To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me in my throne


In a vision on the isle of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, the Lord appeared unto John, the exiled apostle, robed for sacrificial duty. In his apocalyptic vision, John beheld the Lord walking in the midst of seven golden candlesticks.  In His hand He held seven stars which are the seven angels to the seven Churches.  The seven golden candlesticks, or light-holders, represent the seven Churches.  In the Holy of holies there was no light except what was given by the golden candlesticks, reflecting on golden walls and reflecting back again.  In the providence of God, the Churches of Jesus Christ are intended to shine as lights to the world, God giving the Spirit Himself to furnish oil for their shining.


The revelation of Saint John unveils the fate of the Church and the world as connected with it from the ascension of Christ till the end of time.  There is reason to assume that these seven Churches cover the whole Christian Dispensation since seven is the number of dispensational fullness.  The Churches of Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira and Sardis are commended for some things and reproved for others.  The Churches of Philadelphia and Smyrna are commended only and the Church of Laodicea is reproved. Each Church epistle is concluded with a solemn call to every hearer to attend to and apply the message to his own conscience.


The Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, finds no Church without defilement or weakness.  Few are without some glaring iniquity.  Through His perfect knowledge of the hearts of men, the Son of Man speaks His reproofs and warnings.  He takes notice of their service and suffering, but also reminds them of their declension and calls them to repentance.  Much of their performance cannot be accepted of God.  Heavenly glories and priestly honours and high seats on His Throne are bestowed upon those mortifying the corruptions of the flesh and overcoming the temptations of Satan and the world.  But awful are His threatenings and tremendous His judgments upon hypocritical profession and upon the dull and lifeless performance of religious duties. Failure is seen in all seven Churches. And we find the spirit of these seven Churches in the Church to-day.  Each one goes on right to the end, but one does not render null or void the other.


Every man's work shall be made manifest


"I know thy works, thy labours and thy patience ... Nevertheless I have something against thee because thou hast left thy first love.  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 candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."  This terrible reproof was rendered to the Church of Ephesus.  The word "fallen" is the same word used to refer to a woman who has been untrue to her husband and has left him for other lovers.  In these words the Faithful and True Witness exhorts those whose affections have grown lukewarm to return to the faith, fervour and obedience that was theirs when first converted, otherwise He will deprive them of what remains of their form of godliness, empty ceremony and dead works. "I will remove thy candlestick."  We will be deprived of Bibles we are not reading; of light we are not walking in; of Churches we are not supporting and attending; of communions we are not observing and of liberty we are not valuing but abusing.  Fellow-Christian! Remember Russia!  Think of Spain!  Let us quickly return to our first love and our first works so that our candlestick shall not be taken from us!


Each of the messages to the seven Churches is introduced with the words, "I know thy works."  Standing in their midst, the Lord searches through and through, every work and service.  Our appraisal of the Churches is almost entirely sectarian and denominational.  This is in striking contrast to the Lord who divides the Churches simply into they that overcome and they that fail to overcome.  He is: not appraising the Churches as Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, etc., He is not judging the virtue of doctrine at all, but on the line of overcoming.  Strange as it may seem, the Lord is dealing with individuals rather than organizations.  The seven Churches are judged by Him who holds them in His hand as Overcomers or they that fail to overcome.  Scholars translate the word "Overcomer" as conqueror.  So in the final analysis the Churches stand in the judgment of God as CONQUERORS OR CONQUERED.


Conybeare translates this verse:- "We must all be made manifest without disguise before the judgment seat of Christ."  There was no guile or disguise in Christ.  But in us much is disguised.  Few of us appear to be what we are.  But at the Judgment Seat of Christ all veneer and pretence will go.  We will be shown up for what we are.  We will be weighed in the balance.  If we have indulged a secret spirit of pride or criticism or harboured an unforgiving spirit; if we have "kept back part" as did Ananias and Sapphira; or if we have failed to overcome the devil on the grounds of Calvary's finished work, it will be all made manifest at the Bema Seat of Christ.  How carefully then should our days be lived out in the searching light of the judgment Seat of Christ .


More than Conquerors


The enemy of God's people is today trying to blind them to the matter of rewards.  The First Begotten from the Dead puts before the Seven Churches the incentive of rewards He wants them to obtain.  He puts before all Christian believers the possibility of an overcoming life.  He wants us to be ambitious overcomers.  Some have knowledge of these things but it is not experimental.  The Lord wants us to have the overcoming experience!


What is there to overcome?  The flesh that lusts against the Spirit; the world that seeks our love and affection; the devil who seeks to seduce and ensnare.  May the Lord stir us up now to overcome where we have failed.  Most of us are guilty of omission rather than sins of commission.  It is not the great, dreadful sins, but the little foxes that are spoiling our vines.  If we judge ourselves we shall not be judged.  We need to be saved from self-deception.  O let us judge ourselves NOW as we read these lines and go through our praying, our service, and our stewardship.  The normal, scriptural Christian life is one of full overcoming.  "And now, little children, abide in Him; that when He shall appear we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming."  One commentator in translating this expression renders it thus :- "To turn with shame from Him; shrink with shame from Him; flee and seek to hide in shame from Him at His appearing."


The Judgment Seat of Christ


The rapture brings us up to the judgment seat of Christ.  Paul includes himself when he writes:- "We all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5 : 10). The Lord's People are called upon to give account, not of sins blotted out, but for their Christian stewardship, as to how they have used their testimony, time, influence, talent, money, etc.


His wife hath made herself ready


In Scripture the Church is typified as a virgin.  Paul wrote, "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you a chaste virgin to Christ."  According to Christ's parable, ten virgins await the Bridegroom's coming.  In Scriptural numerology ten is used to express worldly completion.  Each virgin carried a lamp.  A lamp implies light.  Five were accounted wise because they had oil.  Five were judged foolish because their lamps were going out.  The Bridegroom tarried right up till the midnight hour and the virgins were wooed by sleep, or as one version has it, "they all nodded."  They were not sleeping soundly, but were not awake, alert and watching (Luke 21:34-36).  Now the foolish had had oil but not enough to carry them through the long night of strain.  Great grace will be needed to overcome in this hour.  Satan is tirelessly seeking to wear out the saints of the Most High.  Awakened at the shout of the Bridegroom's coming the foolish virgins discover themselves unready.  They attempt a hurried spiritual trousseau.  But the Bridegroom has come, and the door is shut.