That You May See

“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”

Revelation 3:18

In the above text, there are three items mentioned that we are counseled to use in our walk along the narrow way: gold, white raiment, and eye salve. All have their role in our walk, and without the use of all three, we are unlikely to cross the Jordan successfully. However, I want to investigate the specific role that the eye salve plays in our Christian journey. It’s the only one of the three that we apparently do not need to buy. Perhaps that is an indication that we already possess it.

Why does Christ tell us to anoint our eyes with eye salve? The scripture clearly answers that question: “that you may see.”

One of the dictionary definitions of the word see is to “discern or deduce mentally after reflection or from information; understand,” which the context of the word in Revelation 3:18 would lead us to accept as the intended use of the word.

But then the question becomes, What does Christ want us to see, to understand?

A study in the Spirit of Prophecy reveals that, as we walk the narrow way, there is more than one thing, aided by holy eye salve, that Christ would have us to see and understand. Note that these blessings found in the Spirit of Prophecy are in no particular order here.

In Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, there is an eye-opening account of an incident that occurred at Cooranbong, Australia, in 1900. It gives us a good understanding of one of the things that we are to “see” once our eyes have been anointed with holy eye salve.

“In April, 1900, a holiday was appointed at the Avondale school for Christian workers. The program for the day provided for a meeting in the chapel in the morning, at which I and others addressed the students, calling their attention to what God had wrought in the building up of this school, and to their privilege and opportunities as students.

“After the meeting, the remainder of the day was spent by the students in various games and sports, some of which were frivolous, rude, and grotesque.

“During the following night I seemed to be witnessing the performances of the afternoon. The scene was clearly laid out before me, and I was given a message for the manager and teachers of the school.

“I was shown that in the amusements carried on at the school that afternoon the enemy gained a victory, and teachers were weighed in the balances and found wanting. I was greatly distressed and burdened to think that those standing in responsible positions should open the door and, as it were, invite the enemy in; for this they did in permitting the exhibitions that took place. As teachers, they should have stood firm against giving place to the enemy in any such line. By what they permitted they marred their record and grieved the Spirit of God. The students were encouraged in a course the effects of which were not easily effaced. There is no end to the path of vain amusements, and every step taken in it is a step in a path which Christ has not traveled.

“This introduction of wrong plans was the very thing that should have been jealously guarded against. The Avondale school was established, not to be like the schools of the world, but, as God revealed, to be a pattern school. And since it was to be a pattern school, those in charge of it should have perfected everything after God’s plan, discarding all that was not in harmony with His will. Had their eyes been anointed with the heavenly eye salve, they would have realized that they could not permit the exhibition that took place that afternoon, without dishonoring God.” Op. cit., 348, 349

If they had understood what they were permitting, if they had had the anointing of the heavenly eye salve, they could have avoided allowing activities that grieved the Spirit of God. They would have been able to discern that the conduct that went on that afternoon was contrary to God’s will. In short, they would have been able to distinguish error in even its most subtle and disguised form.

This spiritual discernment of subtly-disguised evil is perhaps one of the most important things that the application of heavenly eye salve enables us to accomplish.

Another ability granted by this anointing is explained in the following passage:

“Discussions may be entered into by mortals strenuously advocating creature merit, and each man striving for the supremacy, but they simply do not know that all the time, in principle and character, they are misrepresenting the truth as it is in Jesus. They are in a fog of bewilderment. They need the divine love of God which is represented by gold tried in the fire; they need the white raiment of Christ’s pure character; and they need the heavenly eye salve that they might discern with astonishment the utter worthlessness of creature merit to earn the wages of eternal life.” Faith and Works, 23

Here is the second thing that the eye salve of spiritual discernment enables us to perceive: that creature merit or believing that I or any other creature has inherent or innate or acquired worthiness, is totally false. It is Christ’s merit alone, acquired by faith, that offers the believer safe passage to Canaan.

The third thing that heavenly eye salve does for us: It gives us a clear vision of the narrow way that we are to tread—the path that leads directly to Canaan, as explained in the following statement.

“Those who think that they can receive the blessing of God at this meeting [a council meeting in Michigan] without humiliation of self will go away just as they came. They will have as much perplexity as they had before. But, brethren and sisters, we cannot afford this. Let us humble our hearts before God. Let us allow Christ to anoint our eyes with the heavenly eye salve that we may see. We do not want to be blind; we want to see everything distinctly. We do not want to be marching one day toward Canaan, and the next day back to Egypt, and the next day toward Canaan, and then back to Egypt again. Day by day we are to march steadily forward. It makes my heart ache, it fills me with the keenest sorrow, to think of the precious blessings we are losing because we are so far behind the light.” Mind, Character, and Personality, Book 2, 727

The fourth thing that the application of heavenly eye salve does for our spiritual vision is it enables us to distinguish between truth and error. “The eye salve, [is] the power of clear discernment between good and evil … .” Our High Calling, 351

It is explained in more detail in this passage:

“Christian strength is obtained by serving the Lord faithfully. [We] should realize that to be one with Christ is the highest honor to which [we] can attain. By the strictest fidelity [we] should strive for moral independence, and this independence [we] should maintain against every influence that may try to turn [us] from righteous principles. Stronger minds may, yes, they will, make assertions that have no foundation in truth. Let the heavenly eye salve be applied to the eyes of your understanding, that you may distinguish between truth and error. Search the word; and when you find a ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ take your stand.” My Life Today, 73

A fifth blessing given by application of spiritual eye salve is the ability to discern the “indications of the divine will,” enabling us to walk the narrow way without becoming confused by erroneous winds of doctrine that are blowing with more and more frequency as we approach the end of time.

“Whatever path God chooses for us, whatever way He ordains for our feet, that is the only path of safety. We are daily to cherish a spirit of childlike submission, and pray that our eyes may be anointed with the heavenly eye salve in order that we may discern the indications of the divine will, lest we become confused in our ideas, because our will seems to be all-controlling. With the eye of faith, with childlike submission as obedient children, we must look to God, to follow His guidance, and difficulties will clear away. The promise is, ‘I will instruct thee and teach thee … : I will guide thee with Mine eye’ (Psalm 32:8).” Our Father Cares, 134

Closely akin to the fifth blessing is the sixth: the ability to discern the wondrous providences of God.

“Great possibilities, high and holy attainments, are placed within the reach of all who have true faith. Shall we not anoint our eyes with eye salve, that we may discern the wondrous things here brought before us? Why do we not with persevering earnestness, work out this prayer, advancing onward and upward, reaching the standard of holiness? We are laborers together with God, and we must work in harmony with one another and with God, ‘for it is God which worketh in … [us] both to will and to do of His good pleasure.’ (Philippians 2:13).” Ibid., 260

The ability to “see all things in the light of God’s word” is the seventh blessing that the application of eye salve provides.

“A deceiving crookedness is discernible in the minds of those whose eyes are not anointed with the heavenly eye salve that they may see all things in the light of God’s word. The will becomes enslaved, bound to pursue a course which the word of God will not justify.” Ibid., 268

The depth of meaning in the following passage, which details our eighth blessing, is from Our High Calling, 315, and requires a bit of analysis to fully comprehend the ninth blessing.

“The worker for God often regards the activities of life as essential to the advancement of the work. Self is mingled with all that is said and done. … The worker looks upon himself as a necessity. God says, ‘This poor soul has lost sight of Me and My sufficiency. I must cast My light and My vitalizing power into his heart. I must prepare him to receive truth by anointing him with the heavenly eye salve. He sees too many things. His eye is not fastened on Me.’ ”

First, God says that the application of eye salve enables us to perceive the truth, but then He adds that by perceiving the truth, our vision will be focused on God. When we perceive God with the aid of heavenly eye salve, we understand His loving character more and more.

“But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in mercy and truth.” Psalm 86:15

As we seek to advance the cause of truth, the use of eye salve is essential so that our “spiritual eyes are anointed with holy eye salve, that they may discern clearly what will be for the advancement, not the detriment, of the cause.” Publishing Ministry, 225. Clear spiritual vision will enable us to be effective workers as we seek to hasten the end of Satan’s rule and the return of our Lord and Saviour.

A common theme in the counsel we are given in the Spirit of Prophecy regarding studying sacred and inspired writings is to “mine” for hidden gems.

“Those who desire to find the treasures of truth must dig for them as the miner digs for the treasure hidden in the earth. No halfhearted, indifferent work will avail. It is essential for old and young, not only to read God’s word, but to study it with wholehearted earnestness, praying and searching for truth as for hidden treasure. Those who do this will be rewarded, for Christ will quicken the understanding.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 111

Thus we have the tenth benefit of the application of holy eye salve: “When our eyes are anointed with the holy eye salve, we shall be able to detect the precious gems of truth, even though they may be buried beneath the surface.” Reflecting Christ, 111

The eleventh and last benefit we will look at is enabling us to distinguish the true from the counterfeit.

“It would be surprising if there were not some, who, not being well-balanced in mind, have spoken and acted indiscreetly; for whenever and wherever the Lord works in giving a genuine blessing, a counterfeit is also revealed, in order to make of none effect the true work of God. Therefore we need to be exceedingly careful and walk humbly before God, that we may have spiritual eye salve that we may distinguish the working of the Holy Spirit of God from the working of that spirit that would bring in wild license and fanaticism.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 142

In one sense, even though there may be subtle or situational differences between these eleven points, all can be lumped together by recognizing that the heavenly eye salve simply gives us the ability to distinguish truth from error, right from wrong, the leadings of God from the deceptions of Satan, the real from the counterfeit, to distinguish between good and evil. Given that, we can easily recognize that the application and use of eye salve is essential in our Christian walk. Therefore it is also essential that we recognize what this eye salve is and how to obtain it. Inspiration clearly tells us.

“The eye is the sensitive conscience, the inner light, of the mind. Upon its correct view of things the spiritual healthfulness of the whole soul and being depends. The ‘eye salve,’ the word of God, makes the conscience smart under its application, for it convicts of sin. But the smarting is necessary that the healing may follow, and the eye be single to the glory of God.” Our High Calling, 350

We see, then, that the eye salve is the word of God. Indeed, we do not need to “buy” it. It is a free gift. And when we study that word, we are applying the heavenly balm to our thinking, our reasoning, our understanding, so that we may have the clear spiritual vision that the Lord wants all of His children to have.

Note: In the Spirit of Prophecy, our subject word is written eye salve, eyesalve, and eye-salve. For consistency, we have used eye salve throughout this article.

John R. Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at