THE LEAKAGE AND THE BEGINNING OF THE RECOVERY
The Bible was completed by the end of the first century. The final books were John’s writings—the Gospel, the Epistles, and Revelation. But from that time a leakage began because the vessel became broken. It continued through the second and third centuries and on, until by the end of the sixth century the Catholic Church and the papal system were fully established.
The years from about A.D. 500 to 1500 are called the Dark Ages. All the truths in the New Testament had leaked away. The Bible itself was locked up. The common people were told that they were not in a position nor did they have the capability to read the Scriptures; they needed the pope and the Church to interpret it for them. For a thousand years there was darkness. Then the Reformation began, with Martin Luther boldly taking the lead.
The Reformation marks the beginning of the recovery. Do you know what book the recovery began with? It was Romans, the first book of Paul’s completing ministry. Luther, however, did not recover everything in Romans. We have since seen far more. But we do not despise him. In his time he was a person to be really appreciated. He had the boldness to declare that justification is by faith. That was the beginning of the Lord’s recovery.
Following justification by faith, one truth after another was recovered. This is the reason many seeking Christians began to dispute with each other. Because one would see one thing and another something else, each would fight for what he had seen. Many things were recovered. But, until these recent years none of the items in the verses listed at the beginning of this message were recovered.
ITEMS IN THE ULTIMATE RECOVERY
From these verses we now see that the church in a locality is a lampstand and that each city has only one lampstand (Rev. 1:11-18, 20). Did you ever hear that Christ has promised to give the overcomer to eat of the tree of life (2:7)? Many Christians think the tree of life was only in Genesis and has nothing to do with us today. Did you ever hear that you could be a pillar in God’s temple and that you could bear the name of God, and of the New Jerusalem, and the new name of Christ (3:12)? Did you ever hear that God’s Spirit is one but has become seven (4:5)? Even we were not so clear about this before 1969! Did you ever hear that these seven Spirits who are the one Spirit of God are the eyes of the redeeming Lamb (5:6)? Did you ever hear a message that the Lamb’s marriage is come and His wife has made herself ready (19:7-8)? Did you ever hear a message on the spiritual significance of the New Jerusalem, with the throne of God, the flowing river, and the tree of life (22:1-2)? Did you ever hear of the enjoyment of Christ as life by those who wash their robes and thus have the right to the tree of life (22:14)? Did you ever hear “the Spirit and the bride say” together (22:17)? You may have heard Christ and the church linked together, but probably you have not heard the Spirit and the bride linked together.
All these items are different aspects of the Lord’s ultimate recovery. Many of them have been recovered just within these past thirty years, some of them in the United States. Yet they are all in the Bible, especially in the last book of the Bible. They simply remained there, untouched. Five hundred years ago, it was the same with justification by faith. It was there in Romans and Galatians, yet not understood or touched by most of the so-called Christians. Revelation was considered mysterious; it seemed better to leave it alone.
THE BIBLE UNLOCKED AND THEN OPENED
About the same time as the Reformation, movable type was invented in Europe. I am talking about the recovery with the world situation because these two things go together. The reformers made use of the printing press to publish the truths they had seen. The Bible also could be printed instead of being copied by hand. As a result, it was spread among the people. Formerly it had been locked up by the Catholic Church. Martin Luther unlocked it. But the Bible was not opened up much; it was read but not really understood.
It was not till 1830 or so that the great teachers among the Brethren opened up the Bible much more. They came to understand the types and prophecies and the matter of Christ’s second coming in a general way. Gradually the prophecies in Revelation were opened up. But some matters in Revelation they ignored: they did not touch the testimony of Jesus, the lampstands, the seven Spirits, the tree of life, and the spiritual significance of the New Jerusalem. What they studied was mostly the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven bowls, the seven heads, and the ten horns. They were scholars, showing that many of the prophecies were historically fulfilled. The Brethren gave us many basic interpretations of the Bible.
(The World Situation and God's Move, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)