Overseers in the Right Hand of Christ
1. To which congregation was John instructed to write first, and what farewell words of the apostle Paul may some of its overseers have heard directly?
“TO THE angel of the congregation in Ephesus write: These are the things that he says who holds the seven stars in his right hand, he who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.” (Rev. 2:1) In obedience to this command from the glorified Christ, John doubtless did write to the overseer or group of overseers over the congregation in Ephesus. In John’s day some of these older men may have met the apostle Paul years before, when he said these words of farewell: “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own [Son]. I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore keep awake.” (Acts 20:28-31) John was now on the penal island of Patmos, not so far from Ephesus, and he would see that the overseers in Ephesus, as well as the overseers of the other named congregations in Asia Minor, would get the entire Revelation with its specific message to each congregation.
2. By his opening words, what did Jesus remind the Ephesian overseers of, and what today did the conditions in the congregations back there picture?
2 By his opening words of address Jesus Christ reminded those Ephesian overseers, as well as those of all the other congregations, that they were in his right hand, within his power and control and within his favor and protection. “No one will snatch them out of my hand,” said he. (John 10:28) Likewise in these apocalyptic times the overseers, especially the spirit-anointed overseers, over the congregations of God’s flock are reminded that they are in Christ’s hand and they must be guided and used by his hand and not resist or fight against it. Today there is no congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses at Ephesus near the coast of the Aegean Sea. But the condition in the congregation back there foreshadowed the condition that may be true in a congregation or in congregations of the Christian witnesses of Jehovah today. The conditions in all the seven congregations named in Asia Minor were used to picture the different conditions obtaining here and there today among the congregations of God’s flock. It is therefore proper for the congregation “stars,” the anointed overseers of all the congregations, to be notified of the conditions that correspond with those foreshadowed in Christ’s messages to the seven congregations in Asia Minor. They must then follow Christ’s instructions, as his right-hand men, in working to correct the improper conditions and to help all the members to overcome or conquer this old world now in its last days.
3. Back there, what did the congregation “star” do with the message received through John, as an example of what action today?
3 Back there, if sent a specific message from Christ through John, the congregation “star” would read the message to the congregation for whose benefit it was written. In like manner today, overseers of congregations read off communications to their respective congregations as received from the governing body of the “faithful and discreet slave” class.
THE LAMPSTAND IN EPHESUS
4. Despite things to its credit, what did Jesus hold against the Ephesus congregation, and how may congregations today need help in this regard?
4 Like the congregation of ancient Ephesus, congregations today may have deeds and hard work and a record of endurance to their credit. They may not have put up with evil men. As for men who claim to be apostles or apostolic successors, they have tested such by the inspired Scriptures and found them to be liars in their claims. They have gone back to the apostolic teachings and ways of doing things by putting up a “hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones.” (Jude 3) For years they have borne up for the sake of Christ’s name and not grown tired. But the question is, Have they left the love they had at first? Because of the increasing of lawlessness in Christendom has their love grown cold? Has their love been alienated to some attraction of this materialistic old world? Have they tired of showing affection for Christ, which calls for feeding his sheep and having the mental attitude that was in him? Christ holds it against them if they have left that heat, zeal and undividedness of the love that they had at first. If so, they need help to get back to where they were and to recover what they lost.
5. (a) As regards those who have lost their first love, what should the overseer do? (b) How could his lampstand be removed?
5 It is the responsibility of the overseer, the congregation “star,” to light the way back for those against whom Christ holds this loss of their first love. They should take steps to stir up in these losers this original love. Their love of Christ’s sheep will move overseers to go out and try to bring back those staying away from meetings or becoming careless. They will try to counteract the danger that Jesus foretold: “Because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off.” (Matt. 24:12) They realize that no loser of one’s first love can be a final member of the congregation of God. It is time, therefore, to remember what one has fallen from, and then sorrowfully change one’s mind and get back to doing the former deeds. Otherwise one will not be acting as part of a lampstand, namely, letting one’s light shine. He will be having no part in the service of a lampstand. If an overseer should let all his sheep grow loveless and fall away and cease to shine, Christ would, in effect, remove his lampstand. He would be as a star without a lampstand or congregation. So he must see to it that the lampstand congregation shines and lights up its part of the field, which is the world.
6. Like the Ephesus congregation once warned by Paul, what should overseer and congregation keep up a hatred of today, and why?
6 In his farewell to the Ephesian overseers Paul warned that sects would be formed by apostate teachers who would try to draw away disciples after themselves. Like the Ephesian congregation, the overseer and the congregation should keep up their intense hatred of sectarianism, like the “deeds of the sect of Nicolaus,” because Jesus Christ, the Head of one indivisible body, also hates sectarianism, the following of this or that man on earth.
7. Why should we today keep our ears attuned to hear what the spirit says to the congregations?
7 We who are associated with a lampstand under an overseer “star” should keep our ears attuned to hear what the spirit of God says. We must listen to the utterance inspired by God. Said Jesus: “Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations,” the seven congregations of Asia that pictured all similar congregations today. Even Jesus in heaven speaks by God’s spirit or active force, so that it is really God that is speaking by Jesus. Thus Jesus gives more value and authority to God’s spirit than to himself, so as to warn us against sinning the mortal sin against the spirit of God. On earth Jesus spoke under the operation of God’s spirit, and up in heaven he has not changed.—Isa. 61:1, AV; Luke 4:16-21; Heb. 13:8.
8. To what conquest does the spirit encourage the congregation members, and why is such conquest possible?
8 Those who have fallen away in certain respects and who need to make a recovery have much to overcome. (1 Pet. 4:17, 18) In fact, all members of the congregation have to do a great deal of overcoming. They must prove themselves conquerors; but for this there is a reward. The spirit of God encourages all onward to conquest over Satan’s world with this promise: “To him that conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Rev. 2:7) For the spirit-begotten congregation it is a case of either gaining that heavenly life with God or not gaining eternal life anywhere else. The conquest is possible. About that fact we need not be disturbed. Said Jesus: “I have said these things to you that by means of me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but cheer up! I have conquered the world.”—John 16:33.
THE LAMPSTAND IN SMYRNA
9. What is spoken of in favor of the congregation at Smyrna, and what is spoken against the “synagogue of Satan”?
9 There are today those who are like the congregation of ancient Smyrna. For these an encouraging message is given through the overseer “star.” One thing that is spoken of in their favor is that they are not materialistic like this world; their manner of life is free of the love of money and they are content with the material things on hand. Christ knows they are poor materially. On earth he too was poor, but he was then rich spiritually and he likewise knows that they are spiritually rich also. They do not imitate those who falsely claim to be Jews, but who blaspheme when making such a claim, for they are not true to the name; they are no praisers of Jehovah, as Leah the mother of Judah was. (Gen. 29:35) In place of being God’s congregation, as the Jewish nation once was till it rejected and killed Christ the Messiah, they are a “synagogue of Satan.” They are materialistic and go after the unspiritual things of Satan’s world.
10. How do true Christians today imitate the Smyrna congregation in not copying those of the “synagogue of Satan,” and so what may a congregation overseer not be?
10 Christians like the Smyrna congregation do not copy those of the “synagogue of Satan” in their materialism, their sticking to traditions instead of to God’s Word, their political Zionism of modern times, and their rejection of the established kingdom of God. Men who now claim to be spiritual Jews, or Jews inwardly, but who are not the true, spiritual “Israel of God,” imitate those faithless natural Jews, and they also are the “synagogue of Satan.” True Christians today who imitate the Smyrna congregation are the congregation of Jehovah and they bear and uphold his holy name. To transmit these words from Christ against materialism a “star” or congregation overseer cannot himself be a materialist, so setting a bad example contrary to Christ’s words.
11. (a) In this connection, why was Jesus on earth not afraid to suffer and die for principle? (b) What does he tell us not to be afraid of, and what reward does the spirit hold out for his conquering followers?
11 Unable to take along everything with him into the grave, a materialist is afraid to die for principle. He cannot take joyfully the plundering of his goods for faithfully following in the footsteps of Christ. Christ was not afraid to die for holding firm and fast to Jehovah’s universal sovereignty; he was no materialist. If he was not afraid to empty himself and lay aside his heavenly glory he would not be averse to parting with lesser things, the material earthly things. He tells us to do as he did, not be afraid of the sufferings that his followers are bound to suffer in this world’s “time of the end,” especially now that Satan the Devil has been cast out of heaven and makes war upon the faithful remnant of the seed of God’s woman. We are facing the total attack of Gog of Magog upon the remnant and their companions shortly. The words of Jesus to the Smyrna congregation are therefore timely and good: not to be afraid of that furious attack, nor of the things we have to suffer before then—imprisonment, “tribulation ten days,” or violent death. He himself once died but came to life again by God’s almighty power and can die no more, being beyond harm by the “second death.” He now has all power in heaven and in earth and can hold out the crown of life to his faithful followers. Like him, the only Potentate, “the one alone having immortality,” his followers who conquer this doomed world will in the resurrection be put beyond harm by the second death. (Rev. 2:8-11) A “star” or congregation overseer should be a world conqueror as a right example.
THE LAMPSTAND IN PERGAMUM
12. Why was the congregation in Pergamum said to be dwelling “where the throne of Satan is”?
12 Ancient Pergamum was a city sacred to heathen, a religious city of paganism. To the chief of its gods, named Zeus or Jupiter, it had a temple with an altar fifty feet high. This ancient capital of the Roman province of Asia became a noted center for worship of the Roman emperor and for other pagan cults. In the Roman period of its existence a temple was built on Pergamum’s acropolis to Emperor Caesar Augustus, the “divine Augustus.” The city was celebrated for its fidelity to Rome, the capital of the Caesars. A refusal to join in the pagan worship of Caesar the emperor might lead to one’s death as a martyr to the universal sovereignty of Jehovah God. With such practice of Devil worship here in Pergamum, with the Devil-rule over men being intensified here, with the deifying of men and the worshiping of imperial power of men, it was not without good reason that the congregation in that city was said to be dwelling “where the throne of Satan is.”
13. How are we Christians today likewise dwelling where Satan’s throne is, and how can we, in spite of this fact, be like the Pergamum congregation?
13 Today with nationalism being so rampant, with the images and symbols of nationalism being treated as sacred and idolized, with the image of the United Nations being adored by over eighty nations of this world, and with the expelled Satan the Devil now come down to earth’s residents and having great anger, the remnant of Jehovah’s congregation and their companions are like Pergamum in dwelling where Satan’s throne is. Can Christ praise us too through the angel of the congregation for our holding fast his name and not denying our faith in him as Savior and King, even though thousands of our Christian brothers have been martyred, like Antipas, whom Christ calls “my witness, the faithful one, who was killed by your side, where Satan is dwelling”? If he can do so, then we are like the congregation in Pergamum in this respect.
14. Who was the Balaam whose teaching some in the Pergamum congregation were holding fast, and whom did Jehovah curse on Balaam’s account?
14 However, we must never forget there are those who are eager to do us spiritual harm, hence eternal harm. Who are these? Religious persons like Balaam and like the teachers of the sect of Nicolaus. Materialistically, Balaam tried to turn his office of prophet into a business for making material gain, even at the cost of cursing Jehovah’s holy nation, Israel. When Jehovah God turned his intended curse into a blessing for Israel, then Balaam tried to work with the political power of this world as symbolized by King Balak. He tried luring Israel into idol worship, demon worship, by means of pagan girls whose bodies were dedicated to unclean handling by worshipers of the false god, Baal of Peor. This obliged Jehovah to curse, not the whole nation of Israel, but those who yielded to the machinations of the gain-greedy prophet Balaam.
15. How must the congregation overseer act like priest Phinehas, and so why must he examine himself, and against what must he guard?
15 Today the “star” overseer of a congregation should prove himself like Phinehas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the high priest. On that ancient occasion Phinehas rooted out such sly workings of religious leaders like Balaam. (Num. 22:1 to 25:15; 2 Pet. 2:15, 16; Jude 11) The overseer of today should lead the congregation in the march to the New World. He should not try to obstruct or permit any obstruction of our march successfully to our destination beyond the battle of Armageddon. He must examine himself constantly that he does not commercialize his prophetic position, his responsible and impressive office. He must guard against the infiltrating of sex worship from this world and the creeping in of religious sects.
16. What does one guilty of the above things need to do, and to avoid second death and gain eternal life what must we do?
16 Anyone guilty of such things needs to repent, yes, repent without delay, for quickly Christ is coming to execute divine judgment. In his mouth he has the power of the second death for any who let themselves be overcome by this world. We must be careful not to cause the executional sword of Christ’s mouth to fight against us. It would mean our certain death, “second death,” pictured by Gehenna. As stars under him, the overseers of congregations should keep in full agreement with Jehovah’s Angel of the covenant, the Chief Overseer, who is now at the temple for judgment proceedings. This is no time to be conquered by a world that Christ himself has conquered. It is the time to conquer the world as he did and with his help. God’s spirit speaking by him promises a grand reward, incorruptibility in the heavenly kingdom and a new relationship with Jehovah God, pictured by the incorruptible hidden manna and a white name-stone with a new name written on it, which only the conqueror will fully understand in due time. Overseers should be faithful to deliver this message.—Rev. 2:12-17.
THE LAMPSTAND IN THYATIRA
17. What did the Thyatira congregation have to its credit, but what wrong thought must be pointed out to it?
17 Conditions like those that existed with the ancient Thyatira congregation must receive attention by the “star” overseer, whose concern these come to be. Christ, who sees as with eyes like a fiery flame and who walks as with uncorruptible, enduring feet like fine copper, saw that the Thyatira congregation had an increase of works to its credit. But we must not think that just so a person makes a fine, showy record in the physical work of God’s organization and time spent in it he can be careless about his morals. The fact that he cannot do so needed to be pointed out to the Thyatira congregation; it needs to be pointed out today.
18. How had a Jezebel got into the Thyatira congregation, how had Christ given her time, and what action did he threaten to take?
18 Jezebel, the daughter of the pagan king of Sidon, was given in political marriage to King Ahab. She used her position to do great religious damage to the kingdom of Israel. A Jezebel, a woman or a group of women with characteristics like queen Jezebel’s, had got into the Thyatira congregation. But the congregation under its “star” overseer had not acted to overpower and uproot this woman influence to false teaching, false worship and religious and physical immorality. Christ gave the congregation time to act regarding the matter and thus gave the “woman Jezebel” class time to repent. But since the Thyatira congregation carelessly tolerated the operations of this unclean, unchristian class in among it, Christ himself warned of the action that he was going to take toward this unrepentant class. What? Kill it with great tribulation, for a spectacle to all the congregations that they might know that the Chief Overseer tolerates no such unrepentant class.
19. Why does a congregation overseer not dare to yield to the Jezebel teaching and influence, and how may the congregation hold fast what it has until Christ comes to execute judgment?
19 An overseer of a congregation dares not yield to the Jezebel teaching and influence today. Those who commit spiritual and physical fornication with her cannot escape the fiery eyes of the Chief Overseer but are in for execution if they do not repent. It is not needful for us to enter into such fornication to get to know what it is like by experience and thus “know the ‘deep things of Satan.’” The Judge who knows by principle what it is warns us against it. His warning is sufficient. We should take it. Then Christ will not put upon us a burden of responsibility and we will keep free from congregational responsibility for bad conditions inside it. The leaven of sin must not be left among us, to corrupt at last what good we have left. Christ advises: “Hold fast what you have until I come.” That will require conquering the world.
20. What power over the nations will be given the world conquerors, and instead of congregation stars, what will they be given?
20 He who on earth conquers this world by resisting its lusts, its ungodly aims, its methods and its practices will be given heavenly authority over the nations. Those who finish their earthly career faithfully as world conquerors in imitation of Jesus will be resurrected to power with him in heaven and will join him when he smashes the enemy nations to pieces in the coming “war of the great day of God the Almighty.” That will be a conquest over this world in another way. It will be a victory for God’s new world. Now the Christian congregation is given the symbolic stars, the faithful overseers. But then in the resurrection to life in heaven the congregation will be given “the morning star,” which is Jesus Christ the Bridegroom.—Rev. 2:18-29; 22:16.
21. What course, therefore, should women in the congregation follow, and what that it has should the congregation hold fast?
21 Therefore let women see their proper position in the congregation. On proper occasions let them wear a head covering as a sign of submission, as a sign of not trying to usurp the position of the man, whether as a “star” overseer or as a ministerial servant. Let them not induce any brother to fornication spiritually or bodily. Let all the congregation jealously guard what it has, the Christian purity of doctrine and of conduct and the treasure of Kingdom witnessing. Then Christ’s coming as Executioner of judgment will be, not with mortal punishment, but with New World rewards.
THE LAMPSTAND IN SARDIS
22. (a) As he addresses the Sardis-type congregation, what does Christ have in his possession? (b) What spiritually moribund condition does the congregation angel have to point out and not let go on?
22 Like a circuit servant or general overseer Christ inspects all sorts of conditions within the congregations under his charge, including such a spiritual condition as the ancient Sardis congregation had. Seeing such, he is certain to call notice to it: “These are the things that he says who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.” He has the full illuminating power of God’s spirit, and he has the congregation servant of Sardis as well as the angels or stars of the six other congregations within his power and under his direction. The angel of the Sardis-type congregation does not have a very pleasant message from the great Archangel through the “faithful and discreet slave” class, the modern-day John of the Revelation. What is there to one’s having a form of godly devotion when one denies its power? One may have the name of being alive religiously, but Jehovah’s Judge knows that one is dead like the Sardis congregation. One is asleep to one’s privileges and to the call of the hour for diligent, lively service. One fails to perform all the features of God’s service. What features of worship and of service still remain are in danger of dying out. An alert overseer, and the Great Overseer above him, cannot let a spiritually moribund condition like that continue.
23. What should the drawing near of the final judgment of the congregation cause us to remember and to do?
23 The final judgment of persons who have been put in trust with the interests of the kingdom of God is getting closer. This drawing near of the final accounting ought to stir us to remember that we have received and heard the Kingdom message and hence should make us appreciate our responsibility. Then, with deepened appreciation, we should wake up and keep on the watch, reactivate our service efforts that were about to die, and keep our knowledge of the truth and our opportunity to preach, which knowledge affords.
24. (a) How is the congregation’s knowledge to be increased and its aliveness to be manifested? (b) What hour of accounting will the congregation overseer yet have to face?
24 The thing to do is to increase our knowledge. This means our doing private Bible study. It means attending the meetings of the congregation and helping to make these meetings alive; it means keeping up with the progressive truth; it means using that truth by telling it to others inside and outside the congregation. To aid each one to this end the congregation overseer together with his ministerial assistants will arrange to keep each member awake spiritually and not let the local organization die, having no good works to show that it has spiritual life. They will work to increase the attendance of members at meetings. They will bring the message up to date by incorporating fresh, live doctrines as these are revealed. They will strive to enlarge the activity of the congregation in all the needed forms of service. They will widen out the witness and drive it home more. They will not let the congregation become pleasure-alive but service-dead. One of these days each overseer will have to give a final account to someone higher than the governing body associated with the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. That hour will come as a thief. What need there is, then, for a refresher course and keeping all alive to witness works!
25. (a) Who will walk with Christ in white and not be cast out of his company? (b) Whose name will not be blotted out of the book of life, but what acknowledgment will be made of such one?
25 Even in a situation like that in Sardis a few may be named who have undefiled garments, who are faultless in their Christian appearance. They are keeping clean, undefiled religion, which calls for keeping oneself without moral and religious spot from this world. Continuing to walk thus, they will be pronounced worthy to walk with Christ in white and not be cast out from his company. His bride class will be arrayed as in fine linen clean and bright, for such fine linen symbolizes the righteous acts of God’s holy ones. What wondrous acts of service there will be to perform in his new world! How the thought of this spurs one to conquer this world! It makes one want to live in the new world. One has to keep alive spiritually now. If one dies spiritually, one gets one’s name blotted out of the book of life. One will not live to get his name acknowledged before the heavenly Father nor before the angels who have faithfully ministered to the congregation.—Rev. 3:1-6.
THE LAMPSTAND IN PHILADELPHIA
26. In what sense does Christ have the “key of David,” and what door has he opened since 1919 unable to be shut by opposers?
26 As the one having all the Kingdom interests, the Chief Overseer addresses himself to the Philadelphia congregation, for he has the “key of David.” He did not give this key to Peter, but he himself now has it. As with the keeper of the key during David’s kingship in Jerusalem, so Jesus Christ has had committed to his hand the government of the household of faith and he is as a spiritual father to the inhabitants of spiritual Israel. (Isa. 22:22; Luke 1:32) When he accompanied Jehovah God to the spiritual temple in 1918 he began judgment at God’s household. He found the “faithful and discreet slave” class. Before it he has set an opened door since 1919, by putting this class in charge of all his spiritual belongings on earth. (Matt. 24:45-47) He opened before them the opportunity and the responsibility to fulfill Matthew 24:14 concerning giving the Kingdom witness earth-wide to all nations before the world ends at Armageddon. No man has been able to shut that door since then, neither the participants in World War II, nor Nazi Hitlerism, nor Mussolini Fascism, nor Catholic Action, nor Russian Communism with its cult of Stalin and other cults.
27. To whom has this door been kept shut, and how are they obliged to confess that Christ has loved us?
27 This is not to our credit. It is to the credit of Christ, who has kept the door open and will keep it open till the witness work is done. (1 Cor. 16:9; Col. 4:3, 4) The door to those Kingdom-time privileges has been shut to Christendom and Jewry, to all those of the “synagogue of Satan.” They have no works of Kingdom witnessing to show that they enjoyed this expression of love from Christ. Now they have to humble themselves before us and acknowledge that we have the works, we have the record and we are continuing the works. We are inviting all the “other sheep” yet to be found to come in through the opened door and join us in the work.
28, 29. (a) What is the message about endurance that must be kept? (b) For keeping it, how are we kept from the hour of test now on the whole inhabited earth?
28 God’s kingdom message tells us that endurance in his worship and service is vital. Preaching that message calls for endurance, the kind that Christ displayed. In our endurance we must be Christlike. He did not quit, he did not give in to the enemy, he did not give up the service and the spiritual war. He kept on doing his Father’s will. He held out to the bitter end. So he was resurrected to an hour triumphant, to an eternity of triumph. There is a benefit in conforming ourselves to the message about his endurance. We are kept from the hour of test now on the whole world. How?
29 Just as in Jesus’ case. When faced with a choice of all the kingdoms of this world he rejected the kingdom of Satan. He chose the kingdom of God by choosing to worship Jehovah God and not the “god of this world” to whom those man-made kingdoms belonged. By holding to that initial decision Jesus was upheld all through the test of his integrity and he was kept from collapsing under the test the way the Jewish world collapsed. We likewise have made our decision for God’s kingdom. As long as we hold fast to our decision by preaching the Kingdom good news, we too will be kept from falling during this test. We shall never be attracted into Devil worship by choosing and serving the kingdoms of this world. Let Christendom go down under the test of this hour, stumble over God’s chosen Stone and fall to her destruction. (1 Pet. 2:7, 8) We have chosen Theocracy under Christ. We are kept standing!
30. What, therefore, must the congregation overseers do, and why must we hold fast what we have, and how?
30 The “seven stars,” the anointed overseers, as well as the “other sheep” associated with them in overseership must help all of Christ’s sheep through this hour of temptation by setting a proper example themselves and by giving them all aid. The time for assigning crowns permanently comes on quickly. The Holder of the “key of David” says: “Keep on holding fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” Yes, we will hold fast what we have from him, by striving to increase those Kingdom interests, by using our all as a precious instrument in Kingdom service. For the anointed ones to lose the Kingdom interests now before Armageddon means to lose the heavenly crown. For the “other sheep” to lose what they have means to lose New World life under the Kingdom.
31. How must anointed overseers prove to be pillars and stay in line for the New Jerusalem, and accordingly what should all overseers do?
31 Anointed overseers must prove to be pillars in God’s temple organization, upholding the temple worship in which the other sheep now engage. They must stay in line for the New Jerusalem by preaching God’s kingdom and keeping clean as the prospective bride of God’s Lamb. This is obligatory, if they want to be pillars in the glorified heavenly temple and bear the name of God’s city as heavenly citizens of it and share the name of the highly exalted Christ by being his loving bride. The temple, the New Jerusalem, Christ’s new name in his heavenly office—these also are things the other sheep must reckon with. Let them now work in harmony with these vital realities. Anyone not keeping holy, anyone who is spiritually disgusting, anyone carrying on a lie, will be barred from the New Jerusalem and from its realm on earth. So let all overseers, especially those in line for positions in the heavenly temple, lead the way in temple worship night and day. Then they will realize the benefit of Christ’s promise at Revelation 3:12.
THE LAMPSTAND IN LAODICEA
32. How did Jesus address the congregation in Laodicea, and why should this address have stung the congregation?
32 In the apostle Paul’s day there was a congregation at Laodicea. (Col. 4:15) By the time of the revelation to John it had gone bad. In addressing himself to it through the congregation angel Jesus speaks of himself as “the Amen,” “the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation by God.” This reference should have stung the Laodicean congregation, for it no longer wholeheartedly affirmed the truth like an amen. No longer was it a faithful and true witness. It gave no evidence of being part of the “new creation” of which Jesus Christ was and is the first and chief member. How does Jesus, as an exemplary Chief Overseer, handle the case of the congregation in Laodicea, then and now?
33. Why did Jesus threaten to vomit them out of his mouth, and how were they like Ephraim?
33 Those of the Laodicean kind are neither stimulatingly hot nor refreshingly cold. They are lukewarm, ugh! So, like lukewarm water, out of the mouth they must go. Christ wants them as no mouthpiece of his, no “ambassadors substituting for Christ,” no message-bearers or witnesses belonging to and used by him. Their share in the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14 he will withdraw unless they repent. They are like the dominant tribe of ancient Israel, Ephraim. How so? In being like a flat cake half cooked, a griddle cake not turned onto its other side, hence half-baked, half and half, hence half-hearted, double-minded: “Ephraim is like a silly dove, without understanding: they call unto Egypt [not to Jehovah], they go to Assyria [not to God].”—Hos. 7:8, 11, AS.
34. Why were the Laodiceans in such a lukewarm condition, and what did they need to take away their spiritual wretchedness?
34 Why was that so then? Because the Laodiceans did not keep on seeking first God’s kingdom and the righteousness that comes from him through Christ. (Matt. 6:33) Their talk shows they supposed that their having earthly material riches meant having God’s prospering approval; they put a higher value on material wealth than upon spiritual, Kingdom values, particularly the “treasure” of ministering the Kingdom truth to others. What do Laodiceans now need to take away their spiritual poverty, blindness and nudeness? A good, honest effort to buy from Christ the gold of faith of a tested quality, the garments of righteousness such as will endure into the new world, and the spiritual seeing power, the faculty of spiritual sight, so as to see the all-importance of the Kingdom concerning which the witness must now be given world-wide.
35. So what must the overseers do in behalf of the Laodiceans for their spiritual recovery?
35 Here, then, is a work for overseers: To reawaken the Laodicean kind to feel their spiritual need and then help them become “rich in faith.” (Jas. 2:5) Such faith is rich in Kingdom fruitage and alive to witnessing work. It takes away confidence in one’s own righteousness. It leads us to seek to be righteous in God’s sight, with all worldliness and sinful nakedness put away. Overseers must also help the Laodiceans to apply the spiritual eyesalve; that is, to take Jesus’ teaching on matters, his advice, his example and his mental attitude, and to act in harmony with such. This is a healing remedy against the “desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life.” (1 John 2:15-17) Recovering spiritual sight, they can become eyes to others, and not be blind leaders of the blind.
36. What does Christ do to those for whom he has affection, and so what must overseers do and how should Laodiceans respond?
36 Christ as Chief Overseer reproves and disciplines, but does so out of affection for those who have undertaken to follow him. Overseers under him must do likewise. Laodiceans should appreciate this courageous, open display of affection and be zealous to repent or change their mind and then change their way of life.
37. (a) What is it now time for, and what invitation is now directed to the Laodiceans? (b) How will modern Laodiceans show they were not vomited out of Christ’s mouth?
37 The hour is late. It is the time for the best meal of the day, that is, supper, the evening meal. Many an evening meal Jesus shared on earth, giving out spiritual instruction as he enjoyed the householder’s hospitality. Now he invites us to have such a spiritually upbuilding meal with him. He stands at the door of the Laodicean kind of congregation now and knocks. You Laodiceans, will you listen to his knock, revive your affection for Christ, let him into your midst and let him teach you in a precious communion with him? If so, then you will receive his overseer over your congregation. Your overseer, the angel of the congregation, the “star” in Christ’s right hand, is willing and eager to open the door. He has opened it for Christ to enter to feast with those who repent. All you Laodiceans, show that you were not vomited out of his mouth but are still members of his congregation by coming to all meetings of the congregation for study and for service, for Jesus has promised to be present at a spiritual meal where as few as two or three are appreciatively met together in his name. The “other sheep” are letting Christ in, so that at the coming judgment he will say to them: “I was a stranger and you received me hospitably.” (Matt. 25:35) This hospitable action means life!
38. What must we now overcome, and what reward will be given to conquerors?
38 Let us all be warned by the reproof given to the Laodiceans. We must overcome the materialism of this world in this “time of the end.” To each conquering one Christ, speaking by the spirit of God, promises a high reward, to his anointed followers a throne, not of any kingdom of this world, but with him at his Father’s right hand in heaven. To the conquering “other sheep” he promises a position before his throne, a position of loving favor in the “new earth” of God’s new world of righteousness.
39. What, then, should congregations and their “stars” do, and what do we pray Christ to give them?
39 Shine on, then, you overseers, as “stars” in Christ’s right hand, acting as his angels to the congregations. Shine on, too, you congregations, as lampstands that he retains in their place. May he give you his careful attention and protection that you may ever shed forth light to enlighten all who will be saved forever.