Photo Credit by Flickr/loni gonzalez
FRIDAY MORNING MANNA
March 21, 2014
Are We Preparing for the Latter Rain?– Part XXIII
A Victorious, Overcoming People
See Revelation chapters 2 and 3. There were many Christian churches raised in Asia by the apostles during the first century of the Christian era (C.E.) empowered by Pentecost, the Former Rain. Divine wisdom chose seven of these torepresent the seven periods of the Church during the remainder of time till the close of earth’s probation. In each particular period, salvation was assured only to those who overcome in Christ.
“The names of the seven churches are symbolic of the church in different periods of the Christian era. The number seven indicates completeness, and is symbolic of the fact the messages extend to the end of time, while the symbols used reveal the condition of the churchat different periods in the history of the world.”–Acts of the Apostles, p. 585. These seven different periods and conditions of the Church are thus described:
Ephesus, “first or desirable.” Rev. 2: 1-7. Time: First century from Pentecost. Evidence suggests that John was in charge of the churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor, with headquarters at Ephesus. He was banished to Patmos by Domitian, but was released when Nerva became emperor in A.D. 96. He returned to Ephesus where he died during the reign of Trajan (A.D. 98-117), the only one of the Twelve who wasn’t martyred. The promise to overcomers of this period was: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” Rev. 2: 7.
Smyrna, “myrrh, or sweet-smelling savor.” Rev. 2: 8-11. Time: Close of first century to either 313 when Constantine supported the church, or 323 A.D., the year of his supposed conversion. Under the Roman emperors Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius, persecution was sporadic.
The first systematic persecution was conducted by Decius and Valerian. It reached “unmitigated persecution” under Diocletian for 10 prophetic days (303-313), and his successor, Galerius. The promise to all who remained “faithful unto death,” was: “I will give thee a crown of [eternal] life,” and “shall not be hurt of the second death.” Verses 10, 11; see Rev. 1: 18; 20: 6.
Pergamos, “height,” “elevation.” Rev. 2: 12-17. Time: About 323-538 A.D. A church in exaltation. Balaam’s history is parallel to the church during this period of time. Starting in 508, and fully in 538, the Bishop of Rome consolidated its power as the religious and political leader of Western Europe. To the overcomers in this period the promise was: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving him that receiveth it.” Verse 17.
Thyatira, “sacrifice of contrition.” Rev. 2: 18-29. Time: 538-1798. The Dark Ages of 1,260 years. The leading sin was the “teaching of Jezebel.” In the Bible, woman is symbol of the church. Jer. 6: 2; 12: 6. “In Revelation Babylon is represented as a woman—a figure which is uses in the Bible as a symbol of a church, a virtuous woman representing a pure church, a vile woman an apostate church.”
To the unnumbered millions martyred during this “great tribulation” prophesied by Christ (Matt. 24: 21, 22), the promise was: “He that overcometh, and keepth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron’ as the vessels of a porter shall they shall be broken to shiver And I will give him the Morning Star.” Verses 26-28.
Sardis, “song of joy” or “that which remains.” Rev. 3: 1-6. Time: 1798-1833. The Protestant Reformation started here but eventually lapsed in many ways to the same state of the Roman Church they came out from. “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.” Verses 4, 5.
Philadelphia, “brotherly love.” Rev. 3: 7-13. Time: 1833—1844. In solemn expectation, God’s people in the advent movement expected His return to cleanse the earth in 1844 at the end of the 2300-day prophecy of Daniel 8: 14. To the overcomers of this prophesied great disappointment (Rev. 10: 9, 10) where the prophetic-parable of the Ten Virgins was also fulfilled (Matt. 25: 1-13) God promised: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from My God: and I will write upon him My name.” Verse 12.
Laodicea, “a people judged,” or “judging a people;” to some, “judging a just people.” Rev. 3: 14-21. Time: 1844 to the end of Christ’s final work of cleansing the heavenly sanctuary and pre-advent judgment by the books of heaven which began with the cases of all the righteous dead(Rev. 11: 18) from Adam and moving on to the cases of the living, the precise time no one knows but likely when the Latter Rain is poured out and the final loud cry is given, after which the Holy Spirit fully withdraws from mankind. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and it if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear? ” 1 Pet. 4: 17-18.
Only those who receive whole-heartedly the “straight testimony to the Laodiceans” are heeding “the counsel of the True Witness,” i.e., Christ through the Holy Spirit in the Word, are receiving abundantly of the Early Rain. Humbly, quietly they fight manfully the battle against besetting sins, and are reflecting Christ’s image more fully. They are preparing as well for the Latter Rain, the seal of God, the final loud cry of Revelation 18, the close of probation, the seven last plagues, and, the second coming of Christ!
Finally, in the nearly 2,000-year history of the struggle of the faithful of the church against sin, Satan, and his persecuting agencies on earth, the overcomers in the last days of the fulfilling of the prophecies of Revelation 13, 14, 17, and 18, are those that make up the church triumphant. The 144,000 are a special group of translated saints. What an awesome privilege and accountability to be born in this final generation!
John says: “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the [victory] song of Moses the servant of God, saying, Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints. Rev. 15: 1-3, K.J.V. Victory here is the Greek nikao, “to subdue (lit. or fig.); conquer, overcome, prevail, get the victory.”
The genuine Gospel’s promise to all who have, are, and will overcome in Christ is: “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son, but the fearful [Greek deilos, faithless], and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Rev. 21: 7, 8. . “As contrasted with the first death, which ends human life temporarily now [Rom. 5: 12; 1 John 3: 4], and from which there is a resurrection, both for the ‘just and unjust’ (Acts 24: 15), the second death is the final extinction of sin and unrepentant sinners, for which there is no resurrection. Rev. 20: 14; 21: 8.
What Adam and Eve lost access to—the tree of life in Eden with its fruits vested by the Creator with properties to perpetuate life–they could not transmit genetically to their offspring. All began to die the moment they are born since then, including the righteous—the first martyr being Abel the righteous.
Gen. 4: 1-8. “Overcometh” above, is “continually conquering, or habitually conquers.” He may stumble (see 1 John 2:1) but the upward trajectory of his life from conversion to the present truth, exhibits a picture of amazing transformation in the face of overwhelmingly increasing odds. Even angels are amazed at this “spectacle.” See on 1 Cor. 4: 9 and Eph. 4: 13. etc.
Christ our Example. See Matthew 4: 1-11; John 14: 30. “Satan assailed Christ with hisfiercest and most subtle temptations, but he was repulsed in every conflict. Those battles were fought in our behalf; those victories will make it possible for us to conquer. Christ will give strength to all who seek it.
No man without his own consent can be overcome by Satan. The tempter has no power to control the will or force the soul to sin. He may distress, but he cannot contaminate. He can cause agony but not defilement. The fact that Christ has conquered should inspire His followers with courage to fight manfully the battle against sin and Satan.”- Great Controversy (1911 ed), p. 510.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Eph. 6: 12. Our strength is in the power of His might by putting on the whole armor of God to withstand thewiles of the devil.” Verses 10, 11. This whole armor is described in verses 13-18.
We should never cast off one piece of this armor. Goliath the presumptuous giant raised his helmet enough to expose his forehead. It cost him his whole head. In God’s armor “the helmet of salvation” is the merits of Christ’s perfect righteousness which alone is our means of eternal salvation. (Continued next week).