Therefore repent! Otherwise I will come to you shortly and wage war against them with the sword of My mouth.
The sharp two-edged sword." For this letter is largely illustrative of its work. In Revelation 1. we saw it in St. John's vision; here we see it in the experience of the Church. But whilst the main reference is to that vision, there is farther appropriateness from the allusions to the wilderness life of Israel, with which this letter abounds. Balaam's vile work against them - the sin into which they fell, the sword which Balaam saw in the hands of the angel of the Lord seeking to stay him in his evil way, and the sword with which at last he was slain, seem all to be suggested. Then the mention of the manna belongs also to that same wilderness life. It was well that the ungodly at Pergamos should be reminded of that sword, and the faithful of that manna. But it is from the vision told of in Revelation 1. that the name our Lord here assumes is mainly taken. Note -
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THIS SWORD. With the Bible in our hands, we cannot long be in doubt on this question; for at once there occurs to the memory the familiar text in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which tells how the Word of God is "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword." And there is that other which is like unto it in the Epistle to the Ephesians, "The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." And in Isaiah we have a similar expression, "He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword." And even human and evil words are thus symbolized, as in the Psalms: "Their words are swords and arrows, even bitter words;" and again, "Their tongue is a sharp sword." And the comparison is a frequent one. The Word of God, therefore, is evidently what is meant by this sword with two edges.
II. THE MANNER OF ITS OPERATION. In this letter this power of the sword is seen at work. In the vision, St. John had observed that the breath proceeding from the mouth of him who was "like unto the Son of man" took the form and shape of a sharp two-edged sword, such as was in common use in the armies of the day. Hence St. Paul, speaking of this sword, says, "The Lord shall destroy the wicked one with the breath of his mouth" (2 Thessalonians 2:8). And in the brightness of the glory with which the entire vision was surrounded, the sword like form seemed to flash and glitter as if it were a veritable sword proceeding out of the mouth of the Son of man. And in this letter we see that sword which the vision symbolized exercising its mighty power. We see:
1. Its point, piercing even to the dividing asunder of that which had been so blended together as scarce to be distinguished or separated. For the character of the Church at Pergamos was like that of well nigh all other Churches, a mixture of evil and good. There was that which could be urged in its favour, and that also which could be charged against it to its shame. And this sword is here seen dividing them.
(1) it separates the good, and there were such.
(a) They had been faithful to Christ's Name. They had loyally stood by it even when to do so had involved awful peril - peril in which one Antipas, who had been eminent for his fidelity, had been slain by the infuriated foe. Yet in those fearful days - days like those of the persecution which arose about Stephen in Jerusalem - the faithful at Pergamos had not flinched.
(b) And the Church had been fruitful. It was no small honour to have nurtured in her midst such a soul as that of Antipas. It is a sign of the marked grace of God when a Church becomes the home, chosen and beloved, of holy souls; when they find in it an atmosphere helpful and stimulating to all that is good within them.
(c) And all this under great disadvantages. "I know," the Lord says, "thy works, and where thou dwellest, where Satan's seat is; 'and this is told of again lower down in the same verse; thus implying the Lord's recognition of the fact that to serve him there was indeed difficult, and so all the more honourable and meritorious, Now, why Pergamos came to be regarded as the devil's headquarters, his seat and throne, it is not easy to say. The place was one of great beauty, adorned with magnificent temples, possessed of a superb library containing hundreds of thousands of volumes. Our word "parchment" is derived from the dressed skins which were so largely used at Pergamos, and on which the books were written. Hence these skins came to be called by the name of Pergamos, or parchment. The place was not, as Ephesus or Smyrna, famous for trade, but for its culture and refinement. It was a sort of union of a pagan cathedral city and university; and a royal residence, gorgeous in its magnificence, further adorned it. Jupiter was said to have been born there, and temples to him and to innumerable gods were on every hand. The whole tone of the place must, therefore, have been utterly opposed to the faith of Christ. It had no liking for the purity, the self denial, and the unworldliness of the Church, but revelled in the very reverse of all these things. All that could sap and undermine the faith and the faithful was there in full force. It was Satan's throne indeed. Now, for that even there they held fast Christ's name, they deserved, and here receive, high commendation from the Lord. But the sword
(2) separates the evil; for there were amongst them
(a) men who held the truth in unrighteousness. This was what Balaam did. No man ever knew, no man ever professed, a purer faith, a holier doctrine, than did he; and yet, blinded by his greed of gain, he held it so imprisoned in unrighteousness that it had no power over him, and left him unchecked to all the wickedness of his heart. Now, there were such men at Pergamos; and where have they not been and are they not still? And
(b) there were those who perverted the gospel to licentiousness. There were the Nicolaitans. And they, too, have had, and have still, their successors: God keep us from being of their number! But then the good and the evil were so blended together that to separate them was beyond mere human power. In the brightness of the good some might not perceive the evil; in the darkness of the evil others might not perceive the good. But the sword of the Spirit severs them. For Churches, for individuals, Christ by his Word does this still. Pray him to do so for ourselves.
2. Its double edge. For it had this as well as its piercing point. And this, probably, that as with the literal sword the soldier in the thick of the fight might strike on the right hand and the left, with the back as well as the front, so with this sword of the Spirit foes on either hand might be smitten down. Thus is it in this letter.
(1) It smites presumption and all high-handed sin. Read the awful threatenings here. How they hew down those who set themselves against the Lord!
(2) Despondency and despair. This is a peril on the other side, a foe to faith as formidable as the other; and by this sword the Lord smites this adversary also. Read the sweet, soothing, soul-assuring promises (ver. 17).
(a) "The hidden manna." It means that support and sustentation of the soul as it presses on through the!wilderness of life, heavenward, which the Lord will give, and does give, to his faithful ones, as the manna sustained Israel on their march Canaanwards. "I am the true Bread from heaven," said Christ (cf. John 6.). It is real, substantial, effectually supporting the soul, as ten thousand facts testify. But hidden, because unseen and unknown by the world. "Your life is hid with Christ in God." What, then, though weary leagues of barren, burning sand lie between God's Israel and their home? here is promise of all need supplied, every want met.
(b) The white stone with the new name; i.e. Christ's faithful shall have given them personal assurance of their membership in the family of God (cf. "The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God"). Now, the white stone is that on which a communication is written (cf. Luke 1:63). Hence it tells of a communication, real, in writing as it were, to the soul of the believer. And this communication consists of "a name." When a child is born into a family, a name is given it. So in God's family. To the children of the world it will be said, "I never knew you;" but for his own children there is a name given. And a new name, indicating admission to higher privilege and favour, as did the names of Abraham, Sarah, Israel, Hephzibah, Beulah, Peter. They were all new names, and all told of new grace and favour from God. And a name unknown to all but the receiver. The proofs of the believer's sonship are known only to himself and God. The Spirit's witness: who can put that into words, and tell it out to others? Many a one cannot tell you why he knows he is God's child, but he does know it. The white stone has been given to him, and blessed is he. And is not this a stay against all despair, despondency, and everything of the kind? As the well-known verse sings -
"When I can read my title clear CONCLUSION. All this supposes that you are of the overcoming ones. This word is "to him that overcometh." Not to them that are overcome. But you may overcome. By fervent prayer, by unreserved consecration, by constant "looking unto Jesus" by use of all means of grace, so abide in Christ, and he shall make you "more than conqueror." - S.C.
CONCLUSION. All this supposes that you are of the overcoming ones. This word is "to him that overcometh." Not to them that are overcome. But you may overcome. By fervent prayer, by unreserved consecration, by constant "looking unto Jesus" by use of all means of grace, so abide in Christ, and he shall make you "more than conqueror." - S.C.
Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly.I. WHAT THAT REPENTANCE IS THAT IS HERE ENJOINED. Repentance in Scripture has a threefold acceptation.
1. It is taken for the first act by which the soul turns from sin to God; the first dividing stroke that separates between sin and the heart; the first step and advance that a sinner makes to holiness; the first endeavours and throes of a new birth.
2. It is taken for the whole course of a pious life, comprising the whole actions a man performs from first to last inclusively; from his first turning from a wicked life to the last period of a godly.
3. Repentance is taken for a man's turning to God after the guilt of some particular sin. It differs from the former thus: that the former is from a state of sin: this latter only from a sinful act. No repentance precedes the former, but this supposes a true repentance to have gone before. This repentance, therefore, builds upon the former; and it is that which is here intended.
II. ARGUMENTS TO ENGAGE US IN THE SPEEDY AND IMMEDIATE EXERCISE OF THIS DUTY.
I. No man can be secure of the future. Neither, indeed, will men act as if they were ha things that concern this life, for no man willingly defers his pleasures. And did men here well compute the many frailties of nature, and further add the contingencies of chance, how quickly a disease from within, or a blow from without, may tear down the strongest constitution, certainly they would ensure eternity upon something else than a life as uncertain as the air that feeds it.
2. Supposing the allowance of time, yet we cannot be sure of power to repent. It is very possible, that by the insensible encroaches of sin a man's heart may be so hardened as to have neither power nor will to repent, though he has time and opportunity. The longer the heart and sin converse together, the more familiar they will grow; and then, the stronger the familiarity, the harder the separation. A man at first is strong and his sin is weak, and he may easily break the neck of it by a mature repentance; but his own deluding heart tells him that he had better repent hereafter; that is, when, on the contrary, he himself is deplorably weak and his sin invincibly strong.
3. Admitting a man has both time and grace to repent, yet by such delay the work will be incredibly more difficult. The longer a debt lies unpaid, the greater it grows; and not discharged, is quickly multiplied. The sin to be repented of will be the greater, and power and strength to repent by will be less. And though a man escapes death, the utmost effect of his distemper, yet certainly he will find it something to be cut and scarified and lanced and to endure all the tortures of a deferred cure. We find not such fierce expressions of vengeance against any sinner, as the Spirit of God, in Deuteronomy 29:20, 21, discharges against him that obstinately delayed his repentance.(1) Because it is the abuse of a remedy. Certainly it cannot but be the highest provocation to see guilt kick at mercy, and presumption take advantage merely from a redundancy of compassion. He that will fight it out, and not surrender, only because he has articles of peace offered to him, deserves to feel the sword of an unmerciful enemy.(2) The reason why God is exasperated by our delaying this duty is, because it clearly shows that a man does not love it, as a duty, but only intends to use it for an expedient of escape. It is not because it is pleasing to God, grateful to an offended majesty, or because he apprehends a worth and excellency in the thing itself; for then he would set about it immediately: for love is quick and active, and desire hates all delay.(3) A third reason that God's displeasure so implacably burns against this sin is, because it is evidently a counterplotting of God, and being wise above the prescribed methods of salvation, to which God makes the immediate dereliction of sin necessary. But he that defers his repentance makes this his principle, to live a sinner and die a penitent.
(R. South, D. D.)
To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna
I. THE PROMISE.
1. The promise of the hidden manna. God fed the Israelites in the wilderness with manna. A portion of this was laid by in the ark, and thus was hidden from public view. Christ, speaking of the manna as a type of Himself, said, "I am the Bread which came down from heaven." Jesus is the food of our faith, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." He is the food of our love, "We love Him because He first loved us." He is the food of our obedience, "The love of Christ constraineth us." He is the food of our peace, for when "justified by faith, we have peace with God." He is the food of our joy, for if "we joy in God" it is "through Jesus Christ our Lord." He is the food of our hope, "that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ." The manna which sustained the Israelites was evidently the gift of God. And so this "hidden manna" is from heaven. It is no contrivance of man, no philosophy of human invention. "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son." It is spoken of as the "hidden manna." Such is the Christian's life. "Our life is hid with Christ in God." The outward effects of it may be seen, but the inner life is invisible. So is the nourishing of the life. You may see the Christian on his knees, you may hear the words which he utters, but you cannot see the streams of Divine influence which are poured into his spirit; nor hear the sweet whispers of Divine love which fill him with joy; nor comprehend the peace passing all understanding which he is permitted to experience. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." Were this promise merely the reward of final victory, that victory itself would never be gained. We need to eat this manna during our pilgrimage. We cannot live without it. Every act of overcoming will be followed by a verification of the promise, "I will give him to eat of the hidden manna." Yet we must look beyond the present life for its full accomplishment. As the manna was hidden in the ark, and that ark was hidden behind the curtain of the holy of holies, so the Christian's hope "as an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, enters into that which is within the veil." Those joys we cannot yet conjecture; their splendour is too intense.
2. The promise of the white stone. At a time when houses of public entertainment were less common, private hospitality was the more necessary. When one person was received kindly by another, or contract of friendship was entered into, the tessera was given. It was so named from its shape, being four-sided; it was sometimes of wood, sometimes of stone; it was divided into two by the contracting parties; each wrote his own name on half of the tessera; then they exchanged pieces, and therefore the name or device on the piece of the tessera which each received was the name the other person had written upon it, and which no one else knew but him who received it. It was carefully prized, and entitled the bearer to protection and hospitality. Plautus, in one of his plays, refers to this custom. Hanno inquires of a stranger where he may find Agorastoclcs, and discovers to his surprise that he is addressing the object of his search. "If so," he says, "compare, if you please, this hospitable tessera; here it is; I have it with me." Agorastocles replies, "It is the exact counterpart; I have the other part at home." Hanno responds, "O my friend, I rejoice to meet thee; thy father was my friend, my guest; I divided with him this hospitable tessera." "Therefore," said Agorastocles, "thou shalt have a home with me, for I reverence hospitality." Beautiful illustration of gospel truth! The Saviour visits the sinner's heart, and being received as a guest, bestows the white stone, the token of His unchanging love. He who chooses the sinner's heart as His banqueting chamber, spreads there His choicest gifts — His exceeding great and precious promises, His finished sacrifice, His human sympathy, His perfect example, His pure precepts, His all-prevailing intercession, the various developments of His infinite love. He enrols our name among His friends. "He makes an everlasting covenant with us, ordered in all things and sure." He promises never to leave nor forsake us. He tells us we "shall never perish." He gives us the tessera, the white stone! Is not this "the witness of the Spirit," the "earnest of the promised possession"? Does not His voice in our heart echo to His voice in the written Word? On this white stone is inscribed a "new name." The part of the tessera which each of the contracting parties received contained the name of the other. And therefore the "new name" on the "white stone" which he that overcometh receives is that of Him who gives it. By the unbeliever God is known Power, as Majesty, as Justice. The Christian alone knows Him as "Love." He was once Ruler — now He is Friend; He was once Judge — now He is Father. Do you know God by His "new name"? Do you so know Him as to wish no longer to hide from Him, but to hide in Him, as the only home in which you can be Bale and happy? Then, everywhere, in every city and every village, on the desert and on the ocean, in the solitude of secrecy and in the solitude of a crowd, in the bustle of business and in the sick chamber, a Friend is at hand who will always recognise the white stone He gave us as a token of His love. We have only to present it to claim the fulfilment of His promise. What Divine entertainment we shall receive! What safety from peril! What succour in difficulty! What comfort in trouble! What white raiment! What heavenly food! What exalted fellowship! What secure repose! A day is coming when we must leave the homes of earth, however endeared, and embrace for the last time the friends united to us as our own souls. What kind roof will receive us? What loving friend will welcome us? We shall not have left our best treasure behind! No! we shall carry the white stone with us; and looking for no inferior abode, shall advance at once right up to the palace of the Great King. We present the tessera; the "new name" is legible upon it; the angelic guards recognise the symbol; the everlasting gates lift up their heads; and the voice of Jesus Himself invites us to enter!
II. THE CONDITION ANNEXED. A great war is being waged. It is not merely between the Church as a whole and the powers of darkness as a whole; it is not merely an affair of strategy between two vast armies, wherein skilful manoeuvres determine the issue, many on either side never coming into actual combat; but it is also a duel, for every Christian has to fight hand to hand with the enemy. God, as our Creator and Redeemer, justly demands our obedience and love. Whatever interferes with these claims is an enemy summoning us to battle. The world, the flesh, and the devil, draw up their battalions in imposing array. If we would possess the promise, we must "overcome" them. A mere profession of religion is of no avail. We must devote ourselves entirely and unreservedly to this great daily battle of life. It is a warfare until death. While we are in the body it will be always true, "We wrestle." The oldest Christian cannot lay aside his weapons. The whole of the way, up to the very gate of heaven, is beset with foes, and we must fight to the last if we would overcome and enter in. Ah, it is no soft flowery meadow along which we may languidly stroll, but a rough, craggy cliff that we must climb. "To him that overcometh!" It is no smooth, placid stream along which we may dreamily float, but a tempestuous ocean we must stem. "To him that overcometh!" It is no lazy lolling in a cushioned chariot that bears us on without fatigue and peril, but plodding painfully in heavy marching order up the long and weary and beleagured road of self-sacrifice. "To him that overcometh!" It is not a time of listless repose, of careless mirth, as if no danger threatened, no foe were near. We fight in good company. The truly wise of all ages are on our side. We have the assured hope of victory.
(Newman Hall, LL. D.)
I. A PROVISION PECULIAR TO THE SANCTUARY IS PROMISED TO HIM THAT OVERCOMETH. Let us be loyal to Jesus now, as we see Him not, and at the end of the brief trial we shall come face to face with Him. He shall look on us with joy. He shall lead us forward, and name us to all heaven. He of whom we have had so many thoughts, and to whom we have winged so many words, shall be a real and close presence. And that hidden manna, laid bare thus to our adoring gaze, is no mere feast for our eyes, but true food for our soul. That near and constant companionship with Jesus shall cheer and strengthen and exalt our life. In new knowledge of Him, in new love, in new likeness, we shall receive Him ever anew and ever more fully. How poor, then, how altogether past and perished, are the joys for which we almost bartered the rich provision of the eternal sanctuary! Our gracious Lord does not, after all, make us wait for the prize until the fight is won. He brings to us, even in the stress of the struggle, a foretaste of the feast. He makes our poor, fainting heart a sanctuary, and turns our faith into a sacred ark for the manna. We have Him in us, and heaven with Him. So we have food of which the world knows nothing.
II. A DIGNITY PECULIAR TO THE SANCTUARY IS PROMISED TO HIM THAT OVERCOMETH. To have a right to enter the holiest, and to look on its secrets, meant, indeed, no less than to be High Priest. No other had the privilege of lifting the veil. This was an honour so great that it was solitary. He who was called of God to this dignity wore on his heart a symbol of it. This was the mystic Urim and Thummim — the light and the perfection. Like the glory over the ark, it was the symbol of Jehovah Himself — the Infinite in purity and in loveliness. This diamond was likely the one stone of its kind known to Israel, for the gem so named as on the breastplate was assuredly a commoner jewel. This unique stone was white with the very splendour of its shining, and it was given to Aaron as the badge of his dignity. With that upon his heart he had assurance of access to the very glory of God. Such was the dignity promised to those who kept their feet from the threshold of the heathen temple. Let them care nothing for the social standing which would be theirs as worshippers of the idol, and instead they shall have the loftiest rank in the home of God. Theirs to go to the inmost, holiest spot, and to have the foremost favour, and do the foremost service. And to us, tried by the like seductions, is the same cheer sent. If we, after all, do cling to the Lover of our soul, He shall at once put into our hand the mystic stone which means so much. Now, even as we war, is the priest's badge hung on the soldier's breastplate. The Urim of old was but a dead stone, and it lay but on the breast. It was but an outward symbol of God. This white stone is lustrous with the very Light, which is God, and it is hidden within the breast itself. The upshining of faith, the far-darting beams of hope, and the outspreading glow of love are glories born of God's own glory. A Divine nature begins at the centre of the human nature, and as the Christian obeys it, it grows.
III. A COMMUNION PECULIAR TO THE SANCTUARY IS PROMISED TO HIM THAT OVERCOMETH. The Urim of the High Priest was sacred because of the sacred purpose to which it was put as a symbol of God. But it was made yet holier by a more personal connection with Him. It is supposed, at least, that graven on the flashing stone were the four sacred letters which express the thrice holy name of Jehovah. So intimately did the Jews associate the word with the person that they forbore to utter it. It stood for all of God which He had made known to men. To see it was to see, through it, the Invisible One. When the priest, therefore, found the name written on the stone, he understood that God was to be his, and to be with him. As if from the midst of very glory the Glorious One was to draw near to him. Whenever in secret he laid bare the hidden name his spirit was hushed by the Holy Presence. He heard a gentle yet majestic voice whose words he felt as very love and very truth. He let his own heart answer, and knew that his thoughts were pulsing in an ear close and quick. Such a solemn and yet blessed fellowship was the peculiar privilege of the priest. It is promised also to those who shall let the friendships of earth go rather than belie their friendship with Jesus. To them, indeed, an intimacy even nearer and dearer still is here prefigured. In the white stone which they wear is set a new word for God. He is to let them know what none else has learned as to what He is. By the lips of Jesus He is to unveil His heart in a special way to them. This third hidden thing, like the other two, is a boon of which we may have the firstfruits now. Like those Christians of Pergamos we take on us the name of Christ. Let us but hold it fast, as they did, in spite of every temptation to deny our faith, and we shall in that very loyalty attain a special communion with our Lord, and receive a special name for God. Heaven will but make this name the dearer and the deeper a secret between the soul and its God.
(D. Burns.)I. THE SPIRITUAL WARFARE.
1. We must overcome the evil that is within ourselves. The best of men have spoken with sorrow of the state of their own hearts. "In many things we all offend." "If we say we have no sin," etc. "Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" etc. The Christian Church has always recognised the same mournful truth. The Te Deum Laudamus is the greatest Christian hymn. It is a lofty song of faith, hope, and triumph; but a trembling undertone of sadness runs through its joyous praise. "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin. O Lord, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us." The reason why good men see and feel the evil within them is that they are good men. The Spirit of God dwells in them and His light reveals the soul to itself. The holier we are, the more shall we feel our own imperfections. But it is not enough to feel and bewail the evil; we should also overcome it. The human heart resembles a garden. If rightly cared for, it will grow flowers of greatest beauty and trees abundant in fruit; hut if neglected, it will put forth noxious weeds and worthless thorns and briars.
2. We must overcome the opposition of the world. The Christians at Ephesus fought against error, and overcame it, and hence the praise given to them. There are two ways in which you may attempt to overcome error. First, you may make direct war against it; you may use arguments, and show that it is error and not truth, a phantom and not any real thing whatsoever. Your mind is the bow, your arguments are the arrows; the bow may be strong, and the arrows sharp and well aimed; but what matters it? They can do but little harm to the phantom. The second method of opposing error is the establishment of positive truth. When the fire of the glowworm begins to pale and the birds stir among the branches and the dawn opens in the east, the ghost in a great play is made to vanish from the sight. The spirit of the world is also to be overcome. There is nothing more difficult to overcome than this. A man may reason against false doctrines and confute their teachers; and he may have courage, and defy persecution in all its forms. But this spirit is subtle, silent, and penetrating. Living within the circle of its influence, we can hardly escape its effects. It is like an impure atmosphere; if you breathe it at all, you must inhale the poison.
3. We have to overcome the influence of the Wicked One. Deceit, fraud, guile, malice, and all the serpent qualities are ascribed to him; and of him it may be said, "Dust shall be the serpent's meat." This evil spirit is called "the Tempter." He showed our Saviour all the kingdoms of the world, and said, "Worship me, and this power and glory shall be Thine." He is ever revealing such things to men. True, they are only phantom kingdoms which he paints before the imagination; but then they appear most real at the time. The question we have to decide is, Shall we fall down before the Tempter like the first Adam, or overcome with "the Second Man, the Lord from heaven"?
II. THE DIVINE PROMISE.
1. Christ strengthens and supports the soul in its conflict with evil. Let the experience of the apostles illustrate this. In their outward circumstances they had all the elements of unhappiness and misery. But a greater Power was for them than that by which they were opposed. The promised and mysterious Presence followed them through all the trials, temptations, and sorrows of life. They fought, overcame, and received the crown of victory. "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." We should mark their experience at the time of their great conflict. The world frowned, but heaven smiled upon their spirit. They were not only able to withstand the enemy, but they had peace, joy, and consolation in the midst of the strife. "The peace of God" — a plentiful stream from the fountain of all blessedness — flowed into their hearts.
2. The strength which Christ gives is known only to the soul who receives it. It is "hidden manna." Nature has her "open secrets." They are exposed to the gaze of all, but all have not the power to behold them — open and yet secret. This applies to the spiritual life. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." The Divine energy that braces the mind and heart for noble deeds; the peace which results from perfect reconciliation to God; the consolation imparted to the soul by His Spirit these are the open secrets of religion. They are open and clear as daylight. But from the unbelieving, from the proud, from the worldly, and from the disobedient they are concealed. Being unfelt they must be unknown, for they are revealed to the heart rather than to the intellect.
Homilist.I. DIVINE SUSTENTATION.
1. His doctrines are bread to the intellect.
2. His fellowship is bread to the heart.
3. His Spirit is bread to the whole life.
II. DIVINE DISTINCTION.
1. "The sign of distinction." "A white stone." He will have full admission into all the honours of eternity.
2. The character of the distinction.
(Homilist.)I. THE VICTORY. The life of the good is a stern moral conflict, pervading every sphere of life — the home, the mart, the shop, etc. It is impossible to go where the strife is not. In this way character is tested and developed, and our attachment to Christ revealed.
1. Moral conquest is required, not an indolent evasion of the strife.
2. Moral conquest is required, not a cowardly retreat in the conflict of life.
3. Moral conquest is required, not an easy method of attaining the dignity of the future life.
II. THE REPAST.
1. This repast is in sublime contrast to any other that can be provided.
2. It is concealed from the unsanctified gaze of men.
3. It will give eternal satisfaction to all who shall partake of it.
III. THE REVELATION.
1. The Christian victor will enter upon the highest method of moral life.
2. The Christian victor will enjoy the most complete revelation of GodLessons:
1. Learn to fight the good fight of faith.
2. Persevere unto victory.
3. Take courage from this glimpse of your reward.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)I. THE TEXT IS ADDRESSED TO "HIM THAT OVERCOMETH."
1. The man to whom this description can be applied must certainly be one who knows that he has spiritual enemies assailing him. He must have discovered that he has interests at stake, which the world, the flesh, and the devil unite in opposing. The idea of a victory necessarily presupposes a contest.
2. The language before us must imply, therefore, that the man to whom these blessings are promised is contending with the enemies by whom he finds himself surrounded. It describes the Christian, not as the friend of the world, but the determined opposer of its corrupt maxims and customs; not as the obedient slave of the prince of darkness, but his decided foe. It is this habitual conflict with evil which constitutes the great difference between the servant of God and the man of the world. It is this which testifies that our understandings are enlightened, that our conscience is on the side of God, that our affections have been touched by His grace, and a principle of a new and spiritual life communicated to our souls. But we must not stop here.
3. The texts leads us to infer that the Christian is actually overcoming his enemies. The world is gradually losing its power over him; Satan is bruised underneath his feet; and as for his lusts, they are one by one weakened and subdued. Oh what a blessed victory is this! Who does not long to share in its honours and inherit its rewards? But these rewards are not easily attained, neither is this victory easily won. No mortal power can achieve it. The victory must be ascribed to God. It is He who gives us at first a disposition to struggle with our adversaries; it is He who crowns that struggle with success.
II. But though the victory is the Lord's, He often condescends to speak of it as attained by the Christian himself; and He promises him in the text A GRACIOUS AND RICH REWARD.
1. One of the blessings comprehended in this promise is pardon. But a mere acquittal, precious as it is to us, is too poor a gift for the Captain of our salvation to bestow.
2. He adds to it the blessing of adoption. God Himself "is not ashamed to be called his God," and prepares for His long lost but now recovered son a never ending feast of joy.
3. Hence spiritual provision is another blessing included in this promise.
(C. Bradley, M. A.)I. THERE IS A VICTORY TO BE GAINED.
1. We must overcome Satan. He was not afraid to assail our blessed Lord. We have times of special darkness and assault.
2. There is a victory over ourselves; over the evil of our own hearts; over the corruption of our own natures.
3. You must overcome false doctrines. You must resist all unscriptural opinions.
4. If there is any easily-besetting sin, any marked peculiarity of your condition which has a tendency to evil, it must be overcome. Is there constitutional temperament which is unfavourable to virtue? Bring your body into subjection.
5. Lastly, there is victory over the world; and in two forms of it — first, as intimidating, and second, as persecuting. Men and women are victors on earth as they adhere to the truth, as they practise virtue, and do the will of God, and are conformed to the image and example of the Lord Jesus.
II. THE PRIVILEGES THAT ACCOMPANY THE CONQUEST THAT IS GAINED.
1. Here is the hidden manna; that is the first thing. It is the scorer hidden knowledge and experience of the efficacy, power, and satisfaction of the truth and doctrine of the Lord Jesus. Let the believer eat and be satisfied; satisfied in the love of God, in the grace of Christ, and in the communion of the Holy Spirit.
2. And I will give him a white stone. This indicates absolution from all sin and the forgiveness of all iniquity. There is forgiveness in the court of heaven, and in the court of our own consciences.
3. Lastly, it is said that in the stone there shall be a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it. We may take a person to be a hypocrite and a castaway, when God sees him to be His child. No one knows but God and ourselves. Judge not others; judge yourself.
A white stoneI. VICTORY. There is before my mind's eye a vision of the ancient Olympic games. Vast amphitheatre, with seats rising tier on tier, crowded with eager and excited spectators. Sweet perfume drops through the canopy which shelters from the burning sun, and clouds of dust rise from the chariot-wheels, from the glowing hoofs of the horses, and from the swift feet of those who run. By and by I hear a mighty shout that almost rends the welkin, as the plaudits of the thousands echo round the scene; and presently a man steps forward who has won the race, or slain the lion, or killed the gladiator, to receive from the emperor's own hand a crown of laurel leaves which fades by the very heat of the head that wears it. I notice also that the emperor gives him a pure white stone, with his name written on it. He is now entitled, on presentation of that white stone ticket, to be fed at the country's expense, and to be feted and honoured well-nigh wheresoever he goes. Now, the Christian life is a race; the Christian experience is a conflict. Rise to the battle now. Go on to victory, and to thy reward.
II. PURITY. I see now an ancient tribunal where the judges sit. There are lictors bearing the fasces — a bundle of sticks with an axe-head bound up amongst them, the symbol of justice and of punishment. I see the jurors in their places; I listen to the progress of the trial; and when all the witnesses have been heard, and the prisoner has made his own defence, I notice that into the ballot-box are cast some little stones. Some are white, others black; but, thank God, the white stones predominate, and the foreman of the jury having counted them, declares that the prisoner is not guilty and should be dismissed. So in this place of sin, with all the enticements of evil, there were some who retained their purity and spotlessness — some who, like Joseph, fled at the tempter's voice; some who, like Daniel, could not forget the Lord their God; some who, like the holy children, would rather blaze in the furnace than bow before the image. To such the token of innocence was given. How is it with thee?
III. NOVELTY. I remember to have seen one of Dore's celebrated pictures — "The entry of Christ into Jerusalem" — shortly after it was painted, when the colours were ell bright and beautiful; and though I much admired the drawing, I was particularly struck with the colouring. Everything seemed so fresh and new; of course it was in a new frame, and the very faces of the people ""earned lighted up with a new joy as they beheld their King. It is possible that the colours have faded before this, but this I know — that Christ's triumphal entry into the sinner's heart brings glorious sunshine, new joys, new hopes, new songs, new desires, new everything.
1. The new name is the name of adoption.
2. Then there is the new name of espousal, for we are married unto Him, and He to us.
3. There Is the new name, too, of promotion for those who overcome. It were a grand thing to be a private in Christ's army, to belong to the rank and file of the Lord's elect; but when He says, "Come up higher, and I will exalt thee, for thou hast exalted Me," it is better still; and this He does so often as we fight His battles well, and every victory leads to some fresh reward.
4. The new name that we shall get at last is the name of glorification. Worms now, we shall be angels then; sinful creatures at present, sons of the living God and brighter than the seraphs shall we then appear.
IV. SECRECY. The name He gives is unknown, except to those who receive it. The world cannot understand us, or our joys, or our sorrows. These are spiritual things, and must be spiritually discerned.
V. CHARITY. Everything that we have is God's good gift. If we cat of hidden manna, it is because He gives us to eat thereof, and if we have the earnest of the Spirit it is because He gives us the pure white stone. Some think there is a reference here to a stone called the tessera hospitalis. My heart is open to Christ; heaven is open to me. I am His property and He my possession; He holds me in His mighty hand, and I retain my hold on Him with such faith as He gives me.
(J. A. Spurgeon.)
A new name writtenI. THE LARGE HOPES WHICH GATHER ROUND THIS PROMISE OF A "NEW NAME." Abraham and Jacob, in the Old Testament, received new names from God; Peter and the sons of Zebedee, in the New Testament, received new names from Christ. In the sad latter days of the Jewish monarchy its kings, being deposed by barbarian and pagan conquerors, were reinstated, with new names imposed upon them by the victors. In all these cases the imposition of the new name implies authority and ownership on the part of the giver; and generally a relationship to the giver, with new offices, functions, and powers on the part of the receiver. And so when Christ from the heavens declares that He will rename the conqueror, He asserts on the one hand His own absolute authority over him, and on the other hand His own perfect knowledge of the nature and inmost being of the creature He names. And, still further, He gives a promise of a nature renewed, of new functions committed to the conqueror, of new spheres, mew closeness of approach to Himself, new capacities, and new powers. Can we go any further? Let me just remind you that there are two things that shine out plain and clear in the midst of the darkness and vagueness that surround the future glories of the redeemed. The one is their closer relationship to Jesus Christ; the other is their possession, in the ultimate and perfect state, of a body of which the predicates are incorruption, glory, power, and which is a fit organ for the spirit, even as the present corporeal house in which we dwell is an adequate organ for the animal life, and for that alone.
II. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CHRIST'S "NEW NAME" AND OURS. What is this "new name" of Christ's? Obviously the new name of Jesus is a revelation of His character, nature, and heart; a new manifestation of Himself to the glad eyes of those that loved Him, when they saw Him amidst the darkness and the mists of earth, and so have been honoured to see Him more clearly amidst the radiances of the glories of heaven. Only remember that when we speak of a "new name" of Christ's as being part of the blessedness of the future state to which we may humbly look forward, it is no antiquating of the old name. Nothing will ever make the Cross of Jesus Christ less the centre of the revelation of God than it is to-day. But the new name is the new name of the old Christ. Then what is the inscription of that name upon the conqueror? It is not merely the manifestation of the revealed character of Jesus in new beauty, but it is the manifestation of His ownership of His servants by their transformation into His likeness, which transformation is the consequence of their new vision of Him.
III. THE BLESSED SECRET OF THE NEW NAME. "No man knoweth it save he that receiveth it." Of course not. There is only one way to know the highest things in human experience, and that is by possessing them. Nobody can describe love, sorrow, gladness, So as to awaken a clear conception of them in hearts that have never experienced them. That is eminently true about religion, and it is most of all true about that perfect future state. A chrysalis, lying under ground, would know about as much of what it would be like when it had got its wings and lived upon sweetness and blazed in the sunshine, as a man when he lets his imagination attempt to construct a picture of another life. Death keeps his secret well, and we have to pass his threshold before we know what lies beyond. But more than that. That same blessed mystery lies round about the name of each individual possessor, to all but himself. Just as we shall know Christ perfectly, and bear His new name inscribed upon our foreheads, and yet He has "a name which no man knoweth but He Himself," so the mystery of each redeemed soul will still remain impenetrable to others. But it will be a mystery of no painful darkness, nor making any barrier between ourselves and the saints whom we love. Rather it is the guarantee of an infinite variety in the manner of possessing the one name. All the surrounding diamonds that are set about the central blaze shall catch the light on their faces, and from one it will come golden, and from another violet, and another red, and another flashing and pure white. Each glorified spirit shall reveal Christ, and yet the one Christ shall be manifested in infinite variety of forms, and the total summing up of the many reflections will be the image of the whole Lord.
IV. THE GIVING OF THE NEW NAME TO THE VICTORS. The language of my text involves two things, "To him that overcometh" lays down the conditions; "Will I give" lays down the cause of the possession of the "new name" — that is to say, this renovation of the being, and efflorescence into new knowledges, activities, perfections, and joys is only possible on condition of the earthly life of obedience and service and conquest.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. THE STRICT AND PRIVATE INDIVIDUALITY OF ALL REAL RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE. Sooner or later some monitory Providence comes and searches us, and shows that the path to God's right hand is in great part a lonely one.
II. A second characteristic of that true inward life which the text implies is that ITS REWARDS ARE NOT SUCH AS CAN BE DESCRIBED BEFOREHAND. No man knoweth them saving he that receiveth them. They remain to come out and be felt unexpectedly in their place. The very result the religion of Christ undertakes to achieve in men's hearts is disinterested devotion. Virtue under pay is no longer virtue. Faith is not hired. Why, even in all the loftier and purer human relationships, affection scorns the calculations of self-interest. There is not a tie of holy friendship on earth but feels itself insulted by the suggestion of a price.
III. CHRISTIAN PIETY IS TO BE PRIZED FOR ITS SECRET INTRINSIC QUALITY, RATHER THAN FOR ITS QUOTABLE RESULTS. No man knoweth it like him that hath it. Its hidden testimonies are worth more than its public demonstrations. Being religious for effect spoils the effect — like being honest for effect, or humble for effect, or affectionate or chaste for effect. It runs straight to a base hypocrisy, and not only abolishes its own influence, but begets a general scepticism of sincerity which blights every high interest, and unsettles virtue itself. Faith must dwell in her own sanctuary, see by her own light, feed on her own secret and immortal manna, be content with her own joy, cling to the white stone with the ineffable name, and wait for her spiritual justification and victory. To selfish, earth-bound hearts no secrets are revealed. No tokens of personal remembrance, no signs of secret favour come from the Master.
IV. It has been applied all along as a chief doctrine lying at the very heart of this passage, as it lies at the heart of the gospel itself, that THE SPECIAL CHARACTER AND PRIVILEGE OF THE CHRISTIAN REST IN A PERSONAL AND CONSCIOUS UNION BETWEEN HIM AND HIS LIVING REDEEMER.
(Bp. F. D. Huntington.)
I. THAT NEW NAME IS CHRIST'S AND OURS. It is His first, it becomes ours by communication from Him.
1. "I will give him a new name" — a deeper, a more inward, a fresh knowledge and revelation of My own character — as eternal love, eternal wisdom, all-sufficient, absolute power, the home and treasure, the joy and righteousness of the whole heart and spirit. The Cross remains for ever the revelation of the love of God, but in heaven we shall learn what we know not here — the full wealth which shall succeed the earnest of the inheritance, and possessing the lustrous glories we shall understand something more of the infinite mercy that has bought them for us. The sun remains the same, but as different as its sphere looks, seen from the comet at its aphelion, away out far beyond the orbits of the planets in the dim regions of that infinite abyss, and seen from the same orb at its perihelion when it circles round close by the burning brightness, so different does that mighty Sun of righteousness look to us now in His eternal self-revelation, by sacrifice and death, from what He will seem in that same self-revelation when we shall stand by His side!
2. On this new revelation of the name of Christ there follows as a consequence assimilation to the name which we possess, transformation into the likeness of Him whom we behold. We cannot know His name without sharing it. If we behold His glory we shall possess it, as the light must enter the eye for vision. The light and the soul which receives will, as it were, act and react. The light beheld transforms. The soul transformed is capable of more light. That again flows in and purifies and beautifies. Thus, in continuous reciprocal energy, the endless process of learning to know an infinite Saviour, and becoming like a perfect Lord goes on with constant approximation, and yet with somewhat ever undisclosed. The gift is not once for all, but is continuous through eternity.
3. Then there is a third idea implied in this promise, if the new name be Christ's, and that is possession or consecration. His name is given, that is, His character is revealed. His character is imparted, and further, by the gift He takes as well as gives, He takes us for His even in giving Himself to be ours. The High Priest's mitre bore on its front "Holiness to the Lord," and one of the last and highest promises of Scripture is cast in the form supplied by the symbol of Aaron's office and honour, "His servants shall serve Him" — in priestly service that is — "and they shall see His face." Action and contemplation, so hard to harmonise here, shall blend at last. "And His name shall be in their foreheads," the token of His possession, manifest for all eyes to behold. And thus when we behold Him we become like Him, and in the measure which we become like Him we belong to Him, not one step further.
II. THIS NEW NEW IS UNKNOWN EXCEPT BY ITS POSSESSOR. That, of course, is true in all regions of human experience. Did ever anybody describe a taste so that a man that had not tasted the thing could tell what it was like? Did ever anybody describe an odour so as to do more than awaken the memory of some one who had once had the scent lingering in his nostrils? If we have not known the love of a child, no talking will ever make a man understand what a father's heart is. Religious experiences are not unlike ordinary human experiences in this matter. It is not possible to communicate them, partly by reason of the imperfection of human language, partly by reason that you need in all departments sympathy and prior knowledge in order to make the descriptions significant at all. And in our earthly life, though your faith and mine, and our joys and our consciousness of Christ's love are all weak and tremulous, as we know, still we cannot speak them full out, and if we could there are no ears to hear except the ears of those who are possessors of like precious faith. The law applies to the heavens as well. Not till we get there shall we know. The text seems to imply what is more wonderful still, that though there shall be no isolation in heaven, which is the perfection of society, there may be incommunicable depths of blessed experience even there. Each man standing at his own angle will see his own side of the light; it will be enough and the same for all, and yet different in each. "No man knoweth saving he that receiveth." We must possess to understand; we must stand before the throne to apprehend.
III. THE CONDITION AND THE TRUE CAUSE OF POSSESSING THIS NEW NATURE. It comes as the reward of victory; it comes as a bestowment from Christ; "To him that overcometh will I give." And it seems to me that we have much need of trying to unite these two thoughts more closely together than we generally do. The victory is condition. It is not anything more than a condition. The real cause is Christ's bestowment. I believe as thoroughly as any man can in the application of the idea of reward to Christian service, but I believe that this is a secondary idea, and that the primary one is "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord." I believe that all outward discipline, and labour, and sorrows, and disappointments, and struggles, the efforts that we make after victory, that all these prepare Christians, and make us capable of receiving the gift. I believe that the gift comes only out of His infinite and undeserved, and God be thanked! inexhaustible forgiving goodness and mercy. The one is, if I may so say, the preparing of the cloth for the dye, and after that you have the application of the colour. No heaven except to the victor. The victor does not fight his way into heaven, but Christ gives it to him.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The London Pulpit.1. A new name preaches to us of a new relationship. A child parts with its own name, and takes the name of the family into which it is received as an adopted son or daughter. "The Lord God shall call His servants by another name."
2. This new name is the declaration of sanctity. If we are children we should maintain the honour of the family name. "Ye that love the Lord, hate evil."
3. Dignity is expressed by a new name Christianity bestows a name of rank and title that is emphatically new — above the human, above the angelic — Divine.
4. Secrecy belongs to this name. "A new name which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Our holiest and grandest emotions are those that stifle utterance. They seal the lips, and make us feel how inadequate are all human vehicles to express heavenly and Divine emotions. The pleasures of the worldling lie on the surface. "You have seen, it may be," says a writer, "an antique Italian painted window, with the bright Italian sunshine glowing through it. It is the special excellence of pictured glass that the light which falls merely on the outside of other pictures, is here interfused throughout the work, illuminating the design, and investing it with a living radiance... Christian faith is a grand cathedral with Divinely pictured windows. Standing without you see no glory, nor can possibly imagine any. Nothing is visible but the merest outline of dusky shapes. Standing within all is clear and defined, every ray of light reveals a harmony of unspeakable splendours."
(The London Pulpit.)
(George MacDonald, LL. D.)
I. We have THE VICTOR'S FOOD, the manna. That seems, at first sight, a somewhat infelicitous symbol, because manna was wilderness food. But that characteristic is not to be taken into account. Manna, though it fell in the wilderness, came from heaven, and it is the heavenly food that is suggested by the symbol. One moment the din of the battlefield, the next moment the refreshment of the heavenly manna. And the first thing that it plainly suggests to us is the absolute satisfaction of all the hunger of the heart. Here we have to suppress desires, sometimes because they are illegitimate and wrong, sometimes because circumstances sternly forbid their indulgence. There, to desire will be to have, and partly by the rectifying of the appetite, partly by the fulness of the supply, there will be no painful sense of vacuity. Then there is the other plain thing suggested here, that that satisfaction does not dull the edge of appetite or desire. Bodily hunger is fed, is replete, wants nothing more until the lapse of time and digestion have intervened. But it is not so with the loftiest satisfactions. You that know what happy love is know what that means — a satisfaction which never approaches satiety, a hunger which has in it no gnawing. Satisfaction without satiety, food which leaves him blessedly appetised for larger bestowments, belong to the victor. Another thing to be noticed here is what we have already had occasion to point out in the previous promises: "I will give him." The victor is seated at the board, and the Prince, as in some earthly banquet to a victorious army, himself moves up and down amongst the tables, and supplies the wants of the guests. Christ Himself bestows upon His servants the sustenance of their spirits in the realm above. But there is more than that. Christ is not only the Giver, but He is Himself the Food. He said, "I am the Bread of God that came down from heaven." The man that lives upon the Christ by faith, love, obedience, imitation, communion, aspiration, here on earth, has already the earnest of that feast. If you do not like the earthly form of feeding upon Jesus Christ, which is trusting Him, obeying Him, thinking about Him, you would like less the heavenly form of that feeding upon Him.
II. Note, THE VICTOR'S NEW NAME. When we read, "I will give Him a stone, on which there is a new name written," we infer that the main suggestion made in that promise is of a change in the self, something new in the personality and the character. What new capacities may be evolved by the mere fact of losing the limitations of the bodily frame; what new points of contact with the new universe; what new analogues of that which we here call our senses, and means of perception of the external world, may be the accompaniments of the disembarrassment from "the earthly house of this tabernacle," we dare not dream. But whatsoever be these changes, they are changes that repose upon that which has been in the past. And so the second thought that is suggested by this new name is that these changes are the direct results of the victor's course. Both in old times and in the peerage of England you will find names of conquerors, by land or by water, who carry in their designations and transmit to their descendants the memorial of their victories in their very titles. In like manner as a Scipio was called Africanus, as a Jervis became Lord St. Vincent, so the victor's "new name" is the concentration and memorial of the victor's conquest. So once more we come to the thought that whatever there may be of change in the future, the main direction of the character remains, and the consolidated issues of the transient deeds of earth remain, and the victor's name is the summing up of the victor's life.
III. Lastly, note THE MYSTERY OF BOTH THE FOOD AND THE NAME. Both symbols point to the one thought, the impossibility of knowing until we possess and experience. That impossibility besets all the noblest, highest, purest, Divinest emotions, and possessions of earth. Poets have sung of love and sorrow from the beginning of time; but men must love to know what it means. Since, then, experience alone admits to the knowledge, how vulgar, how futile, how absolutely destructive of the very purpose which they are intended to subserve, are all the attempts of men to forecast that ineffable glory.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
LinksRevelation 2:16 NIV
Revelation 2:16 NLT
Revelation 2:16 ESV
Revelation 2:16 NASB
Revelation 2:16 KJV
Revelation 2:16 Bible Apps
Revelation 2:16 Parallel
Revelation 2:16 Biblia Paralela
Revelation 2:16 Chinese Bible
Revelation 2:16 French Bible
Revelation 2:16 German Bible
Revelation 2:16 Commentaries