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 (by vision and prophecy) 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 Christ as the Messiah, who know nothing of him 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. Right at the beginning, they are the first subjects of Divine remembrance, provision, and care.
Their needs must be first provided for, before anything else is recorded of the things which John saw; and there they will find what is specially written for their learning. We may so read them now, ourselves, and apply them, so far as we can do so consistently with the teaching for this dispensation of grace, contained in the Pauline letters.
Applying these thus, we leave the full and final interpretation for those to whom it will specially belong hereafter. 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.
The real difficulty is created by attempting to read the Body of Christ into the Book of Revelation, where it has no place. 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 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 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. 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. Thy 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.