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AN EXPOSITION OF THE APOCALYPSE
1. Jews of the Satan's Synagogue.
But, though the Star-Angel of the ecclesia of the Smyrneans was richly faithful in the midst of poverty and tribulation, the Spirit informs
us, that there existed in that city an institution of a hostile and rival character. Its rivalry is indicated by the claim of its founders to be Jews -- "who say they are Jews;" and its hostility, by the affirmation of the Spirit, that they constituted "a Synagogue of the Satan". This was "the Church" in Smyrna, as opposed to the Ecclesia of the Smyrneans". The "church" claimed to be "Christian," and its "clergy," apostles, in the sense of being "successors of the apostles, and ambassadors of Jesus Christ," who, in Ephesus, had been tried, and found to be "liars." It was from this synagogue, that "the raging dogs biting in secret," as Ignatius says, went forth to Ephesus, sowing their tares.
The claim of this synagogue to be a Christian institution is discerned in the assertion of its members, that they were Jews. All true believers immersed into Christ are Jews by adoption; so that for any natural born Jews and Gentiles to affirm that they were such Jews was to declare that they were "in Christ," and therefore Christians.
The kingdom promised to them that love God, and are "the called according to his purpose," is a Hebrew Kingdom. Its territory is the land of Israel turned into Paradise; the nation to inhabit it, the twelve tribes of Israel cleansed from their iniquities, as the result of an intelligent and affectionate recognition of the Anointed Jesus; and obedience to him as their King; its princes, priests, and nobles of all ranks and degrees, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the prophets and apostles; and those Jews under the law, "who walked in the steps of that faith of the father Abraham, which he had, being yet uncircumcised," or a Gentile; and those Jews after the Day of Pentecost, who continued in Abraham's faith, affectionately recognizing Jesus as the Seed promised to him and Israel, and were "immersed for his name" (Luke 13:28; Matt. 19:27-29; Rom. 4:12).
To this point, all pertaining to the kingdom is Hebrew from "Abraham, the Hebrew," to the appearance of Peter at the house of Cornelius, the Gentile proselyte of the gate. From the typical confirmation of the land-covenant to Abraham, 430 years before the night of the Exodus from Egypt, to the antitypical confirmation of the same covenant in the crucifixion of Jesus (Gen. 15:7,8-18; Exod. 12:41,42; Matt. 26:26-29; Rom. 15:8; Gal. 3:16,17) -- there was an interval of 2187 years. In all this time, there was a peculiar people that had the mark or "token" of the Land-Covenant in their flesh. This mark was placed there by circumcision. AIL-shaddai said to Abraham, "A father of many nations have I constituted thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy Seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for a possession of the Olahm;
and I will be to them for Elohim." Then having commanded circumcision, he said, "It shall be the token of the Covenant between me and you: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for the covenant of the Olahm," of the thousand years (Gen. 17:5,8,11).
This institution in its Mosaic practice by dwellers in the land of Canaan was purely a matter of flesh -- a mark indiscriminately borne by the faithful and profane; by Judas as well as Jesus. The mere fact, therefore, of having the token of the covenant in the flesh, or of being a natural descendant of Abraham, confers no right to a joint-inheritance of the land of Canaan when transformed into Paradise. Hence the truth of what Jesus taught, that "the flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63); for "the promise to Abraham that he should be the heir of the world, was not to him, or to his Seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith: for if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect" (Rom. 4:13,14). When, therefore, we read the promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David, they are to be interpreted as made to them, and their Seed, not because they were circumcised in flesh, and were natural descendants of Abraham (for upon this principle Ishmael's and Esau's descendants would have an equal right to Canaan with the posterity of Jacob), but because they believed what God promised them; and evinced their faith in doing what He commanded them: thus becoming subjects of a righteousness which is by faith.
This being the case, some other definition of a Hebrew, Israelite, or Jew, and of circumcision became necessary. Hence in the New Testament we have the terms, "Hebrew of the Hebrews," "Israelite Indeed," "a Jew Inwardly," and "Circumcision of the Heart" (John 1:47; Rom. 2:29; 9:6; Phil. 3:5). These are phrases which resolve the descendants of Abraham into two classes -- Israel after the flesh; and Israel after the spirit. Referring to this division, Paul says, "they are not all Israel who are of Israel; neither because they are the Seed of Abraham are they all children: but "In Isaac shall thy seed be called" -- not in Ishmael or Esau. "That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Rom. 9:6-8). Thus, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and all the prophets, Jesus and the apostles, and so forth, were "Hebrews of the Hebrews," "children of the kingdom," "Israelites indeed, in whom there was no guile," "Jews inwardly," who were circumcised in heart and ears: while Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, the sons of Eli, Saul, Absalom, Zedekiah, Judas, Caiaphas, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and such like, were "the children of the kingdom to be cast into outer darkness;"
"Jews outwardly;" and of a "circumcision, which is outward in the flesh," according to the letter; "of Israel," but "not Israel;" whose praise is of men, but not of God.
Now if these children of Abraham's flesh are not the children of God, because of unbelief and disobedience; what shall we say of faithless and rebellious Gentiles, who are of no kin to "the Friend of God"? If such affirm that they are Jews are they not manifestly liars? If Judas or Caiaphas had affirmed that they were Jews inwardly, they would have lied; much more then Gentiles of like character, who are Jews neither by nature nor faith.
Seeing then, that "the flesh profiteth nothing," it is manifestly not necessary to be born a Jew, and to be circumcised, to become "the Jew inwardly" and to be circumcised of heart. In this matter of becoming Jews, and of circumcision, upon the principle of subjection to the righteousness of faith, God has placed the descendants of Adam generally, and the posterity of Abraham in particular, upon common ground. "We have proved," says Paul, "that Jews and Gentiles are all under sin;" and being all sinners, they have all become liable to punishment before God.
Now the Hebrew Kingdom in Paradise is covenanted, not to sinners of any race, but to the children of God by adoption. A man of any "kindred, tongue, people, or nation," may become a son of God upon gospel principles; and "if a son, then an heir of God, and joint-heir with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). But, in order to become a son, he must "put on Christ," that he may be "complete in him." Now Jesus is the Christ; therefore to put on Christ, he must put on Jesus; and this can only be done by "believing the things concerning the Kingdom of God, and the Name of Jesus Christ;" and being immersed into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:12; Matt. 28:19). If a man have believed these things and been baptized in consequence, he has "consented to the wholesome words of the Lord Jesus, and to the teaching which is according to godliness." He believes the promises covenanted to Abraham and to David; he believes that Jesus was Son of God and Son of David, and therefore the Anointed of God; and that, though not the son of Joseph, he was a real man, and of the same nature as ourselves; that he really suffered death, was buried, and rose again; that he ascended into heaven, and now sits at the right hand of Power; that he was delivered for the offences of the believers in the covenants of promise, and raised again for their justification; and that he will return to Jerusalem in power; that he will raise the dead; and in cooperation with the righteous, acquire great glory in the conquest of the world, and the
regeneration of Israel and the nations. Having believed thus, and been baptized, he patiently continues in well-doing seeking for glory, and honor, and incorruptibility; that when Christ shall appear he also may appear with him in the glory of the thousand years.
Now to men of such faith and practice as this, the apostle says "Ye are all the Sons of Deity in the Anointed Jesus through the faith; for as many as have been immersed into Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male nor female; for ye are all ONE in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's Seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:26-29). Thus, "of twain ONE NEW MAN is made," and he is called "the Jew inwardly" (Eph. 2:15). This inward Jew is multitudinous; and consists of all in Christ, and because in Christ, in Abraham. Believing men and women, slaves and freemen, Jews and Greeks "are all one in Christ;" and being in Jesus, share with him in all his national, official, and divine relations. He is a Jew; therefore all in him are Jews: He is Son of the Deity; therefore all in him are Sons of God: He was circumcised; therefore all in him are "circumcised by the circumcision of Christ." He is king and high priest; therefore they are "kings and priests for God:" He is the Christ; therefore all in him are His Body, the Mystical Christ; He is the Seed of the Woman, and of Abraham, and of David; therefore all in him are their Seed also: the righteousness of the law was fulfilled by him; therefore the righteousness of that law is likewise fulfilled by all in him who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. In short, as no one can inherit the kingdom and glory of the Paradise of the Elohim unless he become of the Jew, who is circumcised Son of Abraham, David, and the Deity; priest, king, and anointed one of Israel; and the subject of the righteousness of God; and, as men of all races are but sinners under the sentence of death, and therefore cannot acquire this position upon hereditary and natural principles -- they can only become of "the Jew" and therefore Jews, elementary parts of a majestic whole, by putting on Christ, by entering into him, and so being "in him." By this arrangement, though by nature destitute and naked, they become complete, as saith the apostle, "Ye are complete in him, who is the Head of all principality and power; in whom also ye are circumcised" (Col. 2:10,11).
We have shown what it is to get into Jesus Christ; and we proceed to remark, that no one can get into him without being the subject of "the faith;" for Paul says, "Ye are all the Sons of the Deity in the Anointed Jesus, through the faith", (!greek!); and he tells us, that there is "one faith," and not two, or more; and that without this
faith "it is impossible to please God." It is evident, then, that those Satanists in Smyrna, and in Philadelphia, "who say they are Jews," but who had either not embraced the faith, or having embraced it, had, afterwards, made it void by their traditions, or had denied it in any way, "are not Jews, but do lie;" they were not in Christ Jesus, nor He in them by faith, and therefore, whatever their pretensions might be, they were not Christians.
"Through the faith," then, Gentiles become "Jews;" and natural born Hebrews become "Israelites indeed." "Through the faith" expressed in "the obedience of Faith," men and women get into Christ; and in getting in become citizens of "the Polity of the Israel," to be planted as "the Wood of the Life," in the Paradise of the Elohim, where it will flourish unfadingly during the Olahm of a thousand years. "The Polity of the Israel", (!greek!), styled in the English Version, "the Commonwealth of Israel," is at present in the formative state (Eph. 2:12). It is being formed by the process of "taking out a people from the nations for the Name" (Acts 15:14). This name is the polity; and when the gospel of the kingdom preached has separated all required for the purposes of God, the Name, or Polity, will be complete; and, as it is a Hebrew Polity, by which the Jewish nation, and all other nations, are to be governed, all who share in its politeuma, or Commonwealth, must become "Inward Jews," or "Israelites indeed" (Phil. 3:20); as Paul says, "Our politeuma subsists in heavens, out of which also we wait for the deliverer the Lord Jesus Anointed." The citizenship begins there, by true believers on earth being immersed into Him now in heaven at the right hand of Power.
But the Land-Covenant requires that all the members of this Divine Polity be circumcised. When the Millennial Sanctuary is set up in the Holy Oblation of Paradise, the law is, that "No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary of any stranger that is among the children of Israel" (Ezek. 44:9). This is the principle -- there must be circumcision. Israel and foreigners that come to sojourn there, must be circumcised in heart and flesh. "And the uncircumcised man child, whose flesh is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant" (Gen. 17:14). Circumcision is therefore indispensable.
Now females partook of the circumcision of their fathers, even as Levi before he was born paid tithes to Melchizedec, being, as it were, in the loins of Abraham: so after a like arrangement, "the Bride, the Lamb's wife," springing as Eve from the side of Adam, partakes of the circumcision of Jesus' flesh; and does no more therefore need to be
circumcised individually in the flesh of their persons, than the female half of Abraham's posterity.
This necessity being thus obviated, yet circumcision being indispensable, it is evident, that the members of the Divine Polity of Israel must be the subjects of "the circumcision of the heart." There is no other alternative, -- circumcised of flesh by imputation; and circumcised of heart through the faith.
"We," says Paul to the saints, "are the circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3). The Saints, then, are "the Circumcision" in the true spiritual import of the institution, and not the rejectors of Jesus, or those who are too ignorant from whatever cause, to get into him. But, in the primitive institution, there is a putting off of flesh -- a bloody cutting off, which makes it a covenant, or !hebrew! berith. When, therefore, true believers, -- that is, believers of the truth, are circumcised, there must be in their case "a putting off of the flesh." This is actually so, as expounded in the words of Paul, who says, "In Christ ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off THE BODY OF THE SINS of the flesh by the circumcision of the Christ." That is, when Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day according to the law, the flesh cut off from his person was representative of the flesh and its lusts which were to be put off by all who should be constituted the righteousness of God in him -- who should put off their sins; and afterwards, put off their flesh, as he had done in its transformation into Holy Spirit Nature. All the sins of a man, previous to his putting on Christ, in their totality, are styled "a body;" and as they result from the uncontrolled operation of the inherent lusts of the flesh, the embodiment is styled, "the body of the sins of the flesh" -- "the old sins," "the Old Man, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts;" "the Old Man with his deeds" (Col 3:9; Eph. 4:22).
Now this Body of Sin must be crucified, that it may be circumcised or cut off, even unto its death; and there is nothing can do this but "the truth as it is in Jesus" heartily believed and obeyed. When this is intelligently and heartily received, it works a thorough and complete transformation of the man. His eyes are opened, he is turned from ignorance to knowledge, and from the power of Satan to God. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, are put to death; and he lives for a better, higher, and nobler state of being. Thus prepared in heart and understanding, he is ready for circumcision. Not as the "Concision" would prescribe, who first immersed, and then circumcised the flesh of their dupes; nor as the Anticision of after times, who teach that water-sprinkling came in the room of circumcision: but in
the way the apostle indicates, in the words, "Ye are circumcised in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh in the circumcision of the Christ, buried with him in the immersion; with whom also ye are risen through the faith of the energy of the Deity who raised him from among the dead: and ye being dead in your trespasses, and in the foreskin of your flesh, he hath made alive together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col. 2:11-13). Hence, to be circumcised with the true circumcision is for a genuine believer of the truth, "as it is in Jesus," to be "immersed for the Name of Jesus Anointed into a remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Such a circumcised believer is in Christ, and being "in him" is an Inward Jew; in other words, a Christian.
In Smyrna, then, and Philadelphia, there were Satanists, who said they were Jews, -- that is, Christians; but, saith the Spirit, "they are not, but do lie." The world is full of such liars to this day. Their "names and denominations" are legion. "They say they are Christians, but are not, but do lie." They are water-sprinkled Nikolaitanes, and nothing more; uncircumcised Gentiles of the unmeasured outer court, which is theirs; in which also they tread under foot the Holy City during forty and two months (Apoc. 11:2). Our contemporaries, who say they are Christians, are ignorant of God, are destitute of the faith, and without even the form of baptism; for none but the wicked, or the insane, would affirm either that baptism came in the room of circumcision; or, that sprinkling a few drops of water into the face of a puling infant, or into the face of an ignorant adult, was baptism! Neither sprinkling, pouring, nor immersion, came in the room of circumcision: immersion, the only true action of the "one baptism," is not a substitute; but the means by which the believer of the truth gets at, and partakes of the circumcision of Christ. If a man be ignorant of the truth, all the dipping and sprinkling in the world cannot circumcise him; and without "circumcision of heart in spirit," he can have no part in the Paradise of the Elohim.
Lastly, upon this point we remark, that for an unqualified man to affirm that he is an apocalyptic Jew, or, by interpretation, a Christian, is "blasphemy." This is manifest from the words of the Spirit, who says, "I know the blasphemy of them who say they are Jews, and are not." Blasphemy is Greek, and signifies "defamatory, calumnious, abusive language." To blaspheme is to hurt one's good name, to speak ill, or to the prejudice, of one. The blasphemy of saying we are Jews, when not, is defamatory and injurious to the name of Christ. For liars to affirm that they are Christ's, is to injure the reputation of Christ with those who believe it, and to impede the progress of the truth. Thus, when men say they are Christians, but are really nothing
else than Judaizers of the Concision, Gnostics, and sprinklers of the Anticision, or Nikolaitanes all, they are blasphemers; for in proportion as their criminal foolishness rises in public estimation, "the truth as it is in Jesus" falls, and becomes the subject of ridicule and contempt. This is the relative position of things at the present time. All ranks, orders, and degrees of the clergy of the Nikolaitan Names and Denominations can stand up before the world, and utter the most ridiculous and wicked blasphemies, which their flocks receive with all-satisfied and pietistic grimace. They can take a squalling brat, and sprinkling water into its face, tell their audiences, with a grave countenance, that they thus baptize it by Divine Authority for its regeneration and membership in the church of Christ, and that, this sorcery accomplished, it is a Christian. If shortly after it dies, they "preach its funeral," and tell their deluded followers that its "precious immortal soul has gone to glory," and is now one of the angels around the throne! This, and much more of the same sort of incoherent twaddle, they retail as religious consolation to a deluded world, which responds in tuneful and glorious instrumental and vocal harmony, "glory hallelujah!" while the annunciation of the gospel of the kingdom would either be submerged in shouts of ribaldry, or met with the imprecations of infuriated pietism. Shall it stand on record, that it is blasphemy for one to say he is a Jew, when he is not; and that all these unscriptural and anti-christian traditions are not blasphemy? Truth and candour forbid it; and therefore, with our loudest voice we say, "He that hath an ear let him hearken to what the Spirit saith" to the Smyrneans, who in effect proclaims, that the darling pietism of "the religious world" is mere unmitigated blasphemy!