« PreviousContinue »
each, and the general harmony of the whole, will be most distinctly seen. It will be found that they illustrate each other, and that although detached, and complete in themselves, yet, taken together, they form a series and a body of prophecy. That the present plan of interpretation should not before have occurred to others, (if indeed that should be found the case,) is no argument against its truth. It is only at the time of the end (or fulfilling) that the true interpretation of these and their corresponding prophecies, was dained to be made known to the Church, and it is certain we can know nothing of divine things, except the Spirit of God teacheth. If, therefore, these things shall be treated of according to the mind of the Spirit, to the Lord be the praise and the glory: and if, on the other hand, the views which are here insisted upon, should indeed be incorrect, knowledge will doubtless be increased by that biblical research, which will be necessary for bringing them to the test, according to the unerring standard of the word of truth.
Prophecy of the Seven Churches :-Ephesus, Smyrna,
and Pergamos considered.-Rev. ii. 1–17.
The first prophecy contained in that mysterious book, the contents of which it is now proposed to examine, was delivered under the symbol of seven stars, and seven golden candlesticks. These were designed to represent primarily the seven churches of Asia, to each of which, the Apostle John was commanded to deliver a message of exhortation and reproof, from his risen and glorified Master. The Lord Jesus spake to Jobp in the Isle of Patmos, proclaiming himself to be “ Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last,” and commanding him to write what he saw in a book, and to send it to the seven churches which are in Asia. The apostle on turning towards the place from whence the voice proceeded, observed “seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one like unto the Son of Man :"_" He had in his right hand seven stars, and his countenance was as when the suu shineth in his strength.” Overcome with astonishmeut, the apostle fell at his feet as dead, and our Lord raised him up with those sweet words of encouragement, which he has ever been wont to speak unto his people, “ Fear not.” After announcing himself as the risen Jesus, the Lord of life and death, he thus repeats his command :-“ Write the things which thou hast seen, both the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; 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 wbich thou sawest, are the seven churches.”
The churches to which these messages were sent, were peculiarly under Jobn's superintendence; for he had appointed bishops over them all, and he resided much at Ephesus, as may be collected from Irenæus and Eusebius. If the address to each were considered as nothing more than a mere statement of the condition of those churches at that time, and of the judgments which awaited them on their turning from the right ways of their Master, a fulfilment might be shewn, by tracing the history of each, as far as the particulars which have been handed down, afford materials for the purpose: but the circumstance of these churches being immediately under the care of this apostle, as their metropolitan, could, alone, hardly account for their being thus selected as the peculiar objects of pro
phecy. They are certainly not the most eminent of the primitive gospel churches, though, perhaps, one or two of them might claim to be so considered : and if nothing more had been intended than to record the condition of seven churches of the apostolic age, with a view to point out their subsequent falling away, as an awful example for future times, those churches only which attained the highest celebrity, would doubtless have been selected for the purpose. It may therefore be reasonably conjectured, that something more must have been designed ; and the opinion seems confirmed by the solemn admonition which concludes each separate address to the several churches, repeated as it is, in the very same words, no less than seven different times—" He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” It should be recollected further, that “no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation,” and that the things which happened to the fathers, “happened unto them for types :" and those things were recorded in Holy Writ, according to the mind of the Spirit, for the admonition and instruction of the church in the latter days. In all the prophetic types, there is a literal and figurative fulfilment; and if these churches are types, the same will be found here. That the book of Revelations, which throughout is composed of symbols, should, in this solitary instance,
be restricted to a literal interpretation, will hardly be insisted upon; and, therefore, after attending to the letter, an explanation of the type also, will, without further preface, be offered.
The churches are seven in number, and, it is to be recollected, that throughout Scripture this number is peculiarly marked, as denoting completion and perfection. They are—1. Ephesus, 2. Smyrna, 3. Pergamos, 4. Thyatira, 5. Sardis, 6. Philadelphia, 7. Laodicea ; all of them churches in Asia, and types of seven principal epochs, or periods of the church, which were to be manifested under the gospel dispensation. The symbols here used are a star and a candlestick, or rather lamp-stand, signifying the light of the church, or its spiritual condition, not its outward circumstances, for they are spoken of in the other prophecies of the Revelations. It should be further recollected, in proceeding to explain the figure, that it does not refer to the outward, visible, or professing church, but to the true Israel of God, the chosen seed of Christ, whose spiritual state is delineated under these types, from the first preaching of the gospel to the dawn of the Millennial day.
The address to the church at Ephesus runs thus :
“ Unto the angel of the Church of Ephesus write; these things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand,