We reach, in this last Epistle, the lowest point of Judah's degradation, in that long line of departure from God, from the day Israel left her |first love,| even the day of her espousals, when brought forth out of Egypt, down, down through one vast scene of idolatry and judgment, until we find that nation described in the Epistle to the Assembly in Laodicea in a condition of spiritual destitution such as characterised the People in the period of the Minor Prophets.
Indeed, so complete is the correspondence, that to see it we must wait till we take the Epistle sentence by sentence, and look at the passages from the Prophets, which we shall there place side by side. We give one or two as examples:
Rev. iii.17 - |Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.|
Hos. ii.5, 8, 9 - |For their mother hath played the harlot;... for she said, I will go after my lovers that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink... For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal. Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness. And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers,| etc. etc.
The whole of Hosea ii.-v., xii.8, etc., must be read to see the pointed reference to this stage of Israel's condition. Compare also Hag. i.6; Jer. xiii.25, 26; v.27; Zech. xi.5, 13-18.
Rev. iii.18 - |I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.|
Compare with this Isa. lv.1, 2; Hos. ii.3; Jer. xiii.25, 26; Isa. lix.10; lxvi.17; See also Mal. iii.3
Rev. iii.19 - |As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.|
Isa. xliii.4 - |Since thou was precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee.| So Deut. vii.8; Deut. viii.5 - |Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee.| Mal. iii.7 - |Return unto Me and I will return unto you| is another form of Rev. iii.19.
In verse 16, the Lord speaks of spueing out the angel. This is the very expression used prophetically in Lev. xviii.25-28 of Israel; where Jehovah warns that, if they adopted the abominations of heathen idolatry, the Land might spue them out (compare Jer. ix.19; Ezek. xxxvi.13, 17).
All this shows that the references in this last Epistle do not in any way fit the Church of God, but agree in every particular with Israel's history, and are referred to so as to enlighten them from their own past history, and thus warn them as to future evils which will then surround them.
When the Church has been removed, and Israel is again dealt with, the religious condition of the nation will exactly correspond with its condition at the Lord's first coming.
There will be, as there was then, plenty of religion. Isa. i.10-15 minutely describes the state of things, as they were then and will be again in the future.
The truth of |this prophecy will be amply evidenced - |Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.|
The Pharisee's prayer (Luke xviii.11, 12) exemplifies it. The parables of the great supper, the wedding garment, etc., describe it. The people were blind. The answer to the question, |Are we also blind?| (John ix.40, 41) proves it.
The call to the wedding feast will be, as then, individual. Matthew was called, Zacchaeus was called, and many others; and those who heard that call were unable to resist its commanding and enabling power.
It is the great wedding feast of Rev. xix.9 to which the parables pointed.
These |servants,| to whom this epistle is addressed, will understand the solemn warning, |Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.| |To the twelve tribes scattered abroad| it was announced |the judge standeth before the door| (Jas. v.9).
The then nearness of the Judge is the thought conveyed in this announcement. He will be then near at hand, and ready to be revealed.
We are aware that the warning in chap. iii.20, |Behold, I stand at the door, and knock,| has been universally interpreted of the nearness of the Saviour in grace to those living in this present Church Dispensation, and this has been fostered by painters who have done so much to present perversions of Scripture to the eye.
It is a perversion which just suits the old nature, for it puts man in the place of Almighty God, and turns the Lord Jesus into a helpless suppliant. All this is foreign to the doctrines of grace, and makes them all of none effect.
Moreover, this popular interpretation is out of keeping with the context. For, all through these seven Epistles the Lord is in the character of a Judge, rewarding His |servants| according to their |works.| To those looking for Him and ready to receive Him, He appears according to His promise in Luke xii.35-40: |let your loins be girded about and your lights burning: and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord, when he cometh, shall find watching: Verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the good-man of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not.| Here, we have the |Son of Man;| the |servants;| the illustration of the |thief;| the |watching;| the |knocking;| the |opening,| and the |sitting down to meat.| Surely we have in Rev. iii.20, the fulfilment of this prophecy.
How simple it all is when we look at this Epistle as relating to backsliding Israel, and read it in the light of the Prophets and the Gospels. How much more satisfactory to find these illustrations in the Old Testament Scriptures, instead of being occupied with the conflicting and fanciful references to certain phases of ecclesiastical history, which have no Scriptural foundation whatever, and rest entirely on human imagination. All is confusion as to interpretation, and error as to doctrine, the moment we introduce the Church or the present dispensation into these Epistles.
We have seen enough in the consideration of this fourteenth point to furnish us with further evidence that the Church is not the subject of the Apocalypse.
The same is seen when we look at our last point, viz., the order of the promises contained in these Epistles.