And the message is simply this: put to us with all the intensity of the One who gave His very life for us, it is this,—that we be personally true to our Lord Jesus during His present absence. This comes as His personal request, that, in sweet, stern purity of life, in full glad obedience of spirit, in tender freshness of personal devotion, in holding absolutely everything, of talents and position and possession, subject to His call, and in keeping our eye ever open forward and upward for His return, we be true to Him.
He is the Lamb slain. Only through His blood is there salvation for any one. He is now allowing man fullest opportunity before He comes to set things right. This is the in-between time, much lengthened out. In the midst of formalism and subtle compromise, the tangling of ideas and issues, and the blurring of vision within His Church, He calls to His own blood-bought ones to be true to Himself.
There's a terrific moral storm coming. Wickedness will wax to a worst never yet known. Evil will be so aggressive, compromise so radical, temptations so subtle and coming with such a rush, and ideals of right so blurred and dimmed in the glare of the lower lights, that even those of the inner circle will be sorely tried, and many will be deceived. Just at the bursting of the worst of the storm the crowned Christ will appear. He will come on the clouds before all eyes, take away His own out of the storm, then clear the storm by His own touch, and begin the new order of things.
The test coming will be terrific. He knows it. And his knowledge makes His plea intense that we be true to Himself, our beloved, crucified, crowned Lord, utterly regardless of consequences to ourselves. So we shall "overcome by the blood of the Lamb," and be joined with Him in closest intimacy during His coming reign over the earth.
There is a striking thing told us at the very outset of the book;—it is a revelation. That is, it is something revealed directly by God. It is the only book of the Bible of which we are told plainly and directly that it is a revelation.
It is not that the other books do not have the same inspirational characteristic. But our attention is explicitly called to the fact that this one is, in its entirety, a direct revelation; and not only so, but it is a revelation given directly by God to the Lord Jesus, and given in person by Him to John. This is significant. It marks out the message of the book as of the utmost meaning and importance.
This suggests a need. And the need of something of the sort is plain enough, if one think into it. Already in John's day there was a distinct break-away from the simplicity and purity of the Gospel, both in the Church and in the lives of professed Christians. The messages to the Churches of Pergamum and Thyatira and Sardis show clearly that there had already begun a rubbing out of the sharp line of distinction between the Church and the world. The world spirit was—not creeping in, but—walking boldly into the life of the Church.
It is striking to note the thing that leads John to write his First Epistle, that is, the alarming conditions among Christ's followers. The spirit of compromise seems seeping in at every crevice. And worse yet, the spirit of Antichrist, that makes such a savage attack on Jesus, on the deity of His person, and the atoning significance of His death, this was openly at work among them. [Note: 1Jn_2:18-29; 1Jn_4:1-6.] These conditions, so familiar to those who first read his little Epistle, are the continual underscoring of His intense plea for abiding.
It is most significant that Jude's intense flame-like Epistle talks entirely about conditions within Church circles. Run through it again with this fact fresh in mind, and the significance of it stands out in a startling way. Peter's Second Epistle reveals the same sort of an atmosphere seeping in among the groups of disciples to whom he writes. Not only was there doubt and confusion about the meaning of the prophetic teachings, but even a sneering and mocking at the teaching about the second coming of our Lord.
These are a few indications of how things were in the Church generally before the first century had closed. It was a time of confusion and compromise. The air was tense. The need was critical. It would seem that if ever our Lord would give a simple direct revelation afresh, to His people, it would be in just such circumstances. And it reveals to us at once how grave things looked to His eyes, and how much depended on His followers having a clear understanding of how things would work out, that our Lord Jesus does do just this thing,—send a direct revelation that would meet just such a need.