"Who bare witness of
the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation
"I John, your brother and partaker with you in the
tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus, was in
the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the
testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 1:9).
"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgement
was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been
beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and
such as worshipped not the beast" (Revelation 20:4).
consideration of the greatness and glory of Jesus Christ we are
seeing how God used the ark in the tabernacle of old to set forth
that greatness and glory of His Son. Among the number of names by
which that ark was called is "The Ark of the
Testimony". The 'testimony' there referred specifically to
the tables of the covenant within the ark, but it came to have a
much larger meaning than that. The testimony related to the ark
itself as well as to all that which was in it, so it was a very
comprehensive thing. We saw that when we looked at the many names
by which the ark was called.
There is a link
between the ark of the testimony in the tabernacle and this
phrase which repeatedly occurs in the Book of the Revelation, and
which we have just read three times: "The testimony of Jesus".
That was what the ark of the Old Testament represented. It was in
very truth the testimony of Jesus.
Now it will be
noted, as we follow the history of the ark, that its progress was
always connected with conflict. As it went forward through the
wilderness and into the Promised Land it was always an object of
conflict. There is a great word by both Moses and David, the
Psalmist, about this. It says that when the priests took up the
ark the word went out: "Arise, O Lord, and let thine enemies
be scattered" (Numbers 10:35; Psalm 68:1). The testimony was
always an object of opposition, and the very presence of the ark
of the testimony caused opposition. Then, when you come to this
Book of the Revelation, you will notice that every time the
testimony is mentioned it is connected with persecution. John
says: "I... was in the isle that is called Patmos... for the
testimony of Jesus." He was in exile because of the
testimony of Jesus. He was in the isle of Patmos under one of the
great Roman persecutions of Christians. Then, in chapter 20, he
says: "I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for
the testimony of Jesus".
So it will be
noted that the testimony of Jesus is connected with persecutions
and martyrdoms, but we shall understand that phrase 'the
testimony of Jesus' better if we know the cause of the
There is no doubt
whatever that the cause of all the persecution of the Christians
was emperor-worship, and here, in this Book of the Revelation, we
are in the presence of the persecutions which arose over
emperor-worship. The Roman emperors were worshipped as deities.
They posed as gods, and did the work of the devil. One of the
titles of the Roman Caesars was 'our lord god', so that right
over that vast Roman empire, over all the world, Caesar reigned
as god. Only Jews and Christians were persecuted by the Romans,
and the reason for that was that they would not acknowledge any
other god than Jehovah. The Jews would worship no other god than
Jehovah, and the Christians would acknowledge no other god than
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Roman world said
of Caesar: 'Our lord god'. The Christian world said of Jesus:
'Our Lord God'. That explains the phrase 'the testimony of
Jesus', for the testimony of Jesus brought the Christians into
immediate and direct conflict with the whole Roman conception of
who was God.
So the 'testimony
of Jesus' is the testimony concerning the truth as to who and
what Jesus is. History is repeating itself. If you are saying:
'Of course, that was long centuries ago. That belongs to the time
of the Roman Empire and the Christian persecutions, many hundreds
of years ago', I would remind you that that same thing, in
principle, is spreading like a great wave over the world today.
The systems and ideologies may not take the name of God,
but they are taking the place of God. They are in
opposition to all that is His right, and in a very great part of
the world you dare not speak of Him. It is forbidden, with great
persecutions, to worship God. Even the great world of Islam may
recognize Jesus as a good man and a prophet, but you mention
Jesus as God and see what you meet! We have reason to believe
that this anti-God movement is far more widespread than we know.
Even the Western nations are undermined with it, and those in the
movement are only waiting for the day when they can spring up and
put God out of this Western world.
We are all, in
some way or another, in some measure or another, involved in the
testimony of Jesus. If the outward persecutions and martyrdoms
are not yet our experience, every truly devoted Christian knows
that it is becoming more and more difficult spiritually to be
true to the Lord. We are all involved in the conflict of the
testimony of Jesus in one way or another. There is an antagonism
to Jesus Christ in the very atmosphere. If you are not conscious
of that, there is something wrong with your spiritual life. The
more utterly consecrated to Jesus Christ you are, the more
conflict will there be in your life.
The ark of old
times is a wonderful foreshadowing of this conflict. It is the
ark of testimony, and it is the testimony of Jesus. Of course, if
you are not prepared to testify to the Lord Jesus, you may have
an easy time. Many Christians are afraid to testify because they
know it will bring opposition. It will bring opposition in
business, or in the home, or in social life. There is a mighty
opposition in the very spiritual realm, and because of that
opposition, many Christians keep their mouths closed. Do you
think that makes them neutral Christians? It may look
like that, but, really, they are defeated Christians already.
Now let us look at this
testimony of Jesus more closely. It is the testimony as to who
and what Jesus is. What did these Christians of the New Testament
believe concerning Jesus? The first and basic thing that they
believed and declared was: Jesus is the Son of God. That, of
course, brought them at once into conflict with the Jews, who
persecuted the Christians on that one point. You have one
instance of this in a parable of the Lord Jesus. He said: 'A
certain man planted a vineyard and let it out to husbandmen. At
the time of the fruits he sent his servant to receive the fruit
of the vineyard, and the husbandmen cast him out of the vineyard.
So he sent another servant, and they treated him in the same way.
After he had sent a number of servants, whom they killed, the
Master of the vineyard said - "I will send my son. They will
honour him." They saw the son coming and said: "This is
the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be
ours."' The Lord Jesus spoke that parable in the presence of
the Jewish leaders, and whatever else you may say about their
intelligence, on this occasion they saw the point, and the writer
says: "They perceived that he spake of them" (Matthew
21:45). You would have thought that they had been discovered and
so would go away and do nothing, but "they sought to lay
hold on him". They did the very thing that the Lord had said
about these wicked husbandmen. They would not have it that Jesus
was the Son of God, and anyone who claimed to be that must die.
That was the basis of all the persecution by the Jews.
We have seen how true that was
in the case of the Romans. If anyone was said to take the place
of Caesar, he must die. So the Christians were persecuted because
of their testimony that Jesus was the Son of God.
However, that is only one of
The Christians believed and
preached that Jesus, as the Son of God, was the destined Lord of
creation. Both John and the Apostle Paul, put that into words:
"In him (Jesus) were all things created... through
him, and unto him" (Colossians 1:16)....
"All things were made by him" (John 1:3). The
wicked husbandmen of the spiritual world sought to take His
inheritance from Him, but although they killed Him on the Cross,
the Apostles and the Christians went through the world preaching
that Jesus was the destined Lord of creation. If they had had our
hymn-book, one of their favourite hymns would be:
"Jesus shall reign
where'er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run..."
Yes, they would
sing that most heartily!
kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more."
Jesus is God's Son, appointed
to be the heir of all things.
But the Christians believed
something even deeper than that. They believed and taught that
Jesus, as the Son of God, was the pattern of all the creation. We
have often said that if we understood the spiritual principles of
the material creation we should understand Jesus Christ. The sun,
the moon and the stars are used as symbols of His kingdom. The
sun is Jesus Christ Himself reigning high; the moon is His Church
living and reflecting His light over the world in a dark night;
the stars are the local churches showing His light in a dark
world. And where shall I stop if I go through the whole universe?
If we understood all the sciences and their spiritual laws, we
should see Jesus. He is the spiritual pattern of the whole
material creation. That is why the Apostle Paul used the human
body as a model of the Church.
Now go out into a pagan world
of unbelief and begin to preach those things! Jesus of Nazareth
is the Son of the living God; Jesus of Nazareth is the destined
Lord of creation; Jesus is God's eternal pattern for the
creation, and eventually the whole creation will reflect Him.
Well, say those things in a pagan, hostile world, and see what
happens! You are not surprised that Caesar rose up against Jesus.
Jesus said: "I am." Caesar said: 'The world is mine. It
was made for me. I have conquered the world, and I make it
according to my mind.' I said that because Caesar claimed that
position he did the work of the devil, for behind the rulers of
this world is Satan. Satan says: 'I am the god of this world. I
am going to make this world according to my mind. I am
going to take possession of the whole creation.' This is not
fiction; it is spiritual reality, and this is the conflict of the
testimony of Jesus. You notice that the sole object and the theme
of testimony by the early Christians was: 'Jesus is Lord'. The
preaching of that brought them into conflict with the lord of
Now I said that there were
seven things that the Christians believed. I do not think that it
is necessary for me to overstep my space by dealing with all of
them, but there are two things which we must mention as we close.
The Christians proclaimed that
God had attested Jesus Christ on all these points by raising Him
from the dead. They said: 'You killed Him, but God raised Him',
and they went everywhere preaching Jesus and the resurrection.
The raising of Jesus from the dead was God's seal upon all that
we have said as to the testimony of Jesus.
The last thing for the present
is this - and it is something that we must all take very careful
notice of. All this was the meaning of Christian baptism. Baptism
was baptism into Jesus Christ. It was baptism into the Name of
Jesus, and that meant into all that was true of the Lord Jesus:
into Him as the divine Son of God, into Him as God's destined
Lord of the universe, into Him as the pattern of the creation
that is yet to be, into Him as Lord. Is that what baptism
means to you? Baptism has lost very much of its meaning in our
time. In many realms it is just a ceremony, a part of Christian
practice and teaching, but, as God sees it, it is an immense
thing, and anyone who goes to this matter of baptism really
seriously knows that there is a conflict related to it. The
testimony of Jesus is the cause of all the trouble, the suffering
and the martyrdom, but it is the testimony of the glory. The
greatness and the glory of Jesus Christ is the testimony of
I must close, but I am quite
sure that you all feel that the immensity of this demands a great
deal more time. I was speaking in India once, and after I had
been speaking for one and a half hours, I looked at my watch. An
Indian in the company shouted: 'Throw that watch away!' Well, we
are going where there will be no clocks or watches, and when we
are where time shall be no more we shall still be talking about
the testimony of Jesus.