Thoughts on Babylon (2)
Five times in the book of Revelation does Jesus say that he is coming quickly, or suddenly:
- “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy lampstand out of his place, except thou repent” (Rev. 2:5).
- “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against thee with the sword of my mouth.” (Rev. 2:18).
- “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Rev. 3:11).
- “Behold, I come quickly: blessed [is] he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev. 22:7)
- “And behold, I come quickly, and my reward [is] with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rev. 22:12)
And John’s words:
- “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
The Master emphasises the fact that his second coming will be sudden, without warning, inferring a state of unpreparedness of those professing his name, and the Babylonian in general outside. There seems to be no Scriptural reason to believe that the coming of the Lord will be associated with any other state of things than that which prevailed in Babylon on the night of feasting when Cyrus entered into it. In Matthew 24, Jesus spoke these words:
“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore, be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son o Man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed [is] that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing” (Mat. 24:42-46).
“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and [so] that day come upon your unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. “ (Lu. 21:34-36).
A “snare” implies the same idea as, “suddenly” without warning. The Lord will return in a time, not of outward persecution, which would keep all the household awake, but in a time of peace and safety; a time of eating and drinking, taking and giving in marriage, of planting and building. Such a time has undoubtedly come upon us, brethren and sisters, and when in addition the Master’s words in Matthew 24 concerning the smiting of fellow servants is remembered, which we have experienced in our contention for the Faith once for all delivered to the saints, we can be quite sure that the Judge standeth at the door. We can apply Peter’s words in 1 Peter 4:17-18 to our own day, when he says:
“For the time [is come] that judgment must begin at the house of God: and it [it] first [begin] at us, what shall the end [be] of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
It is a sobering fact to us all, that the Master’s return is associated with our appearance at his judgment seat. There is a judgment within, as well as of Babylon without. The certainty of our appearance before him at his coming is of great practical benefit if we are rightly exercised by it. For it helps us to shape the course of our lives with a view to his approval. Shall we be weighed in the balance and found wanting in that day? Now that the day of his return is getting very near, there is urgent need for us to examine ourselves as to whether we are glorifying God by our walk in the Truth, or whether we are found wanting. There is an urgency about the situation we find ourselves in, in which no other generation has experienced; for, we are those who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord. Our opportunities for making ourselves ready for his appearing are getting less, hence our need for increased diligence to make our calling and election sure. There is a real danger, in the easy and comfortable life which most enjoy in the Truth today, of not desiring the kingdom of God to come very much at all. We are not to desire trial, or persecution but we are tempted to desire something at times to wake us up out of sleep. From the words of Jesus to the ecclesias at Sardis and Laodicea, it seems that it was not a falling away from the principles of the Truth that was the matter with them so much as a seeking after the comfort and well being of this present age. In Revelation, we have these words:
“And unto the angel of the ecclesia in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” (Rev. 3:1-3).
A name to live would indicate that the ecclesia in Sardis was sound doctrinally, and perhaps active in preaching the Gospel, at least in the beginning, hence it had a reputation of being alive, but in other aspects of the obedience of the Truth it was dead. It was deficient in works of righteousness such as Jesus did when he went about doing good. It’s deadness might also have consisted of living in pleasure, and seeking after worldly comfort and ease. What the defilement was in their midst, we are not told, that the few names had separated themselves from. They were commended by Jesus and promised a walk in white raiment, that is, immortality. The rest were warned that he would come upon them as a thief, and bring judgment upon them. When we turn to Laodicea, we find not redeeming characteristics: the ecclesia was wholly dead in relation to spiritual things, for we read in Revelation chapter 3 these words:
“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that] the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” (Rev. 3:15-18).
Here we find an ecclesia so prosperous in worldly goods, as to feel no need of God at all. No brother, or sister, seemingly in Laodicea yearned for the kingdom of God to come: they were quite satisfied with the life they had. The love of the present age had blinded their spiritual perception, so that they were not aware of their moral nakedness before The Lord. Doubtless, they met in a meeting place with marble pillars outside (a feature of Laodicean buildings) quite regularly, and were quite satisfied with their spiritual attainments, but feeling no need of the grace of God in the development of their spiritual lives, they did not ask, and therefore he had nothing to give them. They were not out and out sinners, nor were they saints in the higher sense, they were respectable meeting goers, tolerators of error, no doubt, and disposed to receive anyone who professed the Truth in some way. Neither “cold nor hot”. There is no more perilous state for an ecclesia to fall into, and Laodicea is a sober warning to us in these days of peace and absence of persecution. Scientific discovery has enabled even the labouring man to attain to a standard of comfort and ease not dreamt of before. It is very easy for us to fall into a manner of life in these days wherein our greatest interest is getting on and we do not seek first the kingdom of God and His Righteousness. The danger is, that like the Laodiceans, we may not be aware of our preoccupation in temporal things. But before the Spirit abandoned Laodicea to be spued out of his mouth, Jesus addressed them in these words, which we do well to take heed to in this Laodicean period of the Truth’s history we live in:
“I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that] the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayst see” (Rev. 3:18).
Here they were exhorted to strive after 3 things. The gold of a tried faith, the white garments, which are the righteous acts of the saints, and the eyesalve of the Word of God. It is the Word of God, that gives us Pisgah views of life, lifting our eyes from the present age to a vision of the Kingdom of God. Its diligent and prayerful daily reading is the great antidote to Laodiceaism. Through the word we are made to realize our spiritual needs, and driven to ask God for help to overcome. Let us make ample time for reading the Bible daily in our lives, let nothing interfere with it. And then we shall find that our faith will grow, and become a tried faith, because in keeping God’s commandment, we shall experience the inevitable tribulation in addition to what Jesus says in Revelation 3:19:
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”
The words of Revelation 3:20 apply to us in these days as well:
“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”.
Yes! Brethren and sisters, if we hear his voice, and open the door of our hearts to him, he will come in and sup with us, and we with him, for his character will be formed in us and we shall have fellowship with him. And the prospect Jesus holds out in verse 21 is beyond our imagination:
“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”
It puts within our reach the glory, honour, and incorruptibility of the Kingdom of God. What are the pleasures and possessions of this mortal life, which, at its best, is only a state of exile from Eden, to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed. Should we not strive, with God’s help, with all our might to overcome? What, if for worldly possessions and advantages, we cast away our confidence which has such great recompense of reward as the Laodiceans did? The words: “him that overcometh” imply that it is possible to overcome: not one of us, brethren and sisters, need fail; we can all get a place in the Kingdom of God is we try. Think of the day when the Lord Jesus returns and after overthrowing the nations sets up David’s throne in Jerusalem when all Israel are gathered, and that glorious age of righteousness , of peace, of quietness and assurance for ever is established. Of the Lord being exalted in the earth, and his house being a house of prayer for all nations. Think of the Truth and it’s friends being no longer a matter of reproach, but had in honour. Of the blessings of the earth when the ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed. Of being changed into the body of his glory, unwearying in faculties with none of the mental or physical disabilities which mar enjoyment in this mortal life. These are some of the joys whose prospect enabled Jesus to overcome. What sorrow and mortification if in the day of the Lord’s return we find we have sacrificed the glories of the kingdom of God for the well being of this fleeting existence. Like every good and noble thing the Kingdom of God cannot be inherited without great effort and sacrifice. We must be prepared to suffer the loss of all things, even life itself rather than lose it. The words of Jesus in Revelation 22 are urgent, for the time is short:
“Behold, I come quickly: blessed [is] he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. … He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and that his holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I come quickly; and my reward [is] with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed [are] they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and many enter in through the gates into the city.” (Rev. 22:7, 11-14)
It may be, brethren and sisters, that in the mercy of God the words of Jesus to the ecclesia of Philadelphia will apply to us also:
“I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name … Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Rev. 3:8, 10).
Let us hold fast, brethren and sisters to the Truth that “no man take our crown” of victory from us and we fail to become the recipients of the promise of Revelation 3:12:
“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall no more go 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.”
Let us all hear what the Spirit saith to the Ecclesias!