Reading: Rev. 1:2,9; 6:9; 11:7,11; 12:11,17; 19:10; John 1:1,4; 1 John 5:11-12; Rev. 1:17-18; 2:7,10; 3:5; 4:6-9; 7:1-3,16-17; 20:4-6; 22:1-2,18-19.
These passages are by way of laying a foundation for some quite precise matters which I feel are the Lord's message to our hearts at this time.
In the first place, we take note of what was and still is, the peculiar and particular ministry of the apostle John. All that we have read is from his ministry, and it is only a mere fragment of one specific thing which abounds throughout all of his writings - his gospel, his epistles, and the book of the Revelation. Clearly then, his specific ministry relates to Life in Christ, Life in Christ. You can see that everywhere in John's writings. While there are other words which have a very clear and large place in those writings, this is the word which lies back of all others, and, as we shall see, governs all the others:- Life.
He opens his gospel, so far as the Lord Jesus is concerned, by making this declaration, "in Him was life". You pursue that word through the gospel and you will see how large a place it has, not only as a word, but as a theme, for John uses a very great deal of material in the life of Christ here on the earth by way of showing that in Him was Life. His gospel is full of that which speaks of Life. You have no need that I recall it to you. You know it is quite true, from the first chapter, the second, the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, working right up to Lazarus in the eleventh - the following through of this great truth that in Him was Life.
Then in his letter, you know also what emphasis is laid upon this matter, "And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that has the Son hath life: he that has not the Son of God has not life". "We know that we have passed out of death into life".
We have made a fair selection of passages in the [book of the] Revelation which have to do with the matter, but by no means have we exhausted them. John deals with Life in Christ and in a word, he says, "This is the testimony of Jesus". If you want to know what the testimony of Jesus is, it can be summed up in one word: Life. If you understand what that means, then you know what the whole Bible is about, then you know what all the trouble is about in this universe. You have the key to everything.
From what took place before the foundation of this world, the glimpses we are given into God's counsels, purposes, then into what took place when this world was created, that great scene and drama of the Garden, and all that has been happening, not only as seen on the earth and through the history of this world, but as lying behind all that is going on now and all that is yet to be in the great winding-up of things, there is one word which explains it all, and that word is Life, but it is Life in Christ.
Now let us allow that word to take us back and to take us through and to take us on. It takes us back and becomes for us, or is shown to be, the basic thing as to the whole of the conflict of the ages and the purpose of God. The purpose of God was clearly that a creation should inherit eternal Life. I use that word 'inherit' very carefully. I do not think that we have got the significance of it as it is used in the New Testament in connection with eternal Life. Adam did not have eternal Life, but he was called to be an inheritor of eternal Life, he should have inherited eternal Life. The great heritage of Adam and the whole race and creation in Adam, was eternal Life, but he never inherited, he never attained unto eternal Life. That creation in Adam must die.
The whole creation then, as in Adam, has missed the way, has missed God's intention. That is the bare fact. There are other facts lying within and behind that. There is the sinister intent of the adversary to frustrate God's intention. There is the uprising of that intelligence in animosity to God's Son working behind that losing of eternal Life, that missing of God's intention. Then, with that, there is all that which has come in as of that adversary which is just the opposite of what eternal Life means and is in its nature and operation all the terrible story of sin and suffering and sorrow, the story which we cannot (perhaps we ought to say, "Thank God, we cannot") read. I venture to say that there is enough suffering in one tiny spot of this earth if it were all known, to turn the brain of any man in five minutes, if it were all known, that is, if we could register the suffering that is in this world, the suffering of man and beast. I am not exaggerating, and I am not making up something. We could not bear to know it - and all that through sin, through Satan, and through the missing of God's way of Life. That is just the opposite of Life, that is death. So that Life is the key; Life, Divine eternal Life, is the key.
Now then, we are ready to see something of the significance of possessing eternal Life. If all that (and what a terrible 'all' it is, an unthinkable and unspeakable all) all that you and I know today of the state of things on the earth, and expanded back through generation after generation, through centuries and centuries, all the suffering and the misery and the sorrow and the anguish of this creation right through the thousands of years, if all that is the result of missing eternal Life, then to have eternal Life means that all that is made impossible. Eternal Life is that which counters all that, eternal Life would have prevented one fragment of that from coming in.
Well, now you see the significance of Jesus Christ and eternal Life in Jesus Christ. What is the meaning? It takes us back to the beginning and it takes us right on to the end, and it says this: eternal Life takes up that whole thing and ultimately destroys it all. It destroys the devil, it destroys sin, it destroys sorrow, it destroys pain and suffering, it destroys all that is contrary to God's mind. And it brings in a new creation in which there is none of that, and in that day when Life triumphs fully in the creation, God shall wipe away all tears from off all faces, and there shall be no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain, no more death.
Now, you have all that summed up, gathered up, in that central part of the book of the Revelation in figure. To a good many people, that part is still mysterious. I think to some it is fantastic - the four living creatures referred to so frequently in that central part of the book. Well, in a word (and this is not particularly what I am wanting to talk about, but just to indicate) four, as we know in symbolical numbers, is the number of creation, and in the symbolical form of the four living creatures you have the whole new creation represented. And that full-orbed representation of the whole creation is said again and again and again to be living creatures. That is the characteristic of this creation - living. Note their position before the throne of the Lamb. The Lamb, the Lamb slain, yes - but living. It takes you back to the beginning of the revelation. This central part embraces all. It takes you back. "I am He that lives and was dead; and behold, I am alive unto the ages of the ages". It leads you on to the last chapter, the river of water of Life clear as crystal, the tree of Life. It is the Lamb in the throne, the centre of a new creation in which there is Life.
Now, between the beginning of the book of the Revelation and that central part, you have a lot that is dealing with death, but there it is dealing mainly with death in relation to the Lord's people. From that part onward, you have dealing with death on a wider scale. The centre of all dealing with death in every realm, making possible that glorious consummation of chapters 21 and 22, is the Lamb at the centre of a new creation which is alive with His own Life, and He is the explanation of that new creation. "The Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world". Do you see the significance of Life? Oh, beloved, it is the greatest thing that is possible to man to have eternal Life in Jesus Christ, for the very possessing of that Life is itself the testimony of Jesus.
What is the testimony of Jesus? It is nothing less than this, that by His own Life, He has destroyed Satan and sin and all their consequences and brought in a new creation in which there is nothing of that. That is the testimony of Jesus. It is all gathered up into something which in Himself we possess, God's free gift: eternal Life. Not to have that means all the other. To have that eternal Life in Him means to have dwelling within us that which eventually is going to prove to have been the undoing of all Satan's work and the destroying of all Satan's fruit in the creation. A tremendous thing - the significance of eternal Life. It goes back right to the beginning.
You see, immediately you and I receive the gift of God in Jesus Christ which is eternal Life, so far as that innermost reality of our being is concerned, so far as that position is concerned, the ages from Adam to our time have been blotted out, we have got back beyond Adam's fall. That is true of what is innermost in a child of God. And then it goes on, and while there may be many a conflict, yet there is that which is within which declares that the end for us is not the triumph of sin, not the triumph of suffering, of pain, of sorrow, not the triumph of death, but the triumph of Life in Jesus Christ. We have got that in us now. It takes us back and on, it is here. It is no small thing to have eternal Life in Jesus Christ. It is not just some abstract thing. It is Jesus Christ Himself by His Spirit resident within in the power of His own victory, for He has Himself swallowed up sin, swallowed up sorrow, swallowed up death.
"I am He that lives; I became dead. I am alive unto the ages of the ages and have the keys of death and of Hades". "I am the resurrection and the life". "This is the witness, that God has given unto us eternal life and this life is in His Son". Oh, tremendous thing! We cannot grasp, we cannot sense the significance of having eternal Life. How far-reaching it is, how it bounds the universe, how it swallows up everything! Talk about Life which blooms with immortality! This is the Life which has in it the guarantee of immortality. So it undoes one whole state of things which Satan has done, it reverses one order of things which Satan has instituted. It secures one great, glorious, Divine purpose which Satan sought to frustrate and all that is in the Life which He gives and which we have in Him. It is all in that Life. That is the testimony of Jesus.
How important it is then that everyone of us should, in the first place, make sure that we have eternal Life. Are you sure about that? Are you able to say, right from your heart, 'I know that I have passed from death unto life'? Are you able to say that with full assurance? It has got to be a personal matter. Now let me say to you that you have nothing whatever to do of yourself to get that assurance. If there is any doing at all, it begins and ends with this: put your trust in the Lord Jesus. This Life is not merited, is not secured by any activity of ours, it is God's free gift to anyone who will believe in His Son. That is the simplest expression of the gospel for anyone who does not know assuredly that they have eternal Life. Unless you have, you have no hope, no hope of deliverance from sin and the judgment of sin, no hope of deliverance from death, no hope of deliverance from the grip of Satan, for all such deliverance is in that Life and in our possessing that Life.
But, having received that Life, how important it is that we should all be co-operating with that Life. As we pointed out in our previous meditation, Divine Life has a way of its own, it does not go our way, it does not go the way of our thinking, our reasoning, our arguing, our debating. It does not go the way of our will, it does not go the way of our desire, our liking. It has its own way and there has to be a continuous yielding to the way of Life, a co-operating with its own laws. If Life is going to lead us through to the place which it is intended to reach, we have got to go with it. We have got to yield to it. We have to recognise its laws. We must not pull against it. There must be an utterness of abandonment to the Lord Himself; there must be a swift response to every indication of the Divine will and quick obedience to every indication of the Lord's way.
I must confess that there are a lot of things I do not understand in the Word of God. I do not altogether understand this last thing about his name being taken out of the book of Life, but I notice that it has to do with a part, 'his part'. And it seems to me that there is this suggestion that it means that some have not gone on with that Life which they possessed, so that they have not come to that which was intended for them. They have stopped short and their 'part' is lost - what God intended for them. It is just possible to cut across that Life so that it is arrested and it is no longer able to lead us right on to God's fulness, for God's end is fulness of Life. We may miss the part that was meant for us because we have checked the Life. Well, that is quite understandable and that is perfectly reasonable. We know quite a lot of Christians who have stopped there, they are not going on. They have come to a standstill, they are not growing, they are not developing, there is no increase. For some reason or another, they have stopped, they have checked the action of Divine Life, they are not going on.
On the other hand, there are many who are going on. Do you mean to tell me that it does not matter, that all are going to have the same part whether they go on or not, that we all come to the same end, the same measure? Not at all. God has written us in His Book of Life for some great end: fulness, and we may miss it. I am not saying that we may miss or forfeit eternal Life, but we may miss the end to which it is intended to lead us, the part to which God would bring us.
It is important to go on in the way of Life because of all that is involved. That is the trouble in the first section of the book of the Revelation. The Lord introduces Himself, presents Himself as "I am the living One. I became dead. I am alive for evermore". So He presents Himself, and in that way, in that character, with that particular feature of Life, marked by Life, He presents Himself to the churches, and He is dealing with the churches in the light of that fact that He is the Living One who became dead and is alive. You may analyse the trouble in the churches and say it was this and it was that and that and the other. You may give all the troubles a name, but when you have tabulated all the trouble, you come back to one simple explanation and summary. It is one trouble. This and that and the other thing were only the things which came in to arrest Life. "The trouble with you is not just that there is this and that and the other thing. The trouble is that you have not gone on, that the Life has been checked, and inasmuch as that is true, you have really allowed the opposite of Life to come in, you have given place to the devil. That is the trouble". He is dealing with the churches according to the law of Life in Himself, and although He points out that there is this and that and the other thing that He does not approve of in the churches, it is the effect, "To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of Life". "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of Life". That is the issue for the churches. It is a question of Life.
Satan has a multitude of ways and means by way of which he achieves his end. It may be what is wrong in Ephesus, or it may be what is wrong in any other of the churches, things particularly mentioned, but the issue is one - whatever the means, whatever the way, the issue is one: Life has been arrested, and the testimony of Jesus is therefore no longer there. Lots of things are there, but the testimony of Jesus is under arrest, that is the trouble.
So He would say to His own people, "It is not a matter of whether you are doing a lot of work. 'I know thy work'. It is not a matter of whether you are trudging on, patiently on, resignedly on. 'I know thy patience'. It is not a matter of whether you have a very real, keen sense of right and wrong. 'I know that thou canst not bear them that are evil'. It is not a matter of whether you have a highly developed sense of truth and error, whether you can scent error afar off, whether you can sniff whether a man is unsound leagues away! I know all about that. Your love of truth, your sound doctrine. I know, but that is not enough. You may labour. 'I know thy labour'. I know, I know. But there is something that I miss, and the absence of that something cannot be atoned for by any of these things. There is no substitute for that". All these things may, after all, only be comparatively dead things. You may have dead orthodoxy, you may have a dogged deadness in going on, simply because you will not give up or are afraid to give up, but oh, where is the Life? That is the question with the Lord. He is challenging everything in view of Life. That is the testimony of Jesus: Life as in Himself, the living One. It is not whether we are this and have that. It is Life in Christ.
So the first section of the book deals with the Lord's people and the matter of Life, and it all comes to this. Nothing, any number of things, good in themselves, which He may take account of, can be a substitute for Life in the presence of One whose all and everything is unto Life. The Lord Jesus did not die and rise again, did not overcome Satan and sin and all that realm of things, in order to make us good workers, patient workers, and stalwarts for truth. He did it to make us live.
We have read that little fragment to do with the two witnesses. I am not touching the prophetic aspect of the book at all, and if you can tell me who the two witnesses are, I will be glad to listen to you, at any rate. But the point there, in the case of the two witnesses who exercise such a tremendous power and then were overcome and slain and their dead bodies lie in the street and then they rise up and were caught up to heaven, the point right at the heart of that thing and nothing really matters but this, because the whole book of the Revelation is centred upon one matter; let that be clear; from every standpoint it is centred upon one matter. It is this: that the witness, the adequate witness, is Life.
Two, everywhere in the Bible, is adequate testimony, "He sent them forth two by two". That is adequate testimony. Here you have two witnesses. They stand in the power of Life, and there is a manifestation of what that Life means. It is terrific, if you read the thing again. All hell is allowed to be loosed upon that testimony, and it looks as though that testimony, that adequate testimony, is quenched, it is dead. There it lies for days. Satan from the pit has triumphed. But wait a bit, we will see. You cannot deal with Life, God's Life, like that. That is only allowed to show what that Life really is. What is that Life? Why, that Life draws upon itself, in the permission of God, all the power of hell, seems to go under it, and then strips it off and climbs to glory! It is the adequate testimony of Life.
You need not bother who the witnesses are. Get the principle. If you want to be in the line of the two witnesses, do not worry about names. Get into the Life, the Life will prove. That is the test of everything. It is the power, the effect in the realm of the devil, that is where the ultimate registration is. There you have, right in the middle of that book, the two witnesses, adequate testimony in the power of Divine Life, and then the pit opens, hell divulges itself, and everything converges upon that testimony. It seems to overcome, to overpower, to quench and to finish, and then Life enters in. It is all that is needed, that is God's answer.
God has only to put His Life in, and where is hell and where is earth? The testimony is in heaven. Hell defeated! It is a wonderful thing: Life in Jesus Christ.
I think I need not say any more. You can follow through the book of Revelation. I do not want you to stay with what I have said, because it is all inadequate. What I do want is that the significance of what I have said should be taken hold of. You need not worry about the message, the things said, the things left unsaid. It is what it is all pointing to, the tremendous, the unspeakably great significance of our having in us now eternal Life in Jesus Christ. It is tremendous.
Beloved, to say one thing alone about it again is this. It is big enough to attract all the attention of hell and to drag out all the power of Satan and his kingdom in desperate determination to try and quench it, because it means so much. It means their overthrow, it means the undoing of all their work, the change of the whole course of things, the bringing in of a new creation - all bound up with this Life in Jesus Christ. You understand the battle we are in, and why it is. May the Lord then make the testimony of Jesus to be for us something other than a teaching, to be a living reality, the power of His risen Life.