THE OVERCOMER AND THE EARTHDWELLER IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION (1968)
BY T. ERNEST WILSON, NEW JERSEY, USA
The letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 introduce four symbolic expressions indicating sinister movements to undermine and destroy the testimony. They are:
- Nicolaitanism in Ephesus and Pergamos, 2. 6, 15;
- The synagogue of Satan in Smyrna and Philadelphia, 2. 9; 3. 9;
- The doctrine of Balaam in Pergamos, 2. 14;
- The teaching of Jezebel in Thyatira, 2. 20.
These would stand respectively for:
- The rise of a heirarchy, subjecting the rank and file to their control;
- The Judaizing and legalistic element which dogged the footsteps of the apostle Paul;
- The breakdown of separation between the church and the world;
- The introduction of immoral idolatry and religious persecution, typified by the worst woman in scripture.
As well as these four movements, there was the deterioration of early love in Ephesus, 2. 4, the half measures and coldness of death in Sardis, 3. 2, and the spiritual pride, indifference and self-complacency of Laodicea, 3. 17. Behind this pessimistic picture, we see satanic power feverishly working behind the scenes to wreck and destroy everything of God. Satan is mentioned six times in these two chapters; we read of his throne, his dwelling, his synagogue and the depths of Satan.
In contrast to all this, the overcomer is mentioned seven times. The term ‘overcomer’ (literally, one who gains the victory) is found twice in the Gospels, twice in Paul’s epistles, but six times in John’s first letter and sixteen times in Revelation. Nearly half of the occurrences in Revelation are in chapters 2 and 3. The question may be asked, who is the overcomer? At least three answers have been given:
- Some would say that the term describes a spiritual elite, an alert faithful remnant, and that they only will be worthy to be raptured when the Lord comes;
- Others insist that the term includes every born-again believer and they are characterized by perseverance to the end and will overcome by faith;
- The writer believes that a careful examination of the context suggests that the overcomer is one who is able to rise above local conditions and is not swamped by the prevailing departure.
We should note carefully that it is neither a question of salvation nor of being found worthy to rise when the rapture takes place. Other scriptures make it clear that the church which is His body will be complete at the coming of the Lord. Paul says, ‘Christ the firstfruits; afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming”, 1 Cor. 15. 23. The church will be raptured, not ruptured. The redemption of the body, like the salvation of the soul, depends entirely on the sovereign, free grace of God and not on our works. In the messages to the overcomer it is not a question of salvation, but of rewards. These are given in sequence, stretching from access to the tree of life in the paradise above, to sitting on the throne in kingdom glory. The deeper the departure, the higher reward for the overcomer.
In contrast with the overcomer in the book of Revelation, we find the earthdweller mentioned twelve times. See 3. 10; 6. 10; 8. 13; 11. 10; 12. 12; 13. 8, 12, 14; 14. 6; 17. 2, 8.
An examination of these passages shows that the term refers to those that have all their ambitions fixed on things on earth, in contrast to those whose hope is in heaven. They are the unregenerate. It is upon them that the judgements of chapters 6- 19 fall; they rejoice and make merry over the death of God’s witnesses, 11. 10; they are the followers and worshippers of the beast, ch. 13; they are linked with the harlot, ch. 17; and we are told that their names are not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, 17. 8.
It seems clear that the two terms, overcomer and earth-dweller, indicate two entirely different types. The overcomer is the true believer who is able to rise above the darkness and apostacy of his surroundings and maintains a testimony for God, while the earthdweller is the poor worldling, deceived by the god of this world, drifting along with the tide to his inevitable doom.
CONCISE NOTES ON THE LEVITICAL OFFERINGS (1959)
BY ARTHUR G. CLARKE
1. THE BURNT OFFERING
Other Names: ascending offering; approach offering (Hebrew olah’, Lev. 1. 6, 8-13).
Relevant scriptures: Psalm 40; Gospel of John.
I. PRIMARY PURPOSE
Acceptance of the approaching Israelite as an approved worshipper. Acceptableness of the offering became the measure of the offerer’s acceptance with God. The worshipper, recognizing Jehovah’s righteous claims to an entire selfsurrender of his life, Deut. 6. 5, acknowledged his failure and offered an unblemished substitute. God found delight in the burnt offering not because of any intrinsic value it possessed but because it spoke to Him of the person and work of His beloved Son. To Him this offering was ‘a savour of rest’, Gen. 8. 21 literal translation; cp. Eph. 5. 2.
II. TYPICAL SIGNIFICANCE
Christ’s perfect consecration to God in His death; the cross seen as an expression of His whole-hearted devotion to the accomplishment of the divine will, delighting thus the Father’s heart, Heb. 9. 14; Phil. 2. 8. For our Lord’s first recorded words on earth see Luke 2. 49; for His last, John 19. 30 with Luke 23. 46. In the work of the cross there was that which meant more to God than even the salvation of sinners. He found at last a Man who fully glorified Him in all things, John 17. 4, even in respect of sin, which has so grievously dishonoured Him, and in a world where He had been so misrepresented by Adam’s race. God’s holy character was vindicated by the second Man ‘from heaven’, 1 Cor. 15. 47 RV, who alone could do this. The primary aspect therefore of Christ’s work was Godward, John 4. 34.
III. ATONING BLOOD
This met the deficiency in the offerer’s character as coming short of the glory of God, Rom. 3. 23b. All personal unfitness was covered in the death of the substitute victim. The believer’s acceptance with God does not rest solely upon the perfect obedience of the Saviour as such but upon the value in the sight of God of the Saviour’s atoning blood.
IV. APPOINTED SACRIFICES
a Of herds and flocks, a male without blemish, see Lev. 22. 19, 20.
b Of birds, turtledoves or young pigeons, and in both cases accompanied always by the prescribed food and drink offerings. The different grades were intended to meet the offerer’s ability so that the poorest Israelite would not be debarred from approach to God. With certain modifications in the ritual they represent differing degrees of spiritual apprehension by faith of the preciousness of Christ’s sacrifice. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that the Christian’s acceptance rests not upon man’s estimate but upon God’s. Compare the five classes in the victims offered by Abram by divine command, Gen. 15. 9:
i. Ox (a young bull), literally ‘son of the herd’, v. 5, typically suggests Christ’s prompt service, Ps. 144. 14; Prov. 14. 4. The ox was available either for service or for sacrifice, see 2 Sam. 24. 22. The Saviour’s toil and trial are emphasized throughout Mark’s Gospel, where He is presented as the Servant of Jehovah, note 3. 20; 6. 31; 10. 45. In this, the highest grade offering, Christ is set forth as the Strong One.
ii. Sheep, v. 10, typically suggests Christ’s patient submission, Isa. 7 (cited Acts 8. 32). Christ is set forth as the Subject One. The ordinary burnt offering in the time of our Lord was a male lamb of the first year.
iii. Goat, v. 10, typically suggests Christ’s planned substitution, Lev. 16. 5ff. Christ is set forth as the Sinbearing One. Many fail to differentiate clearly between the sin offering and the burnt offering aspects of Christ’s work on the cross.
iv. Turtledove or young pigeon, v. 14, see John 2. 13-16; Matt. 21. 12. These birds typically suggest Christ’s patient sincerity, i.e., His guileless character, 1 Pet. 2. 22, cp. Matt. 10. 16. He is set forth as the Sorrowing One, Isa. 38. 14; 53. 3, 4; Matt. 26. 37, 38. We may summarize thus:
a. the Persevering Servant, Isa. 42. 1;
b. the Patient Sufferer, Isa. 7;
c. the Promised Sin-bearer, Isa. 5, 1;
d. the Perfect Sympathizer, John 11. 35.
V. ADDED INGREDIENT
Salt, Lev. 2. 13; Ezek. 43. 24 (see corresponding note under meal offering).
VI. PRESCRIBED RITUAL
i. The Offerer’s Work
a. Presentation of the sacrificial victim ‘at the entrance of the tent of meeting’ where was situated the brazen altar, vv. 3, 10, 14.
b. Identification with his offering by the laying on (literally ‘leaning’) of a hand upon its head, v. 4, in token of complete reliance upon the substitute for the worshipper’s own acceptance with God. With the birds a similar thought would be conveyed by being brought in the hand.
c. Immolation, i.e., slaying, ‘before the Lord’, v. 5, by cutting the victim’s throat on the north side of the altar. Significantly our Lord was crucified outside Jerusalem on the north side.
d. Dissection, v. 6, i.e., flaying, jointing (not hacking in pieces), washing the inwards and legs with water, v. 9, this last, to suit it the better as representing the antitype and indicating that the secrets of the Saviour’s inner life, disclosed nothing inconsistent with God’s will, no imperfection whatever in His character or conduct.
ii. The Priest’s Work
a. Presenting the blood, v. 5.
b. Scattering the blood round about upon the altar, proclaiming thus on every hand the fact of atonement, v. 5. In the case of the birds, he ‘pinched off ’ the head, v. 15, pressed out the small quantity of blood on the side of the altar, deposited feathers and filth as indicated and rent open the little body without separating the parts.
c. Attending the altar, vv. 7-9, i.e., arranging fuel, fire and sacrifice.
d. Removing the ashes, 6. 10, 11. Note that priestly activity began only upon the death of the victim, except when the priest was acting for himself or his family or for the whole congregation, in which event he first undertook the duties of representative offerer before continuing in a priestly capacity.
VII. ALLOTTED PORTIONS
a. Jehovah’s share. To Him belonged the whole of the flayed and jointed sacrifice consumed on the altar.
b. The Priest’s share. To him was granted the animal’s skin, Lev. 7. 8; cp. Gen. 3. 21.
c. The Offerer’s share was absolutely nothing. Both he and the priest might apprehend the meaning of the burnt offering, entering to some degree into God’s thoughts concerning it, but they could not appropriate any part as food as with other offerings. Special burnt offerings for the nation were offered on the Day of Atonement, Lev. 16. 3, 24, at the beginning of each month and on the occasion of three great festivals, Num. 28. 11-31 to 29. 1-40.