THE CHURCHES FIRST IN JOHN’S FINAL WORD
When we come to the last part of a writing, we know that we have the final word of the author. We can see this in John’s writings. In his Gospel we do not have much sense of being in the heavens. The same is true of his Epistles. With Revelation, however, we are at least at the front door of the heavens! If we are not in, we can at least stretch our necks and look around! What a view! How much is going on! We are sitting before a universally wide television screen. We can see Christ’s ministry in the heavens, this ministry which is now being carried out on earth by John’s mending ministry.
In this final book there are twenty-two chapters, but only three positive major things are covered. The first is the local churches, represented by the seven golden lampstands (chapters one to three). The second is the open heavens (chapters four to twenty), unveiling God’s universal administration. The last is the New Jerusalem (chapters twenty-one to twenty-two), the ultimate consummation of the churches.
It is interesting that Revelation begins with the golden lampstands, the local churches. I used to consider why John did not first show us the heavens opened, with God sitting on the throne. This seemed more logical, since Christ has ascended to the heavens. Then he could portray for us how Christ came forward, took the scroll of the new testament, and opened it. After that scene, the view of the churches could follow.
John chose to show us the churches before unveiling the open heaven. Here is an indication that the churches come before the heavens. The churches are better than the heavens! If they are not above the heavens, at least they are before the heavens! Today we are in the church. Where are the churches? We may answer that the churches are in the heavens. This answer is only partially true. If the churches are only in the heavens, then the church is no greater than the heavens. But the churches are superior to the heavens! Why do I say this? Eventually God will leave the heavens and stay in the consummation of the churches. In Revelation 21 we are told that the New Jerusalem, God’s tabernacle, comes down out of heaven (vv. 3, 10). God comes to stay with His chosen people, who are the components of the church.
We do not realize how precious the church is to God the Father. We are in Him and in the church, yet we do not have much appreciation of the church. God is homesick in the heavens! To be homesick is to be away from home and to keep thinking about home and to long to be there instead of somewhere else. God is in the heavens, but that is not His home. He longs to be with us. We are His home.
John places the churches before the heavens because in his speaking, as in God’s, the most treasured thing is the churches. In God’s consideration the churches have the preeminence in the whole universe. The first item in God’s seeing is the churches. The book of Revelation is the final word of God. In His final word, the churches come first. Some day you will realize that there is nothing in the whole earth, even in the whole universe, more precious to God than the churches.
CHRIST IN THE MIDST OF THE CHURCHES
In Revelation 2 and 3 Christ is shown walking in the midst of the churches. How many churches are there on the earth? The seven mentioned here are representative of all the churches. If He is walking in the midst of seven churches, He is surely walking in the midst of all of them! We are here from several different localities. Do you realize that the Lord Jesus has often been in your locality, walking in the church? The Lord has often been here to visit the church in New York! He has passed again and again through Newton, Miami, and Goldsboro!
(The Mending Ministry of John, Chapter 13, by Witness Lee)