"The Day of the Lord"
THE EPISTLES TO THE SEVEN
We now come to chapters 2 and 3: which will find their true interpretation and fulfilment when used for special instruction by the people on the Earth during the Day of the Lord; by Israel, and especially by the Remnant. We have said enough on this point already, to make this sufficiently clear.
We shall note, in these Epistles, constant references to the condition of things as described in this book. References which cannot be explained either by Church History or tradition; but which are quite simple and clear when read in the light of future history, as prophetically recorded in the Apocalypse.
The difference between these Epistles and all other Epistles in the New Testament is so great, that one wonders how it was possible for them ever to be supposed as being addressed to the Church of God, the members of the Body of Christ! If it were not that we have all been brought up from earliest infancy to believe it, we could never have taken them as having anything in common with those addressed in either the earlier or later Pauline Epistles.
Everything is different: Circumstances, standpoint, references to the Old Testament, terminology, phraseology, scope, style: everything points to a different order of things altogether; yea, to a different Dispensation.
There is nothing in them about Christianity as such; nothing of our standing in Christ; nothing that can be taken, even by application, as referring to our present position as being in Christ; perfect, and complete in Him. Nothing about the "no condemnation," or no separation of Rom. 8. But all is warning or reproof. Promises are made only to the "overcomer," and to those who shall "endure unto the end." It is clear that those who are "blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ" (Eph. 1:3) cannot be those to whom these seven Epistles are addressed. They are written to those who are under a covenant of works, and not to those who are under the covenant of grace. And those who interpret them of the church of God now must greatly lower that standing which He has given them in Christ, or else be altogether ignorant of it.
No! we keep our own truth as written to the churches by the Holy Spirit through Paul; and leave that which is equally truth written to other and different Assemblies by Christ through John. It is so very improbable that the covenant of works under which these Assemblies are addressed could co-exist, at one and the same time, with those under the covenant of grace, that we seem to be shut up to a future interpretation; when all these expressions, and references, and warnings and threatenings, and promises (of which history knows nothing), shall find their fulfilment and reach their end. Further comments may be left to be made as we consider the words of the Epistles themselves.
First, note the structure of the seven Epistles as a whole, and the seven lessons based on the seven stages of Israel's history. This separates them into 3 and 4; the numbers into which 7 is always divided.
In the first three Epistles the references are to Israel's history, as recorded in the Old Testament, and are from the period when Israel was in the Wilderness. All Israel is included.
In the last four Epistles the references are to the period when the people were in the Land, and Israel and Judah are mentioned alternately.
Failure is the great subject; and the causes which led to that failure. This is the basis of the great lesson which will be needed for another time of Trial, Testing, and Tribulation; which will end, not in failure, but in glory. This division into three and four is further marked by the injunction and the promise with which each of the seven Epistles closes.
In the first three, which refer to the Wilderness, the Promise follows
the Injunction; while in the last four which refer to the Land, the
order is reversed, and the Injunction follows the Promise. We now proceed
to look at each of these seven Epistles separately.