The Church Lax In Discipline - Rev. Herman Hoeksema
12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 He that hathan ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
In this particular letter of the Lord to the church in the world we have a picture of the church which differs considerably from that of the two churches we have already discussed. The church of Ephesus was characterized by many good features, but also by a falling away from its first love, so that it was in grave danger of ultimately seeing its candlestick removed out of its place. The church in Smyrna presents the picture of the church faithful in tribulation: poor and despised, yet rich in all the spiritual blessings of grace in Christ Jesus. Also the church in Pergamos occupies a dangerous position in the midst of the world: for the text tells us that Pergamos is the place where Satan dwells and where the very throne of Satan is established. But that church in Pergamos has one characteristic which distinguishes it from the former two congregations which we have discussed. It is this: the church in Pergamos bears with evil men, and therefore is the church which is growing lax in discipline.
The Church In Pergamos
It is evident from the outset that in this letter to the church of Pergamos all the emphasis is placed upon the position which that church occupies in the midst of the world. It is the church that is situated where Satan dwells and where he has established his throne in a very special sense of the word. Pergamos was a rather large city, situated somewhat farther north from Smyrna than the latter was distant from Ephesus. If Smyrna was the competitor of Ephesus, Pergamos emulated both of the former in striving for the honor of being the foremost city of Asia Minor. Commerce and industry found in Pergamos a center. Science and art found their home there. Also in this city the church of Christ, which certainly is not called to retreat into the smaller towns and villages or to hide in the outskirts of the larger cities, had come to manifestation and was established.
Judging by the contents of this letter, addressed to them by the Lord, Pergamos had a very difficult time of it. The city is called the throne of Satan, and the very dwelling-place of the devil. What is meant by these expressions in the general sense of the word is not difficult to understand. A throne in the Book of Revelation occurs frequently as the symbol of dominion, as the center whence the authority of the king emanates throughout his entire kingdom. Satan is the adversary of God and the great opponent of our Lord Jesus Christ and of His kingdom in the world. He is forevermore endeavoring to organize and to bring to development the power of opposition against God's Anointed in the world, and therefore against His church. Throughout this dispensation he is the instigator of all opposition which manifests itself against the church of Christ. And therefore, if we read in this letter that Pergamos was a place where Satan had his throne, the city is pictured to us as being dominated by this power of opposition, as being dominated by the prince of darkness. as being a stronghold of the devil, where he could have full and undisputed sway, except for the little bulwark of Christ which had been built in the city.
This must be taken with special emphasis in regard to Pergamos. In general, it is true of this entire dispensation that the world is under the dominion of the prince of darkness. The whole world, John tells us, lies in the Evil One; and the kingdoms of this world belong to his dominion. But it is also true that in one place this dominion of the devil becomes more clearly manifest than in another. In our own time, it is generally evident that in the larger cities, like London and Paris, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, sin comes to a higher and bolder form of development, and the devil exercises more absolute and undisputed sway than in the smaller towns or rural communities. At any rate, of Pergamos it might be asserted that in a special sense it was the seat, or throne, of Satan. He dwelled there. While in other places he also manifested his presence occasionally, Pergamos was his continual abode. If he would go out as a roaring lion, seeking whom he might devour, he would always return to Pergamos. There you could always find him at home. There he had his headquarters. There was his permanent abode. There was the center and seat of his authority and power.
If we inquire more especially, and ask the question in what sense this dubious prerogative could be claimed for the city of Pergamos, the text does not supply the answer. But from history we know two things.
First of all, we are informed that among other forms of idolatry practiced in the town, Pergamos was famous for its worship of Aesculapius as its chief god. Characteristic of this god was that its chief symbol, representing him, was that of the serpent, - the symbol also of the devil. The special power attributed to this god was that he could save people from the miserable effects of sin, from disease and sicknesses of all kinds. People from the city and from all the surrounding country flocked to his temple for help and recovery. And because of this imaginary power of this god, he was generally known as Soter, that is, Savior. Thus we obtain indeed a striking symbolism of the power of Antichrist and the dominion of Satan, consisting ultimately of this, that the serpent, the symbol of the devil, was hailed as the savior of men and was worshipped as such.
In the second place, we are informed, too, that the city of Pergamos was one of the first centers of worship of the Caesars, the emperors of Rome. As we may know, the emperors of Rome had themselves deified and worshipped as gods. And in the city of Pergamos there was a temple erected in honor of Caesar and dedicated to his worship. In short, it may be said that in Pergamos we meet with a rather striking manifestation of the Antichristian power and dominion: not, indeed, in the same form as Antichrist rules today, or as he shall come in his manifestation in the future; but nevertheless, the similarity is striking. Satan, the serpent, is honored and worshipped as the savior of men instead of Christ; and Caesar, man, is worshipped as lord of all instead of Him to Whom all Power is given in heaven and on earth. Truly, Pergamos was the throne of Satan, the place where the prince of darkness had his permanent abode.
Of course, in principle the position of the church in Pergamos in relation to that city is the position of the church of all ages in relation to the world. As we have remarked, the prince of darkness is the ruler of this age. And he still exercises dominion over the kingdoms of the world. He is, in principle, hailed as the savior wherever the Christ is rejected; and the divinity of man is proclaimed wherever the divinity of the Son of Man is not acknowledged.
But this relation to the world is not always equally vivid, nor does it manifest itself in the same form in every period of history. During the period of the early church Rome, with its emperors, raging against the little flock of the Good Shepherd, was, no doubt, the throne of Satan and his abode. In the age of the Reformation the Roman Catholic Church might suitably be designated as the throne of Satan, --more specifically so, the seat of the pope and all connected therewith. And when finally the Reformation was initiated, it soon became evident that the little church of Protestantism dwelled where Satan had his abode.
But again, a sad and fatal mistake we would make, if we would imagine that also today the center of Satan's authority must be sought in the Roman Catholic Church, as some interpreters have it. It would blind us to the tremendous movement of Modernism, of Humanism, of Man-worship, which is sweeping over the world of Christendom and developing with astounding rapidity. Today man is his own savior. Man is the savior of humanity. Man is today his own god: not, indeed, because he worships any particular human being, be it Caesar or some other, but because he has generalized his worship of man in the worship of humanity.
Also today Satan has his throne and dwelling-place. He has it in many a school and college and university, where Christ is humanized and man is deified, where the worship of humanity is preached and taught in its boldest and rankest aspect, and where the blood of Christ is trampled under foot. Nay, still stronger, the devil has succeeded in ousting the true Savior from many a Christian church. The revelation of Christ is proclaimed and maintained from many a modern pulpit no more. Or, if it is, its features are so distorted that you can recognize the Christ no more.
Surely, also today the prince of darkness has his throne and dwelling-place. He has them in the midst of the Christian world; and he has succeeded in charming the minds and the imagination of men by upholding before them the image of the modern Aesculapius, called Humanity! Also today the church is established where Satan has his throne; and its relation to the world is not so much different from that of the church in Pergamos. May she be found faithful, as was that congregation of the early church.
Commendable Features Of The Church In Pergamos
For this may be said of that little church in Pergamos, in the first place: she was faithful. Read: "...and thou holdest fast my name." Such is the testimony which Jesus gives of the church in this particular letter.
The question might be raised whether it were not advisable for the little church to migrate out of that wicked city where the devil had his throne and dwelling-place. It might be more safe for it in other cities in the vicinity. But that is not the message John must deliver to the church, nor is it the attitude of Scripture in general. Mark, we are dealing with the church as a whole, not with the individual Christian. The Word of God does not approve of the dangerous worldly-mindedness of many a Christian who, for material advantages and gain, separates himself from the communion of saints and lives in isolation from the church of Christ in the midst of the world. Much rather does it call our attention to the sad history of Lot's family in such cases. On the other hand, the Scriptures never tell us that the church of Christ as such must emigrate from the world and live in literal and local isolation. This were, indeed, impossible. No, "In the world, though not of the world" is the rule which holds for the church of all ages. And therefore, the church of Pergamos is not commanded to leave its wicked and devilish surroundings, but rather to be faithful to the name of its King and Savior. And faithful the church had been in the past. It had kept the faith and held fast the name of Jesus.
Naturally, this must be understood in contrast with the environment of the little church. In the city the name of Jesus was not honored and confessed. It was the name of Aesculapius and of Caesar that was on the lips of all. And in the midst of these idolatrous surroundings they held fast to the only name that is given under heaven for salvation: they confessed the name of Jesus Christ. They kept the faith. They were not seduced. They were not shaken in their faith and hope and love, but they clung to the name of Him Who walketh in the midst of the golden candlesticks.
Still more the Lord witnesses of them in their favor. They were not only a believing church, but they also publicly confessed the name of their King and Lord. It were conceivable that they kept the faith and clung to the name of Jesus, but that they kept it all for themselves, that they lived in seclusion, and that they carefully avoided an open clash with their wicked environment. But once more, this is not the calling of the church of Christ. Christ does not establish His church in the world in order that it should exist in oblivion, hiding itself in some secluded little corner of the world, or seeking refuge on some solitary little island, far from society. It is in the world to let its light shine, to witness of the grace and the glory of its King. It may not hold its peace, even when the world threatens with devilish fury. The church must confess; and not to confess is to deny. And also in this respect the church of Pergamos had been faithful. For the Lord testifies of it: "...and hast not denied my faith . " They confessed, therefore; they were not silent. How could they be? There they lived, in the midst of an environment which proclaimed a false god as savior and a man as their lord and god. Would it not have been unfaithful of the church, had they been silent and kept their peace? Would it not have been a dishonor of the name of their Lord and King if they had left the imression that they lacked the courage to confess Him? No, this they could never do. Over against the cry of the town, "Aesculapius is savior," they boldly maintained: "There is no other name than that of Jesus." When the world proclaimed that Caesar was god, and as such was to be worshipped by all, they could not submit; but, opposing the world also in this respect, they confessed that Christ was King, that the Lord God, and He alone, is worthy of worship and adoration. And thus it is also the calling of the church today to let the testimony go forth over against the Man-worship of Humanism and Modernism: "Jesus Christ is King, and He alone is the Savior of the world!"
But still more is implied in this faithful confession of the name of Jesus over against the world on the part of the church in Pergamos. For the Lord speaks of days of tribulation and persecution which the church had already experienced in the past, in the days of Antipas, one of Christ's faithful witnesses, who had been killed among them, where Satan dwelled. Nor does it cause us surprise that the world could not tolerate the witnesses of Christ in the city. Surely, the church may escape the bitter hatred of the world and persecution from its side for a long time, as long as it will only be silent and unfaithful and hide its light under a bushel, as long as it does not condemn the world in its self-made religion and Man-worship, and as long as it does not boldly confess the name of Jesus. But no sooner does the church realize its calling and faithfully unfurl the banner of its King, than the hatred of the world against that detestable Jesus of Nazareth and His "blood theology" will manifest itself in bitter persecution. Thus it had been in Pergamos in the past. Nothing else is known of Antipas, mentioned in this letter, than that he was a faithful witness and had been killed for the testimony he had given. But surely, this incident is proof of the fact that the church had experienced dark and evil days, days of tribulation, even as the church in Smyrna experienced. And in all this they had been faithful, and had not denied the name of Jesus.
Pergamos Defective In Discipline
From what we have considered of the church in Pergamos thus far, we would be inclined to draw the conclusion that it was a beautiful and most perfect specimen of a church, in no respect inferior to the congregation of Smyrna. And we would surely not anticipate any form of rebuke in this epistle which is addressed to it. Also here we have the picture of a church in tribulation in the midst of a world which cannot tolerate its existence, yet flourishing spiritually and faithful to the Lord their King.
Yet the Lord holds a few things against the church of Pergamos.
In order to understand how this is possible, we must notice, in the first place, that there is a noticeable difference between this church and the one in Smyrna. The latter was right in the midst of tribulation; in fact, the darkest days for it were still in the future. But with Pergamos this is somewhat different: the Lord refers to the days of Antipas as belonging to the past. The church still lived in the midst of a hostile world, to be sure. It had experienced the hatred of that world and had been persecuted for the testimony they had given. But evidently the first wave of fury had passed. Pergamos had lived through its attack from Satan and the world. Now it was a time of relief for the church. And history plainly shows that such times are dangerous for the church of Christ.
In close connection with this fact stands another, namely, that the church in Pergamos was defective in discipline, the discipline of its own members. This is a feature not mentioned of the church in Smyrna. In fact, I imagine that there was not much occasion for discipline in that congregation, for the simple reason that it was a church in tribulation. But in Pergamos discipline had become lax, while there was abundant occasion that called for strictness in this respect. No, the situation in Pergamos was not as serious as that in Ephesus. But the defect was of such a nature, nevertheless, as to call for a rebuke from the Lord. Discipline is the Christ ordained guard in the church of Jesus. It is the sentinel, standing watch by the purity of doctrine according to the Word of God and by the holiness of the sacraments, as well as by the walk of believers. Where that sentinel is not placed on guard, or where he is sleeping while on duty, the church is exposed to the evil, seducing influence of false doctrine, as well as to the degenerating influence of the world upon the life of its individual members.
In Pergamos that sentinel was fast asleep. For the Lord reprovingly calls its attention to the fact that it has there "them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication," and "them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes," in like manner. There were, therefore, evil men in the church of Pergamos, men who did not belong to the church in Spirit and in truth; and they were allowed in the midst of the congregation.
The reason why the church was lax in disciplining these men is not revealed. Hardly would it seem conceivable that the church was not aware of their existence in its midst: for they must have labored for the spread of their evil influence. Perhaps it was afraid that since the congregation already had to cope with so many difficulties and had a hard battle to fight against the world, the disciplining of its own members would weaken it still more. Perhaps the excuse was given which is so often offered for laxity of discipline in our own time, namely, that the church must not cast out, but save. "The church must save, and not reject," thus we often hear in our own time. Who knows whether these evil members, if they are borne with patience and longsuffering, will not come to repentance. On the basis of such false excuses evil men are tolerated within the church of Christ. Some churches defend the membership of those who belong to secret societies on that very basis. If only they are in the church once, they may be persuaded to sever their connection with the lodge. Men who hold a false doctrine are tolerated, and the church which does not exercise discipline over them is excused, because, so they say, true faith is after all not a matter of doctrine, but of the heart, and it would be cruel and indicative of a "holier-than-thou" spirit of intolerance if such men would be excommunicated from the church of Christ. We are perhaps acquainted with the flimsy arguments which are used in defense of laxity of discipline. Jesus, however, will not have it so. And whatever may have been the cause of this laxity of discipline in the church of Pergamos, the Lord holds it against them, and in His letter speaks of it rebukingly.
Exactly in what manner these evil men in the church of Pergamos had made themselves proper objects of discipline the letter does not tell us. There were Nicolaitanes here, as in Ephesus, where they were hated and not tolerated. In this letter, however, we receive some more definite information about them. They are compared with Balaam, that most abominable of all false prophets pictured in the Old Testament. Second to Judas, who betrayed the Savior for thirty pieces of silver, it is perhaps difficult to think of a meaner, more abominable and debased creature mentioned in Scripture than this Balaam, this agent of the devil.
You are acquainted, of course, with the history of this man. Sent for by Balak, king of the Moabites, to curse the children of Israel that are encamped in the plains of Moab, Balaam is attracted by the prospect, though he knows it is wicked and against the will of Jehovah, for the simple reason that there is money in it. Repeatedly the hypocrite implores the Lord to let him go with the king's ambassadors, till finally because of his importunity Jehovah grants him the wish of his heart and lets him walk in his evil way. On the way thither he receives another warning through his mute beast, but without effect. He travels on, arriving at the place of his destination; and beholding from the heights the children of Israel, he cannot but pronounce upon them the blessing of Jehovah which the Spirit gives him to speak. And in spite of his own miserly soul and the provocation of the king of Moab, he must confess that he cannot curse whom the Lord Jehovah would bless. And what now does this debased instrument of Satan do? He gives the king some practical advice; and, according to Numbers 31:16, he counsels him how he may shrewdly bring destruction upon the people of God. And through his counsel he causes the people of Israel to commit fornication in the service of Baal-peor and to sacrifice to Moab's idols. That was the advice of Balaam. And its immediate object was the obliteration of the distinctive character of the people of God, their amalgamation with the people of Moab.
In the text these Nicolaitanes are compared to that wicked Balaam of the Old Testament, who offended the people of God. It is not impossible that these Nicolaitanes were antinomians, people who deliberately taught that it mattered not how the Christian lived here upon earth since Christ fulfilled the law and the old Adam was doomed to destruction anyway. They were not very scrupulous as to their own lives. They would feast with the heathen and eat of their sacrifices. In a word, they were a class of .people that threatened by their doctrine and life to obliterate the distinction between the church and the world in Pergamos, even as the counsel of Balaam was calculated to wipe out the characteristic difference between the people of Israel and the Moabites.
Thus, the church of Pergamos, by allowing these Nicolaitanes to exist in the church, was in grave danger of losing its distinctive character as a church of Christ. The purpose and subtilty of the devil in this scheme is transparent. In the recent past he had made an attempt to wipe out the church and make it unfaithful to its Lord by subjecting it to bloody persecution. But in this he had failed. For the time being he now abandoned this course of action, in order to try the method of corrupting the church and thus wiping out the distinction between the church and the world.
I think that in this respect the epistle of Christ to the church in Pergamos has a great lesson to teach us. Is not obliteration of all distinction and amalgamation of the church and the world characteristic of all that the devil does today? Are we not told that it matters not what form of doctrine we embrace, if only we will all be brothers? Is the devil not busily engaged in socializing and secularizing the church of Christ? And, on the other hand, is not the church of Christ growing more lax in discipline and weaker in its hold upon the truth of the Word every year? I am convinced that such are the conditions indeed. And therefore the church in Pergamos in this respect, at least, is a true picture of the church of today.
Exhortation And Threat
The message which the Lord instructs John to write to that congregation may also be applied to us: "Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth."
This sword had already been mentioned in the Self-announcement with which the Lord introduces this letter to Pergamos. Of this we read in verse 12: "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges." It is evident, therefore, that the threat of judgment which the church in Pergamos receives is in harmony with that Self-announcement of the Lord. He presents Himself as the One out of Whose mouth proceeds the sharp two-edged sword.
The significance of this sword we pointed out in a former discussion. In brief, it denotes the power and authority of the One Who walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks to execute judgment and destroy the evil-doers by the Word of His mouth. He is Judge supreme, and He rules also against the evil men in His own church, destroying them by the sword that proceeds out of His mouth. That sword is His sovereign and powerful Word, executing judgment. An earthly judge can pronounce a verdict of guilty and announce the sentence of punishment; but his word has no power; it has not the power to inflict that punishment and to enforce his sentence. Not so, however, with the Word of Jesus. If He, as the mighty King-Judge, expresses a sentence upon anyone, the very word of the sentence is the power that inflicts the punishment and realizes the judgment expressed. It is the sword that executes the sentence. In this light, then, as the King-Judge in the midst of the church, He announces Himself to the congregation in Pergamos. She has in her midst evil men, who aim at the destruction of the church by their evil doctrine and practice. And these men must be rooted out from her midst. Hence, His appearance with the sharp two-edged sword proceeding from His mouth is in accord with the condition of the congregation.
Before the Lord comes to exercise the power and authority of that sharp sword, however, He sends the message to the church: "Repent!"
These words are not primarily intended for the evil men who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. It is not they, but the congregation that is addressed through its angel. It is the church as a whole that is guilty and worthy of rebuke because of her laxity in discipline. And therefore of this she must repent. She may not make light of the glory of her King and be careless in regard to the well-being of the church by tolerating these Nicolaitanes continuing in her midst. The call to repentance in this case is equivalent to the call to exercise proper discipline over the Nicolaitanes in the bosom of the church.
And if they do not repent and cut off these evil members, the Lord threatens that He Himself will come, and that too, quickly, to make war with them. Let us notice, in the first place, that the church is not threatened with the removal of the candlestick, as was the case with Ephesus. Her condition was not as precarious as that of the church which was losing her first love. The congregation is to be saved even though the Lord must come with His judgment. Exactly what would be implied in this coming of the Lord to the church in Pergamos, the text does not indicate. Most probably we may think in this case of temporal judgments with which the Lord will visit the church in order to chastise them for their laxity in discipline and to cut out the evil men from their midst. An analogous case we may find in the congregation of Corinth. She also was loath to banish evil men from her midst, and permitted the desecration of the Lord's Supper. And she too was visited by the Lord with many a temporal chastisement. Where the true church still exists and is as strong as the congregation in Pergamos, her sole defect being a weakness in discipline, the Lord visits His church with temporal judgment, in order that she may repent and excommunicate the impenitent evil-doer.
Comfort And Encouragement
But this is not the last word. On the contrary, many were the faithful in the church of Pergamos. And for them the Lord closes with a word of comfort and encouragement. To them that overcome the Lord has a two-fold promise.
In the first place, He promises them that they shall be fed with the hidden manna. And, secondly, He promises that they shall receive a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written, which no man can read except he that receiveth it.
The figure of the hidden manna is not difficult to understand. We all are acquainted with the history of God's people from which this symbol is derived. In the desert during their long journey to the promised land, Jehovah fed His people miraculously with bread from heaven. Every day, except on the sabbath, He rained His manna from heaven. And in the Gospel according to John we are told that this manna which rained from heaven in the wilderness was not the real manna, but that Christ is the true bread of life, of which the manna in the desert was only typical. But even as the people of God in the old dispensation were fed with the material manna, raining from heaven, so the people of God are spiritually nourished with the true manna, the bread of life, which nourishes them unto everlasting life. In Christ is their all: their justification, their sanctification, and their complete redemption. All the grace they need to be delivered from the power of sin and death and to appear finally before the Father in everlasting glory, to serve Him in perfection, is only in Christ Jesus their Lord. He is the hidden manna. By the Spirit, through the medium of faith, Christ imparts Himself unto His people who have become one plant with Him. And therefore, to the faithful in Pergamos the Lord promises a full supply of the hidden manna, which will strengthen them in their battle against Satan and his throne and which will finally lead them on to perfection, when they shall have appropriated all the blessings of salvation completely. Because of their mystical union with Him Who walketh in the midst of the golden candlesticks, they shall be fed with the hidden manna., and eternally their souls shall be satisfied.
As to the symbol of the white stone, we can perhaps interpret it most correctly by recalling the ancient custom of expressing a verdict upon him that was arraigned in court by means of two stones, a white and a black. Each one of the jury members would be given a white and a black stone. In case he deemed the accused guilty, he would cast the black stone in a vessel; if judged innocent, the defendant would have a white stone cast in his favor. The black stone, then, was a symbol of guilt and condemnation, the white stone of innocence and justification. By promising the faithful in Pergamos a white stone, the Lord assures them of their final justification and purification in the day of the Lord. They need not be alarmed by the appearance of that two-edged sword: for they shall receive the white stone in proof of their perfect justification and glorification; and they shall be presented to the Father without blemish, without spot or wrinkle, shining forth in the perfection of their new being.
In close connection with this white stone is the new name written upon it, which they only shall be able to read who receive it. The name in Scripture is expressive of one's being and individual nature. That peculiar character of each person that causes him to differ from his fellow human being is his name. It is therefore but natural that in perfection the children of God shall receive a new name, in harmony with the perfect renewal of their being. In this dispensation their name so frequently spells imperfection and misery, imperfection both physically and spiritually. In principle, indeed, they already possess their new name in Christ. But the glory of that new name is so largely covered up by the darkness of their old name of sin that frequently it hardly becomes manifest. Sin controls them often. Besides, the world hates them and adds to their outward misery in this dispensation. But in the eternal kingdom this shall be different. If they persevere and overcome and are faithful unto death, they shall once enter into glory everlasting. And in that perfect state the glory of their new being shall shine forth in all its splendor uninterruptedly.
Still more: not all the saints shall be alike, so that there should be an endless monotony of identically the same beings. The difference between one individual and another shall not be obliterated in perfection. On the contrary, there shall be an infinitely rich variety of individuals. Personality shall also be in heaven. Individual character shall even be emphasized to perfection. That is why the text has it that only he who receives the name shall know it. Even here, on the earth, it is true that after all a person knows himself only; and never shall we be able to penetrate into the hidden depths of another's individuality. The greater and deeper the person, the more difficult it becomes fully to explain him. The shallower and more insignificant a person, the more easily he is scrutinized. In perfection personality shall be emphasized and developed to its highest glory, so that each saint shall know his own name only. Thus God shall be glorified in the new humanity, in which the image of God shall shine forth in all its divine fulness and beauty, radiating, as it were, from the Lord Jesus Christ into all the members of His body, and reaching its full realization and manifestation not in each individual saint, but rather in the harmony of the whole. Each one only knows his own name. Each particular child of God shall then manifest his own peculiar shade of God's image. And together with the new creation, they shall all reveal in one grand and most beautiful harmony the wonders of God's image.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
What doth the Spirit say?
Watch, and do not remove the sentinel of discipline, allowing evil men in the midst of the church of Christ. Never allow them to obliterate the distinction between the church and the world, as Balaam tried to erase the line of demarcation between Israel and Moab. For the rest, in the midst of the world, where Satan has his throne and dwelling-place, the faithful must always uphold the honor of their King.
For he that overcometh shall be given to eat of the hidden manna, so that he shall be satisfied with the blessings of salvation in eternal life. He that overcometh shall be given a white stone, the stone of his justification and purification in the blood of the Lamb. He shall be given a new name, expressive of his new and eternal being, a name which he alone shall be able to know, a name that determines exactly his personal place in that blessed throng that shall once gather around the throne of God and the Lamb and reveal in all its fulness and splendor the image of our God.