As we read the letters which are addressed to us through the Apostle Paul, and on turning to the Book of Revelation, in chapters two and three, we are at once conscious of a striking change. We find letters suddenly removed from the ground of “Grace” to the ground of “Works”. The Book of Revelation contains a record of the events which shall happen in the Day of Yahweh, after the Body of Christ shall have been removed from the earth. The whole Book of Revelation is concerned with the Israelite, the Gentile, and the earth, but not with the Body of Christ.
There will be a people for Yahweh on the earth during those eventful years, who are believing in Jesus as the Messiah, who know nothing of as the Savior. Will not these need special instruction? The Pauline letters will of course be of use as an historical record of what will then be past, just as we have the record of Israel’s history in the Old Testament now. Yahweh indeed has provided for their instruction, and warning, and encouragement in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation.
As we read these letters, the references to the Old Testament in the seven letters correspond with the historical order of the events, so it is with respect to the promises contained in these letters. While the historical events connected with the rebukes are carried down from Exodus to the period of the Minor Prophets, the promises cover a different period, commencing with the period of Eden, and ending with the period of Solomon. The subjects of the rebukes follow the order of the departure of the People from Yahweh. Their decline and apostasy is traced out in the historical references contained in these letters.
But when we turn to the promises, then all is different. They proceed in the opposite direction. The order, instead of descending from Israel’s highest ground of privilege (Exodus) to the lowest stage of destitution (Minor Prophets), the order ascends from tending a garden to sharing his throne. The seven promises are all intensely individual, there is no corporate existence recognized as such. Each one of the seven promises commences with the same words, “to him that overcomes”. Such phraseology is foreign to the Pauline letters.
As to the “seven lamp-stands”, ought not this expression at once to send our thoughts back to the one golden lamp-stand of the Tabernacle, one lamp-stand with seven lamps, indicative of Israel’s unity in the Land and in the City. Here, the scattered condition of the nation is just as distinctly indicated by the fact that the seven lamps are no longer united in one lamp-stand. The nation is no longer in the Land, for Jerusalem is not now the center, but the people are scattered in separate communities in various cities in Gentile lands.
So that just as the one lamp-stand represents Israel in its unity, the seven lamp-stands represent Israel in its dispersion, and tells us that Yahweh is about to make Jerusalem again the center of his dealings with the earth. We find nothing in our Pauline letters that fits into what is said to these seven assemblies. But those readers will be at once be reminded of the various stages of their own past history, and they will find in almost every sentence some allusion to the circumstances in which they will find themselves as described in these seven letters in the Book of Revelation.
They are written to the People supposed to be well-versed in the history of the Old Testament, and well-acquainted with all that had happened to their fathers and had been written for their admonition. Instructed in the past history of their nation they will readily understand the relation between the testings and judgments in the past with which they are familiar, and those similar circumstances in which they will find themselves in a yet future day. If these “churches” are future assemblies of Israelite believers on the earth, after the Body of Christ has been caught up to meet Jesus, then all is clear, consistent, and easy to be understood, lets leave the full and final interpretation for those to whom it will specially belong hereafter. The real difficulty is created by attempting to read the Body of Christ into the Book of Revelation, where it has no place.
There are avoidable suffering circumstances and there are unavoidable suffering circumstances that come our way. Avoidable suffering has to do with the choices we make in our lives. When we sow an inappropriate choice, we can count on the fact that sooner or later, we are going to be faced with an unfortunate circumstance. Most of the problems we face continue to be problems only as long as we refuse to prefer others over self, and we continue to insist upon our right to be positioned on the top shelf.
Many problems come our way simply because of our insistence upon having our way, whether it be on the job, in the home, whether it be with a spouse, with family members, or with friends. In such cases each of us hold the power to the resolution of our problem. How many problems would disappear if we could all conduct ourselves in a more Christ-like manner when it comes to the sacrifice of self in preferring others over self? Many believers are living unfulfilled lives because they continue to hold a grudge against another individual, and that grudge has been affecting that relationship, whether that grudge be for a day or for years upon years.
Understanding our completeness in Jesus Christ should motivate us to make wise choices. God has given us the freedom to make our own choices, he wants us to apply scripture where scripture can be applied, and where no scriptural principle can be applied, to make the choices that we desire and then take responsibility for choices we made. If we cannot find doctrine in Paul’s epistles directly related to our situation and there are no scriptural principles we can find to apply, then God has given us the freedom to personal preference. Paul also warned as this age of grace winds to a close, that those who allow emotion to trump doctrine, that this would be the character of the religiously minded.