The Story of the Seer of Patmos




The message to the seven churches covers a period in ecclesiastical history, extending from the time of Christ’s first advent to His second coming. To John, Christ appeared walking in the midst of the churches,-the candlesticks; and it is a most beautiful truth that the Divine Presence has never been withdrawn from the earth. One of the last promises made by Christ to His disciples was, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” and it matters not how torn or scattered His people may have been, that promise, reverberating from age to age, has been the comfort and solace of each individual Christian, and of the church as a body. Heaven looks upon the earth as one vast mission field, and the church is a beacon light in the midst of darkness. The incarnation of Christ drew the sympathies of all the universe earthward, and “the whole creation groaneth,” waiting for our adoption. Christ, attended by the host of heaven-His ministering spirits-is always Margin found in the midst of the church, and he that toucheth the church, toucheth the apple of the eye of Christ. SSP 39.1

The first message which John was bidden to deliver was to the church of Ephesus. There were other churches in Asia Minor, but there were reasons why Ephesus was first addressed, and why it should be taken to represent the church in general during the first years of its existence. The word “Ephesus” means “first,” or “desirable.” In the first century, Ephesus was capital of Asia Minor, and the center of trade from both the east and the west. It was strongly under Greek influence, and in position, corresponded to Corinth in Greece, and Alexandria in Egypt. It has been called the “rallying place of paganism,” and was a stronghold of the recognized religion and the popular education of the world, when, soon after the death of the Saviour, it was first visited by the apostles. It may well be taken to symbolize that period of ecclesiastical history when the Gospel in its purity met, in open conflict, the darkest forms of pagan worship. Side by side with the Greeks, dwelt Jews, men who ought to have held aloft the worship of Jehovah, but who had lost the Spirit by mingling with the idol worshipers. It was into this city, restless and turbulent and easily wrought upon, that Paul, as a missionary, went to preach of a risen Saviour. He met with difficulties. Opposed on one side by science, falsely so called, and on the other side by a religion which had the form of godliness, but which had lost the power thereof, Paul offered Margin the crucified Son of God. Miracles attended his preaching. In the synagogue of the Jews, he reasoned three months concerning “the kingdom of God;” and when men hardened their hearts against the Word, he entered the school of Tyrannus, where he taught for two years with such power that the Word of the Lord Jesus went abroad throughout all Asia, among both Jews and Greeks. The Greeks were scholars, and exalted the power of intellectual culture. Paul, as a Christian missionary, first taught in the synagogue, then in the schools, where the Gospel of Jesus Christ was offered in place of the philosophy of Plato, whom the Greeks deified. Said he, “The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” So powerful was this teaching of the apostle that many who owned books of sorcery, or magic, which passed for wisdom in the eyes of the Margin world, brought their books and burned them before all men. Students from this school of Tyrannus became earnest workers in Asia Minor, and through them the Gospel was made known. Not only was the learning of the Greeks, who were the intellectual lights of the world, opposed by Paul and his disciples, but the trades were affected; so much so that there was an uprising of the people, who with one voice cried, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” Diana, the patron goddess of Ephesus, was a personification of fecundity. In this city, Christianity-the power of God unto salvation-came in open and bitter conflict with the false religion and the false education of the world. SSP 40.1

He who walked among the churches, watched the lighting of the torch of truth in Ephesus, and so the first words addressed to the church are, “I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience.” Those, who, on the day of Pentecost, received the baptism of the Spirit, and those who heard the Gospel from their lips, were filled with a burning desire to spread the news of a Saviour. They were married unto Christ, and in the ardor of their first love, the converts sought for their friends and relatives, pleading with them to forsake evil and to accept salvation. There was no work too arduous, no journey too difficult, to be undertaken for Him whom they loved. SSP 42.1

It can be seen that the power of God and the power of evil were in each other’s grasp. By the side of pagan temples, were erected Christian churches; Christian schools sprang up in the very shadow of the Greek institutions of learning. In spite of the power of the enemy, Margin the spread of truth was rapid, so rapid, indeed, that paganism trembled for its life. Among the converts to the new doctrine, were some who were convinced of the truth, but who failed to experience the change of heart which comes with the new birth. There were others, who, for policy’s sake, sought fellowship with the Christians; but as long as the church maintained a close connection with God, a clear and distinct line separated believers from impostors. “Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” SSP 42.2

The power which attended even the common converts, and their ready spirit of discernment, is seen in the case of Priscilla and Aquila, when Apollos, who received the Gospel, or at least a part of it, in Alexandria, came to Ephesus. Apollos was fervent in the Spirit, and taught with power; for he was an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures; but he knew only of the baptism of John. When he preached in the Margin hearing of those with whom Paul abode in Corinth, and who had studied with the great Apostle, Aquila and Priscilla detected his ignorance of the outpouring of the Spirit, and the eloquent man received instruction from those who had recently come into the truth. One can, in imagination, picture the sacrifice which seems necessary on the part of those who accepted Christ in this central stronghold of paganism. Light and darkness met face to face, and paganism made a desperate struggle for existence. It is for these reasons, that the first message, addressed to Ephesus, is applicable to the first era of the Christian religion. Into the darkness of the worst forms of heathenism, the religion and culture of the Greeks, backed by the government of Rome,-Christianity walked as a spotless virgin clothed in white. By preaching and by teaching, two methods which are divinely ordained for the spread of the truth, Paul and his fellow laborers raised up a church at Ephesus. SSP 43.1

John had known of the work at this place; for he, as a pillar in the Jerusalem church, was acquainted with the progress of the light as it spread from that center, and from Patmos his heart turned to the believers on the mainland. The angel said, “Unto the church of Ephesus write: ‘I know thy works, and thy labor, and Margin thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.’” The message is sent by the One who in heaven “holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.” God Himself had watched each soul as it had separated from the world and linked itself with Christ. The power of Christ Himself attended the spread of the Gospel in those early days; for it was carried by men who had received of the Pentecostal showers. SSP 44.1

Christianity was a strange power as viewed by the heathen, for there were no idols, no outward forms, only a spiritual worship which they could not comprehend. The kingdom of Christ was invading the realm of the enemy, and there were no weapons which could attack it. In the space of thirty years, the Gospel went to every creature under heaven. Rich and poor alike heard the glad tidings of the Desire of all Nations, Margin who had been born in Judea. Cæsar ruled with unlimited power at Rome. No hand was raised against the throne; and yet Christianity crept within those palace walls, and Paul preached to some of Nero’s household. This growth is recognized in the message. Thou “hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted.” This was the experience of the first century of the Christian religion. The power by which it grew was that of love,-the first love, which in its ardor knew no bounds. It was the love of which Paul writes when he says that “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” Christ watched over the believers with the joy of a bridegroom, and they in return gave Him their heart’s devotion. SSP 45.1

There were many among the pagans who listening to Paul, were convinced of the truth in their minds, but retained their Greek manner of reasoning. Indeed, they applied to the Scriptures the same interpretation which they had formerly placed upon their own Greek writings. These converted Greek philosophers stood side by side with the simple Gospel teachers, and in trying to refute paganism by argument, Christianity was in danger of weakening. The shadow of the enemy was falling upon the church. God called after these first believers, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place.” SSP 46.1

The Nicolaitanes, referred to in verse six, are said by Mosheim to have been a branch of the Gnostics, a sect living in Asia, who denied the divinity of Christ, and “boasted of their being Margin able to restore to mankind the knowledge of the true and Supreme Being.” Their belief concerning the creation of the world, conflicted with the writings of Moses, and led to a denial of the divine authority of the Old Testament. Still other beliefs, contrary to the teachings of Christ, the result of a mixture of Greek and Oriental philosophy, led to practices which the church of Christ could not tolerate. He does not say they hated the presence of the Nicolaitanes, and could not endure them; but that they hated their deeds, “which I also hate.” This church was in a position where they could hate the sin, and not the sinner, where they could have patience, and labor long for the erring, and love them; while they hated the deeds that separated them from the Lord. The Lord closes with a message to every one: “He that hath an ear let him hear.” The message comes to all ages in all time, to every one who receives the gift of hearing. It is the Spirit of God speaking to the church. “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” Adam was overcome by Satan, and thus lost his right to the tree of life; but to every son of Adam the message comes, “I give to eat of the tree of life.” It is the privilege of every child of God to claim the victory, and to overcome every attack of the enemy through the strength given by Christ. To the tree of life, the faithful are promised access, in contradistinction to the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The tree of life was transplanted from the garden of Eden to heaven, but its boughs hang over the wall for all who will Margin reach upward for its fruit. As the experience of the church is applicable to each denomination, to each organization, and to each individual, so to the end of time, Christians will be placed in positions where they must choose between the wisdom of God, and the philosophy of the world,-the wisdom which is pure, peaceable, gentle, full of mercy and good fruits; and the philosophy which, if adhered to, brings loss of light, and eventually death. SSP 46.2