The Vision of the Glorious Christ
The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation, CFP white covers, 77-117, Watchman Nee
John, your brother and partaker with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet saying, What thou seest, write in a book and send it to the seven churches: unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamum, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And having turned I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the candlesticks one like unto a son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle. And his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace; and his voice as the voice of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as one dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Write therefore the things which thou sawest, and the things which are, and the things which shall come to pass hereafter; the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks are seven churches. (Rev. 1.9-20)
The Book of Revelation is “the Revelation of Jesus Christ”—which is clearly stated at the very beginning of the book (1.1). “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” means that this revelation belongs to Jesus Christ. This revelation comes through Him as well as speaks of Him. God gives the revelation to Jesus Christ and through the Latter this revelation is given to us. All the revelations in the entire Bible focus on Jesus Christ and are all for the purpose of revealing Him. And hence the Book of Revelation tells us not only of future things but more so of who Jesus Christ is. Indeed, although the Bible contains many prophesies, its central thought and aim is not in our getting to know these prophecies, but in showing us who Jesus Christ really is. It discloses to us who is this Christ who was formerly Jesus of Nazareth on earth but who is now ascended to heaven.
In recording all the future events found in the Book of Revelation, John aims not at our knowing how and when these things will happen but at our recognizing how Jesus Christ shall reign on the throne. That Jesus Christ is King on the throne—this is what the Book of Revelation would have us to know. We know Him as the Saviour, yet such a knowledge is not enough, because we must also know Him as King. We must know the severity of the Lord as well as the love of the Lord. Let us clearly understand that the purpose of Revelation is to cause us to know more of this Jesus Christ that we may be watchful and prepared till the day we shall see Him face to face.
Now our present discussion will not cover all the revelations of Jesus Christ as shown in this Book; rather, we will dwell chiefly on the very first vision God reveals to John. It is the vision of the glorious Christ.
John is called the disciple who leaned on the bosom of the Lord (see John 13.25, 21.20). But this King on the throne is what John had not learned as he rested on the Lord’s bosom. Now, though, God is intent on revealing this Jesus Christ to him. Such a knowledge will be for John a very basic one. And once having this knowledge, it will not be hard for John to solve all the prophecies concerning coming events.
Under what kind of circumstances does John receive this revelation? “I John, your brother and partaker with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (v.9). Here we are told by John under what circumstances he receives the revelation. He does not claim that he is a great apostle chosen by the Lord. He merely says, I John am your brother and partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and patience in Jesus. He does not esteem himself higher than other people. On the contrary, he merely looks upon himself as their brother. How humble and sensitive this reveals John to be. Though his body is on the island of Patmos, his spirit is with his brethren in suffering together and patiently waiting together for the coming of the kingdom. He has such a feeling because he lives in the reality of the body of Christ.
He knows that the relationship among tribulation, the kingdom, and patience is inseparable. Before the coming of the kingdom there must be tribulation: “Through many tribulations,” asserted Paul, “we must enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14.22). Tribulation paves the way for John to enter the kingdom, and tribulation works for him exceedingly more and more an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4.17). Because John loves the kingdom he does not seek to escape from tribulation. The kingdom is definitely coming, but its coming seems so slow. Without patience, slumbering can hardly be avoided; without patience, drawing back is almost certain; and without patience, the world’s attraction seems irresistible. John knows all this, and so he patiently waits. He believes that he has a part with his brothers in the tribulation and kingdom and patience that are in Jesus. Praise the Lord, John is not alone on this path.
Let me ask, are we not also brothers and sisters to John? Yet if so, do you share with him in this tribulation and kingdom and patience in Jesus? Are you sympathetic to his feeling and his experience? Or have you chosen the broad way and travel comfortably in it? It is not because you believe in the kingdom that you enter it; nor is it because you have some knowledge of the kingdom that you therefore seize upon it. You need to realize that for you to enter the kingdom you must go the way John went; otherwise, your entering the kingdom is merely an ideal.
Due to his faithfulness in the word of God and in the testimony of Jesus, John was exiled to the island of Patmos. This island is situated in the Aegean Sea—off the Turkish coast. It is rocky and barren. From the human viewpoint, John’s staying in this isolated place was too lonely and pathetic an experience; yet he neither murmured nor complained, because he knew for whom he suffered. Praise and thank God, it is in just such an environment that the glorious Christ appeared to him and gave him new revelation and a renewed trust. Oh, for John at that time the earth was receding and heaven was opening. This reminds us, does it not, of Moses in the wilderness, David in his constant tribulation, and Paul in bonds. How these all received fresh revelations! John, then, followed in the footsteps of these men and received a vision he had never known before. He came to know the Lord who sits on the throne.
Let us now look into this vision of the glorious Christ which John saw.
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet saying” (v.10). “The Lord’s day” here signifies the first day of the week. It is not “the day of the Lord” since the latter points especially to the day of judgment. John saw the vision on the Lord’s day—the first day of the week—and not in the day of the Lord’s judgment.
Now John heard in the spirit a great voice behind him. The spirit in man provides us with God-consciousness. It is that part of man for worshiping God, and it enables us to hear His voice intuitively. Here on Patmos we find the spirit of John is free and not restricted by environment. He has the ascended life (cf. Eph. 2.6). His spirit is neither subject to the siege of the soul nor affected by the latter’s stimulation. He can freely commune with his Lord and receive new revelation. Though his body is confined to the island of Patmos and thus he has lost his freedom physically, nevertheless John’s spirit is not imprisoned because of this. Patmos cannot block out the heaven above his head; on the contrary, the island seems to induce a contact of his spirit with heaven. How sad that God’s children frequently misunderstand “the Patmos islands” of their lives that have been arranged by God!
On this Aegean island John encounters a very special experience. He is drawn by the Holy Spirit to leave behind his own personal consciousness and to enter the spiritual realm so as to hear the word of the Lord. Before God will show him the future glory, He draws John’s attention first to the current conditions of the church. Hence he hears “behind [him] a great voice, as of a trumpet.” He turns around “to see the voice” (v.12). And what does the voice, as of a trumpet, have to say? “What thou seest, write in a book and send it to the seven churches: unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamum, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea” (v.ll). Here John receives a commission to write to the seven churches in Asia. Why write to only seven? Beyond just these seven churches, there were at that time others in Asia such as the church at Colosse, the church at Hierapolis (Col. 4.13), and several others. Why does God not order John to write to them as well? This is because “seven” in the Bible is a number which signifies perfection. God chooses these seven churches to represent the entire church. The various conditions of the church of God after the time of the twelve apostles and until the second coming of the Lord are represented by these seven churches.
These seven churches were in actual existence in those days. And had the Lord Jesus come to them at that time, what the seven letters said would have been fulfilled in those churches. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit is going to use these seven churches to represent all the churches after the first-century apostolic age. So that from our present perspective, the conditions of the seven churches spoken of in the seven letters can be doubly applied: first, to the actual conditions of the various churches at that period; and second, the conditions of the visible church in all ages.
“And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the candlesticks one like unto a son of man” (vv.12-13a). The seven golden candlesticks which John saw are the seven churches. These serve to reflect the actual conditions of the seven local churches then existing in the province of Asia. These seven candlesticks are not joined in one but are individual in character, each being responsible to shine in its respective locality. The church is one in life as one body, but in outward appearance on earth each assembly is autonomous according to locality and each is directly responsible to the Lord as seven individual candlesticks. By reading Revelation chapters 2 and 3 we can see the conditions of those seven churches at that time: their works, environments, responsibilities, defeats, and rewards are all different. We will make a serious mistake if we fail to recognize these differences.
These seven churches do not bear a common denomination since they are severally called the church “in Ephesus”—“in Smyrna”—“in Pergamum”—“in Thyatira”—“in Sardis”—“in Philadelphia”—“in Laodicea”: there is one church in each locality. There should not be several churches in one locality nor several localities for one church. God has ordained that in one locality there is but one church. Hence there is only the church in Ephesus or the church in Smyrna, never the churches in Ephesus or the churches in Smyrna. It is also ordained by God that a local church cannot be joined to other local churches to form one church. Therefore the Bible says “the seven churches that are in Asia” (Rev. 1.4) and not “the church in Asia”—since Asia at that time was a Roman province and in a province there were obviously a number of localities.
What God has ordained for the church is that on the inward side it must submit to the authority of the Holy Spirit while on the outward appearance side it must take locality as its boundary. If we understand the Bible and know the Holy Spirit we cannot but confess that the church on earth is to be expressed in one locality with one church. One church in several localities or seven churches in one locality is not scriptural. For to have one church in several localities demands a unity above that of Scripture; and to have several churches in one locality breaks the unity called for in the Scriptures. If we do not forget that these seven candlesticks are the seven churches, then we will also not forget the conditions which the church ought to have before God.
The Bible uses a golden candlestick to represent the church. This is very meaningful, since gold in the Bible typifies the glory of God. The responsibility of the church is to magnify the glory of God. The candlestick has no light in itself; the shining of the candlestick depends on the oil as well as the fire. If the church is to shine for Christ she must depend incessantly on the Holy Spirit of God and on the divine holy fire; otherwise, she cannot shine for a minute. How we long that the church may be “seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life” (Phil. 2.15-16).
“And in the midst of the candlesticks one like unto a son of man”—This speaks of Christ being with His church. The presence of the Lord is most precious, though His presence is not solely for blessing but also for inspecting. If we are faithful we should not be afraid if His presence is with us; but should we be unfaithful, how can we escape since He is in our midst inspecting us.
This one who looks “like a son of man” is none other than our Lord Jesus. Daniel too mentioned how he saw One “like unto a son of man” (Dan. 7.13). As recorded in the Gospels, our Lord often referred to himself as “the Son of man.” Why is it said here that He looks “like a son of man”? To say this is in fact to suggest the divinity of the Lord Jesus. While He was on earth, Jesus was the Son of man; now that He has been raised from the dead, He is more than the Son of man: He is also the Son of God. Hence it says that He looks like a son of man. We know that God created man for him to rule the earth (see Gen. 1.28). Unfortunately, the first man fell and thus failed to realize this purpose. For this reason the Son of God came to this world to become a man that He might accomplish God’s purpose. God clothed with the body of a man became the Son of man. This marks the beginning of the Lord as the Son of man. In other words, the Son of man is the name for God becoming man. The thirty-odd years of the Lord’s life on earth is the period during which He is the Son of man. Before His incarnation He was “like unto a son of man.” This is the One whom Daniel mentioned. After His resurrection, and though He still has bones and flesh (see Luke 24.39), He is more than the Son of man: He is the risen Son of God. Hence He is the Lord Jesus Christ who looks “like unto a son of man.”
This Christ who is “like unto a son of man” is in the midst of the candlesticks: He is the Lord who “walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” (Rev. 2.1). This indicates to us that the Lord is face to face with His churches and is inspecting their conditions. He does not sit here to receive the worship of His church; He instead is judging His church. How we ought to fear the Lord, “for the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4.17).
“Clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle” (v. 13b)—The priest of old always wore a long garment. In wearing a long garment here the Lord Jesus is shown to be a priest—nay, the Priest of God. As the Priest the Lord is seen walking among the churches to determine which lamp is burning rightly and which is not. Here we must recall the fact that in the tabernacle and temple of old, the light of the candlestick in the holy place could never be allowed to go out. Its light had to burn day and night unceasingly, requiring the Old Testament priest to trim the light continually and add oil to the candlestick. In like manner, then, the Lord Jesus is here seen trimming that lamp which is not burning bright; and this act of trimming is in reality a picture of judging. Christ is therefore found walking among the churches doing the work of judgment; and such judgment is according to the light of eternity.
Formerly we saw Jesus as the Lord of grace, now we see Him as the Lord of judgment. Yet this present judgment depicted here in John’s vision is the priestly judgment, pictured for us in the act of trimming. A day is coming, though, when it will be the kingly judgment when rewards will be dispensed. Every child of God must some day meet the awesome holiness of the Lord; and at that time he can make no excuse of anything. Light will eliminate all arguments and all reasonings. Light will not only enlighten, it will also kill. Light will uncover the true nature of everything and eradicate all that is incompatible with the Lord. Each time God enlightens, it slays the natural life of man. People may marshal many reasons in defense of themselves, but under the enlightening of the Lord they can find no excuse. The farther people are away from the Lord, the more self-complacent they become. Yet the light of the Lord is irresistible. How the church ought to fear the Lord, always accepting His trimming lest her light grow so dim that her candlestick must be removed and she loses her testimony.
“Girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle”—The high priest in the Old Testament period could not continue in his office because of death (see Heb. 7.23). The girdle he wore was made of gold threads (see Ex. 28. 4-5) which could not, of course, be preserved forever. But our Lord lives forever, and His priesthood is unchangeable (see Heb. 7.24). The girdle around His breasts is made of pure gold that shines forever and abides forever. Now the girdle was usually wrapped around the waist for the sake of facilitating service. At this time, however, the Lord has the girdle around His breasts. This speaks of His strength and love—the “girdle” signifying strength in movement and the “breasts” standing for love. This High Priest who walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks is full of power but also of affection. How can we not prostrate before Him with fear and trembling on the one hand and with gratitude and joyful comfort on the other!
“And his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace; and his voice as the voice of many waters” (vv. 14-15). All these indicate to us that not only does the Lord’s apparel show the nature of His judgment but His very own features express this element as well. Let us look into these various features more closely.
“His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow”—Daniel the prophet saw in a vision “one that was ancient of days ... his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool” (7.9). This Ancient of Days is none other than God. Here, the Lord Jesus—whom John saw—bears the same features as did the God whom Daniel saw. This is Scriptural proof that the Lord Jesus is God. The head and hair of our Lord are white—signifying that He transcends time (and yet includes time) as well as that He is absolutely holy. When the Bible speaks of the failing and change of man it says his hairs become gray (see Hosea 7.9). In this respect, our Lord does not have a single gray hair. But on the other hand, Proverbs states that “the hoary head is a crown of glory” (16.31). Hence white hair means both experience, glory, and length of years. It also denotes holiness, for in Isaiah, God is recorded as promising to wash away men’s sins that they may become as white as snow and as wool (1.18). Whenever we recall that our sins are washed as white as the head and hair of our Lord are white, we must marvel at the greatness of the Lord’s grace.
“And his eyes were as a flame of fire”—A flame of fire is able to illuminate things. The eyes of the Lord are as a flame of fire, therefore He can search the reins and hearts of men (cf. Rev. 2.23). Nothing can be hidden from Him. Whenever His flaming eyes perceive something at odds with His holiness, He will judge and condemn. He is light and He himself is the Illumination. He will search out sins, causing the righteous to be preserved in purity and the evil to go to perdition. When the Book of Malachi speaks of the Lord’s appearing, it asserts that “he is like a refiner’s fire” (3.2). During the time of the restoration of Israel, the Lord will purge the Jews “by the spirit of justice, and by the spirit of burning” (see Is. 4.3-4).
When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, the Lord will use fire to prove each man’s work: “For the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself shall prove each man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Cor. 3.13)—“Wherefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall each man have his praise from God” (1 Cor. 4.5)—“For we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5.10). We should remember that “there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4.13). Who can escape before such eyes? Not one of us. Therefore let us sing this song today:
Daily lift I up my eyes,
the light of judgment-seat survey;
May all my life and work
stand the fire of that great day.*
*A stanza of a hymn written by the author.-Translator
“And his feet like unto burnished brass”—Brass in Scripture symbolizes judgment. The laver that is placed between the tent and the altar, and the fiery serpent lifted up on the pole in the wilderness are both entirely made with brass (see Ex. 30.18, Num. 21.8-9). “His feet like unto burnished brass” shows not only that His movement is full of strength but His movement, His way, and His step are absolutely righteous. His feet are like burnished brass “as if it had been refined in a furnace.” When brass is refined in a furnace it gives forth a fearful color of white. How strong and pure are the Lord’s feet. What His sharp eyes condemn, His strong feet trample upon! He will judge all which His eyes condemn as sinful. His actions are pure. As He walks among His churches in such fearful holiness, how many are the things which must be condemned by Him!?!
“And his voice as the voice of many waters”—This voice is majestic and irresistible. It is no longer like His former earthly voice which was so soft and tender that it drew men to Him. Now it is so majestic and fearsome that men are afraid to hear, and yet they cannot fail to do so: “The floods have lifted up, O Jehovah, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. Above the voices of many waters, the mighty breakers of the sea, Jehovah on high is mighty” (Ps. 93.3-4). This shows just how loud is this voice! “And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shined with his glory” (Ez. 43.2). This depicts the grandeur and the power of the voice of God. And today this grandiose and powerful voice comes forth from Christ, the One who is like the Son of man.
Concerning the power of His own voice the Lord once said: “Verily verily, I say unto you, The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live” (John 5.25)—just as Lazarus, whom the Lord loved, had died and was buried in the tomb for four days; but when the Lord cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth,” then “he that was dead came forth” indeed! (John 11.17,43,44) How powerful is the voice of the Lord!
Concerning His wrath we are told that “Jehovah will roar from on high . . . ; he will give a shout . . . against all the inhabitants of earth” (Jer. 25.30). Indeed, “the voice of Jehovah is powerful; the voice of Jehovah is full of majesty” (Ps. 29.4). When He comes to judge, His voice alone shall make souls tremble. If the church fears the Lord and obeys His speaking in her midst, she can approach with boldness when she meets the Lord face to face.
“And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” (v.16). Concerning the One who is like the Son of man, we have already contemplated a little of His holiness and majesty; now we will see something of His position.
“And he had in his right hand seven stars”—These seven stars, as we are told later, are the angels of the seven churches. That Christ is holding them in His right hand signifies His authority over them, for in the Scriptures the term “right hand” carries with it the meaning of authority and exaltation (cf. Ps. 17.7, 18.35; Acts 2.32-33). These angels (or messengers) are in the Lord’s hand. They are faithful, and their ministries shine as the stars. By their being in the hand of the Lord, the position of these messengers is most secure—though their responsibility is also great. Furthermore, these messengers are in the Lord’s hand and not located as a crown on His head, because the time of their glorification has not yet come. They should carry on their ministries faithfully so as to shine forever; otherwise, they will become like “wandering stars” (Jude 13).
“And out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword”—Isaiah 49 states that “he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword” (v.2). This points to the power of the speech of our Lord. His words will not only smite people’s consciences to convict them of sin today but will also be sharp and cutting at the time of judgment: “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12.48). How we believers need to fear the Lord, because judgment shall in fact begin with the house of God!
In Revelation chapters 2 and 3 we are shown how the Lord who walks among the seven golden candlesticks uses His word to judge His churches. In commanding John to write to the angel of the church in Pergamum, the Lord said: “These things saith he that hath the sharp two-edged sword ... Repent therefore; or else I come to thee quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev. 2.12,16). This sword of the mouth is none other than the word of God—for please note that “the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4.12). And note also that “no word from God shall be void of power” (Luke 1.37). The word of God is sharp and powerful.
Accordingly, we should have the word of the Lord dwelling richly in our hearts (see Col. 3.16) so that His word might have a right place in our lives and that it may be used as a weapon against the enemy. When the Lord was tempted in the wilderness by the devil, Jesus used words from the Scriptures to overcome him. The word of God is truly sharp and powerful; we must therefore treasure His word and trust in it.
“And his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength”—Christ is the Sun of righteousness (see Mal. 4.2). When the Lord Jesus was on the mount of transfiguration, He for once manifested His glory. At that moment “his face did shine as the sun” (Matt. 17.2). Peter later explained that this spoke of “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1.16a; see also vv.16b-17). The sun is called “the greater light” and it is “to rule the day” (Gen. 1.16). The statement “the sun shineth in his strength” has reference to the noonday, when there is neither cloud nor mist. Hence it refers to the authority and glory of our Lord in the millennial kingdom.
When Scripture speaks of the appearing of the Lord Jesus it uses “morning star” and “the sun” as types. The appearing of the morning star is for the saints, while the appearing of the sun is for the entire world. The morning star appears just before dawn; and only the watchful may see it. In view of this, Christians should be most watchful. The sun appears in the day and is therefore seen by all people. The morning star appears first and the sun thereafter. Before our Lord appears to the world He will manifest himself first to those who have loved His appearing. What a blessed hope this is! Yet do we really love His appearing?
“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as one dead” (v.17a). John is called the one who leaned on the Lord’s bosom (see John 13.23-25, 21.20), yet here at this moment when he saw Him who is coming to execute judgment, he fell at Jesus’ feet as one dead because of His holiness, glory, majesty, and power. Oh, the judgment of the Lord is serious. Who can stand such a vision!?! If this happened to the apostle John, what will occur with respect to us? May we not in the least despise the solemnity of this judgment.
If a person does not see the Lord, nothing will happen to him; but once he sees the Lord, he cannot fail to be smitten in heart and fall at His feet as one dead. While Job was arguing with his three friends, he stood up against them on the ground that he was perfect. Later, however, when he saw the Lord God, he acted differently. Said Job: “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job. 42.5-6).
When the prophet Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon the throne, high and lifted up (6.1), he could not but cry: “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts” (6.5).
The prophet Daniel is one about whom the Bible never records any fault; yet upon seeing the Lord in a vision, this is what the prophet’s response was: “There remained no strength in me; for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength. . . Then was I fallen into a deep sleep on my face, with my face toward the ground” (Dan. 10.8a).
Again, what happened to the prophet Habakkuk when he heard the voice of the Lord? He confessed: “I heard, and my body trembled, my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entereth into my bones, and I tremble in my place” (3.16).
Paul formerly persecuted and hurt the disciples of the Lord, but on the road to Damascus he fell upon the earth when a light out of heaven shone round about him (Acts 9.1-4).
If we really meet the glory, holiness, and judgment of the Lord, we cannot help but deeply abhor ourselves. How pitiful it is that so many Christians when referring to themselves—and even while confessing their sins—seem to be justifying themselves and parading themselves. And too many Christians harbor secret pride within as well as display open pride without because they have not met Christ: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?” (Jer. 17.9) Before we see the Lord how easy it is for us to believe in ourselves, approve of ourselves, and be contented with ourselves! Only in the light of God can we see our true condition.
Hence all who are self-sufficient and self-righteous have never met the Lord nor encountered His light, for who can meet the Lord and not fall on his face? May the Lord have mercy on any person who is still exalting self and considering himself righteous. May the glory and the holiness of the Lord cause us to abhor ourselves—to fall at His feet and deliver ourselves to death so that Christ may be manifested in our lives.
“And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not” (v. 17b). The Lord not only holds in His powerful right hand the seven stars but in addition lays this same right hand on John, and gently says, “Fear not.” Although our Lord is in glory, He is nonetheless full of love! This tender word “Fear not” reveals the Christ of the Gospels: it unveils the loving heart of the Lord. The Book of Revelation deals basically with the judgment of the Lord, yet those who are constrained by His love and love Him have nothing of which to be afraid. For “there is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4.18). It is the pleasure of the Lord to reveal himself to men, but there is a class of people who feel His severity more than His loving-kindness; for them, it seems as though the more the Lord reveals himself the less they dare to approach Him. Nevertheless, we see here that the Lord laid His right hand on John and said, “Fear not.” If there is nothing between us and this loving Lord He will give strength to us when we are weak and will comfort us when we are afraid.
“I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” (vv. 17b18). The mere appearing of the Lord in glory causes us to know our weakness, but even more so to know the nobleness of the Lord. The issue here is not in seeing what we are but in seeing what the Lord is. If we know what He is, we will also know ourselves.
The Lord aims at revealing himself. How comforting are these words: “I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” Because He is such a Lord, He can comfort John with “Fear not.” This Lord Jesus is the first and the last and living one and who died for our sake but is now resurrected: He “was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification” (Rom. 4.25). For this reason, in the day of judgment we can stand boldly before His judgment seat. We escape the pains of the eternal lake of fire by His death and resurrection; we also avoid the shame at the judgment seat by His death and resurrection. Let us examine ourselves to see if we really depend on the death and resurrection of the Lord. If we rely on anything else we shall surely fail.
Who are spiritually strong and ready to meet the Lord? Such do not depend on their being more excellent than other people—rather, they rely more on an experience of the Lord’s death and resurrection: “For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection”; “Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6.5, 11). We depend on the death and resurrection of the Lord for our salvation; likewise, we depend on His death and resurrection for our daily victory.
The Lord Jesus has already accomplished full salvation—be it salvation to the sinners or to the believers—and all we need to do is to receive it by faith for it to become ours. We must know this Lord who died and has been resurrected; we ought to join ourselves to His death and resurrection by faith.
Our Lord is “the first” since He is the Source of all things: He also is “the last” since He is the End of all things. As we review the story of our salvation we know it is the Lord who first calls us and not we who seek the Lord; it is He who first loves us and not we who love Him. Thus do we know Him as the first.
But then we may sometimes wonder, Now that we are saved, what will be the extent of His salvation? Suppose the Lord saves us just this much and no more, what will happen to us?—If the work of God stops right here with initial salvation and goes no further, what can we do?—Where will the salvation of God lead us to?—What will be our future? Or we may even ponder our situation on a much wider scale. As we read the Book of Genesis, we of course learn that God is the Creator and Source of all things. But we also read how later on the serpent slipped into the Garden of Eden, how man then fell, and that Adam and Eve were driven out of the same Garden. In addition, the way to the tree of life was guarded by cherubim with the flame of a sword which turned in every direction. And finally, we learn from the early Genesis account that the earth was cursed and death came into the world. Now in our understanding of how these things happened, how can we refrain from asking what the final result of these things will be? Here we see that God has made a beginning with this world, yet what will be its end?
To these questions God himself gives the answer. The Book of Revelation, in fact, is God’s answer. In the very first chapter we have this declaration by the Lord: “I am the first and the last.” This is the revelation of Jesus Christ. And in the last chapter of this Book He again declares: “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (22.13). This too is the revelation of Jesus Christ. In other words, what God has begun, He will in truth finish; what has not been solved earlier in the Garden of Eden, He will solve later on. His redemption is perfect and complete; and His eternal plan must be accomplished. All the problems which we cannot resolve today, He will definitely solve in the coming day. Thank God, one day Christ will conclude all things because He is the last just as He is the first. This, then, is the revelation of Jesus Christ. God shows us that this One who is the first and the last is indeed the answer to all questions.
“And the Living one”—We read in John’s Gospel: “In him was life” (1.4); and also, Jesus’ words: “I am the resurrection, and the life” (11.25). These passages show that Christ is the Source of life. His life is the uncreated life, He is eternally self-existing. He is the One who lives forever. He is the life.
“And I was dead”—Our Lord did in fact once become dead. On the one hand He died as a substitute for sinners. It was a case of “the righteous [dying] for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3.18). On the other hand, through His death He released His life. How marvelous is this death!
“And, behold, I am alive for evermore”—Christ has risen from the dead. Innumerable people encounter death and die. Yet none has ever come back; no one by his own power has ever been resurrected. Indeed, during these thousands of years of human history millions and billions of people have passed away. “To go and not to return” seems to have been the unchanging rule since we have not seen any ever come back. Yet God allowed our Lord Jesus to die that through death He might prove His victory over death.
He did become dead, but now He is alive forever. How great is this declaration: “I am alive for evermore”! At the time of Pentecost the apostle Peter unequivocally declared: “[Jesus] God raised up, having loosed the pangs of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2.24). Death could not hold Him because death has no power to hold Him. The resurrection life can endure death. Though dead, now resurrected—this very fact of history proves how Christ’s life can endure death and is able to pass through death. Many encounter something unpleasant and immediately feel as though they are meeting up with death. But this resurrection life of the Lord Jesus is not afraid to die. By passing through death it proves its power to outlive death. Resurrection life is that which can pass through death and still live. Whatever passes through death but is finished is not resurrection life.
The Lord instructed John to write to the angel of the church in Smyrna, saying that the One “who was dead and lives again” had a message for them because the church in Smyrna was one that had suffered greatly for the Lord and she had been faithful even to death. And thus did He use this kind of word to comfort her. Just as the gates of Hades could not prevail against Christ, so the gates of Hades cannot prevail against the church. If a church knows what resurrection is, she can withstand any trial and tribulation; for resurrection life is a life that endures death and can pass through death and rise up again. Hallelujah! Our Lord once became dead, but He now is alive! Death has no power over Him!
The Lord is not only “alive”—He is also “for evermore”! He died only once, and He also was resurrected but once. After He was raised from the dead, He thereafter lives forever. He now exhibits not only the glory which He had with the Father before the world was (John 17.5) but also the added “glory of man.” He ever lives—and not just for His own self but for us too: because “he ever liveth to make intercession for them” and He now “appears before the face of God for us” (Heb. 7.25, 9.24). Did he not say to His disciples, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14.19)? And are not these words spoken to us too?
Knowing the Lord Jesus as the God who lives forever enables us to sense the presence of the Lord unceasingly in our spirit. Nothing strengthens us more than this sense of the Lord’s actual presence. This is not a kind of emotional, imaginative, or psychological lift. Abraham, for example, knew God deeply after many years of following Him, and hence he “planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of Jehovah, the Everlasting God” (Gen. 21.36). Daniel was known as the “servant of the living God”; and when he was thrown into the lions’ den, his God shut the lions’ mouths and they did not hurt him (Dan. 6.20,22).
George Muller once said: “If you walk with God, expecting Him to give you seasonal help, you will find that the living God will never fail you.” An elderly brother who had known the living God for forty-four years once testified that God had never failed him. Whether in great tribulations, under heavy trials, or beset by deep poverty and many needs, God had never failed him. Because by grace he could trust God, this brother always received help in season. And for this he would gladly declare God’s name.
Alexander Maclaren has told the following story concerning the greatest religious reformer in Germany: “Once Martin Luther felt that his future was full of dangers, and hence his heart was filled with sorrow and fear. He knew at the time that unless he could lay hold of the power from on high, he would not be able to get through. As Luther sat alone in his room, he used his finger to draw these words on the table: ‘He is alive for evermore!’ God is alive! Luther became joyful and his faith was restored.” “He is alive for evermore” is always our strength and our hope. People will all pass away, yet only He exists forever.
Men are like lighted lamps; sooner or later they as flickering lights will be extinguished; Christ, though, is the True Light, the Source of all lights, who continues forevermore. Let us take encouragement and comfort in the fact that the living God whom Abraham called upon, Daniel served, George Muller trusted, and Martin Luther knew is also the God to whom we belong and serve. We ought to fall to the ground and worship. We ought to be filled with joy and to praise His name!
Yet there is more! The Lord not only “is alive for evermore,” He also “has the keys of death and of Hades”—This tells us that all the things in the after life are in the Lord’s hands. Death is joined with Hades (note that the “Hades” mentioned here is not “hell” or “the lake of fire”; in Hebrew it is Sheol, in Greek it is Hades, and it means “the invisible world”). In Revelation 6.8 it is said that Hades follows death. In Revelation 20.14 we see that both Hades and death end up in being cast into the Lake of Fire. In these two passages just cited it would seem that both Hades and death have taken up personality.
This would appear to be confirmed by such Scripture passages as Hebrews 2.14 which says the devil has the power of death and Matthew 16.18 which mentions the gates (or powers) of Hades. Behind death and Hades there is a personal devil who holds the power. But our Lord has risen from the dead. Over Him death and Hades have no more power; quite the contrary, He holds the keys of both. Here we see that far from death and Hades holding power over our Lord, the Latter has in fact overcome them!
Thank God that on the great day of resurrection there “shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15.54). At that time, all who belong to the Lord will boast, saying, “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (v.55) Oh do let us realize that what we are waiting for is not death. On the contrary, what we are waiting for is the morning—the morning of resurrection. And for this reason we can wait with hope.
Yet the glorious Christ thus revealed to John is not simply for the purpose of letting His servant know what kind of Lord He is; it is in addition for the sake of entrusting to His servant John a great and important responsibility. This we see in the last two verses which comprise the first chapter of Revelation: “Write therefore the things which thou sawest, and the things which are, and the things which shall come to pass hereafter; the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks are seven churches” (vv.19-20). The Lord wants John to “write ... the things which thou sawest, and the things which are, and the things which shall come to pass hereafter”—that is, He wants to leave a testimony in writing. He therefore commands John to write in order to complete the record of what He does on earth.
“The things which thou sawest”—This refers to what John has just seen, which is the vision of the glorious Christ. “The things which are” has reference to the things that are still present, which point to the church age, for the Lord later on states that “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks are seven churches”—From this we see that the verb used here is “are” which in the original Greek is cast in the present tense; and hence this verb “are” ties in this verse 1.20b with the phrase “the things which are” spoken of in the preceding verse 19. Therefore the phrase “the things which are” alludes to the things of the church.
Let us now attempt to give some meaning to the seven stars and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars and the seven golden candlesticks are a mystery. Being a mystery, they not only involve physical substance but also have spiritual significance. Unless God reveals, no man can understand the mysteries in the Bible. But with God’s revelation, mysteries are no longer things unknowable (Dan. 2.28, also 2.18-23). Here the mystery of the seven stars and the seven golden candlesticks has already been explained to John by the Lord. Let us apprehend it with a quiet spirit.
The Lord holds in His right hand the seven stars. This indicates that the Lord has full authority over the representatives of heavenly lights and that these representatives must bear their responsibilities in the churches where they are located. The right hand of the Lord—that powerful right hand—alone enables the stars to shine according to His will. It is also this powerful right hand of the Lord which alone can hold and keep these stars.
“Seven stars”—To what do they point? The Lord explains them to John by saying that “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.” Who, then, are these “angels” here mentioned? Commentators have offered varied explanations. First of all, let us point out that these angels do not refer to angels in heaven, since they are angels among men. John wrote to the angels of the seven churches. If that is so, then it is obvious that John is not writing to the angels in heaven. Hence these angels must have reference not to those in heaven but to certain people in the churches.
What class of people in the seven churches are the angels of the seven churches? The basic definition of the Greek word translated “angel” (or “messenger”) means one who is being sent. Thus angels or messengers are the representatives of the churches.
As we closely study Revelation chapters 2 and 3 we shall readily discover that the Lord treats these “angels” as the responsible ones in those seven churches. In this connection, let us take note of the Lord’s words spoken to these various churches. He warns the church in Ephesus: “. . . or else I come to thee, and will remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.” He reprimands the church in Pergamum: “Thou hast there some that hold the teaching of Balaam ... So hast thou also some that hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans in like manner.” He denounces the church in Thyatira: “Thou sufferest the woman Jezebel, who callest herself a prophetess; and she teacheth and seduceth my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.” He reminds the church in Sardis: “Be thou watchful, and establish the things that remain, which were ready to die ... If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” He encourages the church in Philadelphia: “Hold fast that which thou hast.” And He counsels the church in Laodicea: “I counsel thee to buy of me gold refined by fire . . . and white garments that thou mayest clothe thyself ... and eyesalve to anoint thine eyes . . .” Now all of the above words are spoken by the Lord to the churches (cf. Rev. 1.11, 2.7). Yet the letters themselves are all written to the angels (or messengers) belonging to these churches. This fully suggests that the Lord wants these angels to be aware of the conditions of the churches where they are and to take up their respective responsibilities as they ought.
Since the meaning of the word “angels” is those who are sent, there are in fact always a few representing the one who sends them. A good example of this observation is found in the very words of our Lord Jesus when He was on the earth: “He that receiveth you receiveth me,” said the Lord Jesus to His disciples, “and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me” (Matt. 10.40). Hence these angels mentioned in Revelation chapters 1 to 3 must be men in the seven churches who are gifted and have learned spiritually so that they can influence and modify the churches. We do not know what their positions and works in the churches are, but they each must be the nucleus of these seven churches—people with spiritual weight, to each of whom the Lord entrusts the responsibility of the whole church which is in that one’s care.
Judging from the contents of these seven letters, it is evident that these angels and the churches where they are cannot be separated. For example, in chapter 1.11 we read: “What thou seest, write in a book and send it to the seven churches”; while at the beginning of each letter recorded in chapters 2 and 3 it is always introduced by: “To the angel of the church in . . .” This shows that the particular church and pertinent angel are inseparable. Moreover, these seven letters are written to the seven angels of the seven churches, and in each letter there are such words as: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.” This indicates that the Lord treats the angels as the churches for He holds them responsible for the things in the churches where they are. Nevertheless, all this does not mean that the angel and the church are exactly the same. For example, to some of the churches the Lord is found saying such things as the following: “The devil is about to cast some of you into prison” (2.10); “even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you” (2.13); “Thou hast there some that hold the teaching of Balaam” (2.14); “to the rest that are in Thyatira” (2.24); and “Thou hast a few names in Sardis that did not defile their garments” (3.4). Because the Lord in these statements separates or singles out some of the brethren from among the rest in the various assemblies, this would seem to indicate that the angels are different from the churches.
Now the Lord uses stars to represent these angels. Hence they must have heavenly positions—like the stars in heaven—and have heavenly-type experiences. They bear witness to the Lord and shine for Him like the light of the stars at night. Their aspiration and joy are heavenly in nature, not earthly. They have intimate fellowship with Christ, and they also receive the power and authority of the Lord because they are in His right hand. These messengers represent the churches since they are the most faithful ones in these churches. They are occupied with the things of the churches, and they look upon the success or failure of the churches as their own success or failure. These whom the Lord has sent are those who willingly bear the responsibility of the churches.
Therefore, whoever expects to be useful in the Lord’s hand must often kneel before God and pray for the church with tears and a poured-out soul. In spite of the fact that others’ defeat is not their defeat, nevertheless, if they do not care about the defeat of others, it will be reckoned by God as indeed their defeat. These responsible ones should have largeness of heart to embrace all the children of God, caring for the affairs of others as for their own. Otherwise, they will sadden the Lord’s heart as well as endanger themselves. How pathetic if this should happen! On the other hand, if people genuinely commit themselves wholly into the Lord’s hand and joyfully bear the burdens of the churches for His sake, they will not only accomplish great works for the Lord but also receive rewards from Him.
We further need to recognize that the Lord is most fair in His judgment. When He observed faithfulness in the church in Smyrna and in the church in Philadelphia, He commended them. But to the other five churches He had words of reprimand or correction for each one. Although the angels represent the church and they are as stars having their spiritual responsibilities, there is a distinction between the angels and the churches just as stars are distinct from candlesticks. At the time of judgment God will judge those with responsibility as well as the churches in general according to their respective works, for “to whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required” (Luke 12.48). The Lord knows who are His and who are faithful to the end.
In this connection it is worth noticing that the words which the Lord speaks to His churches (including warnings as well as judgments) are directed to the angels as well as to the churches. The churches have the possibility of being defeated; but then, so are the angels subject to possible defeat. Ah, even the stars—the angels or messengers—that are held in the right hand of the Lord may fail, even to the degree of: “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead” (3.1) or, “Behold, I [the Lord] stand at the door and knock” (3.20). How serious a matter this is! In the light of this sobering thought, anyone who is greatly used by the Lord or who bears heavy responsibility in the church must not be proud, unwatchful, or unfaithful.
“The seven candlesticks,” explains the Lord, “are seven churches”—Concerning these seven churches represented by the seven candlesticks, we must recognize three different approaches to a fuller understanding of this Bible passage: (1) that these seven churches were actual churches in those days; (2) that these seven churches typify the seven stages of church history in general; and (3) that the conditions prevailing in these seven churches have been simultaneously present in all seven stages of general church history.
We can safely conclude from the words “John to the seven churches that are in Asia” (1.4) that these seven letters written by the apostle were sent to seven churches which actually existed in those days. Furthermore, “The things which are” that the Lord alluded to as recorded in Revelation 1.19 must refer to these seven churches and the various conditions pertaining to them which are cited in the seven letters of chapters 2 and 3. For when the Lord says “which are,” these things concerning the seven churches must have been present as actual things in those days. Let us not think that the Lord would not come back until the conditions of these seven churches had gradually turned or developed into the seven periods of general church history. For we must carefully note that the Lord definitely spoke to His churches such words as this: “That which ye have, hold fast till I come” and “Be thou watchful . . . If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come as a thief” (2.25, 3.2-3). These statements plainly tell us that there was certainly a possibility of the Lord’s coming back at that time.
On the other hand we must not overlook the fact that there were more churches than just these seven at that time. Certainly those in that day that needed such teaching, warning, and encouragement were more in number than simply these seven churches. For instance, would not such a notable church as the one in Antioch also receive a letter like these? Is there not therefore a deeper meaning in the fact that out of the many churches which were then existing the Lord chose these particular seven churches to receive His special admonitions? As we look at the conditions of these seven churches taken as a whole, we come to understand that the Lord sovereignly chose these seven churches in order to express His will regarding the church of all periods. He will use these seven churches to disclose the conditions of the church after the apostolic age and up until the time of His return.
In the original Greek language, there is no article placed before the words “seven churches” in the pertinent sentence found in Revelation 1.20c, thus strongly hinting that what the Lord says here does not point singularly to these seven churches but instead to all the churches which they represent. For “seven” in the Bible is a perfect number; and thus these seven churches can represent all the churches. Were these seven candlesticks meant only to refer to these seven churches, then what must have been the state of the churches at that time other than these seven churches and those churches that were to come afterwards?
Furthermore, in the letters ordered by the Lord to be written by John to the angels of the seven churches, each of them contains the injunction: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.” This clearly indicates that these letters were not aimed only at the seven churches actually existing during that time but were also for all other saints everywhere who might have ears to hear the word of the Lord. Consequently, in view of all these evidences, the seven churches here symbolized by the seven candlesticks must be representative of all the churches on earth.
Now our Lord has not explicitly stated anywhere that these seven churches typify the churches at large in each period of church history. This is probably to induce us to be ever watchful since we do not know the hour of His coming (cf. Mark 13.35). Though these seven churches do signify prophetically the general history of the church on earth, nothing is specified that Smyrna will arise only after Ephesus has passed, or that Pergamum will come only after Smyrna has disappeared, and so forth. According to the general conditions to be found in church history, the first period of that history bears a resemblance to the conditions which prevailed in the church at Ephesus; the second period, a resemblance to that of the church at Smyrna, etc. Nevertheless, even during the period when the church at Ephesus existed, there were also present the conditions of the other six churches—except that the conditions of the church at Ephesus were more predominant. Likewise, during the period when there existed the church at Smyrna, the conditions prevailing in the other six churches were present too—but with the state of the church at Smyrna more prevailing. Hence in every period of church history all the various conditions of the churches are present, just as was the case of the seven churches that coexisted together in their day.
Now the Lord said to the angel of the church in Thyatira: “Nevertheless that which ye have, hold fast till I come” (2.25); to the angel of the church in Sardis He declared: “I will come as a thief” and, “thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” (3.3); and to the angel of the church in Philadelphia the Lord warned: “I come quickly” (3.11). To these three churches the Lord mentions His coming—thus allowing for the presumption that all three with their particular characteristics will continue on until His return. The church in Laodicea is the last church listed, so that naturally it should continue to exist with the above three until the Lord’s return. Inasmuch as the Lord speaks about His coming to the three churches in Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia, time-wise that event should get closer and closer. In fact His words betray such a progression. To the church in Thyatira, for instance, He says “till I come”—as if His coming is still quite distant. To the church in Sardis, though, the Lord declares, “I will come upon thee”—implying that His coming is more definite. And to the church in Philadelphia, He states: “I come quickly”—as though wishing to show that His coming is imminent. It is for this reason that the church must be watchful and prepared to meet her Lord.
Hence the last four of these seven churches with their particular traits will continue on till the time of the Lord’s coming. This is not meant to signify, however, that these four were to be raised up simultaneously and to continue on together till the coming of the Lord. The church of Thyatira is raised up, then the church in Sardis is raised up, followed by the church in Philadelphia, and after that the church in Laodicea. The ones raised up earlier among these four will not disappear when the later ones arrive; rather, they all are to exist until the Lord’s return. In other words, their being raised up is at different times but their termination shall all happen at the same time.
At the very outset we mentioned that the main purpose in our studying the Book of Revelation is to know who Jesus Christ is. If we therefore have any ambition in spiritual things, that ambition is to be one and one only—namely, to seek to know the Lord with those who also know Him. But knowing the Lord is not an empty word. No one who truly knows Him will fail to fall at His feet. And only he who prostrates himself before the Lord shall be entrusted by Him with spiritual responsibility. Let me then ask you, How about your knowing the Lord? What is your burden for the church of God? If you are faithful, and hold on to what you have, and stand firm in faith, you shall shine as the stars of heaven and shall become useful vessels in the Lord’s right hand.