As we have seen that the references to the Old Testament in the seven Epistles correspond with the historical order of the events, so it is with respect to the promises contained in these Epistles. The literary order follows the historical order.
They are written to a People supposed to be well-versed in the history of the Old Testament, and well-acquainted with all that had happened to their fathers and had been written for their admonition. Instructed in the past history of their nation, they will readily understand the relation between the testings and judgments in the past with which they are familiar, and those similar circumstances in which they will find themselves in a yet future day.
While the historical events connected with the rebukes are carried down from Exodus to the period of the Minor Prophets, the promises cover a different period; commencing with the period of Eden, and ending with the period of Solomon.
The subjects of the rebukes follow the order of the departure of the People from Jehovah. Their decline and apostasy is traced out in the historical references contained in these Epistles.
All blessing depended on the national adherence of the chosen nation to the conditions of the Covenant made with them from the days of the Exodus to the days of the Minor Prophets.
We see them, in the history, coming down, down, down; till we find them stripped of all blessing (nationally), poor, miserable and blind. All that seems to be hoped for, or looked for, among the People is a few individuals who will speak to one another and think upon the Coming One (Mal. iii.16). Later, we see these in the persons of Zacharias and Elisabeth (Luke i.5,6), Simeon (Luke ii.25), and Anna (Luke ii.36-38), and others, |who were waiting for the consolation of Israel,| and looking |for redemption in Jerusalem.| (Compare Mark xv.43 and Luke xxiv.21).
We have seen that this same historical order is followed in these seven Epistles to the Assemblies.
But when we turn to the PROMISES, then all is different. They proceed in the opposite direction. The order, instead of descending - from Israel's highest ground of privilege (Exodus) to the lowest stage of spiritual destitution (Minor Prophets) - ascends, in the counsels of Jehovah, from tending a garden to sharing His throne.
This will be readily seen as we trace it out in the promises made in Rev. ii. and iii.
But first we must note that they are all intensely individual. There is no corporate existence recognised as such. Each one of the seven promises commences with the same words, |to him that overcometh.| This answers to the language of the Four Gospels, and the Epistle to the Hebrews: e.g., |He that endureth to the end,| and resists all the flood of evil by which he will be surrounded, he shall be saved.
Such phraseology is foreign to the language of the later Pauline Church Epistles.
The whole period covered by |the day of the Lord| is called the final meeting of the ages, or the (...) (sunteleia); but, the crisis in which it culminates is called the (...) (telos), the end of the age.
Both are rendered |end| in the New Testament, but the use of these two words must be carefully distinguished.
Sunteleia denotes a finishing or ending together, or in conjunction with other things. Consummation is perhaps the best English rendering. It implies that several things meet together, and reach their end during the same period; whereas telos is the point of time at the end of that period. For example, in Matt. xxiv.3 the disciples ask, |What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the sunteleia of the age.|
In His answer to this question the Lord speaks of the whole period, and covers the whole of the sunteleia. But three times He mentions the telos (1) to say that |the telos is not yet| (verse 6); (2) to give a promise to him |that shall endure unto the telos| (verse 13); (3) to mark the crisis in verse 14, which comes immediately after the close of the preaching of |the gospel of the kingdom.| |Then shall the telos come.| The sign of the telos is the setting up of |the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet.| Thus the telos, and he who endures to this, the same shall be saved, and will be among the overcomers specially referred to in these seven Epistles; to whom these promises are made, and to whom they peculiarly refer.
They are seven in number, as we know: but we have to note that the seven here, as elsewhere, is divided into three and four.
Each Epistle ends with two things: (1) an injunction to |hear;| (2) a promise to him that |overcometh.| In the first three Epistles the Promise comes after the Injunction. In the last four it comes before it.
This is because the first three are connected, by reference, to what is written of the Divine provisions in the books of Genesis and Exodus (the Garden and the Wilderness); while the latter four are connected with the Land and the thrones of David and Solomon: the number three marking Heavenly or Divine perfection; and the number four having to do with the earth.
Let us look at these Promises in order.