“God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son” (Gal 4:6). This Pauline assertion is unchallenged where there is acceptance of apostolic teaching. No longer does the Lord point to a future day and say of the blessed Spirit, “When He is come” (John 16:8,13). On that wonderful never-to-be-repeated day of Pentecost, the Spirit descended and His presence characterizes the era in which we live.
In the New Testament epistles the descent of the Spirit is shown to mean:
1. The formation of the Church which is His body, livingly linked to the Head in heaven;
2. The support of local churches gathered to His name;
3. The exaltation of Christ in the hearts and lives of His people.
The inspired volume, however, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which concludes the New Testament as we have it ordered in the English Bible, does not present the Spirit’s ministry in these terms. We find there emphasis on:
- His plenitude of power and wisdom 3:1; 4:5; 5:6
- His program for John to experience 1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10
- His pertinence of speaking 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 14:13; 22:17.
The Spirit is clearly at work in power as the scenes associated with the phrase, “the seven Spirits of God,” reveal. And the experiences of John as he was “in the Spirit” differ markedly from normal Christian experience. Dis-tinct, too, are the Spirit’s tones as He speaks in Revelation. This article considers only the pertinence of His speaking.
1. Speaking to the Churches
Chapters 2&3 are occupied with letters dictated by the exalted Lord Jesus to the seven chosen assemblies. In each case the Lord presents credentials which are more judicial than other presentations of that “one Lord” to assemblies in Corinth, Colosse, or Galatia. In keeping with the governmental character of the book, when we do hear the Spirit speak in chapters 2, 3, it is not of the assembly as being an habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph 2:22), nor of the exercise of spiritual gift as empowered by Himself. “What the Spirit saith to the churches” is in the application of our Lord’s letters that all the churches may know that there is One who searches the reins and the hearts and rewards accordingly (2:23).
“He that hath an ear let him hear,” are stirring words reminiscent of Christ’s own words (Matt 11:15; 13:9; Mark 7:16), reminding the reader of individual responsibility to be assessed before the world is judged. Later, in 13:9, similar language will be used but with no mention made of the churches; clearly the period of testimony of the assemblies by then will be ended. Until the Rapture, the Spirit speaks to the churches, both of government as in these chapters and of grace vouchsafed in the Head as in the epistles of Paul.
2. Speaking about the Martyred of a coming day
John records how once again he “heard a voice from heaven” (14:13), and immediately the Spirit is heard to respond not, it would appear, from heaven but from earth. Heaven announces this second beatitude of this book, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth.” And the Spirit alongside the persecuted confirms with His “Yea” that He knows the burdens of the oppressed.
The blessing heaven announces is not that of “the dead in Christ” (1 Thess 4:16). “The dead in Christ” belong to the period between Pentecost and the Rapture; they are “fallen asleep through Jesus” (1 Thess 4:14 RV margin) and are now at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8 RV). But those who “die in the Lord ” will bear testimony after the Rapture and lay down their lives in obedience to their Lord.
Undoubtedly, He who died that He might be the Lord both of the dead and the living, is their Lord (Rom 14:9). But their relationship to Him will differ from ours. The Spirit will not indwell them and draw out their affections that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith (Eph 3:17). To them it is given to suffer for His sake, yet we never read of their aspiring to know the Lord and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil 1:29; 3:10). They will know the Lord, but in the manner that the context of Revelation 14 reveals Him; to them He will be known as the Lamb (vv.1, 4, 10), Jesus (v.12), and the Son of Man (v.14).
In that brief period defined by the phrase “from henceforth” (v.13) until “the time … that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants …” (11:18), others are to “die in the Lord.” Aware of the pressures on the saints, the Spirit is heard to respond, “Yea.” In similar circumstances to those envisaged in our verse, an unnamed psalmist had once cried “Yea” as he spoke of how God had “sore broken” them: “Yea, for Thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter” (Ps 44:19, 22). Citing the same verse, Paul omits the psalmist’s “Yea” and adds, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Rom 8:37). The Spirit may have reinstated the psalmist’s “Yea” but rest and reward are attached, “… rest from their labors and their works do follow them.” While they may appear only to be counted for the slaughter, they will be consoled by the Spirit’s voice; they will also see that they are conquerors (12:11).
Again we can distinguish the Spirit’s position in this book from that with which we are familiar in the New Testament. Certainly at times in the Acts of the Apostles the Spirit’s voice was heard: Philip alone in the desert heard it; in Antioch the prophets and teachers heard it but most likely through one who spoke unto edification by the Spirit (1 Cor 14:3, 24-25). Here however in addition to the Scriptures and the prophets raised up in that day, we hear again the Spirit speaking in the abnormality of that unparalleled period of suffering. Of those who are to suffer unto blood the Spirit will speak. With great consolation His voice will be heard as often in our circumstances He has come near and as the Spirit of glory and of God has rested on those being reproached for the name of Christ (1 Pet 4:14). Often they too have heard His voice.
3. Speaking in unison with the Bride
In the rich imagery of the context we hear our Lord Jesus describe Himself in relation to Israel as “the Root and Offspring of David,” and in relation to the Church as “the bright and morning star.” Clearly for her, the bride, the long night of expectancy is soon to end and before the sun will arise in its strength, “the bright and morning star” will be seen by her, in the same way as eager night-watchers observe Venus arising to herald the new day. And every intelligent student of God’s prophetic program will know that Christ as “the bright and morning star” will come for His Church and that that coming will be the harbinger of the day in which He will shine as the very “Sun of righteousness” (Mal 4:2).
It is the presentation of “the bright and morning star” that causes this unique response at 22:17. At no other time and in no other circumstances do we find the Spirit and the bride “saying.” We have encountered the Spirit speaking to the churches in chapters 2, 3, but not the Spirit and the bride replying in one mind and voice. In grace we hear not the Spirit in the bride saying, but the Spirit takes His place on our side! Immediately we see the greatness of His work in that the bride has reached His mind on the coming of Christ. The divine intention is answered fully in the intelligence and affection of the bride.
From time to time we see evidence that “the bright and morning star” is affecting an individual when there is an answer in the life: “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). Here we judge that God also listens, not now to hear the friend of the bridegroom rejoicing at the bridegroom’s voice (John 3:29), but to hear the saints, their vision filled with a soon-coming Lord Jesus, saying, “Come.” Again we mark the unique approach adopted at this point in the inspired record.
We conclude that the Spirit of God is engaged today in speaking to the churches and will be active in bringing to fruition God’s purpose during the time He is engaged in His strange work of judgment. During that period His power will be undiminished. John also learned that the Spirit is still He who searches and knows “the things of God” (1 Cor 2:10-11) and so the Spirit will be heard to speak both through His witnesses (11:3-12) and directly; we note again the distinctiveness of those divine utterances and the contrast with His speaking today” (John 16:8,13).