and defiling spirits that alienate their hearts from God. The allurements and enticements that are spewing into our homes through books and videos and the internet are reaching mammoth proportions, and mothers and fathers had better do all they can to keep their homes clean, and dedicated unto the Lord. Our Lord’s weapon against them is "the sharp sword with two edges". . . but too often the sword we attempt to use has only one edge, and it is so dull that it does not penetrate the heart and soul. Our Lord is ready to arise in our midst to cleanse His church; and when God’s people seek Him desperately, all the resources of Christ will once again shine forth in our midst, by the Holy Spirit. But He asks us to drive out the abominations that grieve His Holy Spirit. . .who like the Dove, is easily offended—and flies away. Then the sword of the Lord will be "quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12).There was another problem in Pergamos. Some held the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. . .which He does not explain. But the word itself is a combination of two Greek words that mean: conquer the people. From that we gather there was a sect in Pergamos who sought to take control over the people, rather than ministering righteousness and life that would bring them into the liberty of the Spirit.
In these messages to all the churches, God wants us to understand that our High Priest in the heavens has every provision in His own Being. . .not only to bless, and give good gifts, and heal the people—but to cleanse from all defilement of flesh and spirit. We are quick to latch on to the blessing part. But we must turn our faces again to the Lord of the Church. . .and see Him standing in our midst with the sharp sword with two edges—not to destroy us, but to circumcise our hearts and minds. Only then will we come to true worship—that state of heart and mind where we "worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3). He must have an overcoming people in Pergamos—for we are certainly dwelling where Satan’s throne is, and we are not prevailing against him. God help us to hear the cry to the church at Pergamos: "he that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches". And then for the overcomer He has this promise: "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it".
4. To the Church at Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29)
The same Lord speaks to the church at Thyatira—but again He doesn’t look the same as He did in His appearance to the other churches. He doesn’t change—but He has many facets of His Being, and there are many graces and virtues and judgments that He must bring to His people. "These things saith the Son of God, who hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass". O how we need to see Him as He is. . .if we are going to be changed into what He wants us to be! He acknowledges the works, and charity, and service, and faith, and patience of the church. Then what more does He require?
In Thyatira He must deal with that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess. Because of her charisma and her wonderful prophecies, some of God’s servants were living in fornication, and eating things sacrificed to idols. Jezebel was Ahab’s wife. Ahab was king—but Jezebel would act as a queen in her own right; and if Ahab would have certain leanings toward God, she would be quick to take matters in her own hands. What is foremost in her heart and life, was her hatred for the word of the Lord, that comes from the mouths of His prophets. There is a lot of uncleanness in many of the churches, and that Testimony of Jesus which gives a clear word from God, is not there in counsel and in might, to deal with it. . .
I know God is going to begin a cleansing in the prophetic word that is going forth. Many are crying out for another Elijah! Another John the Baptist! But there is a prophetic movement in the church now—and there is a lot of mixture in it. It has not yet come to the place where there is a true Testimony of Jesus. Generally the prophetic utterance is not bringing forth a purging, cleansing work in the people. . .but because there are wonderful prophecies, the people are blessed, while the leaven of evil is still working. When have we witnessed what Paul spoke about. . .when one comes into the assembly who is an unbeliever, and prophecies are going forth, and the secrets of his heart are revealed, "and so falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth" (1 Cor. 14: 25)? It is almost unknown. The Lord stands in the midst of this charismatic church of Thyatira, with eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet like fine (burnished) brass, calling them to repentance. His judgments will be true and righteous, for there is a ministry in His hand that the Lord is preparing for the day when He will rise up in judgment. We must look into those eyes that are as flames of fire, and our feet must be purged on the altar of burnt offering, before we will be able to deal effectively with the sins in others. Then there will be an anointing to minister righteousness and truth in the fear of God, bringing conviction and righteous judgment.When those holy flames from the throne come into our midst. . .those whose hearts are turned to God will cry out: "The LORD He is the God! The LORD, He is the God!" And the prophets of Baal will be destroyed. Later on Jehu was anointed, and commissioned to deal with Jezebel, and she was trampled under the feet of his horses. Many in the church are inclined to feel that if one is able to bring forth beautiful, powerful prophecies, that surely God must be in their midst. The true vindication of prophecy is whether it strikes the hearts of men with conviction, and heart-searching, and the fear of God. "I the LORD search the hearts, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways. . ." (Jer. 17:10).
To the faithful in Thyatira He gives words of caution, and assurance: "That which ye have already, hold fast till I come". And to the overcomers He gives this promise: "To him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers". All this may sound very drastic and cruel for the followers of the Lamb. But they are not ruthless dictators. They will do nothing that the Lamb of God will not do. . .they are simply following Him, and doing as He is doing, by His anointing and authority.The word rule in the above passage speaks of the rule of a shepherd. It is the rule of the Shepherd Lamb, and of those who follow Him wherever He may go. The true shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep as Jesus did. These overcomers will not be judgmental nor dictatorial. But their word will be powerful, as they abide in their Lord. It was only through the word that proceeded from Jeremiah’s mouth that he would be able to root out, and pull down, and destroy, and throw down. All of this was to clear the land, that he might build and plant by the same living Word (Jer. 1:10).
There is an added promise to the overcomers in Thyatira: "And I will give him the morning star". As the Lord shares His power over the nations, with the overcomers; so He shares the glory of the Morning Star, for He tells us: "I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and Morning Star" (Rev. 22:16). The overcomers in the church will yet arise in the earth as the morning star, radiating the Light of Christ, and proclaiming to creation the promise of a new Day.
5. To the Church at Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6).
"These things saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars". Do we see what He is showing us? This dead church at Sardis must see the One who is glorious and magnificent. For it is only as we see Him, that we will be like Him. He shows Himself to us that we might come alive, by seeing Him. This is what His mediatorship in the heavens is all about—and this is what the ministry of the Spirit in the earth is all about—"He shall take of Mine and show it unto you. He stands in the midst of Sardis as the One who has the Seven Spirits of God. The number seven speaks of completeness, of fullness. We have no problem believing that all facets of the Godhead have come to fullness in our Lord Jesus. But our struggle now is to see and know that all this fullness that is in Christ has been invested in His church, by His Spirit who dwells within us. And though Sardis had the reputation of being a LIVE church. . .it did not appear that way to the Lord. "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead", and the little life that was there was close to death. But why would the Lord show Himself to this church, as One full of Light, and resplendent with Glory? Because this is what our churches need to see, if they are going to spring forth in life. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men" (Jn. 1:4). He shines forth into the darkness, that He might cause the darkness to flee away. He comes to us who are "dead in trespasses and in sins". . .to give us life and light, as we find the grace to respond to the Light. And He continues to exhort them: "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die". They had a good reputation in their city. But God says, Repent. . .your reputation in the eyes of men means nothing. Consider the things you have heard and been taught, or "I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee". "I will come upon thee". . .He said. But some would remind us, "This of course is not the Second Coming". Perhaps not. But is He not the same Lord? I am confident that when the Lord reveals Himself in the church with those flaming eyes of fire, it will be a coming of the Lord as awesome to that church, as when He comes in clouds to judge the nations.He will have an overcoming church in Sardis. . .for He rises up in Sardis with Seven Spirits (described in another place as Seven Lamps of fire). He takes authority over that church which has despised His Lordship, for He holds the seven stars in His right hand. He is grooming a people in His right hand, for faithful and true ministry in the House of God. He has the power and authority to execute His righteous judgments in their midst. And to the overcomers He gives this promise: "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". "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches".
6. To the Church at Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13)To this faithful Church, our Lord gives this message: "These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth".
The Lord shows Himself to this church as the One who is holy and true, and has "the key of David". The Key of David is only mentioned once in the New Testament (in this passage), and once in the Old. And it was long after David had passed away, when Isaiah was prompted by the Spirit to mention the key of David."And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open" (Isa. 22:22)
The Key of David, What is it?We have no reason to believe that David had any insight as to the eternal significance of the House of David until God revealed it to him through Nathan the prophet. God would not allow David to build Him a House, as David had proposed to do. But in refusing this, God sent Nathan to David with a word that was much higher—a promise that had eternal significance.1. God was not interested in a Cedar House (2 Sam. 7:7),—or a House of any other kind of material, for that matter. But somehow it lingers on in the hearts of religious people, that they must build some kind of structure For the Glory of God. He did ordain tents and temples in the past, but only as types and shadows of the True Temple, not built with hands. His desire has always been a desire for a Habitation in the humble and the contrite heart. For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isa. 57:15; also Isa. 66:2) 2. God was going to build David a House (vs. 11). True, David’s son Solomon was appointed to build a Temple, and God gave David the blueprints for it (see 1 Chron. 22:7-10; 1 Chron. 28:11-12). But even Solomon recognized that it was not in any sense a dwelling-place for God. It was just to be a house of prayer, a place where God’s name would be known in Israel, and among the nations (2 Chron. 6:18, 40). 3. The House of David was to endure forever (vs. 13). . .for His Seed, even the Lord Jesus Christ—would come from the House of David, and "of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end" (Isa. 9:7)."Then David went in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?" (vs. 18). It was no doubt in the Tent of David, where he sat and exalted the Lord for His greatness and mercies—summing it up in these words: "Do as Thou hast said. And let Thy name be magnified for ever" (2 Sam. 7:25, 26) In the context of what Isaiah had said about the Key of David—He was talking about the irresponsible government of Shebna, who was over the House of David, and how God was going to displace his government with another, who would be faithful in his stewardship.
There were breaches in the City of David, and Shebna was not ruling in a responsible way. Isaiah said, "It is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity. . .a day of breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains". The defenses of Judah were inadequate to protect the city. There were "breaches of the City of David"—and they were tearing down the houses to fortify the wall. Their water supply was endangered. But Isaiah’s charge was this: "Ye have not looked unto the Maker thereof". God was calling for weeping and mourning, but they chose rather—"joy and gladness. . .eating flesh and drinking wine". And God declared he would violently take away the old government, and roll it like a ball into a large country. Shebna who was over the king’s house was living in ease and splendor, while all this was going on. . .heedless of the troubles that were piling up, and God said He was going to install a new government, and lay the Key of David on his shoulder. This was the first mention of the key of David, and the Lord quoted this prophecy in His letter to Philadelphia—confirming that He was the One of whom Isaiah had spoken.
And so the real application of this Key, is for the Government of Christ. God is going to bring forth a new ministry, a ministry that has concern and respect and honor for the House of God. A key is being cut and formed and prepared for the hour of still greater troubles that lie before us. Our Lord has that Key on His shoulder, and He holds true ministry in His right hand. He knows when to close doors, and when to open doors. . .and no man will be able to close the door that He opens, nor open the door that He closes. Man will have nothing to do by way of electing the elders and counselors of the flock, nor in dismissing them. The ministry will not be subject to the will of people, nor will they lord it over the people. Elected superintendents or bishops or archbishops will not set up ministers under them, hire them or fire them, and move them from one assembly to another. The democratic system of government will no longer exist in the church, for Government in the church is a spiritual ministration—just as spiritual as the ministry of apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, and healings. The Lord of the Church holds the key of David. . .and He will open doors and close doors at His discretion (see 1 Cor. 12:28). . .The name Eliakim means God raises up; and I believe we may expect some awesome changes in the church, as the Lord in our midst raises up a true spiritual ministry in the House of David. I am talking about the Church of Christ. A carnal ‘church’ may still be functioning in that day by the name ‘church’—but the One who has the Key of David will exercise His Lordship in the called out people of the true Church.
The Preparation of the Key of DavidAs we consider the life of David, it is evident how God prepared the Key that would rest on his shoulder. The Key was something that was formed in his life, as he submitted himself to the ways of God. One does not receive the Key as a free gift. Nor was David aware, in all the trials and tribulations that he went through, that God was forming a Key that would remain in his family through all generations. Let us consider how God formed this Key in the life of David.
1. God had chosen David, and David was aware of it.
We must know we are here by God’s choosing, if we are going to move with Him in the stream of His purposes, and come forth with a heart after the heart of God. God simply chose David. . .and I’ll leave it to others to search out the reason why. Nevertheless it is always true that He requires from His chosen ones—faithfulness and endurance and patience. The called and chosen of God must also be faithful. And because they know they are called, this knowledge nurtures a godly fear that produces faithfulness in their lives. With every step along our pilgrim way we know we were destined for higher things than anything we see about us, and we seek to know His will and direction in all we do, lest we mar His purpose in calling us. Without this knowledge we would be inclined to do what we could in our own strength, and arrange and promote schemes to make our ministry effective in the church, or in the world about us. But with the knowledge of His call and His choosing in our lives—we hesitate to walk the highway that leads to success. Rather we will seek out the pathway that He desires for us—and ask for grace to walk the rugged, or the narrow, or the unpopular, or the unknown way—though it may seem meaningless in the eyes of others.
We know the story of the downfall of Saul, Israel’s first king. God designated Saul as king, at the hands of the prophet Samuel; but the whole thing came about because the people wanted to be like the nations around them, and they demanded a king. God went along with their desires, but He had other plans prepared for the day when man’s plan would come to naught. He appointed David, a man after His own heart, to replace the man that was self-willed and rebellious in heart God in His predetermined ways does not wait till calamity strikes before He starts working on the solution. He makes provision for it while things are still moving along successfully. And we can be sure He is doing that today. He that hath the Key of David is going to use that Key, to establish righteous government in the House of David. God’s people who understand the deplorable state of the church, must be encouraged to know that He is grooming the hearts of men and women who are called and chosen and faithful—who will be ready to stand in the gap when the kingdoms of men come tumbling down. God is preparing a people after His own heart who will be ready to don the mantle of a meek and humble shepherd, when the hirelings flee from the flock, or when God drives them out. He is preparing a people of mercy who will be ready to stand in the gap, when our social structure collapses. They have God’s anointing on them now—in the day of their weakness. Often they feel like David when he said in his trouble: "I am this day weak, though anointed king" (2 Sam. 3:39). For weakness, and suffering, and rejection for the sake of the truth is one of the ingredients of the holy anointing oil. It takes the myrrh of suffering to give true incense to the ointment on the head of the one who in the purposes of God will become a vessel of mercy. For God must have vessels of mercy in this world that is full of hate and malice and cruelty. And the irony of it all is this: that earthly governments which profess to be merciful and helpful to people in distress, are making laws. . .or tolerating laws, that promote a reckless disregard for God and the Bible, in the name of human rights—in the consequence of which our families suffer more trouble, more abuse, and more devastation than ever. The bottom line in all of this confusion is: "There is no fear of God before their eyes".
2. David respected Saul’s anointing.
David knew the grace and strength and meekness that was in that holy oil, for he could never forget the day when Samuel poured the oil on his head, and the sense of God’s fear that invaded his spirit at that time. He knew also that Saul had received a portion of that same anointing. However, unlike Saul—the anointing that David had was mingled within him. He said, "I shall be anointed with fresh oil" (Ps. 92:10). And the word anointed in this passage means more than poured upon—it means thoroughly mixed and mingled together. In reality David’s whole being was invigorated and mixed with the anointing. This is certainly God’s intention for His people, for "God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked" (1 Cor. 12:24). It was the same kind of oil on Saul’s head—but in Saul’s case it never really penetrated his heart and mind. So in spite of Saul’s intense hatred toward him. . .David was very much aware that Saul was God’s anointed, and that he must never use the anointing he had to fight against another anointed vessel of God. We in the church must remember this, and never try to cause any damage to another anointed ministry, nor rejoice in his downfall. It is the prerogative of Him who has the Key of David to deal with rebellious, yet anointed leadership.David truly grieved over Saul’s jealous heart, and did what he could to help the man in his obstinacy. While still very young he would minister to King Saul with songs from the Lord, giving the king temporary relief. But he would dodge Saul’s spears and leave them in the wall behind him—rather than throwing them back. The door to the kingdom of David was open to him on at least two different occasions, but because he knew it was not God’s open door to the kingdom, he simply closed that open door. Let us be sure we understand this important thing about open doors and closed doors. With the Key of David you open closed doors—but with that same key you close open doors. So many of God’s people do not realize that. "The door is open, so I must go in" seems to be the thought. Otherwise, "Why would God open a door, if He did not want me to enter?" I know at least one reason—and I have already mentioned it. God was testing David’s heart as to his faithfulness. God arranged an opportunity for David to take the kingdom—to test the reins of his heart. God even caused a deep sleep to come upon Saul and his men, to make the key easier for David to use. Had he not known he was called and chosen—He might very well have taken the reasonable course, seize the kingdom there and then. . .and fail the test of faithfulness. The key on David’s shoulder was becoming more and more real to him, and he simply closed the open door. We can not help but wonder how many times we may have rushed our way through open doors, or even tried to pry them open with our wrecking bar—when in fact God was "searching the hearts and trying the reins".
3. David learned to walk in strange and difficult ways.
Knowing God was leading him in these very distressing ways caused him to draw near to his God, rather than to run from Him. When the billows of trouble went over him, and it appeared he would be swept away, he cried unto God. . .and those very billows of trouble caused a "deep, calling unto deep" (Ps. 47:7). Blessed is that man or woman, boy or girl—who finds it in their heart to cry out to God, to pant after God like the hart panteth after the waterbrooks when troubles assail—and praise Him in all situations, though it seems God is nowhere in sight, nor cares. David longed to walk in God’s way, far more than he desired to possess the promised kingdom. As a good shepherd of Israel, he knew he himself was but a sheep. . .and in this way he won the hearts of the sheep of the Lord’s pasture. His friends in the days of his rejection found love and fellowship with him. . .and followed him not for reward, but out of love for the one upon whom they recognized the grace and the anointing of royalty.
4. David maintained a healthy fear of God.He knew God had a plan for his life. . .and this knowledge produced in him a godly fear. He sought to keep His heart fixed on God. He could never forget the anointing oil that flowed from the horn that Samuel brought to Bethlehem that memorable day when he was a young lad tending sheep (1 Sam. 16:13). He recognized the folly, and the snare of acting on his own. . .the snare of making choices that might seem to be to his advantage, but not in accord with the will of God. He was not an opportunist. God was forming a key in his life that would lead to open doors into the true riches of Christ. If we know God has a plan we had better be diligent to go God’s way, rather than seeking to unfold that plan ourselves. We cannot miss God’s plan if we walk in His way. But we can sure miss it if we think we know the plan, and try to make it unfold with our own ingenious keys. The key of David was always very simple: Let God arrange it. . .Let God put it together. Peter in the prison house could rest and sleep, and wait for the angel to shake him, and command him to walk out of the prison a free man. But he too had to learn that he was only free. . .to become the Lord’s bondslave. Slothfulness in the eyes of men might very often be an inward wisdom in the eyes of God. If it is God’s plan, God will cause it to happen in His own way. David knew how to deal with the bear out of the woods. . .and the lion, that attacked his sheep. And this gave him confidence to deal with the Philistine. He had learned God’s way, and he knew the armor of Saul would only cumber him with a heavy burden, and he chose to go forth against the enemy in the Name of the Lord God of Israel. He knew he had come to the battle for that day and hour. But the success and the glory of that moment did not consume him with pride, because God allowed persecution and rejection to come on the heels of his victory. Through jealousy, Saul had become his enemy. . .and on the verge of a successful career in the kingdom, David was suddenly forced to flee for his life.
Many years David walked in rejection, all the while honoring Saul and loving him—until one day Saul was slain in battle at the hands of the Philistines, Israel’s avowed enemies. David mourned and lamented over Saul, rather than rejoicing in his downfall. Nor did he make plans to take over the kingdom. Why should he meddle with it now, when he knew God alone was responsible for the anointing he had, and for His watchcare over him all his days? He waited rather for God to open the door in His own way. He didn’t go looking for the lost and perplexed sheep of Israel. He had found a safe refuge among the Philistines. . .at least much safer than what he could find anywhere in Israel. Now that Saul had been removed from the scene, he asked God if he should return to Judah. God said, "Yes". "Where?" David asked. And God said, "Go to Hebron" (2 Sam. 2:1). Imperceptibly at first, but with greater and greater clarity of understanding as we walk with God—the Key of David is progressively formed in the lives of His obedient people. Then the men of Judah came to him, and anointed him as king over the house of Judah. And several years later the other tribes of Israel came, and anointed him king over Israel.
5. David longed for a Habitation for God.
He was quick to repent of his sin, with godly sorrow. He came to a place of humility and contrition of heart, and wrote that beautiful Psalm in which he testified: "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:17). The contrite heart is a heart that is broken, crippled, torn. And yet the prophet Isaiah could say that God desires a people like this for His own habitation: "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isa. 57:15). The bruised ones, the crushed ones, the ones who are torn and crippled—O how can we imagine the high and lofty One desiring such a heart for His own habitation? Except as we see Him revealed in Jesus, condescending to come from realms of glory, to live as a pauper among men: poor and needy, rejected, forsaken. . .and ultimately bruised and broken for your sins and mine. And so because Jesus is like that, and God is like that, He desires a habitation with those who are like that. David’s great passion was not to do great things, nor even to take the Kingdom—but to discover God’s habitation. He said, "I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to my eyelids, until I find out a place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob" (Ps. 132:5). And so his very sufferings and tribulations in the wilderness experiences of his exile, these actually became the key of David that opened the door to God’s habitation.
May we learn from all these attitudes in David that became factors in the formation of the Key on his shoulder. What do we desire more, the Kingdom. . .or the King? A throne. . .or a Habitation for God, and with God?
6. David was quick to shut down a Faulty Program.
David desired to go God’s way, but when he missed it—he had enough wisdom to shut the program down. Would God that His church could recognize that her programs are simply not working. But David learned the hard way—and discovered The Key to Mount Zion. The key of David was a key that was formed in his life, as he sought to walk with God. . .but there was much more that he had to learn concerning God’s ways before he could use the key effectively. The kingdom was now his; but a part of Jerusalem was still under the control of the Jebusites, who felt very secure in their stronghold of Zion. But David’s men took the stronghold by ascending a tunnel like entrance up the side of the mountain, and came upon the Jebusites by surprise. Mount Zion then became David’s capital city, and his kingdom was solidified. But because David had a priestly heart he longed for the return of the Ark of God, which had remained in the house of Abinadab for many years. The people had never sought after the Ark all during the reign of Saul, and up to this time. So they sent the priests to bring it back without seeking God for His way. It was just a thoughtless decision. . .and so easy to make. They chose the way of the Philistines—which is always man’s way, and the logical way: Let’s make a cart for it, get a team of strong oxen to haul it, and have a couple of overseers there to make sure everything will go well. Man’s actions are generally determined by common sense, and the thought is: Does it work? David had good intentions, but he never sought God as to His way in the matter. The result was total disaster: the oxen stumbled a bit and the strong man put out his hand to steady the Ark, and God smote him dead. David had made a serious mistake. . .but he had wisdom enough to shut the program down when He realized God was displeased. True to the key that God was forming on his shoulder—David sought the Lord earnestly, and God showed him the right order. The priests of the Lord must carry the ark on their shoulder. The ark was designed with that purpose in mind for it had staves on each side, which rested on the shoulders of the priests. And so they brought the Ark back the right way, and to the right place.7. The place of David’s Kingdom. The place of the Priesthood.
David had learned a tremendous lesson from his mistake. He shut down the program and sought God. Surely the priests at Gibeon were anticipating the Ark coming back to be placed in the Tabernacle where it belonged. But God had revealed to David that the place of his kingdom was also to be the place of priestly ministry, and of God’s habitation. And this revelation gave birth to a prophetic song that David wrote concerning God’s dwelling place in Zion. David had already taken Zion for the seat of his kingdom. But now God showed him that it was to be more than that—it was also to be the place of God’s own habitation, in the Tent of David. David’s kingdom was to be of a priestly nature. The kingdom was not to be one thing, and the priesthood another. A man who has power to do great things, kingdom things—can easily become corrupt. But if he has a priestly heart, he has partaken of sacrifice and offering to God, and God is pleased to abide within Him, and do kingdom things through him. The kingdom of David would be priestly in nature, and strong in kingdom authority, because its very essence was priestly access into God’s presence, and God’s habitation with him in Zion:the Lord hath chosen Zion; “ He hath desired it for His habitation. This is My rest for ever: Here will I dwell; for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will clothe her priests with salvation: And her saints shall shout aloud for joy" (Ps. 132:13-16).
David had discovered the key to shut doors, as well as to open doors. He was not a priest, and as a king of the tribe of Judah he had no right to go into the Tent to worship God. . .who dwelt between the cherubim, in the Most Holy place. But God was beginning to reveal to him "the Key of David", and he opened the door of Zion for the Ark, and left the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle, empty. The most holy place was now in the Tent of David on Mount Zion.An Open Door into the Tent of David (See also our writing From Tent to Temple, Chapter 2).
And what an open door it was for David! With the key on his shoulder, David went ahead and pitched a tent for the Ark on Mount Zion. It was just a flimsy tent, but it became known as "The Tent of David" for his generation, and for the generations yet to be born. Amos spoke of it as a prophetic type of the expanded Israel, when God would begin to call out a chosen people from the Gentiles, and join them together with Israel in the Tent of David. And the apostle James confirms this, when he spoke before the Council at Jerusalem. He advised the Council not to try to make Jews out of these converted Gentiles—because God had said through the prophet Amos, that the other nations would be brought into the Tent of David in later times. And now that this was happening, James advised the Council to receive the Gentile converts freely without all these Jewish rituals. They all knew that the Tent of David was very much unlike the Tabernacle of Moses, and had nothing to do with Jewish ritualism. (see Acts 15:17; Amos 9:11, 12).
David knew that Mount Zion was not only the place of his own kingdom, but also the place of God’s habitation. He would go inside that tent and commune with His God who dwelt between the Cherubim, and God’s people would sing about it in the church that was yet to be born—even as the singers did who were appointed to praise and glorify the Lord before the Tent of David:"One thing have I desired of the LORD;
That will I seek after,
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in His temple" (Ps. 27:4).
David had discovered an open door into a new and different kind of Tabernacle, which was nothing other than the Most Holy place. No lavers, no altars, no special vestments to wear, no tables of bread—nothing was needed but a humble and a contrite heart. . . He would walk freely into his own private sanctuary, and there commune with his God. It was the beginning of the transfer of an old order to a new. . .the beginning of a priestly kingdom, where self sacrificing priests would have kingly authority to rule and reign in righteousness and peace. Kingly authority I say. . .but exercised by humble and contrite priests whose concern was for the House of God, and not for themselves. Our exalted Lord Jesus holds the key of David that will open the door into the Holiest of all, "by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh" (Heb. 10:20). This is the ultimate open door that Jesus sets before the church. It is access into the very presence of God. . .not through priestly ritual. . .but through One Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. The key is on David’s shoulder—for the shoulder is a place for carrying burdens, and that is where the staves of the ark were placed. The priests of the Lord in Israel must carry the ark—rather than delegate their burden to others. It was called the Ark of His strength (Ps. 132:8). It was a heavy burden, but they were not to organize some kind of an institutional cart with wheels, to make the job easier. But along with the weight, there was also the weight of God’s glory, that dwelt between the cherubim. Paul carried heavy burdens, but he called them our light affliction, because he knew that they were actually preparing him for "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17). Jesus bids us to come into His yoke. That means carrying a burden. But He tells us that if we are in His yoke we will "find rest unto our souls", because we carry our yoke in union with Him who is our Strength, who worketh in us mightily.The Door is Open, for Refugees from Satanic Strongholds
In the context of the letter to Philadelphia, the emphasis concerns the doors of false Satanic religion, which Jesus calls the synagogues of Satan. The true Jews in the sight of God are those who are circumcised in the heart. Before the new converts were called Christian, which first happened in Antioch, the converted Gentiles were simply part of the Jewish synagogues, for the true Jew is really one whose heart has been renewed by the Spirit. "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God" (Rom. 2:28, 29). Paul recognized the true meaning of circumcision—it was never intended to be a mere ritual, but a sign that the man was a true son of Abraham. Long before the gospel went forth, there were many Gentiles who attended the synagogues, who believed in the God of the Jews. But according to the law these Gentiles must be circumcised, in order to become a Jew. And so the Gospel of Christ in the beginning was preached in the synagogues. Paul likewise preached in the synagogues, whenever there was an open door—and he evangelized with this principle in mind: "To the Jew first, and also to the Gentiles". But with the light of the Gospel that God gave him, the Lord Jesus was the Messiah. . .and Christ the Messiah must be All. Paul could not tolerate the mixture of Judaism with the Gospel of Christ. It was a new day, and the Gospel Paul preached emphasized that circumcision was not enough—Christ must become Lord in our lives, and there must be a circumcision of the heart. Very often he found himself in conflict with the synagogues because of his teaching, and finally he turned to the Gentiles.In refusing the Lord Jesus as their promised Messiah—it was inevitable that some of these synagogues would become the synagogues of Satan. It was evidently this way in Philadelphia. It wasn’t that the disciples were trying to make inroads into the synagogues of Satan. With the Key of David on our shoulder, we do not try to make things happen. We must always wait for God to do it His way.
Rather, because of the faithfulness of this church the Lord Jesus said He would "make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee". . . The Seven Spirits of God go forth into all the earth—and He went forth and began working in the synagogues of Satan, without the church even knowing what God was doing. . .
God must Go Before—Then His Glory will Follow After.
If God does not go before us we become entangled in the wilderness, and come up against a Red Sea, with nowhere to go. The children of Israel were terrified when they realized they were shut in—with the Sea before them, and the enemy behind them, and a wilderness on either side. But God was leading them by the Pillar of Fire by night, and the Pillar of Cloud by day—and this is always the Key to victory. Then when the enemy came near, the Pillar moved through the host, to the rear. There is no point of going, if God is not sending. And when He sends, He will go on ahead, and His glory will follow after. "For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward (your protection behind you)" (Isa. 52:12).
This is always God’s way. We read of the great revivals of Charles Finney, and certainly it was a tremendous awakening. But the hearts of the people were impacted with great conviction and awareness of their need of God—long before Finney went to their city. You can’t make these things happen. God has not changed, and He will do things like this again, and greater—but it will be through a people who walk close to the Lord, as in Philadelphia. Then the Lord in their midst has the Key—to do what He wants to do—and His people hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
The Spirit of God had gone before, and began working in Gadara, before Jesus had arrived—and this poor victim who lived in the tombs was in the right place when Jesus stepped out of the boat. Suddenly the demon possessed man saw Him, and "when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped Him" (Mk. 5:6). He didn’t need any one to explain to him how he should worship. All we need, all the world needs, is to be impacted with His mighty presence, and catch a glimpse of His glory. But in the absence of that mighty presence, we organize worship teams for the house of God, to show the people how to do it—and then try to attract the sinners into our congregations to hear the beautiful music. Music can add much to the praises of His people, but only if the musicians are instruments in God’s hands, and are themselves in tune with God. Otherwise, it becomes mere entertainment.God went before Paul, when he felt the Lord leading him to Ephesus. Nor did he organize an army of Christians to go against the evil strongholds in that city. But the impact of the presence of God brought frenzy to the evil strongholds, "And fear fell on them all" because of this "Jesus whom Paul preacheth" (Acts 19:13-19).
There are no closed doors anywhere in the world, if we walk with Him who has "the key of David". Neither are there any open doors. But the ultimate secret of the key of David is knowing that our Lord Jesus holds that key; and that we must leave it on His shoulder, rather than seeking out some ingenious locksmith that will try to open the door for us. Our Lord would not be pressured by anything. . .except by the will of the Father. Jesus said of His own brothers: "My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready" (Jn. 7:6). He wasn’t slothful, neither was He ambitious to fulfill His ministry. It was this quality of obedience that brought about our salvation. And God must have an obedient people, always ready to do His will—but moving only in God’s way—before we are going to make an impact on nations.After David had been anointed as king of Israel, the Philistines heard about it—and came against him. Naturally he considered he should go forth in battle—but he was becoming more sensitive concerning the key, so he inquired of the LORD. "And the LORD said unto him, Go up; for I will deliver them into thine hand" (1 Chron. 14:9, 10). God gave him a great victory. The Philistines were routed, and David’s men burnt the gods of the Philistines that they had left behind when they fled. But a while later the Philistines came again and set up their camps in the sight of Israel. And again David inquired of the LORD. . ."Shall I go against the Philistines"?. . .and God said "No!"
Well, it worked before—isn’t that sufficient reason to use the same method again? If you discover something that works in the work of the Lord, keep doing it. This is man’s reasoning, because he does not understand that God never repeats Himself in like manner as He did it before. This is why God’s people get frustrated when they follow all the principles of past movements of God, past revivals, and try to make them work for a new revival. And of course I am not denying that the principles of seeking God, obedience, hearing His voice. . .are always necessary and always valid. But His way is in the sea, and His path in the mighty waters. . .and we can never search out His ways by our own wisdom, for His ways are untraceable.God said, "No, do not go against them. . .but go around them, and take your stand by the mulberry trees", "and when thou shalt hear a sound of going (of marching) in the tops of the mulberry trees, that THEN thou shalt go out to battle"
(1 Chron. 14:15). Why is that so important? It’s just another lesson we must learn regarding the key of David. David’s ear was becoming more and more sensitive to God’s voice, and God’s ways. "Wait!" God said (and I am just paraphrasing)—"Wait till you hear the marching of the heavenly hosts in the top of the mulberry trees—then you will go forth, and you will know the Hosts of Heaven have gone before you. . ." It was a tremendous victory, and the Philistines as well as the surrounding nations knew it had something to do with David’s God. "And the fame of David went out into all lands; and the LORD brought the fear of him upon all nations" (vs. 17).
It was not too long before when "David was afraid of God"—because God had smote one of his servants dead for touching the Ark. But he learned from his mistake—he knew he must always seek God for His way. And now David becomes famous because of this great victory, and the fear of David comes upon all nations.
Nations are not going to fear our God, nor obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, until there is a return of a holy fear of God in our midst.The key of David for Mount Zion, is also the key of David for all nations.
We had better be sure we have the key to Zion, the key to God’s Presence in His church, the key that will bring a holy fear of God back to His people—before we assume we can come up with keys for taking the nations for God.The key is nothing less than moving in the anointing, walking in the Spirit, and knowing His abiding presence in our lives. And knowing for a certainty that He carries the key on His shoulder, and that we must let Him be in full charge in whatever He wants us to do. But it is a learning process. Unlike the gifts of God, this key is a progressive working of God in the lives of His chosen ones. They learn through experience that they simply cannot make anything happen that is worthy of God’s approval, except as they move in the will and in the way of God.
I am confident that it was our Lord who closed the doors to China in the middle of the last century. . .for He would have a true and vital church in that great land. But this kind of revival did not happen until He who has the key of David put a stop to the missionary programs of the church in the free world. I do not say these things to discourage any man or woman who is called to minister in certain nations. We must be faithful to know His voice, and go as the Lord may send. But we must be sure that it is "He that hath the key of David" who is opening the door. Those nations out there that have known physical, as well as spiritual famine, and persecution. . .do not need our expertise, our musical bands and dance troupes, and our Christian Rock-N-Roll to bring our gospel to them. This will do more harm than good, and the fame of the church will become more infamous than it is now in many nations. I want to quote a few excerpts from what is called: "An Urgent Message from the Persecuted Church in Russia"? Here are a few excerpts:"For thirty years we have suffered intense persecution, and now freedom is bringing another great harm to our churches. This damage is coming from the Christians in America who are sending rock music and evangelists accompanied by rock bands.
"Our young people do not attend these meetings because we have all committed not to participate in secular entertainment."This is a great burden to our hearts. Many come with Bible in hand and rock music. We are embarrassed by this image of Christianity. We do not know what words to use in urging that this be stopped. We abhor all Christian rock music coming to our country. "We need spiritual bread, please give us true bread, not false cakes. . . "We were in prison for fifteen years, and eleven years, for Christ’s sake. We were not allowed to have Christian music, but rock music was used as a weapon against us day and night to destroy our souls. We could only resist with much prayer and fasting. . . "Now it is Christians from America who damage our souls. We do not allow this music in our church, but they rent big stadiums and infect teenagers and adults with their rock music. . .
"We call this music from hell. We urge all Americans to stop giving money for the organization of such concerts in Russia." (Peter Peters, and Vasilij Ryzhuk, Moscow. . .excerpts from a letter written in 1991).
O how God Most High must be grieved with this kind of nonsense. And all we can wonder is, how long before He stands before the church here in the West, and in other affluent ‘Christian’ countries, with eyes as flames of fire, and with the sharp sword with two edges.
But our Lord has a Philadelphia Church alive in the earth. . .though perhaps small in numbers. God has set before them an open door, and no man can close it. They are keeping the word of His patience, in the midst of trial and testing. God said He will not test them beyond what they are able to endure, "but will with the temptation (trial, test) also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13). Many in the earth have known trial and tribulation beyond what any of us here in the free world can imagine, and they testify that God has been faithful in their hour of trial, and ‘made a way of escape’ and enabled them to endure it. And many have sealed their testimony with their blood. I believe many of the persecuted churches have already had their share of tribulation, and will be spared when greater trials come upon the world.
To the overcomer in Philadelphia He gives this promise: "I will make him 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 cometh down out of heaven from My God: and I will write upon him My new name".
7. To the Church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22)
The Lord of the Church stands before Laodicea as "the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the beginning of the creation of God". We pray our prayers, and say Amen. It is the last word of our petition before God: "Lord, may it come to pass". He is the Amen to the heart’s cry of His people, who have long been crying out to Him. And He is the Amen to His own intercessions before the throne of God, on behalf of His people.
There is a lot of boasting in Laodicea, but God knows it is false. We say, "We are rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing"—but the Lord sees us as "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked". The song and the laughter continues in the House of God, and they call it the joy of the Lord. I know God wants us to rejoice in the Lord in good times or in bad. But I wonder if God is not very often saying, "Take away from Me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols" (Amos 5:23). And even a true prophecy is often like it was when Ezekiel spoke the word of God to the people: "Lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not" (Ezek. 33:32).
The Lord sees us as border-line Christians: "thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot". He stands by our lampstand, fully prepared to correct us, and He tells us why: it is because He loves us. We are often inclined to think that His goodness is the proof that He loves us—not realizing "that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Rom. 2:4). But hear what He says: "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent". He has every provision to make us rich with the true riches of Heaven, to clothe us with the pure white garments of His own righteousness, and to anoint our eyes that we might see with clear vision. He wants to shine upon us with the Light of Heaven. He is "the faithful and true Witness" and He wants to make us to be the true Testimony of Jesus in the earth. He has not forsaken Laodicea, but He stands outside the door—because He cannot tolerate what is going on inside. He wants intimate fellowship with us, not senseless programs and entertainment.
He wants to Come in, and Dine with us
The people inside feel they are doing very well, because God is blessing, and the church is prospering. But He is outside the door, and He calls out: "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 says I want to "eat with you. . .and you with Me". I want to have supper with you. I want to share My life with you, and I want you to share your life with Me.O how little do we understand that this kind of mutual fellowship with Him is God’s total answer to a world that lies in the bondage of corruption. We profess we want to take the Bread of Life to the world. But He is in Heaven now, and He wants us to be that Bread to a famishing world. Only as we partake of Him, do we become the Bread of Life that He wants us to be. And this can only happen when we dine with Him, and He with us. We cannot eat of the Bread of Life, and fail to see Him, and know Him—and then become the Bread of Life for others. After the conversation the two disciples had with the Stranger who joined them in their journey to Emmaus—it appeared the Man was going to leave them at the crossroads, and go in a different direction. But the words He had spoken so burned in their hearts that they invited Him to come and lodge with them. He was not surprised about that—I am sure He was hoping for the invitation. But He may have gone in a different direction, if they had not constrained Him. He always looks for the invitation.
"And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him" (Lk. 24:30-31).He longs to dine with us. He wants to eat with us, and we with Him. He wants us to share His Life, and become the Bread of Life to the world, when He would go back to the Father. So He joins us unto Himself in one body—that we might be one with Him, and have His Life to share with others. Only when He takes the bread in His hands and breaks it. . .only then shall we see Him and know Him. And only then do we become broken bread in His hands. . .for others. "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread" (1 Cor. 10:16, 17). The Lord has promises for those in Laodicea who will hear His voice—as great as He has for any of the other churches: "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". But we do not sit with Him in His throne over there, if we do not sit and dine with Him here. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches".
Chapter 3 - From Holy Place to Most Holy
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