Reading: Revelation 1:12-18
The beginning in judgment
5. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God, Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8). And then at the end in Chapters 20 and 21 the repetition of that: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” He Who was the beginning in all other respects is here as the beginning in judgment.
All is governed by the Lord Jesus before God, judged by the Lord Jesus, and that means that He stands as the plumb-line, He stands as the measuring rod, He stands as the Divine gauge, and everything is brought to Him and determined as to its acceptance or rejection, as to the measure of the Divine approval or disapproval, determined not by the hundred and one things that you and I and Christians to-day think to be important, but by one simple thing – how much of Christ is there? Not how much of doctrine, not how much of Scripture as Scripture, not how much of orthodoxy, not how much of activity. You find that these churches are all dealt with not according to those things at all. They are mentioned, but they are not the things that the Lord is taking into serious account. Everything is determined by one simple basic law, “How much of Christ, the living Christ, is here?” That is all, but that is very searching, that is very discriminating, as we shall see.
But then you notice, as you come to this book, that this kind of investigation, examination, this court, this judgment, begins with the house of God, begins with the Church, it begins with the Lord’s people It will move out into the wider realms presently; the nations will all be arraigned and dealt with according to their attitude toward God’s Son. He will be found moving in national and international connections, temporal matters, affairs here as to the world. He will ride forth on His horse among the nations, judgment will go out there, famine and pestilence and all the rest, all in connection with Himself. But it begins right at the heart. It is the Lord’s people, the Church, the churches, the individual. “To him that overcometh.” It begins with the widest range of the seven churches, which means the completeness of the Church. It narrows down to the individual church, and then it narrows down to the individual in the church; the whole church, separate assemblies, and then the individual: “To him.” It becomes a personal matter.
Christ the standard
It is a very impressive thing, that in the section which we read, Rev. 1:12-l8, we have the comprehensive presentation of the Lord Jesus. He is presented the, “One like unto the son of man.” Then He is described; He is described as to His personal appearance, as to His raiment, as to His means of judgment. His presence is fully set forth in detail. A number of things are said about Him and then, when you pass immediately to the seven churches, those separate things about Him are used in relation to the churches. “These things saith he that hath the sharp two-edged sword”
2:12). Whose feet are like unto burnished brass (2:l8). Whose eyes are like a flame of fire (2:18). Fragments of that complete description are taken up and used in connection with specific situations. That is tremendously impressive because it proves, I think, conclusively, that the Lord’s people are being dealt with in the light of what Christ is. The basis of judgment is what Christ is, not something else.
“I know thy works, thy labour, and thy patience.” I know all the things about you that are true and good and proper, but, but… And when you follow out the ‘but’ to see where the Lord is unable to go on in approval, you find that it is something which is contrary to what Christ is, something that is altogether other than Christ in His own nature. Look closely and you will see that it is something which is a contradiction of some part of this description of Him.
For instance, when He is introduced to a particular church as the One Whose feet are as burnished brass, He immediately follows up with the charge, “Thou sufferest the woman Jezebel.” You can see immediately the connection between the feet of burnished brass and Jezebel, how they stand absolutely opposed to one another. But before we follow that more closely, look over this full-orbed description.
The garment down to the foot
“Clothed with a garment down to the foot.” The garment is not described here, but there is a parallel passage, indeed I think there are several, which throw light upon it; but there is a parallel passage which seems to indicate very clearly what the garment was. You find it in Daniel 10:5, 6. “Behold, a man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with pure gold of Uphaz: his body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as flaming torches, and his arms and his feet like unto burnished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.”
That is practically word for word the same description as in the first chapter of the book of Revelation, only that there is an added factor. It says that his garment was of linen, and we know from many other Scriptures that that long white garment of linen is symbolic of righteousness and holiness of nature and character. Fine linen, says this book of Christ all-inclusively, is as holiness, righteousness. That is what you have to stand up to, says this word.
The Golden Girdle
“Girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle.” The two things going together, the girdle and the place of the girdle, means that this is that holy love of God. His strength is the love of God made perfect in Him. He stands girded to judge by the love of God, and the very first message that will come to the Lord’s people will be this: “I know all about your works, your labour, your patience, but I have this against thee that thou didst leave thy first love.” The thing which is so important, the very strength of everything, is that divine love as a girdle. Now, He says to Ephesus, it is not your standard of values, it is the standard of this love of God. How much of Christ is here in terms of divine love. You can have individuals and you can have churches, assemblies, companies of the Lord’s people who have a lot of things which may be very good. Much truth, much activity, but the thing the eyes of flame are looking for is the love of Christ.
Hair as white as white wool
“His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow”. Very figurative, all of it; not fanciful, but figurative. You look elsewhere in the Scripture to see what this means, and you find that it just means a crown of honour and glory. White hair, a head covered with glory, with honour. It is Solomon who says that grey hairs are honourable. Well, sometimes, it depends. But here it is all right. “Crowned with glory and honour” (Heb. 2:9), moral glory and honour. This whiteness as a crown speaks of a mighty triumph in the realm of honourable thoughts, honourable imaginations, honourable views, judgments. It is the head, the judgment, the mind. If Paul were thinking about the meaning of it, he would say: “Whatsoever things are true … honourable … just … pure … lovely … of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). I think that is what Paul would say to be the explanation of this, his head and his heirs that were white as white wool: it is the Christ mind. “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). The Lord is looking for this Christ-mindedness, this crown of honour and glory in the realm of what Paul would call the renewing of the mind. “Be ye transformed by the renewing of the mind” (Rom. 12:2). That is Christ-mindedness. How much of Christ is here in the saints, how much Christ mindedness, how much honour and glory as the crown of the life? The glory which comes by honour or honourableness.
Eyes as a flame of fire
“His eyes were as a flame of fire”, all-seeing, all-comprehending, all-knowing, discerning. He is here discerning unto a very close discrimination. These people had got things confused, that works, labours, end patience in the sense of persisting, going on just going on, sticking to it, and other things like that, that these were the things that were of supreme value, that they were the things that mattered. But He Who had eyes as a flame of fire was able to discriminate for them and say, “You are not seeing that these things are in one category, but this first love is in another; you are not seeing that there is a difference between first love and these things.” The eyes saw and see and do know; they are as a flame of fire. Again Paul’s interpretation of those eyes as a flame of fire is found very clearly in 1 Corinthians. What confusion had come about at Corinth, what a mess they were in there because they were holding as supremely important certain things, spiritual gifts, tongues and display gifts and wisdom and all that sort of thing. They were holding these as all-important at Corinth. Paul has much to say to the Corinthians about discernment, spiritual discernment, and that discernment acts as a discriminating thing as he heads it right up to chapter 13 of that letter: “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.” If this, that and all sorts of things that people hold as pre-eminent and have not love…
There is discrimination between things. The eyes of flame discriminated and the Lord would say to His people, “It is a pre-eminently important matter that you have spiritual discernment and do not confuse things that differ, that you do not think certain things to be all important which are only of secondary importance, that you really do discern what matters most to Me.” Eyes of flame; you ought to have the value of that spiritual perception.
He comes back to this. It is not certain things, it is just the living Christ, and when we come into touch with these people, it is not that we meet just their extra bit of doctrine, teaching, light, all their extra zeal and activity, busyness. But we meet the Lord, we meet the living Lord in terms of love, in terms of holiness, in terms of understanding, perception of what matters most. Those religious lines, yes, very zealous religious lines, as we see on Mount Carmel—the prophets of Baal crying all day and cutting themselves. Jezebel has come in and formed that link and taught Israel wrong ways. The feet of burnished brass are the ways of righteousness. Brass is righteousness, but it is always connected with judgment. There is the brazen altar in Israel, the fire is on that brazen altar; it is the altar of judgment. Everything is tested by the fire on that brazen altar and all that cannot resist the fire is consumed and destroyed.
It is the testing, judging; righteous judgment testing everything. Paul says to the Corinthians, “If we judged ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Cor. 11:31). It is righteous ways, judged ways before the Lord. It is the working out of this walking with the Lord unto all pleasing. Is this habit of mine, is this way of mine, is this propensity of mine, is this inclination of mine, this disposition of mine well-pleasing to the Lord? Do my feet go the way of righteousness, walk in righteousness before the Lord. Are my ways righteous in business, are my ways righteous at home? Is my handling of time righteous? What am I doing with my time, how much of my time is unrighteously used before God, wasted? What about my righteous use of minutes and hours? What about my use of means? His feet are as burnished brass, refined by fire; judged goings, judged ways. How much of that does He find? That is Christ.
You can see all these things as perfected in Christ in the days of His flesh. I cannot take you back; it opens up another big realm of very profitable consideration. The ways of Christ here, His goings, were such that it made it possible for Him to turn to men and say, “Which of you convinceth me of sin” (John 8:46)? He was often found in some difficult and delicate situation where He might easily have been compromised. They were always trying to get Him into situations where He could be accused, but He lived so much with His Father, walked so much in the Spirit, held back until He knew that the Father called for such a step or such a course. He was able to say, “l spake not from myself: but the Father that sent me, he hath given me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49). “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing: for what things so-ever he doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner” (John 5:19); that close relationship with the Father meant that He was not caught in ways that were open to question at any time. The apostle will have a lot to say about that sort of thing. I know we are getting down to real business when we talk like this, and we are going to have a bad time.
He is the beginning in this sense that He stands there over all as God’s standard, God’s model to which we are to be conformed, and in the end the whole creation is to take character from Him, and He is to fill all things. There is a practical application of that, namely that He is presented in detail. Holiness in character, that is His garment; divine love, that is His strength. We need His discrimination and discernment between things that differ—not obviously and blatantly right and wrong things, but things that we sometimes think quite good and proper and right. But what does the Lord think about it? Not arguing, “Can I do this, there is no harm in this!” What does the Lord think about it? That is spiritual discrimination. It is only in that way that we can come out with that measure of Christ which is the intention of God. The fullness of the stature of the measure of Christ, that is the goal.
The voice as of many waters
“His voice as the voice of many waters.” Daniel says, “The voice of a great multitude.” It is the same thing because waters in Scripture, as you know, are only the type of men. The voice of a multitude, the voice as the sound of many waters. What is it where Christ is concerned? It is the power of authority. It is a commanding voice, it is a voice of power, it is a voice of authority. He is calling, challenging, speaking with authority. He always did, He taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matt. 7:29). But His authority is derived from what He is in His character. Because He is holy, He can speak with authority. Because He is girded with love, He can speak with authority, for love is ever selfless. There is no authority where there is selfishness. We are weakened immediately when personal interest comes in. If we are not at all in the picture and others can see that it is utterly selfless disinterestedness on our part, we are not seeking some end of our own, there is authority; and that love gave Him the authority to speak. What He was gave Him this voice, and did these churches hear? The prophet said, “The lion hath roared; who will not fear” (Amos 3:8)? And that lion was the Lord; when the Lord speaks, people have to give heed. He wants the lives of His people to stand like that, something to be taken account of. You cannot afford to ignore the child of God. They may be insignificant naturally, they may not be very much here amongst men, but there is that about them that you cannot set aside. There is something of the Lord there you have to take account of. It must be like that. The church is here to be the Lord’s voice in authority. You cannot speak of the church as a whole without thinking of each part of that church, each one who comprises it. Each one must count. The Lord never provided for sleeping partners, for sleeping passengers, for anyone being one who does not count. Are you shrinking back and saying: “I am nothing and never will be anything? I will just enjoy the Lord?” The Lord will not let you get away with it like that. If the Lord gets hold of you amongst principalities and powers at any rate you will count for something; the enemy will take account of you and you will mean something, standing to represent the Lord in positiveness. “His voice as the voice of many waters, of a great multitude,” something with power, something that cannot be ignored. How much speaking with authority is there because there is a background of value?
The sharp two-edged sword
“Out of his mouth proceeded e sharp two-edged sword,” by which we are brought back to that work of judgment, that effect of what we say. You remember Heb. 4:12, where this very phrase is used, 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. A sharp two-edged sword—the effect of what is said. When such a One as the Lord would have us to be speakers, people feel that there is something they have to take account of, to face up to. It is the fruit of our lips, it is the occupation of our tongues. We can do a lot of damage with our tongues. How do we use our lips? Is it like this sharp two-edged sword that brings conviction to hearts, brings home the Lord’s mind, the Lord’s thoughts? The Lord wants His people so to be able to speak of Him that it carries weight in judgment of this kind, discriminating judgment, dividing, putting things in their place. This two-edged sword was to put things in their proper place; “Piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit”; what belongs to the soul, what belongs to the spirit? In other words, what is natural and what is spiritual? And the word of a true child of God, one walking in the Spirit, walking with the Lord, will have that effect, that what belongs to one realm and what belongs to the other realm is made clear by their conversation, by their utterance, by their words. It is enlightening, it is discriminating, it is judging, it is counselling. The Lord wants to find that amongst His people.
I have indicated these things in order to show that the Lord is bringing everything to judgment in the light of what Christ is all about, and that is the basis upon which He deals with things amongst His own people sooner or later. Sooner or later it is, “How much is there of Christ?” As we said before, when you get to the end of this book of the Revelation where He is still held up as the beginning, the standard, the ‘arche’, then, with the change of similes, you have the city and the sanctuary and the command is given to the angel with the measuring rod to measure the city, measure the sanctuary. That simply means in spiritual truth, how much of Christ is here? Take the measure of Christ, declare the measure of Christ. We have come at last to the consummation, to the final thing, all is now realised, according the measure of Christ. And when the measure of the city was taken, it is twelve thousand furlongs. See what twelve thousand furlongs would mean for a city. But even if the figure and language are only symbolic, it is intended to mean that here is a great city. Someone did work it out and said that you would have very great difficulty to find a patch big enough to occupy that city literally on this earth without somewhere overflowing into the sea. Whether that can be proven or not, I do not know, but it is certainly meant to indicate that here is a very great city. “The city lieth foursquare, end the length thereof is as great as the breadth.” It means that here is Christ in large, very large, measure realised at last. “Measure the sanctuary,” that is the concentrated essence of Christ in His people, within the saints, great spiritual measure. That is what the Lord is moving toward, to have that great measure of Christ which fills all things. He begin with you and with me. He says, “To him that overcometh.”
It works itself down to that; how much more of Christ in me, in you, how much more room is the Lord getting as we go on from day to day? How much are we passing on so that the old one that we were is no longer recognized? The new alone is being recognized and is having His way. How much change is taking place in that life, how much more of Christ? Carry that right out into all the people of God and let that go on, and you can see what a glorious end will be reached. That end, “That he might fill all things”.
We can take it that when the Lord finds that the prospect no longer exists of filling with Christ, then He will come right in and change the dispensation, clear out that which cannot be filled with Christ and occupy the ground only with that which is His Son. That is what He is after. It is not for us to say when that will be finished what is necessary unto that, but we do see that that is what He is working at. We know that something like that is going on in our own lives if we are in the Lord’s hands at all. He is seeking to bring influences to bear upon us, to let go, open a way for Him, give Him a chance, make room for the Lord.
That is what He is after, seeking to discipline the old, to bring in and establish the new. The new is Christ, God’s great beginning and His end.