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The question comes up. ‘Who do you meet with?’ –
Answer – ‘We don’t have a name’.
Question ‘I see, so which of the many groups of Brethren are you?’
However much we try, it seems as we cannot get away from that label.
Why do we like to Fall Back on Labels?
I am guilty of a serious thing. This week I met a fellow believer and we enjoyed a happy conversation. Then came up the inevitable question ‘Who do you meet with?’. My friend said something indirectly pointing to a group of Christians. Immediately I pigeonholed him into a division of that united vessel (I wish I could think of another word) and associated this with preconceived negative thoughts and doctrinal differences. The result – our warm and happy conversation was marred, and we went away thinking of differences, not of our Saviour, His glory and His return to rapture His saints. I owe that brother an apology.
Why do I do such a thing? Doubtless, Satan has us resting on this or that group of Christians. We are comfortable with the fellowship, the structure and the part we can play.
This is so different from what we have been taught. There is only one church – the assembly of the living God, purchased with the blood of our Lord Jesus; there is only one fellowship – the fellowship of God’s Son. We have confused the true function of the church – something perfect, with its origin and destiny in heaven with what we as Christians can and should do down here. In God’s grace, we may have been led to reject human organisation and church leadership, sectarianism, the building up of things here.
The question comes up. ‘Who do you meet with?’ –
Answer – ‘We don’t have a name’.
Question ‘I see, so which of the many groups of Brethren are you?’
However much we try, it seems as we cannot get away from that label.
A Church with No Name
Here is a picture of a little chapel or meeting room, about an hour’s drive from where I live. Formerly an evangelical church, it was disused and in a bad state when a few lovers of our Lord bought it and painstakingly renovated it. When finished they invited many from the area to join in prayer – not to bless the room or any group, but to seek the Lord’s guidance as to what they should do. I was led to give a little word from 2 Cor 8:5 – ‘They gave them selves first to the Lord, and to us by God’s will.’ (Darby). (See ‘Have we had it the Wrong Way Round?’)
There is no name. All you can say that is where there is a gathering of a few simple Christians who seek to be true to our Lord in very confused circumstances. They break bread in obedience to the Lord’s request ‘This do in remembrance of me’ (Luke 22:19). Those who go there regularly know the certainty of their eternal salvation and have received the Holy Spirit. They are not connected with any humanly organised sect – nor are they in that meeting by membership. Collectively, they do not know who they are, apart from a collection of lovers of the Lord Jesus, and, though bound for glory, do not know where the Lord is leading them in their testimonial pathway. May it remain that way!
While many were claiming to have the Lord with them, I just longed for the experience through contrition and repentance, of being with Him in what He is doing currently.
The position that confronts each one of us now is what are we to do as involved in the sorrowful scattering and breakdown of a testimony we had so learned to value and love. To find a way out of it, I cannot. I am part of it and contributed to it. But to find a way through it is my whole concern and that Christ may be my object and motive. While not wishing to speak of myself, my experience found me quite alone and cut off from my brethren – my beloved wife and family…I had nothing. But, thank God, in His sovereign mercy and exceeding grace I had Christ – my Lord and Saviour. It is easy to say it, but it has to be proved that therein lies the precious inward secret that alone can make one superior to the most testing of circumstances. It is just, “Thou remainest when all else is gone”…I then remembered that from the divine side there is no failure – the unity of the Spirit remains. Does not F E Raven say that God never rebuilds what has failed but rather falls back on His promises? While many were claiming to have the Lord with them, I just longed for the experience through contrition and repentance, of being with Him in what He is doing currently.
(Extracted from a letter by Brian Deck, NZ 1979) Golden Nugget Number 19
Golden Nuggets are published by Saville Street Distribution, Venture, Princes Esplanade, Walton on the Naze, CO14 8QD UK
Branch of Theology Darby’s Probable Position
Hermeneutics – concerning the Biblical text Qualified-literal – Passages are literal, figurative or symbolic, and recognised as such. Also, that which relates to Israel and the law (OT) is distinct from that which applies to the church and grace (NT).
Soteriology – concerning salvation Classic evangelical – God-given faith in the blood. Without the atoning work of Christ, man must bear the guilt of his sin and remain at a distance from God without knowledge of Him or of His love. More Calvinist than Arminian but claiming neither
Should there be an Introduction to a Little Basic Theology?
At a discussion about ‘A Day of Small Things’ with a few friends, the suggestion was made that there should be an introduction to a little basic theology. This is a subject many like myself have steered clear of, even regarding the term as a dirty word, and for very good reason.
– We read the scriptures, we have bible readings and other occasions, and we pray with a view to ‘knowing God’ and in an assembly setting it can be said that we are ‘taught of God’ and guided by the Holy Spirit.
– On the other hand, theology is the critical study of the nature of the divine. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. (Wikipedia) – Trying to mentally encompass the inscrutable God is futile, even profane!
However, there are times when we desire to help fellow Christians who have been subjected to a different system of teaching. It is then useful to understand lines of thought, which we might feel are not fully in accord with, or a misinterpretation of scripture, even when they are held by seriously devout godly believers.
So recently I have been seeking to produce a short guide to some of the theological terms that we might encounter – not to make theologians of us, wasting time on ‘foolish and unlearned questions (2 Tim 2:23)’. But it is useful to know what is meant, for example, by the difference between Calvinism (and its five points) and Arminianism, pre-, post- and a-millennial eschatology etc. Through this we can see how we might relate to those from Baptist (Calvinist), Wesleyan/Methodist/Pentecostal (Arminian), and other backgrounds, and to be able to bring in what is positive in a meek way without giving offence. We are exhorted: ‘In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth’ (2 Tim 2:25) – a scripture which follows the instruction as to separating from iniquity.
Love is of God, and every one that loves has been begotten of God, and knows God. He that loves not has not known God; for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 Darby)
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent(John 17:3)
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings (Phil 3:10)
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me (John 5:39).
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth(2 Tim 3:7)
Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Eccl 12:12)
A Call for Help
I am no theologian – I studied economics and statistics, not theology. So I would like to invite several to review my draft when I have done my bit. There are two or three persons I have already contacted, but if you feel you could help please let me know.
John Nelson Darby
Meanwhile, for a start, here is what might be written about Darby theology
Branch of Theology
Darby’s Probable Position
Hermeneutics – concerning the Biblical text
Qualified-literal – Passages are literal, figurative or symbolic, and recognised as such. Also, that which relates to Israel and the law (OT) is distinct from that which applies to the church and grace (NT).
Soteriology – concerning salvation
Classic evangelical – God-given faith in the blood. Without the atoning work of Christ, man must bear the guilt of his sin and remain at a distance from God without knowledge of Him or of His love. More Calvinist than Arminian but claiming neither
Eschatology – concerning prophecy
‘The Father of Premillennial Dispensationalism’ – The pre-tribulation secret rapture with the Church returning with Christ at the start of the millennium
Ecclesiology – concerning the church and church form
The true church is heavenly, unified and perfect – publicly it is in ruins – the call is to depart from iniquity and gather to the Lord’s name – without form, organisation or ordained leadership.
Christology – concerning the Person of Christ
None! – How can the blessed Object of our worship be studied academically?
This is no substitute for:
Reading, remembering the Holy Scriptures (see 2 Tim 3:15)
Knowing that your sins are forgiven and rejoicing in the Saviour (see 1 John 2:12)
Awaiting our Lord’s return with a heart aglow (see 2 Peter 1:19)
Enjoying a wonderful relationship with one another, with he Lord’s presence when two or three are gathered to His Name (see Matt 18:20)
Worshipping our great ‘God and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13 Darby and others)
In a brief article entitled ‘What is a Sect’ – Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362, John Nelson Darby distinguishes those who gather to the Lord’s Name in the light of the One Body, and those who are members of a sect, or church, or ecclesiastical corporation. The latter is based on held opinions.
J N Darby – Sect or One Body
In a brief article entitled ‘What is a Sect’ – Collected Writings Volume 14 (Ecclesiastical 3) p. 362, John Nelson Darby distinguishes those who gather to the Lord’s Name in the light of the One Body, from those who are members of a sect, or church, or ecclesiastical corporation. The latter is based on held opinions.
J N Darby – Sect or One Body
The Greek word for ‘sect’ is αἵρεσις/hairesis/Strong 139. Strong says that the word signifies a strong, distinctive opinion and was used in the New Testament to differentiate parties (sects) in Judaism. The term stresses the personal aspect of choice – Sadducees and Pharisees were such by choice (See Acts 23:8). In Acts 24:14, Christianity was described by some as a Jewish sect. Of course, Paul did not own this.
Darby defines the word as signifying adherence to a doctrine or system of philosophy or religion. It is used as describe Christians departing from the truth – ‘There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies’ (2 Peter 2:1). ‘There must also be sects among you, that the approved may become manifest among you’ (1 Cor 11:19 DBY). The Catholics assumed what they held to be ‘universal’, and censured all other believers by branding them as ‘sects’.
The Unity of the Body
The unity of the Church of Christ is seen in the Lord’s prayer in John 17 – ‘that they all may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me’ (v 21). When the Holy Spirit came (see Acts 2; 1 Cor. 12:13), Christians became onein thought, word, and deed. And in this there was testimony to the unity. Satan spoilt that. In the scriptures the Holy Spirit compares the church on the earth to the human body, Christ being the Head (see Col 1:18). So if ‘one member suffer, all the members suffer with it’. (1 Cor 12:13). We members of Christ’s body.
When Christians unite outside this of unity, around a particular opinion, their unity is not founded on the principle of the unity of the body. They form an ecclesiastical corporation, and recognise each other as members of that corporation. This constitutes a sect. The communion service becomes an expression of the union of a church’s members. When a corporation of Christians assumes a right to admit members to it, it forms a unity opposed to the unity of the body of Christ. Being a member of a such a church is not according to scripture.
Of course, many pious Christians find themselves ignorantly in sectarian positions: they have never truly apprehended the unity of the body. They believe they are in that position through the will of God. But, in fact they are in a sect, a denial of the unity of the body of Christ (see 1 Cor 10:17).
Calling on the Lord’s Name
Darby said that his desire was to recognise all Christians as members of the body of Christ, and from an enlarged heart, ‘receive them, from an enlarged heart, even to the Supper, supposing that they are walking in holiness and truth, calling upon the name of the Lord out of a pure heart’ (see 2 Tim 2:19-22). He would join with other brethren to take the Lord’s supper as members of nothing else but of the body of Christ, not as members of a church or sect. Unfortunately though, he could not gather with all the children of God, because not all were walking according to the principle of this unity of the body of Christ. They were sectarian.
Although the practical difficulties may appear great by reason of the state of the Church of God, the principle is very simple. However, Christ is sufficient for all. If we are content to be little in the eyes of men, things will not be so difficult. We can cite Matt 18:20 – ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’. This is a precious encouragement in these sad times of dispersion. We are told ‘Youthful lusts flee, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart’ ( 2 Tim 2:22 DBY). This directs us in the path of the Lord’s will, despite the confusion around us.
keep your feet in the narrow way, and your heart as large as you can. It is of no use trying to make fellowship if it is not real; you can’t shake oil and water together: they will soon separate again
I must apologise for the lack of activity on ADOSS during the past few weeks. Many readers will know the reason for this. I now have a backlog of articles and subjects, and a desire to catch up if the Lord allows me to.
Latitudinarianism is a word which has popped up recently among the Christians with whom I break bread. When I saw the word, I had to look it up in the dictionary. Wikipedia describes Latitudinarian as ‘a pejorative (contemptible) term applied to a group of 16th-century English theologians who believed in conforming to official Church of England practices but who felt that matters of doctrine, liturgical practice, and ecclesiastical organization were of relatively little importance’. That is what they claimed. However, Richard Hooker, one of the main 16th century latitudinarians taught
Our conduct ought to be governed by scripture
Scripture shows how leadership should operate in the church
English Church is corrupted by Roman Catholic orders, rites etc.
A law which does not allow lay elders is corrupt
There should be no such position as a bishop
None of us should have any problems here. There may be some things that this man held that we might not agree with now, but it seems as if the accusation was used by the church leadership to challenge anybody who did not accede implicitly to their authority.
I decided to look it up in J N Darby’s writings. It is referred to extensively in one part of Darby’s long letter to James Kelley (1839), who criticised Darby’s schismatic action in leaving the Established Church. Kelley accused Darby of latitudinarianism because of his refusal to embrace an organised church into which one could be baptised, and the lack of outward unity in accepting persons from Anglican, Baptist and even Quaker backgrounds.
Mr Darby contested that from whatever background persons had come from, they should not be excluded if they accepted the gospel fully, and were desirous of leaving organised sectarian religion. He quoted the scripture ‘Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing (Phil 3:15-16).
Darby then criticised the Established Church itself of latitudinarianism in its association with the world in relation to the then modern thinking. He cited supporting atheism and infidelity in schools as well as the careless admission of many unconverted persons to communion. We could add many other things to the list now. At the same time, there were narrow sectarianism of rules and forms, persecuting persons who do not conform – accusing them of, yes, latitudinarianism.
A person who was seeking fellowship should have the Spirit of Christ and be walking according to it. There is liberty to meet outside of the recognised denominations (the worldly camp). For true Christian fellowship we need to lay hold of the fact that we have a heavenly calling, and cannot have part with clerical systems.
When we meet people we go as far as we can with them, but we cannot have part in their system. If we meet a clergyman we converse with him as a Christian, not as a clergyman. In short, keep your feet in the narrow way, and your heart as large as you can. It is of no use trying to make fellowship if it is not real; you can’t shake oil and water together: they will soon separate again.
Darby and the brethren held to all the fundamentals of the Christian faith:
There is one God, eternally blessed – Father, Son and Holy Spirit,.
The Lord Jesus was and is human and divine. He was born of a virgin and was raised from the dead and is now glorified at the right hand of God.
The Holy Spirit, having descended on the day of Pentecost, dwells in believers who are waiting for the promised return of the Lord Jesus.
The Father in His love has sent the Son to accomplish the work of redemption and grace towards men. Jesus, the Son, finished the work on earth which the Father gave Him to do. He made propitiation for our sins, and ascended into heaven. Now He is the great High Priest, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
As to the brethren, nobody would be received into fellowship who denied any of these fundamental truths, and any who undermined them would be excommunicated. They are essential to living faith and salvation, and to the life which all Christians live as born of God.
‘After These Things’ Chapter 3.3 What did John Nelson Darby and the Brethren hold?
From our book ‘After These Things – Summaries of John Nelson Darby’s Papers on Prophecy – and more…’ Compiled by Daniel Roberts. For more about this book click on the picture or CLICK HERE
The following is a summary of a letter entitled ‘A letter to the Editor of Le Français’ – published in J N D’s Letters Volume 2 page 431.
In 1878 the editor of ‘Le Français’, a catholic newspaper wrote to J N Darby asking him about what he and the brethren held. Although he did not like writing articles for newspapers, believing that they were not compatible with the Christian’s heavenly calling, Darby said, ‘I have given him in all simplicity what he asked for. He avowed himself a Catholic and devoted to Catholicism. His letter was simple and honest: I replied to him as a Christian.’
Darby’s Reply to ‘Le Français’
Darby and the brethren held to all the fundamentals of the Christian faith:
There is one God, eternally blessed – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Lord Jesus was and is human and divine. He was born of a virgin. Having made propitiation for our sins, He was raised from the dead and is now glorified the great High Priest, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
The Holy Spirit, having descended on the day of Pentecost, dwells in believers who are waiting for the promised return of the Lord Jesus.
Darby’s early Christian Days
Following his accident (see Chapter 3.2 above), God gave him to understand that he was in Christ, united to Him by the Holy Spirit. Though he had always accepted that the word of God was the absolute authority as to faith and practice, God had now implanted in his heart the conviction of it. Scriptures which bore on that were:
‘At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I inyou’ (John 14:20)
‘He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit’ (1 Corinthians 6:17)
‘Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost who is in you’ (1 Corinthians 6:19)
‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1)
‘I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also’ (John 14:3)
‘Having believed, ye have been sealed for the day of redemption’ (Ephesians 1:13)
‘For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body’ (1 Corinthians 12:13)
‘Even when we were dead in sins, he hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)’ ( 2:5)
‘Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, who shall transform our body of humiliation into conformity to his body of glory’ (Phil 3:20-21)
From the above scriptures, he deduced that the Holy Spirit had given us as believers the full assurance of salvation. We have been set apart from this world, sealed to do God’s will here. We are citizens of another world, awaiting the return of our Lord and Saviour.
The body of Christ is composed of those who are united by the Holy Spirit to the Head – Christ in heaven. We are seated in the heavenly places in Christ, and are already there in spirit, just waiting to be taken there, our bodies changed.
The Public Church
This brings us to the thought of the church and of its unity.
Let us look around! We see how far we as Christians have got from what God had set up on the earth. Where is the church? Darby said it was not the national churches ( Anglicanism in Britian etc.). In his early days, he had been attracted to Rome. But then he realised that the idea of a sacrificing priesthood down here was inconsistent with Hebrews 10:14-18 ‘For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified… . Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin’. Rome pretended to be the whole, but excluded half or more of Christendom. Protestant sects were divided amongst themselves – unity was not possible. In fact, most of those who call themselves Christians were as much of the world as atheists or pagans.
The Fall of the early Church
The Church was formed on the earth at the descent of the Holy Spirit. It ought to have been clearly identifiable, distinct, separate from the world. Alas, this has not been the case. The Lord foresaw this: ‘The wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep’ (John 10:12) but, thank God the same faithful Shepherd also said, ‘No one shall catch them out of my hand’ (v.28).
In the beginning, ‘the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved’ (Acts 2:47). Soon false brethren crept in, tares were sown, the house was filled with unholy vessels, from which the faithful were to purge themselves. These were persons with a form of godliness without the power, from which the faithful were to turn away (See 2 Timothy 2:20-22 and ch. 3:1-5)
The apostle Paul, bidding farewell to the faithful of Asia, said, ‘I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock, and of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.’ (Acts 20:29-30). Moreover, Jude noted that deceitful men had crept in among the Christians, ‘Certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men’ (Jude v.4). This would lead to apostasy, those inside the public confession entirely abandoning the Christian faith. John continued this line in his epistles.
What the Faithful should understand
Paul tells us, ‘Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel to honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work’ (2 Timothy 2:19-21).
The public church is a great house with vessels of all kinds: a call comes to the faithful man to purify himself from the vessels to dishonour. In the next chapter, he speaks of perilous times. Men will be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud etc., but also ‘Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof’ (2 Timothy 3:5). They were evidently in the professing church, not pagans as in Romans 1. And it goes on, ‘All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse’ (2 Timothy 3:12, 13); but true believers have assurance through the scriptures, given by inspiration of God, making them wise to salvation, by the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
However, Satan will not destroy what Christ has built, the house made of living stones, and the holy temple in the Lord (See 1 Peter 2:5 and Ephesians 2:21). The Word declares that where two or three are gathered to the name of Jesus, He would be in their midst. (See Matthew 18:20).
The early Brethren
This is what Darby recognised. Initially, only four met together, not in a spirit of pride or presumption, but deeply grieved at seeing the state of that which surrounded them and praying earnestly about it. Darby said they were not thinking of forming a new sect. Indeed, they did not believe that the thing would have gone any further. They were just satisfying the need of their souls according to the word of God and found the promised presence of the Lord.
As the Holy Spirit stirred up the consciences of exercised believers, similar gatherings sprung up. The work extended in a way they did not expect – in throughout most of Europe, the British Colonies, the United States, and elsewhere. As the gospel was preached, the Spirit of God acted and produced soul yearnings that the established religious systems could not meet.
Those brethren rested on the authority of the word of God. They saw our Saviour:
first as accomplishing redemption on the cross,
then as seated at the Father’s right hand, the Holy Ghost being down here,
and finally, as coming back to take His own to be with Himself.
Nobody would be received into fellowship who denied any of these fundamental truths, and any who undermined them would be excommunicated. They are essential to living faith and salvation, and to the life which all Christians live as born of God
These Christians had the full assurance of their salvation They had faith in the efficacy of Christ’s redemption, and being sealed with the Holy Spirit, were waiting for the Son of God to come from heaven without knowing when it would happen. Bought with a high price, they felt bound to regard themselves as no longer belonging to themselves, but to please the Lord Jesus in everything, and to live only for Him.
The Brethren’s Walk
While Darby had to admit that not all the brethren walked at the full height of the heavenly calling, they acknowledged the obligation to do so. Brethren walked in a morally right way, excluding any who held heresy or engaged in immorality. They abstained from the pleasures and amusements of the world. Evening parties would be occasions of encouraging one another and discussing the word. Brethren did not vote or get involved in politics. They submitted to the established authorities, whatever political colour they may be, so long as they were not called upon to act contrary to the will of Christ. They took the Lord’s supper every Sunday, and those who had gift taught from the scriptures and preached the gospel of salvation to sinners. Everyone felt bound to seek the salvation or good of his or her neighbour, as they were able. Feeling that Christendom was corrupt, they were not of the church-world.
Asked as to how many such believers followed this course, Darby had no idea. Brethren did not number themselves, wishing to remain in the littleness which becomes Christians. In any case, they reckoned as a brother or sister in Christ, every person who had the Spirit of Christ.
Darby stated, ‘What is the advantage of this course? We acknowledge Christ as the Son of God and know that we have been saved by Him. In obeying Him, despite our weakness, faults and failures, we have Him as an indescribable source of joy. Looking ahead, we have an earnest or advance of eternal happiness, with no failures, where our Lord will be fully glorified in all believers’
It is over 140 years since the letter referred to above was written. Much has transpired and most readers of this book will be aware of, or be associated with, ‘brethren’ in one form other. This is not the place to go into the history of ‘brethrenism’, with its many sad divisions. Amongst ‘so-called’ brethren (who should eschew sectarianism or any claim to ecclesiastical status), there are thousands of true lovers of our Lord Jesus who seek to please Him, serve Him and praise Him for who He is and what He has done. Human ambition and politics, a state of loveless exactitude (Ephesus) or lukewarm self-satisfaction (Laodicea) has resulted in scattering. Darby noted that when things were left in man’s hands they always fail. But the Lord knows those who are His. (see 2 Timothy 2:19). One of the hymns brethren use goes:
What will it be when all life’s toil is finished,
And we have entered our eternal rest;
When past for ever is the night of weeping,
And with Thee, Lord, we are for ever blest!
What will it be when all the strife is over,
And all Thy saints, now scattered far and wide,
Shall be without one shade of variation,
All like Thee, Lord, united by Thy side!
Many Christians have only a vague notion as to worship. They may have turned from clerical formalism with its superstitious rituals, but they do not have a true understanding of what worship is. What, then, is it?
Worship is the honour and adoration rendered to God, by reason of what He is in Himself, and what He is for those who render it. Worship proceeds in heaven, and we have the privilege of entering into it here collectively. In doing so we have joy and blessing, our hearts feeling and responding to God’s love. We love Him in return.
Of course an isolated individual can worship, but not in its fullest sense. He or she can bless God for His goodness. But it needs more than one person for true worship.
What is, and what is not Worship
A testimony respecting God and His grace is not worship.
Preaching the gospel to the unconverted is not worship.
A sermon is not worship.
Prayers addressed to God as to our need are not worship.
Referring to God’s glory, but not addressing Him is not worship.
The gospel might produce worship for it is God’s testimony to man. No Christian worship could exist without it, for the gospel makes known the God who is to be adored. The Holy Spirit leads the soul into the state in which it is able to render true homage to Go in spirit and in truth. It is sweet to rehearse, one to the other, the excellences of Him whom we love with God Himself in our thoughts.
But in worship Christians delight to address themselves to Him.
They to speak to and converse with Him, adoring Him personally.
They speak to God of His attributes and acts.
They open their hearts to Him, to tell Him that they love Him.
They delight in their relationship and communion with Him.
They testify to His greatness and goodness.
In worship communion is between ourselves and God, and God is more precious to us than even our brethren. Our affections have a higher tone and communion is more complete.
As to Israel
The children of Israel worshipped God, but they could not draw near to Him. God had redeemed them out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm and had borne them as upon eagles’ wings, and had brought them even to Himself (See Ex. 19:4). God had promised that they should worship Him upon Mount Sinai, but it was amid thunders, fire, and the voice of a trumpet. Even Moses trembled.
Under the law God placed man in a position where he could bring forth fruit to His glory. He showed what man ought to be and blessed him if he was faithful and judged him if he was not. Under such circumstances God could not fully reveal His holiness and love. Either have had to tolerate iniquity, or banish those who sinned absolutely and eternally from His presence. So, under the law, God concealed Himself.
The people did not even enter into His house. The high priest alone went in once every year in order to carry in the blood of the ram and the bullock — the propitiatory victims — and to make reconciliation for the people with a God who could not endure iniquity. The people sought His protection, and worshipped Him for the benefits He conferred. This was a foreshadowing of Christian worship, but the principles of its exercise were totally different.
It has all changed now. God has not changed, the revelation which He makes of Himself has. Although there is a light to which we cannot approach, He has revealed Himself in Christ.
Christianity is based upon an altogether new relationship between God and man. It was in God’s counsels before the world’s foundation, but it waited for the height of man’s enmity against God: Christ appeared, and man crucified Him!
Now if there is to be a relationship, all must be grace. If God’s goodness and grace is rejected there can only be judgment. This dark background throws into relief the perfection and brilliancy of grace.
Thank God, we are now occupied with grace. There is no longer any question of guilt between the worshipper and God. Christ has abolished it by His sacrifice. The work of Christ has provided the meeting-place between God and the sinner: love has free course, and we can enjoy all God’s blessings. We are reconciled to God and have been brought to enjoy a new relationship.
We have a striking expression of the consequence of the death of Christ in the rending of the veil of the temple. The holy of holies was hidden behind the veil, so no one could draw near to God. Who would dare to present himself before God if all guilt had not been removed? But the veil has been rent from the top to the bottom: now we can enter the most holy place freely. The stroke which rent the veil, smote the Son of God, when He took our sin upon Himself. He has cleansed our consciences by His perfect and eternal work. Hence we are able to enter the holiest joyfully and without spot.
The relationship of God to the Church is presented to us strikingly in the title ‘God of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ When God is called the God of any one, it indicates that a tie of intimacy. Christ is viewed as a man, the head of a new family, who has ascended to His God and our God. We see this truth in Ephesians chapters 1 and 2 Those who were ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Eph 2:1) are to know ‘what is the hope of the calling of God, and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints’ (Ch. 1:18). We learn the true power and extent of that glory: ‘the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places (v. 19-20). All that is His is ours – we have a place then in the presence of God! Even the glory that God has given Jesus, He has given to us, in order that the world may know that we are loved as He is. (See John 17:22-23).
The Holy Spirit
Another truth connected with the work of Christ is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit shows, reveals, and communicates divine things to us. We are ‘strengthened by the Spirit in the inner man, in order that, being rooted and grounded in love, Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, and that we may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fulness of God’ (Eph. 3:16-19). ‘That which eye hath not seen, which ear hath not heard, which came not into the heart of man — the things which God has prepared for him whom He loves — God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God (1 Cor 2:9-10).
The Holy Spirit is “the unction” by which “know all things” (See 1 John 2:20).
He is the seal which God has put upon us unto the day of redemption
He gives us the full assurance of the efficacy of the work of Christ.
He imparts to us the knowledge that as cleansed by the blood of the Saviour, we are without spot in the God ‘s sight.
He reveals to us the glory of Christ as presented in the scriptures.
By the Holy Spirit, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.
He is the originator in us of all the thoughts and affections which respond to this love.
He gives us the consciousness of our union with Christ on high
But He is more than all this. “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor 6:17). This is not merely an imagination; it is a fact. The same Spirit abides in us, and we are united to Christ as members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. ‘By one Spirit are we all baptised into one body (1 Cor. 12:13). The Spirit is not only the power of this union, but He gives us the consciousness of it. Christ is the Head of the body, so each Christian is a member of it, united by the Holy Spirit. The Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (See 1 Cor. 6:19), and believers as together as a whole, they form God’s temple and dwelling place (See 1 Cor. 3:16).
We must know the character of the Father in order to worship God ‘in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:24). God is a spirit: but it is as the Father” that He seeks worshippers.
To worship ‘in spirit’ is to worship according to the true nature of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.
To worship God ‘in truth’ is to worship Him according to the revelation which He has given of Himself.
This is in contrast to religious forms and ceremonies.
The Samaritans did not worship God in spirit or in truth. The Jews worshipped God in truth, according to their imperfect revelation but not in spirit. They did not know the gentle and loving name of ‘Father’. By contrast, we are in a position of freedom before a majestic God as the children of His love and sons by adoption. The Spirit, who is the spirit of adoption cries ‘Abba, Father.’
The Christian, however simple, who understands the grace of God and has received the spirit of adoption, is entitled to enjoy all these privileges. Like a child, he or she does not reason things out, but knows, loves and enjoys its father’s love without describing it. This relationship is in Christ, and with Christ, He being ‘the first-born among many brethren’ (Rom 8:29). And we, who were formerly strangers, know that He is the only-begotten Son, the firstborn, the Eternal Son* of the Father, revealing His love to as He Himself knows it. [*]The feeblest Christian is therefore perfectly competent to worship.
We worship the God of glory, in whose presence we have confidence, not terror.
We worship the God of love and kindness, whose will it is that we should be perfectly happy in Him.
We worship our Father who blesses us with all spiritual blessing.
We worship our Father who knows all our present needs.
We worship Him for that which He is in Himself.
We adore God for that which He is to us, the children of His house for eternity.
But the effect of the presence of this ‘one Spirit’ goes much further. Not only does He give us the consciousness of being in Christ, He also gives us the consciousness of being ‘baptised into one body, (1 Cor. 12:13) – the body of Christ, and as such, ‘members one of another’ (See Eph 5:25). In the Church, which God has newly-created in Christ (the one new man), the redeemed worship in ‘the unity of the Spirit’. The Head has ascended up on high, in order that the members of the body may worship freely and joyfully before God, by the unction which is from Him.
Some practical Effects
God cannot admit sin into His presence, so only those who are washed in the blood of the Lamb, and who have received the Spirit, can draw near to God to worship Him. An unconverted man cannot please or worship God. He may pray for something and his prayer might be answered, God having tender compassion for him, as a poor sinner. However he does not yet know God, has not the Spirit, and is not washed in the blood of Christ. Therefore it is utterly impossible for him to worship God. If he thinks he can draw near to God, he is ignorant of what he is in himself, and of what the God is whom he thinks to serve. He does not have the Spirit, and is not of the body.
To enter into the sanctuary, we must be sanctified. Before entering, we might measure the value of the work of Christ by reference to our load of sin. But now, brought into communion with God, we taste the sweetness of His love, and value the work of Christ by the grace and love of God. Our consciences are set at liberty, free to draw near to God, by virtue of the efficacy of the work of Christ. We may be timid in drawing near, and need encouragement. But if we do not have a real knowledge of the efficacy of the work of Christ, we will be ill at ease in approaching God, because he will still have a guilty conscience.
Even if there are just two or three present, we can worship in common, because we are united in one body by the same Spirit. Each can say, ‘We’ in sincerity, when addressing God.
The two great elements of Christian worship are the presence of the Holy Spirit and the remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ. The Holy Spirit, who acts in the body, is the source and energy, of genuine worship. This is clearly established by 1 Corinthians 14: the assembly being formed as the body of Christ. The Spirit acts through spiritual men to express the love of the assembly. This is the way in which worship is rendered to God.
Our joy in the presence of God, worshipping Him in love is our eternal goal. Gifts will cease in heaven, and nobody will be ignorant or lazy. Worship will never cease.
The Value of the Cross
Instead of seeing the work of Christ as saved sinners, we contemplate its value according to God’s estimate – the greatness of Christ’s love for us. The death of Christ is of such value in God’s sight, as to constitute, so to speak, a new claim on the affections of His Father. His confidence in God, devotedness, patience, love, obedience, submission and sacrifice united in the cross. It was for us He suffered all. Satan was overcome; death destroyed, the veil removed from before the presence of God, making us heirs who enjoy the love of God. This must lead us to worship. At the cross God was glorified, otherwise His glory could not have been fully displayed.
But we are not dazzled by the glory of the cross. Christ hung upon the cross for us. It is the expression of love stronger than death for us. He loved us to the end. In doing so, He undertook to render us happy in the presence of the Father. ‘I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also’ (John 14:3). He said, ‘With desire, I have desired to eat this passover with you, before I suffer; for I will eat no more thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God’ (Luke 22:15-16). As the passover was Israel’s memorial of the deliverance out of Egypt, so the supper is the memorial, not only of our deliverance, but of His love.
If Jesus attaches value to our remembrance to Him and produces deep affection in us, we can understand how the Lord’s supper is the centre of our worship. In the supper, united in one body, we show forth the Jesus’ death ‘until he come’ (1 Cor 11:26). We recall the act in which the Saviour has testified His love in the most powerful way. Other activities – hymns and thanksgivings are grouped around it. The worshipper is thereby reminded of that which is the most precious of all things in the sight of God — the death of His beloved Son. We enter with spiritual affection into the perfection His work. ‘He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him’ (John 6:56).
The peace-offering and the passover present the most vivid images of the true character of the Lord’s supper. The peace-offering was a feast following a sacrifice, the partakers being God, the priest who officiated, the priests, the worshipper, and those who were with him. In the passover, Israel fed on the sacrifice, the blood of which was their safeguard against judgment. This expresses the full satisfaction of God in the sweet odour of the work of Christ. Thus God Himself has His part in the joy, so has Christ: His joy is in our joy.
The Spirit’s Service
The Holy Spirit is the source and power of all true Christian worship. The unity of the body formed by Him, and in which He acts, necessarily holds a prominent place in the worship. The interceding presence of the Holy Spirit produces the consciousness of this unity. ‘We, [being] many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of that one loaf’ (1 Cor 10:17 Darby). Jesus Himself is present in the midst, according to His promise. If the bread broken represents the broken body of Christ, the unity of the bread represents the unity of His spiritual body, embracing all the saints in love. We are united to them, wherever they may be, in the unity of the body of Christ. We have all the privileges which attach to it by reason of the love of Him who ‘nourishes and cherishes it’. Consequently, we have a sense of what we owe to God. We have received grace; now we desire to glorifying Him, expressing this in worship.
In the early days they broke bread in private houses, maybe daily. In Acts 20 it would appear that they broke bread on the first day of the week. It is clear from 1 Cor 10 that the supper was to be something special. They had been abusing it, and their lives reflected that. What sort of life should we be careful to lead in order to render suitable praise to God.
As there are two great subjects about which Christian worship is occupied, namely the love of God our Father, and the love of the Lord Jesus, seen in His work, and as Head of His body the Church. Those who give voice to worship will concentrate on different aspects. At times the Lord Jesus will be especially before the mind; at other times thoughts of the Father will be more present. The Holy Spirit alone can guide us in this; but the truthfulness and spirituality of worship will depend upon the state of those who compose the assembly. If the majority in the company are untaught and ‘babes in Christ’ then this will be reflected in what is said. Those with more experience depend on the Comforter — the Spirit of truth — for true united service to God, bringing in nourishment promoting spiritual growth. Nothing, however, is more simple or evident than the truth that the worship which is rendered should be the worship of all.
If there is evil in the company, or even in an individual, it will be felt in the service of worship. If a hypocrite is present, he will be a hindrance in the worship; but the unity will not be destroyed. If most have cultivated a delicacy of spiritual feeling, they will feel that the Holy Spirit has been grieved. If there is true spirituality and the Holy Spirit fills the assembly with His presence, evil of every kind is quickly discovered. God is a jealous God, and He is faithful. Fleshly pride loves to make much of a gift, claiming lordship over God’s heritage and arranging things humanly – this gets in the way of the free flow of worship. Likewise do narrow sectarian views. Achan was discovered at the commencement of the history of Israel ; a single lie in Ananias came in in the beginning of the Church’s history – and what has happened since! May God make us humble, watchful, and true to Him with a sense of the efficacy of the work of Christ, in order, despite the failure, to render spiritual worship. Even with two or three gathered together in the name of Jesus, He is there as the joy and strength. The name of Jesus unites us.
There is another hindrance to worship. In Philippians 3:3 it says, ‘We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.’ This is about the religion of the flesh, which is altogether as evil as its lusts, religiousness being one of them. Religion of the flesh does not tend to the glory of Jesus. It is occupied in good works, ethical conduct, outward piety and humility, talking of the love of God, but more of our love for God. In circumscision the flesh is cut off. We can judge these things if Christ is our all. As in Deut 26, the worshipper professed aloud that it was God that had accomplished everything for him.
Another thing which marks carnal religion is that, it does not ‘seek those things which are above’ (Col 3:1). The soul that has truly learnt that he was dead in sins, and that the Saviour has come down and been made sin for him and has died and been raised up for him, knows in God’s sight just one sole thing – that God has placed His delight in Jesus.
We should not mingle carnal religion with that of the Spirit. The effort of the adversary, at the commencement of the Church, was, not to substitute the law and circumcision in the flesh, in place of Christ, but to add to it. Paul saw clearly, by the Spirit, that if this were admitted, everything would have been lost. Instead of being in Christ and happy in God’s presence by virtue of a completed work, man tries to find a way of making himself acceptable to God. May God grant us to have no confidence in the flesh, but to rejoice in Christ Jesus (See Phil 3:3).
Let us revert to the subject of collective worship. What a sweet and precious privilege it is to anticipate that which will be our eternal employ in heaven! There our worship will be perfect. There, all the Church, in its completeness, will be assembled to render worship in the midst of the general assembly on high. There, without distraction and without fear, worship will be the Church’s eternal joy in the perfect favour of God. What a privilege, even here below, to close the door for a moment upon all the distractions of this world, and by the Spirit to satisfy the desires of the heart in rendering to God the thanksgiving which He is worthy to receive, and which in His grace, He has breathed into our souls!
[*] There are those who might object to this expression. But I have no difficulty. He is Son; He is eternal. As Man he is that now. Scripture does not go into the relationship prior to the incarnation. See Heb 1:5, Acts 13:33 and Psalm 2:7.
The question of reception is often badly stated. We are not a body by voluntary association, but in the measure that we can be, we come together as members of the body of Christ, a gathering of His own, the work of the Holy Spirit. We do not receive persons amongst us to take the supper with us; Christ must have received them:
To Mr P
Then, the question of reception is often badly stated. We are not a body by voluntary association, but in the measure that we can be, we come together as members of the body of Christ, a gathering of His own, the work of the Holy Spirit. We do not receive persons amongst us to take the supper with us; Christ must have received them: we recognise them, being responsible to guard the holiness of the Lord’s table and the truth of God. To recognise them, it is a matter of confidence, and it depends on the witness that we have of their lives. It is not a matter of deliberation as to whether to receive them or not, once their Christianity has been established, not excluding holiness and truth, for the Spirit who leads the children of God is the Spirit of Truth and the Holy Spirit. They have a right, in this case, to the table. Discipline still remains.
In dubious cases, it is good to desire that the conscience of the whole assembly be clear about it; but if the person is a Christian, and is known as such, or known well enough that by the testimony of a serious person who can guarantee the Christianity of the person who wishes to take the supper, in my opinion nothing else is needed. Only it is good to name the person before the assembly, and in any case to mention it to several responsible members of the meeting if there is not a better opportunity of speaking about it. It is a matter of sufficient testimony, since it is a matter of maintaining a spirit of confidence amongst all. If the one who introduces a soul is a young or shallow Christian, it would be better that his testimony was supported by a few Christians with more discernment. We should rejoice to see new souls coming, but at the same time we need to see that the truth and holiness is safeguarded.
Letter originally written in French, translated by Sosthenes, 2013
Having been set free in the power of the Spirit of life, we voluntarily present our bodies living sacrifices to God. It is not a blind ritual ceremony, nor a legal obligation, but the free service of a willing mind. We offer our minds and bodies intelligently to God, consecrated and set apart: this is acceptable to God. Because we are alive to God in Christ, and through grace free from the law of sin and death we can yield ourselves to God
Having been set free in the power of the Spirit of life, we voluntarily present our bodies living sacrifices to God. It is not a blind ritual ceremony, nor a legal obligation, but the free service of a willing mind. We offer our minds and bodies intelligently to God, consecrated and set apart: this is acceptable to God. Because we are alive to God in Christ, and through grace free from the law of sin and death we can yield ourselves to God.
The world around is an immense system built up by the enemy, astray from God., As Christians, we cannot be conformed to it. With our renewed minds, we seek a way through this world in the path of God’s will. It may not acceptable to us, but it is acceptable to God. What a great privilege it is, to have the will of God in a world that has departed from Him! Christ has revealed the way, a heavenly way on the earth, walking with divine perfectness as Man. It was a life of perfect obedience, and a life of grace – God manifest in the flesh. Now, in grace, God has been fully restored to His place, and man to his, so as to represent God. Now we seek God’s will, knowing that it is perfect, and we obediently delight in it.
We do so firmly, because we is serve God quietly in faith. We find our place that God has set us in the body, and confine ourselves to the service of Christ, waiting on Him. Verse 5 is the only reference to the body in the epistle. We are in Christ, members of His body, exhorted not to go beyond the gift given to us in grace, but to serve the Lord in it.
In our Christian life, we have the spirit in which we are to walk. If we give, it should be in love, freely and unfeigned. We are to abhor evil and cleave to what is good. We should put others before ourselves, seeking to live in peace with all. We should not follow the fashions of the world, but be friends with those of lower social classes. Our walk ought to be beyond reproach. In spite of the evil of others, we do not avenge ourselves but do good to those who hate us.
he Book of Revelation presents the return of the Holy Spirit’s witness to God’s relationship with the earth. At first we have the church, as an earthly witness, but then the saints of the heavenly calling are seen only in heaven. It sets the stage for the return of God’s First-Begotten to the world. Then we have a prophetic view of God’s judgments, the book introducing the King of kings and Lord of lords Himself to execute judgment and to set up the kingdom which shall never be removed. He is accompanied by the heavenly saints.
The Book of Revelation presents the return of the Holy Spirit’s witness to God’s relationship with the earth. At first we have the church, as an earthly witness, but then the saints of the heavenly calling are seen only in heaven. It sets the stage for the return of God’s First-Begotten to the world. Then we have a prophetic view of God’s judgments, the book introducing the King of kings and Lord of lords Himself to execute judgment and to set up the kingdom which shall never be removed. He is accompanied by the heavenly saints.
At the beginning and end, we have the thoughts and feelings of the saints:
The first refers to the cross, and its bearing on the saints, looking back at their own part in that which laid the foundation of Christ’s title. This brought judgment on the world.
At the end we have the saints’ own portion with Christ Himself. They look forward to His glory. Meanwhile they are conscious of it and its present fruit.
Ch. 1 presents God as supreme and eternal. We have the Holy Spirit in His attributes of divine administration, and Christ in His glory as connected with the earth. He is coming. He calls John’s attention to His glory on earth, not in service but in judgment. He walks in the midst of the candlesticks, the place of light in the world, judging the state of the churches. We find a divine person, the Son of man having subordinate representative authority in His hand: the stars and the angels of the churches. These are the things that were seen.
Next we have ‘the things that are’. We get:
Ephesus – departure from first love.
Smyrna – persecution
Pergamos – the world its dwelling-place
Thyatira and Sardis – false teachers seducing the saints; their corruption settled there, and the saints thus to wait for Christ’s coming, who is given to them in His own heavenly unseen associations, and the visible kingdom too.
Philadelphia – a little power
Laodicea – spued out of His mouth
In the four first churches it is a question of personal fidelity od that church to Christ. Christ is walking amidst the candlesticks. In the last three, the stars are not said to be in His hand; they all refer with warnings or promises to the coming of the Lord.
The vision then switches to heaven. The world’s judgment flows from there, and the saints are viewed as enthroned and crowned there. God’s throne of judgment is set up in heaven, and the ministers of His government proclaim His glory, while the saints worship.
Ch. 4-5: The Lamb appears; His glory is celebrated. Heaven owns His title to open the book of God’s ways, and the angels stand around the inner circle of those connected with the throne (24 elders, 4 living creatures). The elders give their reasons for worship. The Lamb now opens the book.
Ch. 6: The providential history of God’s dealings in the Western Roman earth is presented. We see the martyrs who cry for judgment. There is a universal subversion of the subsisting powers, so that men are alarmed as if the day of the Lord were come.
Ch. 7: The remnant of Israel is marked out for preservation; the multitude of the Gentiles to be spared are owned.
Ch. 8: The first four trumpets are the specific judgments on earthly prosperity and the power of the Western Roman Empire.
Ch. 9-11: The next two judgments are on the men of the East. Then we get a parenthesis: the great Western beast. A testimony is given, which comes to a close before the end of the period of the second woe. At last we have the seventh trumpet, which closes the whole scene.
Ch. 12: A new vision of special dealings is now opened, more connected with the religious condition of men. The Jewish people are seen, as heaven sees them, in the counsels and purposes of God. So a Son is to be born, Christ, who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron. The whole church is united to Him. But this is taken to heaven and God’s throne, out of the way of the dragon. The woman – the Jewish people in the latter day in distress – flees from three and a half years’ persecution into the wilderness. There is war in heaven. Satan is cast down, having great rage, knowing that his time is short. His career in heaven is ended. He can no longer accuse the saints on the earth, but he persecutes the Jews. They flee, so he turns to persecute the witnesses amongst them.
Ch. 13: Next, we see the earthly agents: the beast, with seven heads and ten horns, who receives his power from Satan for 1260 days. He blasphemes what is heavenly, and persecutes the saints. Then a second beast, in the prophetic and royal character of a messiah, exercises his power, making the world worship him. He does miracles, and gives breath to the image which he has caused to be made.
Ch. 14: We now have the remnant who suffer like Christ. We also have the testimony, judgments and warnings of God. Finally, we have the judgment of the earth, and the destruction of the wicked by the Son of man.
Ch. 15: Another great sign follows, not necessarily at the same time or immediately after it. It reaches down to the the throne of the beast. The saints, who pass through the time of tribulation, are viewed as at rest. The sea of glass is mingled with fire.
Ch. 16: The vials are poured out. They are on the earth, and particularly strike the beast’s kingdom, and those who dwell in it. Then all the kings of the earth gather themselves together. The smiting does not correct them, but galls their pride. Finally, the last judgment of God is executed even on Babylon, the beast remaining to be defeated by the Lamb.
Ch. 17-18: We have a description of what the woman is: how she rides the horned beast, corrupting all nations. The Lamb overcomes both of them. Babylon is Rome.
Ch. 19: After Babylon is judged, the marriage of the Lamb takes place. He comes forth out of His heavenly seclusion, as King of kings and Lord of lords, to be revealed in the earth. As he comes out as the word of God in judgment, the saints, witnessed in righteousness in the fruit of their works, accompany Him. The beast and the false prophet (the second beast), are taken and cast to their final doom, their royal character having disappeared. The rest are slain. This is the judgment of power and war.
Note that the rapture of the church belongs to the church revelation, so it could not come into the Book of Revelation. However, we see the saints in heaven.
Ch. 20: Then Satan is bound, and shut up in the abyss for a thousand years. Sessional judgment follows. All the heavenly saints are on thrones, for this is royal judgment, and judgment is given to them – this is the first resurrection. After that we have the second resurrection, in which the dead are to be judged and condemned.
Ch. 21:1-8: Heaven and earth flee away; death and hades give up all. God is all in all in a new heavens and new earth.
Ch. 21:9-22:5: The Spirit returns to give a description of the heavenly Jerusalem during the millennium (as He had of Babylon and its relationship to the earth).
Ch. 22:6-21: After warnings to those who are in the time of the book, Christ comes forward Himself as the One who had given the revelation. This draws out in the bride, with whom is the Spirit, to express the desire of His coming. Expressed is her position – towards Christ, towards those who hear the word, and towards sinner. John seals the book with his own desires those of the church, ‘Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.’
The re-introduction of God’s government into this world in Christ, in this book, and the discovery of the heavenly position of the church, is full of interest and doctrine. Meanwhile judgment of the world and its course, is confided to the church which closes the book both historically and doctrinally, the church herself being above the world.
This closes the canon of scripture.
Originally by JND. Lightly edited by Sosthenes, October 2014