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The Probability of the Second Coming of Christ About A.D. 1843

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    CHAPTER IV

    Revelation chap. 1. verse 1. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angle unto his servant John.”PSC 119.1

    We are here assured, 1. That this book is a revelation from God; 2. That the things revealed were in futurity; and, 3. That God gave the revelation of those future events to Jesus Christ to show unto his servants. This declaration is enough to silence forever the objection which is so often made against the possibility of our knowing any thing about the fulfillment of the prophecies and the second coming of Christ. “Does not Christ,” say the objectors, “himself declare, that ‘of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father?’” All this is admitted. But what does it prove? Only that “the day and hour” were not known. And who professes to know it? But the text itself asserts, that the Father does know; both in the sense of “to know,” and “to make known.” The first verse of Revelations declares, that God has exercised his prerogative, to reveal the events of futurity. The events of this book go forward through time to the final judgment, and to the retributions of eternity.PSC 119.2

    Verse 3. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein.” Here we have great encouragement to study this portion of the word of God. For the time is at hand. The time of the commencement of the fulfillment was then at hand. But to us it is doubly important, for we stand upon the verge of their fulfillment. This book is dedicated to the seven churches which are in Asia.PSC 120.1

    Verse 11. “Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; and what thou seest, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.PSC 120.2

    “12. And I turned to see the voice which spake with me. And I saw seven golden candlesticks;PSC 120.3

    “13. And in the midst of the candlesticks one like unto the son of man.”PSC 120.4

    On the character of the seven churches there is a diversity of opinion; some believing them to be seven literal churches, the state of which, at the time this book was written, is described, and such reproofs and instructions as they required were given them. The other opinion is, that they are to be understood mystically, as seven is a mystical number, and that the seven churches of Asia are the representatives of the church of Christ through seven distinct periods of the Christian dispensation. The former of these opinions is that which most generally prevails, and is maintained by most commentators. The latter, at first, appears very fanciful, but yet has considerable evidence to support it. I will briefly give the arguments in favor of this exposition of the epistles to the churches, and also the exposition itself; the reader can then give, what weight he may think they deserve, both to the exposition and arguments in its favor. No one is obliged to receive either.PSC 120.5

    1. The number seven is often used in a mystical sense in the Scriptures,-as, seven candlesticks were used to denote seven churches; seven spirits of God, to denote God’s presence.PSC 121.1

    2. The Majesty of the address, with which the command is given to send, not the seven epistles only, but all which John saw, to the seven churches. Christ announces himself as the first and the last, the head of the Church in all time, and presented himself in the midst of those churches whose Lord he was.PSC 121.2

    3. There were at that time many other churches in Asia as important as those seven addressed, such as the church at Corinth, Galatia, Thessalonica, etc. But the churches addressed are styled emphatically, the seven churches; as though there were no others in Asia.PSC 121.3

    4. The ideal meaning of each of the names of those seven churches, is descriptive of the real state of the church of Christ during the period which that church represents. This peculiarity we shall notice as we pass along.PSC 121.4

    5. Jesus Christ has more than intimated (Revelation 1:20) that the churches were to be understood mystically. “The mystery of the seven stars, which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”PSC 122.1

    6. At the conclusion of each epistle there is annexed an exhortation, not to that one church, but to all who have ears to hear, to attend to “what the Spirit saith to the churches.” It was a matter which concerned all people in all time.PSC 122.2

    I shall now take up the subject of the epistles to the seven churches, and present it in as condensed a form as possible, and at the same time give the full sense of the passages. I shall for the most part follow Mr. Miller’s views.PSC 122.3

    Chap. 2. verse 1. “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write.” Angel of a church represents the ministry of that church. The epistles are addressed to the servants, ministers, or messengers of the churches; to teach them the duty of presenting the message to the church. The meaning of the word “Ephesus,” is desirable, chief. This first church, or Ephesus, is the representative of the apostolic church, or the church during the first century of the Christian era. The church during that period was in the most desirable state it has ever experienced. 1. The early Christians were laborious in the cause of Christ, laboring night and day with tears to bring men to Christ. 2. They were patient under sufferings. “They rejoiced” even, “that they were accounted worthy to suffer shame for Christ’s sake. 3. They were eminently holy, they could not bear with evil men. Look at the pointed reproofs of the apostles against all sin, and the exhortations which they were accustomed to give to avoid not evil only, but all evil doers. 4. They were assiduous in searching out hypocrites. See the cases of Simon Magus, Hymenaeus, Philotus, Demas, and Alexander, etc. They were found liars, and received their just deserts from the hands of the apostles. Yet even in this age of the church some had left their first love. Who can read the Acts of the Apostles, the epistles of Paul, Peter, John, and Jude, and not be struck with the fact, that some had made shipwreck of the faith and a good conscience, had been subverted, had been bewitched, and turned again to the beggarly elements of the world, etc. They were threatened with the removal of this desirable state of the church, to give place to one less desirable, if they did not repent.PSC 122.4

    The second church addressed is “Smyrna.” The meaning of the word is myrrh; denoting that the church would be a sweet savor to God, while passing through her state of persecution, which lasted from about the close of the first century to the reign of Constantine, A. D. 312. The Lord Jesus addresses them thus, “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich,) and I know the blasphemy of those which say they are Jews, and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan.” The church, from about A. D. 64, under the reign of Nero, Domitian, and the succeeding emperors, were harassed and persecuted by the Roman governments, with only now and then a lucid interval. The church too, during this state of persecution, was kept in a state of purity. There was but little chance for hypocrites to insinuate themselves among the people of God. Few could be found but true Christians, willing to bear the cross and reproach of Christ. It was an easy matter at such a time to try who were the true people of God, and who, for wicked purposes, crept into the church, but were of the synagogue of Satan. It is said, that there were ten persecutions against the Christians carried on under the authority of the Roman government. This government is here, as it is also in Revelation 12:9, called the Devil, and Satan. The pagan Roman government was one of the Devil’s masterpieces of abomination and cruelty, and was justly represented as the Devil himself. The promise was to those who were faithful unto death, that they should receive a crown of life. And many were thus faithful, and no doubt now rest in Jesus till the resurrection of the just.PSC 123.1

    “Pergamos” is next addressed, and signifies earthly, elevated. This church may be considered as the representative of the church from A. D. 312 to A. D. 538, when popery was set up in Rome. After the conversion of the Emperor Constantine to the Christian faith, laws were passed in favor of Christianity; persecutions ceased throughout the empire; Christians, from the state of oppressed vassals, were elevated to stations of honor, and shared in the government of the empire. Riches were poured into the treasury of the church like a blood Splendid churches were built, and large incomes were conferred on the bishops and priests Christ addresses this church thus; “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is, (Rome;) and that thou holdest fast my name.” This was the period when the Arian heresy sprang up and corrupted the general church. But the true church was kept pure in this time of error, for both the Arian and papal heresies were abroad at that time. “And hast not denied my faith even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful witness, who was slain among you where Satan (Romanism) dwelleth.” There is no such person known to have existed as Antipas, a martyr to the cause of Christ. But it is supposed it was a class of men opposed to the power of the bishops of Rome. And for this opposition to the popes, or papas, they have received the name of Anti-pas.PSC 124.1

    “I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.” The great object of the Devil has always been to draw the people of God away into idolatry. Paganism was gone, and another system was introduced, and by it many were deceived. The worshipping of the images of saints was introduced at this time. This was less objectionable than paganism. The doctrine of the Nicolaitanes is supposed to have been the doctrine, that a plurality of wives was allowable. The sect arose in the apostolic age, and was again revived in the fourteenth century. The church are called on here to repent, and are threatened with judgments if they do not repent.PSC 125.1

    The next church in order is “Thyatira,” the meaning of which is perfume, labor of sacrifice, and represents the state of the church from A. D. 538 to about the tenth century. The true church at this period was driven into the wilderness; some say into the northeast part of Europe add northwest of Asia, and others understand it as referring to that long, dismal reign of ignorance and superstition, through which the church passed after the establishment of popery. Some Christians maintained their faith and integrity, even at the expense of their lives. Jezebel is a figurative name, alluding to Ahab’s wife; and points her out as the fit type of the papal church. She taught Israel to worship idols and to commit fornication, and the papal church did the same to Christians; for popery was only another form of idolatry. The description given of this church cannot be shown, from Gospel authority, to be applicable to any church except under papal rule. But it does answer to what is in other places said of the church at that time. But that Jezebel did not repent, and it only remains that the sentence be executed on her and her children. Compare this description with Revelation 9:20, 21. But to those in this age of the church who had not the papal doctrines, and had not known the depths of Satan, Christ declares that he would lay no other burden. It should be enough for them to endure the filthiness of a corrupt church, and hold fast their faith till He comes.PSC 126.1

    The next church addressed, is “Sardis.” The meaning of the word is “Song of Joy,” “or that which remains.” This is the representative of the church from the tenth century until the period of the reformation. The remnant of the true church which remained after the dark ages of popery, was indeed a song of joy. “I know thy works, that thou hast a name to live and art dead.” The name by which the true church was known at this period was, Albigenses, Waldenses and Valdences, etc. They lived secluded from the world, and exerted but little influence toward reforming it. Although they had a name to live, yet, as to the good they were instrumental of performing, they were dead. They lived, during the crusades to the Holy Land, in the vallies of Piedmont and the Pyrenees, unknowing and unknown. “Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain, and are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” This church were called on to remember how they had received, and to hold fast, and repent of their apathy. They were directed to watch lest the Lord Jesus should come on them as a thief. The church had, in the latter part of this age, become contaminated by the papal superstitions, and they are threatened, by Christ, with those persecutions which were carried on against them, when so many of them fell under the cruel power of the inquisition. They were then driven out to disseminate the Gospel, which they ought to have done, for the sake of saving souls. Yet there were some, even in Sardis, who had not defiled their garments; and they were declared worthy to walk with Christ, in white. “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and 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.”PSC 127.1

    The church of “Philadelphia,” is next in order. The meaning of this word, is brotherly love, and is descriptive of the character of the church, from the time of the reformation under Luther and his coadjutors, to near the close of the last century. Christ set before his servants an open door for the preaching of the pure gospel, and all the powers of darkness were not able to close it effectually. Christians felt, toward each other that strong attachment which united them in the cause of their divine Lord as with a threefold cord. All the opposers of genuine Christianity have seen and known that Christ was on the side of his faithful people. “Because thou hast kept my word I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come on all them that dwell on the earth.” The earth here means the Roman earth, and the hour of temptation, means the time of temptation which should come in consequence of the infidel principles which had so rapid an extension all over the ancient Roman empire, and produced the French revolution. It is a remarkable fact, that through that flood of error the doctrines of the gospel were maintained by real Christians in as much purity as at any period of the church since the apostolic age. The church are then assured, that Christ will quickly appear and are exhorted to hold fast what they have, that no man take their crown; and have the promise of having Christ’s new name written on them, and the name of New Jerusalem.PSC 128.1

    Then comes the church of “Laodicea.” The meaning of this word is, the judging of the people. This age of the church is believed to reach from the overthrow of popery, A. D. 1798, to the end, or second coining of Christ-a period of forty-five years. If this is a correct mode of interpreting these epistles, then, indeed, is it important to us to understand and improve the address to the Laodicean church. I shall therefore enter into a more full examination of this epistle than I have of the former.PSC 129.1

    The faithful and true witness speaks to this church, and testifies what he knows. Let us then examine ourselves and the times in which we live, and see if our observation accords with the testimony of this witness. I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. This may, at first thought, be considered a heavy charge to prefer against the church, for the last forty years, when she has done more for the conversion of the world, than in any previous age, not excepting even that of the apostles! But let me ask what has the church done compared with what she has had the ability to do, had the same zeal which inspired the apostles and first Christians moved her to action. It has been a time of comparative tranquillity for the church, and the way has been open for the spread of the gospel and the conversion of souls all over the world. But how little has yet been done. The pioneers of missions have gone forth and found the way open, and large Melds ready to be cultivated. Their cry has come rolling o’er the waters from the four winds, for more laborers and more means! But how small the answer compared with the demand. Some individuals in the church have acted with a zeal and spirit of sacrifice worthy of the cause in which they were engaged. But of the great mass of Christians, the testimony of the true witness is too solemnly true. They are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot. They have this world’s goods, and see a world perishing, and the world famishing for the want of the bread of life. Yet their coffers are closed, their gold and silver is rusting and cankered, but they can afford little or nothing for the cause of Christ. Yet these same persons would be much offended, were the sincerity of their piety doubted.PSC 130.1

    Again, notwithstanding all the efforts which are made in the church for the spread of the gospel, it is too true that there is comparatively but little struggling after personal piety, inward and outward conformity to God’s will and image. I am aware that I am treading on delicate ground; and that in reply, it is often said that there is as much real piety in the church at the present time as there ever was. Let it be admitted; but does not God require of us according to what we have? When were there so many helps to holiness enjoyed by the church as there have been during the present age; and who will pretend to say that the increase of the spirit of holiness has been in proportion to the increased privileges we have enjoyed.PSC 131.1

    Again, who will say that the majority of professing Christians do not by their spirit and practice, manifest that they love the world more than they do Christ, and the souls for whom he died? Of all such characters Christ declares, “I will spew thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”PSC 131.2

    It is an undeniable fact, that there is a great amount of spiritual pride in the church on account of what has been done in the cause of Christ; when, in fact, we have only reason to blush and hide ourselves in the dust that we hare done so little. It is true also, that the church has become rich in books, theological works, book depositories, missionary funds, institutions of learning, etc. Riches have also flowed in for years past upon individual members of the church in an unparalleled manner. But these riches have, in many instances, proved most disastrous to the individual who has possessed them. The result has been, that spiritual misery has increased in proportion to worldly comfort. Spiritual poverty has kept pace with worldly riches; spiritual blindness in proportion as the love of the world has been indulged; the beautiful garment of holiness has been rent and defiled, just as outward adorning and love of admiration have gained the ascendency in the heart. How important the counsel of Christ—“I counsel thee to buy of me gold, white raiment, and eye salve, that thou mayest be rich, clothed and see.” He rebukes those he loves. He regards with tender love the church of the present age; but those who are not zealous to repent, he will one day spew out of his mouth.” I stand at the door and knock.” Christ is in this age of the church very near, even at the door. He is knocking at the door of every Christian, to arouse him from his slumbers; how important that we be found watching, that we may open to him immediately. “I will come in, and sup with him, and he with me.” We will together spend an eternity of blessedness. “To him that over cometh.” Christ overcame temptation, sin and death. Those who like him overcome the two former, will also the latter, and have part in the first resurrection and reign with Christ.PSC 132.1

    I have now gone through with the epistles to the seven churches of Asia. The reader is now at liberty to receive or reject the exposition as he may think the evidence on the subject will permit. I do not consider this mode of interpreting those seven letters essential to the main theory; although, it must be confessed, it reflects much light on the whole book. For myself, I am inclined strongly to the belief that it is the correct mode of interpretation. The other modes of explanation may be found in most of the commentaries of the day.PSC 133.1

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