I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. - Revelation 22:16-17
My desire is to present with the testimony which marks the assembly at the close, which you get in these two verses. The true heart is arrested and influenced by the Messiah's communication, "I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star." This is your prospect; "The root and the offspring of David" intimates that he is the King; and "the morning star," that the day is at hand:the morning star is the harbinger of the day. To Thyatira, which is Romanism, when corruption had begun, the promise to the one who overcomes is "To him will I give power over the nations." There is now a distinct change in the nature of the rewards, concluding with "I will give him the morning star." Now the morning star is not an independent manifestation, it obviously refers to the day. I admit that the morning star includes the resurrection; specially connected with "the day." The morning star naturally attracts you to the day, and when the morning star is vividly before you, it is not your own benefit from the resurrection which engrosses you, but that the day when the Messiah shall reign is at hand. It is the prelude of the day, as Peter writes, "Until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts." Anyone acquainted with natural things, or who has traveled by night, knows that the appearance of the morning star is hailed as the intimation that the day is at hand. Surely your gain will be great when the morning star appears, when the Messiah rises from the Father's throne. Then the resurrection will take place of his own, blessed be his name, first share in his glory. But as far as I know the resurrection is not spoken of but in 1 Thessalonians 4; though, as in John 14:3, the gain to us is prominent. Even in 1 Thessalonians the great subject is "the day."
Now the first point I insist on is that the Messiah, "The root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star," is your hope. The assembly has failed as the "candlestick," that is, as the recognized light-bearer among men. I know there is a great attempt in Christendom to be acknowledged as the candlestick; there are large buildings, called churches, ringing of bells, and other religious demonstrations, all to regain a lost position, and some devoted servants of Christ seek to be acknowledged; as has been said, trafficking upon the toleration accorded by the mere professors. A distinction forfeited is never restored; but John prepares the assembly for the Messiah. The church visibly is a ruin, yet the remnant is ready for the Lord, "The Spirit and the bride say, Come." The remnant is part of the original, and is distinguished by the special grace of the original. I gather this from Scripture. Until you know and accept that the church has failed as the "candlestick," you are not occupied with the "morning star," looking for the lord to come according to his own communication. Hence in the closing assemblies the kingdom is brought prominently before you. To the assembly in Philadelphia the Messiah appears with "the key of David," the rejected King. And consequently to Laodicea, when the assembly is characterized by pretension and lukewarmness, the reward to the one who overcomes is that he shall "sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne." First you are arrested by the lord's communication, "I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star." You have before you the day of the Messiah's glory, not merely the relief which will be vouchsafed to you at the resurrection. At the resurrection we shall all be caught up to "be for ever with the Lord," but subsequently we shall all stand before the judgment seat of the Messiah prior to our appearing with him. Hence we read of the servants, "That when he shall appear we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." The grace at the resurrection is most touching, that the lord, the moment he receives from His God and his Father his great power, descends from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God in order to liberate his own; he is thinking of them first, and hence we read in Philippians 3, "According to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."
It is very striking that as soon as the Messiah receives his great power to reign, the first wave of that power is to gather all his own unto himself in bodies like unto His body of glory from Adam downward. That is the resurrection. The Thessalonians were very zealous; they had "turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His son from heaven"; they did not know of the resurrection before this epistle was written. They had thought that their fellow-Christians who had died would not have part with them in the Kingdom. Hence the apostle tells them that the first demonstration of the Messiah's power will be with reference to his own. "The dead in the Messiaht shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them." The morning star may indicate that great event, but you must bear in mind that the morning star refers to the day, or otherwise you will not understand the figure. The first demonstration of that day is for our great benefit; but no true heart could limit the day of the Messiah's glory to his own immediate benefit. "The day of the Messiah "is when he appears in glory, and no blessing can be consummated or anything be in its right place until the Messiah is in his place. That he should come is the one desire of the bride.
Next, you are looking for him to reign. Hence in John 21 we read that John was to wait "till I come." Now when the Revelation was given, everything was ready for the lord to come. The Revelation was written to the seven churches. You should read it as one letter, then you will be impressed with the state of things here, but that the grand issue or denouement will be that the lord will reign; the lord will take to himself his great power and reign. Hence your place with him in his Kingdom will be determined by the way you are for him here during His rejection. It is important that you should be looking for him to come and reign.
In Luke 19 we read, "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return, and he called his ten servants and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come." They were to be rewarded when he returned according to the measure in which they had gained by trading, as they had turned his gifts to good account. Note that in Thyatira, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, the rewards to the one who overcomes are connected with the Kingdom; and the least place is given to the Laodicean. The one who overcomes in Thyatira receives a much higher place. "To him will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron." If the Laodicean overcomes it is said, "He shall sit with me in my throne " -- not ruling. The youngest believer will be with the Messiah to share with him in his glory. I am pressing on you that your hearts should be set on the Messiah's coming to reign, because you are in the place where he was rejected. Hence you are not thinking exclusively of joining him in heaven, but that he should come and reign.
In the lord's supper you announce his death "till he come." No doubt the resurrection is preliminary, but the prominent desire is with reference to the Messiah himself. The tendency with us all is to be preoccupied with our own benefit; but as your heart is true to him you are not thinking of your own relief merely; your eye is fixed on the morning star as the harbinger of the day when the Messiah will have his right place here. If you look at Revelation 4 you will see that the saints are with the Messiah in heaven. He has not demonstrated his rule yet; but they are with him and ready for him; they had been caught up together to meet the lord in the air; the resurrection has taken place. No one can truly say, "Come," but the bride, because she has present affection for him, the first love has been revived. The candlestick has been removed; but love for him has been so revived that you want him to come; you are not looking for a restoration of the candlestick, but that he himself should come. Hence you read in Matthew 25, the last appearance of the Kingdom of heaven, "Then shall the Kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins which took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom," but "while the bridegroom tarried they all slumbered and slept." There was an awakening at midnight, "Behold the bridegroom." Five were wise, and five were foolish; there were as many false as there were true. The imitators were as many as the real -- a terrible state of things! Could anything depict the character of this day more than that there should be as many foolish virgins as wise ones going forth to meet the Bridegroom without any divine power! They had the form of godliness, as Paul predicted (2 Timothy 3); but they denied the power thereof. Here doubtless John's ministry comes in.
I also refer you to the end of Mark 13, where we read he gave "to every man his work"; and "What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." The true heart was simply looking out for Him to return.
I turn now to 2 Timothy 3, "This know that in the last days perilous" (difficult) "times shall come." Paul did not live in those days; he was conversant with the state of things described in chapter 2, where they had "erred "from the truth. But now we find they "resist "the truth. Paul describes the perilous times prophetically. Most interesting and important for every servant in this day, and indeed for every saint, because you are either helping the servant or hindering him. Perilous times shall come and it is of all importance that we should understand the state of things which constitute the difficult times. It has often been remarked that in Romans 1 you have heathendom, and here you have Christendom, and you have the same principles of evil, though you have not the same manifestation of them. In heathendom the wickedness is open and notorious; while in Christendom there is an effort to preserve a good exterior "a form of godliness" (a cloke) "but denying the power thereof."
As I have said, there were five foolish virgins with their lamps going forth to meet the bridegroom, but without spiritual power. The grievous and effectual opposition in these times is imitation. "As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth." They withstood Moses by imitating his works. Their aim was to neutralize the power of God by human ability. This is the aim of imitation, a most effectual opposition to the truth. Take a simple case:a Christian leaves the system with the desire of being on true ground with the lord. If he is faithful, all goes on well; but if after a while he becomes disaffected and forms a party, he resists the truth by imitating it. If he had returned to the system there would be no imitation; but when he imitates separation the truth is resisted. Now it is most solemn and interesting than Jannes and Jambres were defeated when the power of life was manifested, they could not imitate it. It is here John's ministry comes in; John's ministry presents the wonderful power given to you, it is subjective. Hence, "They shall proceed no further, for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was."
Take any sect you like, and you will see that they betray the folly of their pretensions when confronted with the truth of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. See Weslyans or Quakers. I can remember the Irvingite, I knew them in their first attractiveness; their great point at first was the coming of the lord; but from this they were diverted by seeking for a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and that without it you could not be ready to meet the lord; they eventually degenerated so much as to read the litany.
It is of the deepest importance that you should apprehend the nature and character of the difficult times divinely, for if you do not, you never will be able to cope with them. Timothy was qualified to cope with the state of things in the difficult times, he was fully acquainted with Paul's "doctrine, manner of life," and "From a child you have known the holy Scriptures." Paul's teaching, which embraces the gospel and the assembly, inculcates God's present object. In "the holy Scriptures "you have divine principles (man in all his deformity, and God in all His greatness) and by them you are taught that the man who has God's object at the time, whatever that object is; is the man of power, supported by God. Open the Bible anywhere, and you will find that this is a divine principle:and surely no one is equal to the difficult times who does not understand the mystery. I do not mean that he is not a Christian, but I am speaking of a man equal to the crisis. How could you counteract the worst state of things brought about by Satan in the last days if you did not stand for God's object for the time? and you could not stand for it if you did not know it. Hence Timothy was told in chapter 2, "The things that you have heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit you to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."
The blessed God revives from the lowest point, when anyone has faith in Him as to His object at the time. This is properly "the remnant."
I have already referred to the remnant. To the assembly of Thyatira it is said, "And unto the rest" say I; "the rest "means the remnant. The remnant in Scripture is not a residue. You will get the scriptural idea in Isaiah 6:13: "But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten:as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves:so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof." The tenth or tithe is the lord's. He will not leave himself without witness, hence the remnant is characterized by the brightest feature of the original, God's object for the time. I cannot refer to all the remnants in Scripture, I will refer to one or two. Jacob is the remnant of Abraham's period; he worshipes God, leaning upon his staff; he is fully a stranger and pilgrim, he says, "As for me, Rachel died by me ", he no longer looks for anything here, but he blesses Joseph's sons.
The difference between Abraham and Lot was that Abraham was in faith set for God's object; Lot was seeking his own advantage. Many Christians, like Lot, are righteous; but they are not in faith set for God's object for the time, they are not in a right attitude of mind spiritually. Now, if Satan can divert you to a wrong attitude of mind which is not God's present object, he has through you defeated the purpose of God. Many Christians assume to be in a right attitude of mind before the descent of the Holy Spirit, and consequently are not advanced beyond the lord's prayer. They may be pious, but they assume to be in a right attitude of mind where God is not working, and thus they miss the 'trade winds,' the present course of the Spirit of God. If you are set for God's object at the time, it is wonderful the way He will uphold you. Look at Samuel, the last of the judges; he cried unto the Lord for Israel, and the Lord heard him, and the Philistines were discomfited, they were smitten before Israel. Then Samuel took a stone, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, "Hitherto has the LORD helped us"; "and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel." There is the remnant.
One example more, when our lord first entered the temple (see Luke 2:22, etc.), not only Simeon acknowledged him, but Anna, the prophetess, a widow of about eighty-four years, "which departed not from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day." Simeon and Anna were the remnant for that time; they were set upon God's purpose in the lowest state of things. If you are set for God's object in the lowest state of things, you must be in the line of His power and His pleasure, hence the brightest and most important characteristic of it will be most prominent in you. Many say, all is in ruin: that is the moment for the man of faith to stand for God's object. If you know it and have faith in Him to stand for it, then you are the remnant. In every way you are sure to be helped if you are set for God's object.
Look at Anna; the moment she saw the child Jesus she recognized Him, "gave thanks likewise unto the Lord." Where did she get her information? All the learned men in Jerusalem did not know it. She was set upon God's purpose for the time, she was greatly favored, and she "spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" -- a bright example for us all.
You see, I trust, how the remnant should be characterized: consequently the remnant now is set for God's present object, which is the mystery; that the Messiah should be described by his own body here where he has been rejected. Nothing satisfies you, if true in heart to him, but known union with him; and you could neither share in his power, nor be in concert with his mind, except you were consciously united to him.
It is very interesting to note the effectiveness of John's ministry in the difficult times. Every servant of God knows something of the help of the Holy Spirit in John 14, but I judge that not many in this day know the leading of the Holy Spirit in John 15:.26. In John 14 the lord says," But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." Thus they should be fruit-bearers. Now, in chapter 15:26 we read, "The Comforter ... whom I will send unto you from the Father . . . he shall testify of me " -- the rejected Man in heaven. Connect this with the epistle to the Ephesians, and you will see how John's ministry supports Paul's teaching. The Holy Spirit is sent from the Messiah in heaven, that you might be able to describe him in his exaltation on the earth where he was rejected. John does not present the form as Paul does, but he presents to you the power only by which the form can be maintained.
I turn now to the verses which I have read; "The Spirit and the bride say, Come." The Spirit and the bride invite the lord to come. This is the absorbing thought in response to his communication, "I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star." No one could invite the Messiah to come if he were not in happy concert with his own mind; you could not invite him to come if you were not ready for him.
"Let him that hears say, Come." I believe if you were saying "Come "practically, you would draw hearts to join you in saying "Come." I would to God that many were saying "Come." The effect would be very great. It is not merely that you are going to him but that you are ready waiting for him to come, as we read, "Every one that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure." This is very definite; you are characterized by your hope, you are being prepared for him. The knowledge of the truth will not do this; there must be personal devotion to the lord; nothing is more attractive or has more influence with others. The failure of the assembly is that they had left their first love; and there is no moral restoration until you begin at the point of departure.
There is one mark more of those who are waiting for the l ord, it is that they are giving the household their "meat in due season." When the servant is evil he will say in his heart, "My lord delays his coming, and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken"; he does not care for the "household." When I hear anyone referring to the coming of the lord, even in giving out a hymn about it, I am arrested, for as he is true, he is interested in getting ready the saints for the Lord. The true servant in any house does not attend merely to his own duties, but if he sees anything neglected by the others he rectifies it, because he is thinking of his master. And the greatest proof of your love for the Messiah is that you care for those who belong to him; if you love he, feed my sheep. You give them meat in due season. No assembly, as far as I know, rises above the ministry there; I do not limit ministry to one man, for surely the highest element of ministry in a place, by man or woman, gives a character to the ministry. Hence it is added, "Let him that is athirst come"; you have an interest in the benefit of others. And then finally you are, I may say, evangelical, in the opposite order observed by men. If you begin with the bride looking for the Messiah to come, you will seek that every one belonging to the Messiah should be according to his pleasure, for he is coming; hence you will rejoice to be the herald of this wonderful invitation, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." The gift of an evangelist comes from the head, and he should know that the assembly is the Messiah's treasure. The greatest evangelist that ever was, was the most enlightened servant of the assembly, I mean the apostle Paul. God is wiser than you. The gifts come from the head; the Messiah is the fountain and source of them all, and if you come really from the head and answer to him, you must understand what his chief interest is, and you are not working merely for the benefit of man. The chief work of the evangelist is that he is looking for the 'silver piece.'
May the lord keep the subject of his coming fresh before your hearts, that you may be so set for it that you have no other hope in this scene of misrule and contrariety, your only expectation is that he would come and take his place of rule here on this earth.
By J.B. Stoney [edited by Bruce Lyon]