|Life-Study of Revelation, Chapter 16|
B. Proud of Being Rich
In verse 17 the Lord says, “You say, I am rich and have become rich and have need of nothing.” The degraded recovered church (“assembly”) boasts of her riches (mainly in the knowledge of doctrines). She does not realize that she is poor in life, blind in sight, and naked in conduct. Therefore, as we shall see, she needs gold for her poverty, eyesalve for her blindness, and white garments for her nakedness, as mentioned in the following verse.
The most outstanding feature of those in the degraded assemblies is their pride. They think they know everything. Undoubtedly, they have much knowledge in doctrine. They do know the Bible better than those in the denominations. Although, in a sense, they know the Bible, what they have is mere knowledge. Because they have this knowledge, they consider themselves rich. But the Lord says that they actually are poor. They are not poor in knowledge, but they are poor in the riches of Christ. They have the knowledge concerning Christ, but they are poor in the enjoyment of the riches of Christ. Shortly after coming to this country, I was invited to speak in three Brethren assemblies. After speaking there and hearing what they said in response, I was completely convinced of the truth of the Lord’s word to the church in Laodicea. If you were to stay with them for a short while, you would sense that they are proud of their knowledge. In their conversation they condemn the ignorance of others, thinking that they know everything. However, after staying with them, you would realize the poverty among them. They simply do not realize the riches of Christ or even talk about them.
In the eyes of the Lord, the degraded assemblies are wretched because they are proud of being rich in the vain knowledge of doctrines, but are sorely poor in the experience of the riches of Christ.
The degraded recovered church is also miserable because she is naked, blind, and full of shame and darkness.
The proud degraded church is poor in the experience of Christ and in the spiritual reality of God’s economy. She mostly cares for vain knowledge, but scarcely cares for the living experiences of Christ. This is real poverty, the poverty that makes her wretched and miserable.
In the eyes of the Lord, the church in Laodicea is not only poor in the riches of Christ, but also blind in genuine spiritual things. She does not have true spiritual insight. Although she has some amount of knowledge about spiritual things, she has no insight.
We Christians have all received Christ as our objective righteousness to cover us like a robe. This is for our justification before God. After being justified in Christ, we need to live by Christ and to live out Christ, that He may be our subjective righteousness as another splendid robe to cover our daily walk. Due to the lack of the subjective experience of Christ, the degraded recovered church is naked in the eyes of the Lord. The vain knowledge of doctrines vanishes under the flaming eyes of the Lord, leaving those who hold them nakedly exposed. Only the experienced Christ can be our covering under His judging eyes.
H. About to Be Vomited out of the Lord’s Mouth
In verse 16 the Lord says, “Because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of My mouth.” When the recovered church becomes degraded, she is in danger, unless she repents to be hot in seeking the rich experiences of the Lord, of being vomited out of the Lord’s mouth. To be vomited out of the Lord’s mouth is to lose the enjoyment of all that the Lord is to His church.
I. The Lord Standing at the Door and Knocking
In verse 20 the Lord says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” “The door” is not the door of individuals, but the door of the church. The church in Laodicea has knowledge, but she does not have the presence of the Lord. The Lord as the Head of the church is standing outside the degraded church, knocking at her door. The degraded recovered church must realize this!
III. THE LORD’S COUNSEL
In verse 18 we see the Lord’s counsel to the church in Laodicea: “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire that you may be rich, and white garments that you may be clothed and that the shame of your nakedness may not be manifested, and eyesalve to anoint your eyes that you may see.” To “buy” requires the paying of a price. The degraded recovered church needs to pay a price for the gold, white garments, and eyesalve, which she desperately needs. After having contact with the Brethren assemblies, I realized that probably no one among them understands what it means to pay a price. Perhaps they have never heard that they must pay some price in order to experience the riches of Christ. They know the knowledge and doctrine, but they do not know how to pay the price. They know how to learn, but they do not know how to buy. They know certain “truths,” but they do not know the cost of experiencing the riches of Christ.
A. To Buy from the Lord Gold Refined by Fire
Firstly, the Lord counsels the church in Laodicea to buy “gold refined by fire.” In the Bible, our working faith (Gal. 5:6) is likened to gold (1 Pet. 1:7), and the divine nature of God, which is the divinity of Christ, is also typified by gold (Exo. 25:11). We partake of the divine nature of God by faith (2 Pet. 1:1, 4-5). The degraded recovered church has the knowledge of the doctrines concerning Christ, but not much living faith to partake of the divine element of Christ. She needs to pay the price to gain the golden faith through the fiery trials that she may participate in the real “gold,” which is Christ Himself as the life element to His Body. Thus, she may become a pure golden lampstand (1:20) for the building of the golden New Jerusalem (21:18).
If we have experience, we shall realize that all three things which the Lord counsels the church in Laodicea to buy—gold, white garments, and eyesalve—are just the Lord Himself. As we have seen, in typology, or in biblical figure, gold signifies two things: God’s divine nature and the living faith by which we appreciate and appropriate the divine nature. These two things are combined. If we do not have the living faith to appreciate and apply the divine nature, it cannot be ours. The divine nature can only become our enjoyment through our living faith. Christ is the embodiment of the divine nature, and He is also our living faith. If we have faith, then we can participate in the divine nature. This means that we must have Christ. We must pay the cost and tell the Lord, saying, “Lord, I have much knowledge of the Bible truths, but I admit that I don’t have much of You. Lord, I would rather have You than mere knowledge or vain teachings. Lord, You are the real gold, the embodiment of the divine nature. In order to appreciate and apply this divine nature, I need living faith. Yet, Lord, I don’t have this living faith, but I look unto You. Lord, be my living faith. I want to live by You as my faith, the faith of the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20). If you speak to the Lord in this way, He will immediately say, “All right, if you would gain Me, you must pay the price. There is a certain thing that I want you to drop because it is a hindrance and a frustration from My becoming your enjoyment.” Dropping these things is the paying of the price. Many of us have experienced the Lord in this way. Often the Lord has said, “I am here. Do you want Me, or do you want that thing? If you want to keep that thing, then I shall stay away. Your hands are full of many things. You must drop them, empty your hands, and then grasp Me. Then you will have Me as your enjoyment.” Only when we pay the price can we gain Christ.
Consider the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:8: “But surely I count also all things to be loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, on account of whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them refuse that I may gain Christ.” For Paul, there remained nothing except Christ. He spent everything for Christ, paying the full price. Whatever Paul had, he spent it to gain Christ. Today, we must follow this spirit to pay any price, even the cost of our lives, in order to gain Christ.
We can never separate living faith from the divine nature. Although this is difficult to explain doctrinally, we know experientially that when we have the living faith, we enjoy the divine nature. And when we are in the divine nature, we surely have this living faith. Hence, these two things are combined and are both signified by gold. The church in Laodicea needs this gold—the divine nature applied, appropriated, by the living faith which is Christ Himself. If we would gain this, we must pay the price.
B. To Buy from the Lord White Garments
Secondly, the Lord counseled the church in Laodicea to buy “white garments” that they “may be clothed and that the shame” of their “nakedness may not be manifested.” In figure, garments signify conduct. “White garments” here refer to conduct approvable to the Lord, which is the Lord Himself lived out of the church, and which is required by the degraded recovered church to cover her nakedness. We pointed out in message fourteen that these white garments are not Christ as our objective righteousness for justification. Rather, the white garments are Christ as our subjective righteousness, Christ lived out of our being. The Christ who is lived out of us will be our second garment for us to be approved by the Lord. This is not for salvation but for being chosen. We all need this second garment. When we have living faith and participate in the divine nature, this divine nature will eventually come out of us to be our living. This living is Christ lived out of our being, and this is the second garment which gives us the standing and the qualification to be approved by Christ. This garment will cover our nakedness. Yes, we all have been justified and have been covered by the first garment, the best robe put on the prodigal son in Luke 15. But after being justified, we must love the Lord, be on fire, and be absolutely for the Lord. If we are this kind of Christian, then we shall have the living faith to participate in the rich, divine nature, which will become the Christ lived out of our being as the second garment to cover our nakedness.
If, after being justified, you do not love the Lord and live by, for, and with Him, you are naked. It is difficult to explain this doctrinally, but experientially we all may realize that a brother who does not love the Lord or live by the Lord is shameful and is naked. He does not have the lovely Christ as his covering. He believes in Christ and he belongs to Christ, but since he neither loves Him nor lives by Him, he is naked in both the eyes of the Lord and in the eyes of other believers. He does not have Christ as his beautiful covering. We must pay the price for this second garment, the Christ lived out of our being. This is the subjective Christ, the very Christ experienced by us in a subjective way. Do not try to understand this by the exercise of your mentality. Check this word with your experience. Although this is foreign to your mentality, it is more than familiar to your spirit and to your experience. According to your experience, you can testify that, on the one hand, you may have the assurance that you are justified, but, on the other hand, have the sense that you are naked. Undoubtedly, as a child of God, you have been justified, redeemed, saved, and regenerated, and you are a member of Christ. But, on the other hand, you sense that you are naked, not having Christ lived out of you to be your beautiful covering. Inwardly, you condemn yourself for this. If you check this word with your experience, you will see that it is true. Thus, we all must pay the price, saying to the Lord, “Lord, whatever the cost, I’ll pay the price to have You live out of my being. Lord, I want to have You as my living. I don’t want to behave myself, correct myself, or improve myself. Lord, I like to have You lived out of me. Day by day, I want You to live out of my being to be my outward living. Lord, be not only my inward life but also my outward living.” If you pray this way to the Lord, He will become your outward covering, the second garment for you to be approved and chosen by Him. There is no need to wait for the coming day. Even today you may have the assurance that you have been approved and chosen. Therefore, when that day comes, He will surely say, “Well done! Come with Me to enjoy your portion and to fight with Me against the army of the Antichrist.”
C. To Buy from the Lord the Eyesalve
Thirdly, the Lord counsels the church in Laodicea to buy from Him eyesalve to anoint their eyes that they may see. The “eyesalve” needed to “anoint” their eyes must refer to the anointing Spirit (1 John 2:27), who is also the Lord Himself as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). Because she has been distracted by the dead knowledge of letters, the degraded recovered church also needs this kind of eyesalve for her blindness. For all three items the Lord counsels her to buy, she must pay the price. We have pointed out that the eyesalve is the anointing Spirit. Spiritual insight is always related to the Spirit. We need more Spirit, not more knowledge. We do not need many doctrines—we need more Spirit to anoint our eyes and the depths of our inner being that we may have insight to see things from within. With this eyesalve, this anointing, we may have both foresight and deep insight to see things thoroughly. Then we shall say, “Lord Jesus, because I now see what a treasure You are, I am ready to pay any price.” Suppose the cost of an item in a department store is one thousand dollars. If this item is a valuable diamond worth five thousand dollars, you would not think that the price is too high. Rather, you would think that it is cheap. Why are so many Christians unwilling to pay the price for Christ? It is because they do not see what a treasure Christ is. They do not see the preciousness, the worth, and the value of Christ. But once our eyes have been anointed by the divine, spiritual eyesalve, we shall say, “It is worthwhile for me to pay any price for Christ. The price is too low. My self, my future, and my life are all worth nothing. I actually pay nothing to gain Christ who is everything.” If we would see this, we need eyesalve.
Now we realize that the gold, the garment, and the eyesalve are all Christ. Christ is everything. Our need today is Christ. Yes, in His recovery the Lord has given us a great deal of light. Our intention, however, is not to give knowledge to people. Our intention in these messages is to help the Lord’s people to be enlightened that they might see the value, worth, and preciousness of Christ and, by having this insight, they might be willing to pay any price to gain Him. It is worthwhile for me to pay the cost of my family, my future, my destiny, and my whole life for Christ. If I would pay all this, the price is still too cheap. Paul said that all the things he counted loss for Christ were just dung, dog food (Phil. 3:8). In the church life in the Lord’s recovery we are not for doctrine or merely for the so-called truths. We are here for the rich Christ. In all these messages we are not dispensing vain doctrines. The goal of these messages is to minister some ointment that people’s eyes may be anointed to see the preciousness of Christ and be attracted to Him. The degraded church does not need doctrine; she needs eyesalve. She needs revelation, vision, and great grace.
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