“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” [Revelation 1:9.] It is through one who is “a brother and companion in tribulation,” that Christ reveals to His people the fearful conflict which they must meet before His second coming. Before the scenes of their bitter struggle are opened to them, they are reminded that their brethren also have drunk of the cup and been baptized with the baptism. He who sustained these early witnesses to the truth will not forsake His people in the final conflict.
It was in a time of fierce persecution and great darkness, when Satan seemed to triumph over the faithful witnesses for God, that John in his old age was sentenced to banishment. He was separated from his companions in the faith, and cut off from his labors in the gospel; but he was not separated from the presence of God. The desolate place of his exile proved to him [to be] the gate of heaven. He says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day”—the holy day which God had blessed and set apart as His own—“and I heard behind me a great voice as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and What thou seest, write in a book ....
“And I turned to see the voice which spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks, one like unto the Son of man. ... And he had in his right hand seven stars. ... and he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead: and, behold, I am alive for ever more, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.” [Verses 10-13, 16-19.]
Christ walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks. Thus is symbolized His relation to the churches. He is in communion with His people. He knows their true state. He observes their order, their vigilance, their piety, and their devotion. Although He is High Priest and Mediator in the sanctuary above, yet He walks up and down in the midst of the churches on earth. He goes from church to church, from congregation to congregation, from soul to soul. He observes their true condition. He is represented as walking, which signifies untiring wakefulness, unremitting vigilance. He observes whether the light of any of His sentinels is burning dim or going out. If the candlesticks were left to mere human care, the flickering flame would languish and die. But He is the true Watchman in the Lord’s house, the true Warden of the temple courts. His continued watchcare and sustaining grace are the source of life and light.
Again as the Holy Spirit rested upon the prophet, he sees a door opened in heaven, and hears a voice calling him to look upon the things which shall be hereafter. And he says, “Behold, a throne was set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon as a jasper and a sardine stone.” [Revelation 4:2, 3.] Ministering angels [were] around about Him, waiting and eager to do His will, while the rainbow of God’s promise, which was a token of His covenant with Noah, was seen by John encircling the throne on high—a pledge of God’s mercy to every repentant, believing soul. It is an everlasting testimony that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16.] It declares to the whole world that God will never forget His people in their struggle with evil.
Once again the Saviour was presented to John under the symbols of the “Lion of the tribe of Judah,” and “A Lamb as it had been slain.” [Revelation 5:5, 6.] Here the whole work of redemption was expressed. These symbols represent the union of omnipotent power and self-sacrificing love. As the Lion of Judah, Christ will defend His chosen ones and bring them off victorious, because they accepted Him as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” [John 1:29.] Christ the slain Lamb, who was despised, rejected, the victim of Satan’s wrath, of man’s abuse and cruelty—how tender His sympathy with His people who were in the world! And according to the infinite depths of His humiliation and sacrifice as the Lamb of God will be His power in glory as the Lion of Judah, for the deliverance of His people.
To John were opened the great events of the future, that were to shake the thrones of kings and cause all earthly powers to tremble. He beheld the close of all earthly scenes, the ushering in of His reign, who is to be King of kings, and whose kingdom shall endure forever. “Behold,” he said, “he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.” [Revelation 1:7.] He saw Christ receiving the adoration of all the hosts of heaven and heard the promise that whatever tribulation might come upon God’s people, if they would but patiently endure, they should be more than conquerors through Him that loved them. And Jesus said of the overcomer, “I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” [Revelation 3:5.]
John was now prepared to witness the thrilling scenes in the great conflict between those who keep the commandments of God and those who make void His law. He saw the wonder-working power arise that was to deceive all who should dwell upon the earth who were not connected with God, “saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.” [Revelation 13:14.] See Revelation 13:15-17.
The prophet heard the solemn warning against the worship of this blasphemous power: “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead or in his hand.” [Revelation 14:9.] See Revelation 14:10, 11.
Of the loyal and true who do not bow to the decrees of earthly rulers against the authority of the King of heaven the Revelator says, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” [Verse 12.] See Revelation 14:1-3, 5; 15:2-4.
These lessons are for our benefit. We need to stay our faith upon God; for there is just before us a time that will try men’s souls. Christ upon the Mount of Olives rehearsed the fearful judgments that were to precede His second coming: “Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: ... Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there shall be famines and pestilences, and earth quakes in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” [Matthew 24:6-8.] While these prophecies received a partial fulfillment at the destruction of Jerusalem, they have a more direct application in the last days.
John also was a witness of the terrible scenes that will take place as signs of Christ’s coming. He saw armies mustering for battle, and men’s hearts failing them for fear. He saw the earth moved out of its place, the mountains carried into the midst of the sea, the waves thereof roaring and troubled. He saw the vials of wrath opened, and pestilence, famine, and death come upon the inhabitants of the earth.
Already the restraining Spirit of God is being withdrawn from the world. Hurricanes, storms, tempests, fire and flood, disasters by sea and land, follow each other in quick succession. Science seeks to explain all these. The signs thickening around us, telling of the near approach of the Son of God, are attributed to any other than the true cause. Men cannot discern the sentinel angels restraining the four winds, that they shall not blow until the servants of God are sealed; but when God shall bid His angels loose the winds, there will be such a scene of strife as no pen can picture.
We are standing on the threshold of great and solemn events. Prophecy is fast fulfilling. The Lord is at the door. There is soon to open before us a period of overwhelming interest to all who are living. The controversies of the past are to be revived. New controversies will arise. The scenes to be enacted in our world are not even dreamed of. Satan is at work through human agencies.
But God’s servants are not to trust to themselves in this great emergency. The program of coming events is in the hands of the Lord. The world is not without a ruler; the Majesty of heaven has the destiny of nations, as well as the concerns of His church, in His own hands.
Brethren, it is no time now for mourning and despair, no time to yield to doubt and unbelief. We have a risen Saviour. He is the King, the Lord of Hosts; He sitteth between the cherubim, and amid the strife and tumult of nations, He guards His people still. He who rules in the heavens is our Saviour. He watches the furnace fire that must test every soul. When the strongholds of kings shall be overthrown, when destruction shall come upon the wicked, His people have the assurance that they are safe in His hands. In patience they are to possess their souls.
The important future is before us. To meet its trials and temptations, and to perform its duties, will require great faith and perseverance. But we may triumph gloriously, for not one watching, praying, believing soul will be ensnared by the devices of the enemy. All heaven is interested in our welfare and waits our demand upon its wisdom and strength.
In the time of trial just before us, God’s pledge of security will be placed upon those who have kept the word of His patience. If you have complied with the conditions of God’s Word, Christ will be to you a refuge from the storm. He will say to His faithful ones, “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself as it were for a little moment until the indignation be overpast.” [Isaiah 26:20.] The Lion of Judah, so terrible to the rejecters of His grace, will be the Lamb of God to the obedient and faithful. The pillar of cloud will speak terror and wrath to the transgressor of God’s law, but light and mercy and deliverance to those who have kept His commandments. The arm strong to smite the rebellious will be strong to deliver the loyal. Every faithful one will surely be gathered. “He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” [Matthew 24:31.]
Brethren, you to whom the truths of God’s Word have been opened, what part will you act in this momentous time of the closing scenes of earth’s history? Are you awake to these solemn realities? Do you realize the grand work of preparation that is going on in heaven and [on] earth? Let all who have received the light, who have had the opportunity of reading and hearing the prophecy, take heed to those things that are written therein, “for the time is at hand.” [Revelation 1:3.]
Let none now venture to tamper with sin, the source of every misery that has come upon our world. No longer remain in a state of lethargy and stupid indifference. Let not the destiny of your soul hang upon an uncertainty. Know for yourselves that you are fully on the Lord’s side. Let the inquiry go forth from sincere hearts and trembling lips, “Who shall be able to stand?” [Revelation 6:17.] Have you, in the precious hours of probation mercifully granted you, been putting the very best material into your character-building? Have you been purifying your souls from every stain? Have you followed the light? Have your works corresponded to your profession of faith?
It is possible to be a formal, partial believer, and yet be found wanting, and lose eternal life. It is possible to practice some of the Bible injunctions, and be regarded as a Christian, and yet perish because you lack essential qualifications that constitute Christian character. If the warnings that God has given are neglected or regarded with indifference, if you cherish or excuse sin, you are sealing your soul’s destiny. You will be weighed in the balances and found wanting.
Grace, peace, and pardon will be forever withdrawn; Jesus will have passed by, never again to come within the reach of your prayers and entreaties. While mercy still lingers, while Jesus is making intercession for us, let us make thorough work for eternity.