"I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars." (Revelation 2:2)
Nothing can be hidden from the inner God. He knows all thoughts and intents of the heart. The works of the newly aspiring disciple are seen and known.
Three things are known by the Observer within:
Working for a spiritual ideal that goes beyond serving the lower self must take place before the seeker begins to tread the path of liberation. If a person thinks he is on the path but has no works, then he only has passing interest and has not yet gotten serious about moving forward. Nothing important happens, even for the spiritual seeker, until actual work is done. The pilgrim will try every avenue possible to avoid work and take shortcuts until after lifetimes of frustration he finally realizes that there is much work to do and he must do his part.
It would seem that there is not much difference between labor and work until we examine the Greek and realize that this is an incomplete translation. The word used is KOPOS, which is more accurately translated as "strenuous and painstaking labor."
When the seeker begins a work he often thinks it will be painless and fun. He begins with an attitude that he is going to have a good time as he proceeds in the work. Even though there are always good times to be had (and one should make the best of all situations) all is not fun and games in the spiritual work. It is not long before storm clouds arise and troubles come. That which seemed to be easy becomes difficult and that which was fun becomes tedious and challenging.
Patience comes from the Greek HUPOMONE and "endurance" or more specifically "steadfast endurance" is a more accurate translation.
This makes more sense and adds depth to the work of the aspirant. Many times the seeker begins an unselfish work but then quits after a few obstacles get in the way. When it looks as if the work will not bring immediate results he loses faith. Finally after numerous cycles of labour and quitting he realizes that he must attain the added quality of endurance, an endurance that can carry the seeker through pain, grief and disappointment until results are obtained.
He must obtain a living witness of the words of the Master:
"But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." (Matthew 24:13)
He who endures until the work is done takes the first step in his own salvation or deliverance.
Notice that the seeker is being praised for having achieved these three qualities in the first stage of discipleship, but the voice of the Master does not stop there. He gives additional praise:
"Thou canst not bear them which are evil."
This is awkward to interpret in isolation. Many people have different definitions of what is "evil." We are clearly told though that the aspiring disciple does not embrace that which he sees as evil or destructive, but is repulsed by it. Apparently he sees true evil for the inner voice acknowledges his intolerance as a good thing.
The next part of the verse identifies a particular evil that must be confronted:
"And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:"
A particular evil faced by the aspiring disciple are those who say they are apostles and are not. Who are such people? The word "apostle" is generally linked with the twelve disciples of Jesus, but at the time of this writing all of them were dead except for John. Obviously many people surfaced with the claim of being the true successors of the original twelve.
The problem goes beyond this, however. "Apostle" comes from the Greek APOSTOLOS and means "one sent forth with orders." This implies that such a person has strong authority.
Now let us look again at who the aspirant is dealing with. It is those "which say they are apostles." In other words, as the seeker begins the path of liberation one of the first great evils he must confront and overcome are those who seek authority over him to give him marching orders. Where do they get their authority? They only seem to have it because they (or their followers) "say" so.
In order to make his first step of granting himself "permission" to listen to the inner voice he must free himself from false unearned outer authorities. But note that he does not mindlessly reject an outer authority just because it is there and attempting to instruct or order him about. What does he do?
The Master gives him praise for testing such people and John himself in another scripture talks about the importance of such tests:
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1)
Now the question arises as to how the seeker is to test such people. The next verse seems to give a simplistic answer:
2 "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
3 "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world."
(1 John 4:2-3)
So is that all there is to the test? If they confess that Jesus came in the flesh then we know they are of God, right?
Not quite. First we know this is not correct based on observation alone. Many tyrants and people of great evil have confessed such things. Cortez and other Conquistadors confessed the coming of Jesus in the flesh and forced thousands of Native Americans to also make such a confession or die.
If this common interpretation is not correct then what is? To understand let us examine the verse more carefully. The key to the meaning is found in the phrase: "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." We have previously covered that the name Jesus Christ means "anointed to deliver" and applies not only to the Master in Galilee, but to all who successfully follow in his footsteps and seek to assist those who tread the path of deliverance.
"Is come" is from the Greek ERCHOMAI and is the middle voice of a primary verb used only in the present and imperfect tenses. Here it is used in the imperfect tense which implies a thing that is in the state of progress or happening in the now, whenever that now is occurring. If we take this into consideration then what is the verse really telling us? Who are those that pass the test?
The orthodox version reads: "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:"
A more accurate rendering as far as the meaning is concerned would be:
"Everyone who confesses in spirit that the name of Jesus Christ is manifesting in the flesh of all who will receive is of God."
This agrees with another scripture written by John:
"And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads." (Revelation 14:1)
The name given of the Father is Jesus Christ and is written in the minds and hearts of all true followers.
What then is the test of the true apostle? The seeker must search him out and discover this one thing. Does he see himself as a representative of Jesus Christ in a way that you are not or could not be if you so chose? Or does he see you and himself as equals in the opportunity of manifesting the Christ within our fleshly tabernacles? Does he allow you to speak the words of your innermost soul and allow you to follow them without trying to place his outer authority over you, above your own inner authority?
If he respects your inner voice as he does his own and if he allows you to manifest Christ with the same authority that he does for himself then he is of God. But if he seeks authority over you for the sake of glorifying his ego then he is not of God -- no matter what words of support he gives to Jesus.
The seeker at this stage is thus praised by the Master's voice. He has seen the deceit behind those who sought to control him and direct him toward their own ideal rather than that of the inner Christ.
The next verse reads:
"And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted." (Revelation 2:3)
This reinforces the praise for the seeker's endurance. Endurance is reiterated because successful endurance in keeping the mind steady on the Inner Light is much rarer than the performance of a labor. Many labor for a while and give up in the heat of the day but those who have securely entered the path of liberation must be able to "endure all things" and continue until the work manifests the desired fruit - even if that end seems far away.
Now we come to some of the problems the seeker faces in this stage of his progress. Here are the next verses to consider:
4 "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5 "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
6 "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."
"I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean."
-- G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936)
Copyright © 2006 by J.J. Dewey, All Rights Reserved