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Light & Truth: Bible Thoughts and Themes on Revelation Bonar on Revelation
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
Bonar, Horatius. "Commentary on Revelation 21". "Light & Truth: Bible Thoughts and Themes on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ bch/ revelation-21.html.
Bonar, Horatius. "Commentary on Revelation 21". "Light & Truth: Bible Thoughts and Themes on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/
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The Vision of the Restitution of All Things.
Of these two last glorious chapters, we could say, ’You have kept the good wine until now!’ They take us into the shrine of shrines—into the very heart of the glory—into the paradise of God; into the royal banqueting-house—into the very splendor of eternity! What a summing up of God’s purposes is here! What a conclusion of the divine oracles! What a termination to the long, long desert-journey of the Church of God, calling forth from us the exulting shout which broke from the lips of the Crusaders, when first from the neighboring height they caught sight of the holy city, ’Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
The first book of Scripture—and the last—fit well into each other; the first two chapters of Genesis and the last two of Revelation fit together like the two halves of a golden clasp set in gems. Enclosed between the two is the history of six thousand years. And what a history! What a beginning, and what an ending! It began with the new, and it ended with the new—the strange checkered ’old’ lying mysteriously between. ’In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.’
’I saw new heavens and a new earth.’
Of these Revelation visions, some were seen by John on earth, and some in heaven, according as the point of view suited best the vision and the prophet. His sight of Jesus in His priestlyglory was from earth,Patmos itself. Jesus had come down to him and showed Himself face to face. The epistles to the seven Churches are written from Patmos also.
But after this John is called up to heaven,like Paul, to see and hear unspeakable things, which, however, unlike those which Paul saw, would be ’lawful for a man to utter;’ and most of the subsequent visions are from this heavenly standing-place. What eyes must his have been—to look upon such terrors and such glories unmoved and undazzled!
Let us notice a few of the many things regarding which he says, ’I saw’—while standing in these heavenly places. We cannot cite even one half. ’I saw twenty-four elders sitting,’ Revelation 4:4. ’I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice,’ Revelation 5:2. ’I saw under the altar the souls of those who were slain,’ Revelation 6:9. ’I saw, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands,’ Revelation 7:9. ’I saw, another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud,’ Revelation 10:1. ’I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire,’ Revelation 15:2. ’I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored best,’ Revelation 17:3. ’I saw the woman drunken with the blood of saints,’ Revelation 17:6. ’I saw an angel standing in the sun,’ Revelation 19:17. ’I saw thrones, and those who sat upon them,’ 20:4. ’I saw a great white throne, and Him who sat on it,’ Revelation 20:2. ’I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God,’ 20:12. ’I saw a new heaven and a new earth,’ Revelation 21:1. ’I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven!’ Revelation 21:2.
This new heaven and earth which John saw were still future. He saw the future as if it were the present. Yet this new creation shall not be shadowy, but real—as real as that described in Genesis. The former creation passes away, and the new creation comes—new heavens, new earth, new sea. The old creation is not annihilated but only purged and renewed. It passes away as the gold passes into the furnace—to come out purified. It passes away as this ’vile body’ does into the grave, to come forth glorious and immortal, yet the same body. The ’restitution of all things’ is to do for earth and heaven what resurrection is to do for the body. What a change! What a perfection! What a holy blessedness! Oh when shall the day break, and the shadows flee away!
This first verse most significantly brings before us such things as these—all of them blessed.
I. Here is the end of SIN.The world has lain in wickedness—but it shall do so no more! The overflowing flood of evil shall then be dried up, and sin be known no more upon this earth and under these heavens. What an ending shall be the ending of sin! For six thousand years it has triumphed—then its triumph ends. Not the ’shadow’ of sin or evil in any form shall pass over this fair globe. It shall, even more than at the first, be very good!
II. The end of the SERPENT and his seed.How many ages had run out from the time that the serpent seduced Eve and ruined our world—from the hour when God said, ’You are cursed above all cattle—I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed!’ The seducer’s triumph is now over—he himself is cast out of this earth and bound—the terrible battle of so many ages has been fought, and the battlefield cleared forever—earth is now no longer at Satan’s mercy—and no trace of his long dominion over it remains. The creation that he marred, rises from its ruin and sorrow more glorious than at first. His reign is ended—his legions are in chains—his spell is dissolved—his work of disfigurement all undone!
III. The end of the CURSE.From this time there shall be ’no more curse.’ He who was made a curse for us, has cancelled earth’s curse forever! No cursed thing in any shape shall again be seen—only that which is blessed and holy. The earth and its fullness shall then be the Lord’s, in a way until now unknown. Blessed kingdom, and blessed King! From every particle of dust—from air and earth and sea—shall the curse be expelled forever! O fair and spotless creation, great paradise of God! The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose!
IV. The end of CORRUPTION and MORTALITY.These are the FRUIT of the curse—and with the curse they disappear. Death is no more. The grave is emptied. Disease is abolished. The inhabitant shall no more say, I am sick. Feebleness and weariness are unknown. The head aches not, nor the heart. The eye grows not dim, nor the ear dull. All is immortality and incorruption—and beauty and eternal health.
V. The end of SORROW.Into this new creation no grief shall ever enter. The days of mourning shall be ended. Sorrow and sighing shall flee away. God Himself shall wipe away all tears. There shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying. There shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun—for it is written, ’The Lord shall be the everlasting light, and your God your glory!’ ’You shall weep no more.’ Everlasting joy shall be upon our heads. The valley of tears, shall then be the land of song!
And with the end of these things, shall come the beginning of the glorious and the blessed. The old passes away, and the new comes up like the sun in its strength. Winter is over and gone. It is sweet spring and perpetual summer now. It is the kingdom which cannot be moved—the undefiled inheritance—the reign of righteousness—the reign of the righteous King. Into this nothing that defiles shall enter—nothing unworthy of the presence of the glorious King!
All this for those who once were sinners—the lost and worthless! Blood has brought it. The cross has done it all. Through death, life has come. The crucified Christ has opened the gate for us—and all may go in. The same Jesus who has brought the glory for us, bids us come. Far and wide go out the messages of invitation—Come in, Come in! At each gate waves the blessed hand afar, beckoning us with all urgency to enter. Echoing amid earth’s valleys and hills, through every land, the trumpet sounds that summons the wanderer, and assures him of most loving welcome. Will you hesitate, O men, or neglect, or scoff, or refuse? All this glory waiting you! These open gates inviting you! And this poor, dark, death-stricken earth speaking to you each hour, and saying, "This is not your rest—I have nothing for you but sorrow, and pain, and despair!" O men of earth, will you miss the prize thus placed within your reach? Will you despise the love that yearns and weeps over you in your folly? Will you not listen and live? Will you not listen, and go in, and become heirs of the glory and the joy?
God’s Tabernacle On Earth.
The voice that uttered these words is said to have been a great one, indicating their importance, and God’s desire that we should listen to the announcement. It is not surely without a meaning that a great voice should be thought needful to speak the words, and that a special note of its greatness should be left upon record for us.
We are not told who utter it. It came ’out of heaven’—that is all we know. It was not the inhabitants of earth looking round and wondering at something which had thus taken place in the midst of them; it was the inhabitants of heaven looking down from the upper glory, and rejoicing in what had at length, after so many ages and so many hindrances, been accomplished upon earth. It reminds us of the joy in heaven over one sinner that repents, though the occasion is one of far greater magnitude and wider compass.
Yet it does not seem in this place to be the voice of God Himself, but the voice of the angel multitudes that fill the heaven of heavens, and stand before His throne. That the tabernacle of God should be pitched in heaven, and among themselves, was nothing new—but that it should be pitched upon earth, and among the sons of men, this calls forth admiration and gladness. ’Behold! the tabernacle of God is with men!’
Frequently in the course of these visions does John hear ’voices,’ which, like explanatory words, come in to cast light upon the symbols, and to tell us the impression which the scenes are making, not merely upon John, but upon other beings, both in earth and heaven. Sometimes it is the voice of a ’mighty angel’ (Revelation 5:2); sometimes the voice of ’many angels’ (verse 2); sometimes the voice of the elders and living creatures (ib.); sometimes it is the voice of ’many people’ (Revelation 19:1); of a ’great multitude’ on earth (verse 6); sometimes it is a great voice ’out of the temple’ (Revelation 16:1); sometimes it is a voice from the ’altar’ (Revelation 9:13); sometimes from the ’throne’ (Revelation 19:5); sometimes it is a voice ’in heaven’ (Revelation 11:15, and Revelation 12:10); sometimes it is a voice from or ’out of heaven,’—which two last expressions come with fuller meaning when contrasted with that other passage, ’there was silence in heaven’ (Revelation 8:1). This great voice from heaven is heard making such announcements as these—’Come up here’ (Revelation 11:12); ’the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.’
It is this voice which is as the voice of many waters and of a great thunder; which is as the voice of harpers harping with their harps, who sing new songs before the throne, which none could learn but the hundred and forty and four thousand who were redeemed from the earth (Revelation 14:1-4). It is this voice out of heaven which, in our test, proclaims, ’Behold! the tabernacle of God is with men!’ Perhaps it is the same with the ’shout’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Taking up this announcement as containing something of unspeakable interest and importance to us, we consider the great event which it proclaims, not indeed as yet accomplished, but most assuredly to be so in God’s wise time; so that just as eighteen hundred years ago the cry was heart from earth, ’It is finished,’ so the second great cry shall be heard from heaven, ’It is done.’ ’Behold! the tabernacle of God is with men!’ ’Behold! I make all things new!’
As to the TIME when this great phenomenon comes to pass, I do not say much. It is, of course, after Christ has come the second time; yet not perhaps immediately, at least to its full extent. For while the millennial age of peace and glory may be truly called the tabernacling of God with men, the new heavens and the new earth—it is still imperfect, being but the first and preparatory stage of the more glorious, and perfect, and eternal consummation which is to follow, and to which specially our text refers.
Keeping this in mind, we consider—
The desirableness of this event.
God’s declared purpose of this event.
The manner or process by which God brings it about.
I. The DESIRABLENESS of this state of things.Many things show us this—
(1) The interest which the inhabitants of heaven take in it, as seen in the words before us.Though not of the race of man, nor dwellers on earth—they rejoice in the holy blessedness which has now taken possession of earth. They do not envy our race, nor are they jealous of our earth as having obtained an honor which once belonged exclusively to themselves and to heaven. There is no bitterness of selfish rivalry, no uneasiness felt at the prospect of having their ’monopoly of glory’ thrown down, and the prerogative of being the metropolis of the universe shared with a planet like ours—so inferior in size, and once the seat of most hateful evil. They can do nothing but rejoice in seeing earth become the dwelling-place of Jehovah—in beholding the tabernacle of God now pitched among the children of men.
(2) The pains and costs which God has been at to bring about this issue.He has grudged nothing; He has not spared His only-begotten Son—so infinitely desirable does He reckon this result. Surely that must have a large space in His eye and heart, for the accomplishment of which He was willing to make such a sacrifice! Surely the ultimate glory must be precious in His estimation, when, in order to bring it about, He can submit to allow such developments of evil, such an overflow of sin, such a reign of Satan for so many thousand years—instead of at once setting fire to the guilty world, and burning it into a second hell.
(3) The work of Christ, through which it has been brought about.Not without the sacrificial work of Christ could this end have been attained. As it would have been unrighteous in God to pardon a sinner without this work, so would it have been no less so without this to restore and re-glorify the sinner’s world. The leper’s habitation, no less than the leper himself, requires the sacrifice, and the blood, and the cleansing water. In the restoration of earth, and its re-inhabitation by God—Christ sees of the travail of His soul.
(4) The desire with which prophets and righteous men have desired this event.The times of the restitution of all things have been spoken of by all the holy prophets, since the world began. All prophecy is full of this coming glory. Holy men spoke of it, prayed for it, waited for it, saw it afar off, and were glad. Surely that which their pens so largely wrote of, and their hearts so earnestly longed for—must be infinitely desirable.
(5) The change which it will produce on earth.Over all its face, sin has spread itself, like the over flowings of some dark river of hell. Evil has prevailed—Satan has reigned—a rebellious hatred of Jehovah has showed itself—pain and sorrow have poisoned it in every part—disease and death compass it about. It is a blighted, withered, ruined, woe-stricken world! It is so as seen by oureyes—how much more when seen by angels’ eyes! How much more still when seen by the eyes of God!How infinitely desirable that all this evil should be undone—this curse up torn—this death exchanged for life—this sorrow turned into joy! And what a difference it will make when such shall actually be the state of things on earth! Sin shall no longer defile—death shall no longer destroy—sorrow shall no longer overshadow. God shall not longer be banished from His own creation.
Who, when reading such prophetic descriptions as the following, can fail to realize the desirableness of the glorious change? ’There shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him!’ ’There shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light, and they shall reign forever and ever!’ ’There shall never enter into it anything that defiles!’ ’God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away!’
If, then, that change be so infinitely desirable—if the event described in our text be so inconceivably glorious—how needful that those who are expected to share it, should meanwhile walk worthy of it! The prospect of such a glory should be as transformingas it is comforting,as sanctifyingas it is gladdening.If this be our hope, what kind of people we ought to be, in all holy conversation and godliness! Is it so with us?
II. The declared PURPOSE of God as to this glorious event.God having His tabernacle (or dwelling) with men.
One of the earliest statements is an intimation of God’s purpose respecting this. Paradise was meant not merely as man’s abode—but as God’s abode with man. The great original purpose of God to have His dwelling with men, continued to be presented to man in type and prophecy form that day forward, to show that it had only been postponed, not abandoned—postponed in order to be carried out more fully and more gloriously than it could have been before. Especially was this the case in Israel’s history, from the time that the tabernacle was erected in the wilderness to the day when the temple and city were laid in ruins by the hand of the aliens. The name of the tabernacle was ’Jehovah’s Tent’—the tent in which He took up His abode, and round which He gathered the tents of Israel—’the tent which He placed among men’ (Psalms 78:60). The whole story of Israel is the exhibition of God’s desire to dwell with men—and man’s refusal to allow God to dwell with Him.
The statement in the Gospel of John regarding the Son of God is another declaration of this same purpose—’The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us;’ literally—tabernacled or pitched His tent among us. And, in our Lord’s words, we have more than once the intimation of the same thing, or rather of a twofold purpose—that God should dwell with man, and that man should dwell with God; as in that remarkable answer to one of His disciples, ’If any man loves me, he will keep my words—and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him’ (John 14:23). And it is this which is the complete fulfillment of Christ’s name Immanuel, ’God with us.’
God then has all along been telling us not merely that He has a heaven of which He desires to make us partakers—His own blessed heaven, the paradise that was never lost—but that He means to make a second heaven of this very earth of ours; and out of that paradise, that Eden, that earth, which was lost and marred by man, to bring a more blessed and incorruptible paradise, in which He will pitch His tent, and where He will make His dwelling with the sons of men. As in the person of Christ we see these two things—man taken up to God, and God coming down to man—so as indissolubly to combine in one perfect being all that is excellent in the Creator and in the creature; so in the universe of God the same two-fold perfection is to be exhibited—man taken up to dwell with God in God’s holy heaven above, and God coming down to dwell with man in man’s holy earth below.
And are not these two things brought before us in these words of Christ spoken to the Laodicean Church—’Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man will hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me?’ I with him as well as he with me! And is not this the filling up of all blessedness, the consummation of all glory? Without it would not something have been a wanting both in earth and heaven—both to God and man?
From the beginning then, God has announced this as His purpose. Age after age has He set this before us—in type and prophecy. All that has taken place on earth has been bearing upon this, and helping it forward. God means yet to dwell with men! This is the Bible message to us. God means to dwell with men. This is His eternal purpose; and had it not been so, would He not long since have abandoned such an earth as ours—and either made it pass into nothing or turned it into hell?
Nor have there been any intimations of God’s design ultimately to abandon earth, after He has accomplished His certain ends. He has nowhere said that after having spared it, and made use of it for a certain time, and for certain ends, He will leave it to desolation, or reduce it to nothing. On the contrary, all that He has said and done hitherto indicate His intention to restore it, to glorify it, and to fit it for being His abode. God has, beyond mistake, declared His purpose as to the destiny of earth—and that purpose shall stand.
The BARRIERS in the way of its accomplishment are vast and many. The whole power of the fallen creature, both men and devils, is arrayed against it. Sin and righteousness alike oppose it—the former blighting it, and the latter forbidding the removal of the blight. Death and life alike oppose it—the former destroying it, the latter refusing to come and restore the desolation. The evil, too, has increased so great, and has been of so long standing; the curse has had its full and protracted sway, so as to eat into the very core of everything good and beautiful; the poison has had time so thoroughly to infuse itself into the constitution of creation, that its life’s blood seems poisoned, and the taint of corruption become ineradicable; the weight of guilt which is upon it, calling for eternal judgment, seems so tremendous specially the guilt of crucifying the Lord of glory; the authority of Satan over it seems so complete and so irrevocably established—that the hindrances in the way of creation’s restitution seem all but insurmountable! Yet the eternal purpose shall stand. Not a jot of it shall fail—even that pertaining to the smallest atom of this moldering earth. All shall come to pass. Eternal Sovereignty has decreed it. Infinite Wisdom has planned it. Omnipotence will bring it to pass.
III. The means, or PROCESS, by which God is bringing all this about.
This whole process, from first to last, centers in His Son. As the Christ of God, He is the accomplisher of the Father’s purpose; and through Him God has been all along ripening that purpose, removing the hindrances, and hastening on its full revelation.
1. The first actual step was the INCARNATION.When ’the Word was made flesh,’ the first link was formed which was to secure creation from sinking into utter ruin—to fasten it to Godhead—and in the end to raise it up to a brighter glory and excellence than that form which it had fallen! The Son of God took bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; and as our bodies are part of the dust of the ground, out of which they were formed, so He, in taking to Himself a true body, took into His person the materials of creation—the dust of our very earth—thus linking creation to Himself by an indissoluble tie—and fastening earth to heaven. He took not upon Him the nature of angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham; and while this identified Him with our race, it no less identified Him with that earth which was given us as our special home and dwelling-place and kingdom. By thus taking a body made out of the substance of earth, He joined Himself in perpetual affinity with man and his world—and that which God has thus joined together, who shall put asunder?
2. HIS LIFE ON EARTH was the second step towards the end in view.His living here for thirty-three years was the declaration of His desire and purpose to make earth the seat of His dwelling place. But in His life we see more than this. We see him taking possession of creation; we see Him doing battle with its oppressors; we see Him casting out Satan, healing diseases, overcoming death. We see Him hushing the winds, calming the sea, exercising dominion over its inhabitants, creating bread for the multitudes, walking upon the deep, and giving others power to do the same. In all this we see not merely power and love, but we see the visible and material pledges of the deliverance of creation from the bondage of corruption. He who did these things has, by doing them, pledged Himself to do more, more—to do all that earth requires. He who did these things in the day of His humiliation and weakness—and before His great work upon the cross was accomplished, will surely do exceeding abundantly more than all these, in the day of glory and power, now that He has finished His work, and put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
3. His DEATH was the next step.For it is through death, that life is to come—both to man and to his earth. Only the death of Him who has identified Himself with us and with our world can remove the guilt under which earth was groaning, can secure the revocation of the sentence, can obtain forgiveness for earth, as well as for man, its dweller. He was earth’s Sin-bearer as well as man’s. He took upon Him the curse of earth as well as man; and the thorns which formed His crown showed how truly He was bearing the curse upon creation, which Adam’s sin had caused. As the bearer of man’s guilt, He was nailed to the cross; as the bearer of earth’s curse, He was crowned with thorns. Earth has now been sprinkled with His blood; and that blood cleanses from all sin.
4. His BURIAL was the next step.Death had taken up its abode upon earth, and every sepulcher on its surface was one of his strongholds. Until death then be overcome in his very fortress—until he be dispossessed out of his dwelling—there can be no hope for earth. Mortality would still reign. But Christ went down and fought the lion in his den! From his lair He drove him out; and in demonstration of His victory He compelled him to let go a company of saints, who, when He rose, rose with Him as a pledge of His final victory over death, and of the expulsion from earth of the last enemy which had hitherto devastated it. By death the Prince of life overcame death; and in His burial He was pursuing the routed foe, and compelling him to deliver up his prey. Thus did He commence the expulsion from earth, of that mortality and corruption which had defaced it so sadly.
5. His RESURRECTION was the next step.Wresting His own body from the dominion of death, He showed how before long He is to wrest, not only the bodies of His saints—but the whole creation, from the bondage of corruption. If He on whom sin was laid, and who on account of that load went down to the grave, thus threw off mortality, and shook Himself free from its fetters, bringing life and immortality to light, how certainly may we conclude that He is able to do the same thing for that creation which was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who had subjected the same in hope! Christ’s resurrection not only proclaimed Him to be the Son of God with power—but also the Prince of the kings of the earth!
6. His ASCENSION into heaven was the next step.When He ascended, He not only led captivity captive, but He carried up into heaven His own body as the representative of earth. That body is now at the Father’s right hand, the pledge of earth’s security and final glory. An ascended Christ is earth’s great pledge of restitution, and another step of the process towards the accomplishment of the purpose of God. That portion of earth which, in His body, He has carried up into heaven, proclaims to the inhabitants of heaven His interest in earth, and to the inhabitants of earth the certainty of His purpose respecting earth’s final restitution. And for what is this ascended Savior interceding? Not only for His Church, but for earth itself. ’Ask of me, and I will give you the uttermost ends of the earth for Your possession.’ He pleads for earth—earth, where He was born, and lived, and died; earth, whose air He breathed, whose plains and hills He walked, and whose soil He watered with His blood; earth, out of whose dust His body is composed, and the future bodies of His risen saints. Nor shall these intercessions be long in vain. Soon shall they be all answered, and the cry be heard, ’Behold! the tabernacle of God is with men!’
1. SAINT, are you making ready for that day?Are you walking worthy of an heir of that glory? Are you remembering that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? Are you at one with Father and with Son in your desire for that restitution of all things? Do you not only long to depart and to be with Christ, but do you also long for the arrival of Christ here, and for God’s making His tabernacle with the children of men?
2. SINNER, what are your thoughts of that day?What hopes have you of sharing its blessedness? At present, none! None! What have you to do with it? What has an unforgiven soul to do with a forgiven and delivered creation? What has an unrenewed sinner to do with a glorified world—a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness? From that world all sin is swept away; and can you hope to dwell in it? Nothing that defiles shall enter; and do you expect to enter it?
Yet Christ says, ’Behold, I stand at the door and knock—if any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in unto him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’ Let the Son of God enter now; His entrance now will be the pledge of your entrance into the new Jerusalem. Admit this Christ whom you have long shut out. Admit Him at once. He will come in, and dwell in you and with you; and that will be the pledge of the eternal indwelling, the eternal fellowship, the eternal blessedness, when the tabernacle of God shall be with men!
The Coming of the Perfect, and the Departure of the Imperfect.
’The things which are seen are temporal,’ says the Apostle Paul; and again he says, ’Old things are passed away;’ and again, ’The fashion of this world is passing away.’ These are words that suit us well in our changeableness, and vanity, and mortality. It would not be well for us, if our present earthly condition were immoveable and eternal. Fading and dying, and then entering on the possession of an unchanging life—this is surely far better than a ’prolonged mortality of pain and weakness’ like that which we have here and now.
The words do not teach annihilation of any kind—of man or matter. When one is renewed of the Spirit, there is a new creation—old things pass away, all things become new, yet the man’s identity is unchanged. He is the same individual, and yet a new man. So is it here. Former things pass away, all things are made new—yet all are in the truest sense the same—the same, only without the sin, and the evil, and the pain, and the decay.
These former things are many—great and small, material and spiritual—all of them more or less connected with earth and man. Note some of these:
I. The former things connected with the BODY have passed away.Our bodies shared the ruin into which sin brought our race. Mortality and corruption took possession of them. They became subject to pain, and weariness, and disease—in every organ and limb. The one drop of poison coming from Adam’s sin has spread itself out and pervaded every part of us. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint. We begin with pain—and we end with it. Our flesh, from the cradle to the tomb, is feeble, broken, ready to faint—the cause and the inlet of a thousand sorrows. It is truly an ’earthly house,’ a frail tent, in which we groan, being burdened; a ’vile body,’ needing such perpetual care, and food, and medicine, and rest—yet, after all, incapable of being preserved; the seat of a daily warfare between life and death; in spite of all our pamperings, hastening on to the sick-bed and the separation from its guest, the soul.
All this shall yet be reversed. Former things shall pass away. This head shall ache no more; these hands and feet shall be weary no more; this flesh shall throb with anguish no more. ’God Himself shall wipe away all tears from these eyes; and there shall be no more death; neither, sorrow, nor crying, for the former things are passed away.’ ’He will take these vile bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like His own!’
He who once hung upon the cross, but now sits upon the throne, says, ’Behold, I make all things new.’ ’This corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal immortality, and death be swallowed in victory!
II. The former things connected with the SOUL have passed away.The beginning of this renovation was our ’being begotten again into a living hope.’ This rebirth displaced the old things and introduced the new. The sin, and the darkness, and the misery, and the unbelief, and the distance from God—all these shall come to a final end. In their place shall come holiness, and love, and light, and joy, and everlasting nearness—unchanging and unending fellowship with that Jehovah in whom is life eternal. Every fragment of evil shall be expelled from our souls—and we shall then know what perfection is—perfection according to the mind and after the image of God—perfection without a flaw, or taint, or shadow—perfection without the possibility of reversal or diminishing. From our heart, from our conscience, our intellect, our feelings, our affections, from every part of our spiritual being—shall all evil depart. ’Former things shall pass away.’ We shall be holy as God is holy; we shall be perfect as He is perfect; we shall be children of the light and of the day in the fullest sense—no trace of remaining sin in any part of us. We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is! We shall be changed into His image from glory to glory! He who is righteous shall be righteous still; he who is holy shall be holy still.
III. The former things connected with the EARTH have passed away.Since man fell, this earthis the seat of evil. The curse came down on it—creation was subjected to the bondage of corruption—Satan took possession of it. It has been overshadowed with sin, overspread with misery. Its air full of sighs and groans—its soil made up of decomposed bodies—its cities the centers of ungodliness and rebellion—its thronesthe fountainheads of misrule—God disowned—Christ rejected both in State and Church—the Bible despised—the gospel mocked—blasphemy resounding on all sides—evil everywhere!
These are the former things which shall pass away. Satan shall be bound, and his angels traverse earth no more. The devouring lion shall be in chains, and ’no lion shall be there.’ The curse shall vanish from creation; the blight disappear. Beauty shall clothe all things. Paradise shall return. Holiness shall revisit earth. God shall once more delight in it and set His throne in it. The second Adam shall be its Lord and Ruler. His scepter shall supersede the oppressive scepter under which the race has groaned from Nimrod downwards. Righteousness shall flourish, and holiness to the Lord be inscribed everywhere. The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads. The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the lamb. The meek shall inherit the earth—and the glory of the Lord shall shine over all its skies. There shall be the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.
And all this irreversible! No second fall. No second overflow of evil. No failure on the part of the righteous King. No waxing old; no ruin; no decay; no return of disease and death. All is everlasting! Messiah—even He who died for us and who rose again—is on the throne, and no usurper can assail it! He ever lives and ever reigns!
Blessed consummation and hope! It draws nearer and nearer. Soon shall ’time’ no longer be. Soon shall this present evil world give place to the glorious world to come. Our king is coming! He will not tarry. Our Bridegroom is at hand! He is not slack concerning His promise. In an hour when we do not think, He will arrive. Are we ready? Is the oil in our vessels? Have we put on the garments of beauty? Are we preparing to bid Him welcome? ’Lo, this is our God, we have waited for Him!
The New Things Of God.
There are many ’new things’ spoken of in Scripture, some of more, and some of less importance. Of the less important we have such as these—Samson’s new cords(Judges 15:13); David’s new cartfor the ark (2 Samuel 6:7); the new swordof the giant who sought to slay David (2 Samuel 21:16); Elisha’s new cruse(2 Kings 2:20) the new tonguesof Pentecost (Matthew 16:17); Joseph’s new tomb(Matthew 27:60). These are not so directly connected with things spiritual and eternal, and so we may call them of less importance; yet they have all their important lessons.
But let us take up the following as specially the new things of God—
I. The new TESTAMENT or covenant(Matthew 26:28). That which was old has vanished away. It was insufficient; it could not help the sinner; it said nothing of forgiveness. But the new covenant is all a sinner needs; it comes at once with a free pardon; it presents a work done for the sinner, not a work for the sinner to do. The motto or theme of the new covenant is, ’Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.’
II. The new MAN(Ephesians 4:24). This seems to correspond with the ’new creature’ (2 Corinthians 5:17); with the ’new heart’ (Ezekiel 18:31); with the ’new spirit’ (Ezekiel 11:9); with the ’heart of flesh’ (Ezekiel 36:26); with the ’new birth’ (John 3:3); and the being ’begotten again’ (1 Peter 1:3). It supposes the destruction or removal of the old man and the creation of the new—this new thing being the workmanship of God, the production of the Holy Spirit. Newness of nature, or heart, of life, of words, of the entire being, is the basis of all religion and true worship.
III. The new WAY(Hebrews 10:19). The approach or access to God by the sinner is said to be by a ’new and living way’—that way being Christ Himself, for through Him we have access by on Spirit to the Father. It is a new way in contrast with Adam’s old way; a new way, because newly made by Him who had newly died; a way into the holiest; a way through the veil, by means of the blood. All God’s dealings with the sinner are on a new footing, that of free love, simple grace. It is a free way, a sufficient way, an open way, a perfect way. He who walks thereon is safe; for the way not only leads to life, but is the life. Yes, life and truth are in Him who is the way; for Christ is all and in all.
IV. The new SONG(Psalms 33:3; Revelation 5:9). Every new day brings with it a new song; or rather it brings materials for many new songs, which we should be always singing. Our whole life should be full of new songs. Yet the old songs are not thereby made obsolete; they do not grow tame or unmeaning. As the old songs of a land are always fresh and sweet, so is it with the old songs of faith. They never come amiss, and they help us with the new. These new songs have to do with the past—for often, in looking into the past, we get materials for a new song—with the present, and with the future. They are connected with ourselves, our families, with the Church, with our nation, with the work of God just now, with resurrection, with the restitution of all things, with the glory, the new Jerusalem, and the new creation. It is specially with the last that the new song of the Apocalypse is connected,
V. The new COMMANDMENT(John 13:34; 1 John 2:8). It is both an old and a new commandment which Christ gives us; substantially the same as from the beginning, yet in many respects altogether new; a new lawgiver, a new motive, a new standing-place (Zion, not Sinai), new light fullness; everything in the commandment now connected with Christ Himself and with His love. This new commandment bases itself on ’God is love,’ and revolves round the cross. Love me, says the Master; love one another with a pure heart fervently; love the brethren as I have loved you—thus fulfilling both the old and the new commandment at the same time, more—treating them as one.
VI. The new WINE(Matthew 26:29). In one sense the Lord’s Supper is new wine; and there we remember His love, which is ’better than wine.’ But Christ, in using the expression, ’until I drink it new with you,’ refers to the heavenly feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb. There is in the highest sense and degree ’the new wine’—wine made from no earthly vine, but from him who is the true vine, and from the juice of whose grapes there comes the new and royal wine, the wine of the kingdom. He is Himself the giver and the gift. His blood is drink indeed here—much more hereafter. It is ’new’ here—it will much more new hereafter.
VII. The new Jerusalem(Revelation 3:12, Revelation 21:3, Revelation 21:10). This is no earthly city. It is not the old Jerusalem rebuilt; that is another thing. This is a new and more glorious city, heavenly and divine, which comes down out of heaven from God; and it has the glory of God and of the Lamb. It is altogether new; for the risen and the glorified; for God’s kings and priests; the city and the palace of the Great King.
VIII. The new HEAVENS and new EARTH(Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13). The whole of what God had made, and which sin had defiled, is made new. The universe is renewed; it is the restitution of all things; it is the replacing of all creation on a higher and more glorious footing, from which there shall be no second fall. There dwells righteousness; it is the kingdom of the righteous King.
IX. The new NAME(Revelation 2:17). This is for the dwellers in the new Jerusalem, the inhabitants of the new heavens and earth. Let us consider what it is and what it means. What the actual individual name is we know not; it will be as unlike the past as ’Israel’ (the prince with God) was unlike ’Jacob’ (the supplanter). It will be—
(1) A name of love—The Father’s love will be in it—Christ’s love will be in it.
(2) A name of honor—It will be no mean nor common name—but glorious and celestial.
(3) Of blessing—It will proclaim blessing—it will be a name of blessing—a blessed name.
(4) A name of wonder—It will astonish the possessor, and everyone who hears it; no one shall know it or guess it until it comes out. As Christ’s new name is one which no one knows but Himself (Revelation 19:12), so with the conqueror. It will be a name of glad astonishment.
(5) Given by Christ—’I will give.’ As He gave names to Abram, Jacob, Peter, John—so will He give this new name, superseding our old earthly appellation.
(6) A name most suitable and characteristic—It will in itself condense and summarize our past history and character, or perhaps our eternal prospects, as seen by God Himself. It will be a name full of divine meaning—interpretative, perhaps, of God’s dealings with us, and indicative of His love.
(7) A name contained in a white stone—The white stone is the stone of acquittal. In that stone of acquittal the new name is inscribed by Christ. It is as an acquitted man, a conqueror, one to whom the Master says, ’Well done,’ that we get the name. It is the everlasting seal of forgiving love.
They shall see His face, and His name shall be in their foreheads. The Father’s name is there (Revelation 3:12, Revelation 14:1). But this new name is something more. What manner of love is this!
The Conqueror’s Reward And The Coward’s Doom.
The speaker here is ’He who sat upon the throne.’ He is the author of the new creation—’Behold, I make all things new.’ He declares the truth and certainty of what has been, and what is to be spoken in this book—’These words are true and faithful.’ For His name is the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God. He calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending—the all-possessing, all-comprehending, all-communicating One—whose fullness is from eternity.
He was the babe of Bethlehem; he is now the risen and glorified Son of God! He spoke on earth the words of grace; He speaks the same from heaven. There is no change in His heart. As it did not require ages to make Him the gracious One, so the lapse of ages and the glory of heaven cannot make Him less gracious or alter the feelings of pity with which He yearns over a rebellious world—even as He wept over impenitent Jerusalem when He saw her doom approaching.
For these words refer to the crisis of earth’s history—’He said unto me, It is done;’ just as He said on the cross, ’It is finished.’ The fullness of the times has come; the prophetic word has been fulfilled; the seals are opened; the trumpets are blown; the vials are poured out; the battle of the great day of God Almighty has been fought; Babylon has fallen; Satan is about to be bound; creation about to be delivered from the bondage of corruption; the saints to be raised; the great kingdom to begin! It is just at the crisis; just when the consummation is about to take place; just when the last vengeance is about to descend, and the gate to be closed—that the Lord sends out this last and most urgent summons of grace. Come! Enter! In another hour you will be too late! The door will be shut!
I. The fountain for the sons of men.Each word here deserves special notice.
1. The thirsty—These are those who are seeking rest but finding none; going after pleasure, yet obtaining no happiness; hewing out the ever-breaking cisterns; ’spending their money for that which is not bread, and their labor for that which does not satisfy.’ They are not those thirsting after righteousness, but after pleasure, saying ’Who will show us any good?’ They are the weary, worn-out, empty, sorrowful, broken-hearted sons of sin.
2. The water—That which refreshes, satisfies, fills, makes happy. ’This He spoke of the Spirit’ (John 7:39). Frequent are the allusions to this water both in the Old Testament and the New. It is called ’living water,’ ’water of life’—it is that which quickens and revives, which fills the soul with heavenly gladness. This Jordan is better than Abana and Pharpar—though the world slights and shuns it. All joy is in it. The life of heaven is in it.
3. The Giver—It is He who gave Himself—Jesus the Christ, who not only has all fullness, but gives it. The Son is the gift of the Father, and the Spirit is the gift of the Son. He is the great Giver of all blessing to a poor and empty world. He gives from the Father’s throne. He gives according to His love. He gives of the water of life—no, of its fountain—freely. Undeserved and unpurchased He gives! The wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3) are His, and He lets down His bucket and draws for us—not merely the surface water, but its depths—’creating in us a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.’
Thirsty spirit, take the living water! Drink and be happy. Deal with Jesus about it. Deal with Him alone, and face to face. Deal with Him as One who desires sincerely that you should drink and be refreshed.
II. The conqueror and his reward.The designation ’he who overcomes’ carries us back to the seven epistles, in each of which the expression occurs. As believers we are saved; as conquerors we get the recompense. Seven kinds of reward for seven kinds of victory; and here is the eighth! It says, Fight, for the great Captain leads you on. Fight, for the reward is as great as it is sure. The reward here is threefold:
1. The inheritance of all things—We are heirs of God; joint-heirs with Christ.As such the universe becomes our possession; heaven and earth, and the wide regions of farthest space; all that God possesses, all that Christ has become heir to—all is the portion of the conqueror. A kingdom wide as widest space, large as God’s possessions, endless as the eternal ages—such is the overcomer’s heritage, the conqueror’s recompense!
2. The divine portion—’I will be his God’—a repetition of Abraham’s blessing (Genesis 17:7). Jehovah is our God! Does not this include everything? If God be not my God, I have nothing. If God be my God, I lack nothing; nor should I be poor though stripped of everything, and though not an atom of the universe were mine (1 Corinthians 3:21, 1 Corinthians 3:23).
3. The divine adoption—The conqueror becomes a son, and all that is contained in sonship is his—all the paternal love—all the divine patrimony—all the endless glory. He our Father, we His sons (2 Corinthians 6:17-18). Noble paternity, blessed sonship! ’Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called sons of God!’ (1 John 3:1). This glory, this new and peculiar relation to Godhead, we shall owe entirely to the free love of Him who gave His Son for us!
III. The coward’s doom(verse 8)—Though the ’fearful’ or coward is specially singled out here, yet there are others associated with him in his awful doom. The ’coward’ is the first in the roll; but the whole roll is dark. They are all of earth, sons of Adam, men—not devils. Let us take them as they are set down here.
1. The fearful—This does not mean those who are full of fears—timid, doubting Christians—those ’who are of a fearful heart’ (Isaiah 35:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:14). It means the cowards who refused to come out from the world and join Christ, though their consciences urged them; who shrunk from confessing Christ; who, through fear of men, of the world, of their good name, of earthly honor and gain, either kept their religion to themselves or threw it away. Of this class was the young man in the Gospel and Demas; those who ’drew back,’ in Hebrews 10:38—the opposite of the ’overcomers.’
Of this class are those who tell you they keep their religion to themselves, and would not in company name the name of Christ; would blush if caught upon their knees, and apologize if a Bible were seen upon their tables. They are those whom our Lord denounces—’Whoever shall refuse to confess me before men.’ Beware of cowardice in the things of God, of being ashamed of Christ!
2. The unbelieving—These are the rejecters of Christ. The fearful do not actually go so far, though virtually they do. The (the fearful) shrink from owning Christ—but the unbeliever refuses Him. It is this disowning of the cross, this rejection of the testimony, this turning the back on Christ, that is here condemned. It is ’the evil heart of unbelief’ which is held up to view as fit only for ’the second death’. ’He who believes not shall be damned.’ Oh the hatefulness of unbelief! For there is no place but the ever burning alike for it! What must it be to refuse God’s testimony to His Son! To refuse that Son Himself!
3. The abominable—Those who were partakers of the abominations and filthiness mentioned before (Revelation 17:4)—revelings, banquetings, riots, blasphemies. These are open sinners, swearers, lewd talkers, gluttons, drunkards, and the like—fetid, ill-odored, emitting the stench of hell. They do ’the abominable thing’ which God hates.
4. Murderers—Whose hands are red with blood; whose heart is full of angry passions, envy, malice, revenge, grudging; whose lips give vent to irritating and angry words; all who either in heart or by hand defy the sixth commandment—’You shall not kill.’
5. Immoral—All who give way to their lusts, who live in uncleanness; those whose eyes are full of adultery, and who cannot cease from this sin. What a warning to our young men and women, who make light of this abomination, and forget the doom of the immoral!
6. Sorcerers—Those who have taken part in Babylon’s sorceries and witchcrafts; who consult with the evil one; all spiritists and allies of the evil one, and workers of the lying wonders of the last days.
7. Idolaters—Not only the heathen worshipers of engraved images—but all who have chosen another god—who love the creature more than the creator—who bow before crosses or crucifixes—who worship mammon, pleasure, art, splendor, or gold, for ’covetousness is idolatry.’
8. All liars—All who speak falsely in any way—who practice dishonesty—who care not for truth. Not Cretans only, who were pre-eminently liars, but every false tongue, every dishonest lip—hypocrites, pretenders, formalists; all the untrue and unreal; who vow to serve Christ at His table—but give the lie to their vow every day of their life; who vow at baptism to teach and pray for their children—yet never do; who come to the sanctuary—yet go away and serve the world; who are at the prayer meeting one day—and at the ball the next. These are the liars! How much of lying is there in the life of every man! How little of the real, the open, the sincere, the true!
The doom of all these is sure! They cannot deceive God! He will not be mocked. He will bear long—but not always. Hell is waiting. Its gates are open. Its fires are kindled. Its tormentors are ready. The sentence is coming—’Depart, you cursed ones,’ for their judgment lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not.
Yet remember the apostle’s words to Corinthian sinners, ’And such were some of you—but you are washed!’ O man of earth—come and be washed! Fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable—come! Murderers, immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, liars—come! Come, let us reason together, says the Lord—your scarlet sins shall be as white as snow—your crimson sins as white as wool!
The Glorious Bride.
These are two names for the church of God, the redeemed from among men. They are not the same in meaning, though both referring to the Church’s peculiar relationship to Christ. They point out her two successive states, her present and her future, in the former of which she is the bride, in the latter the wife. First she is the bride—then the wife. The ’bride’up until the day of the Bridegroom’s return—after that the ’wife’—the ’Lamb’s wife.’
She is represented here as the new Jerusalem; but this is in a figure, just as God speaks of the old Jerusalem as His wife—meaning thereby the people, the dwellers in that city, His chosen Israel, whom He had betrothed to Himself by an everlasting covenant (Isaiah 54:5-10). In the wilderness, Israel was the bride or betrothed one (Jeremiah 2:2); in Jerusalem, she was the ’married wife’ (Isaiah 54:1, 62:5)—so is it with the Church. In this, her wilderness state, she is the bride; in her coming city-state, or Jerusalem-state of glory, she shall be the wife—the days of betrothment being ended, and the marriage come. Hence, it is that the bride addressing the Bridegroom says, ’Come!’ and the Spirit, who had been preparing and adorning her for the marriage day, joins her in desiring its arrival—’The Spirit and the bride say, Come’ (Revelation 22:17).
Regarding this ’bride’ or ’wife’—for we consider her as both in what follows. We inquire—
I. Who and what she was before she became the bride.She had no high descent to boast of. Her lineage was not royal, but low and base. Of the old Jerusalem it was said, ’Your father was an Amorite, and your mother an Hittite’ (Ezekiel 16:2, 3); all this, and much more may be said of the Church. She was an outcast, utterly poor and unknown—no, defiled and hateful. Without goodness, without beauty; without personal or family recommendation; unloving and unlovable; an alien, a captive, a rebel. She lacked everything that could make her lovely in the eyes of one seeking a bride; she possessed everything that could forbid and repel. Such were you once, O saint; such are you still, O sinner!
II. How and why she was fixed upon.The Father chose her; that is all that we can say. ’Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.’ In the good pleasure of His goodness, and according to the exceeding riches of His grace, He fixed on her—the unlikeliest of all—to be the bride of His Son. Of the ’how’ and the ’why’ of this sovereign purpose, what can we say but this—that in one so unlovable and worthless it found opportunity and scope for the outflow and display of free love, such as could be found in no other? She is the object of the Father’s eternal choice, as Rebekah was the choice of Abraham for his son. She is also the object of the Son’s choice and love, as Rachel was Jacob’s choice, and as Pharaoh’s daughter was Solomon’s. It was the Father’s free choice, and the Son’s free choice, that made her what she is now—the bride, and what she is through eternity to be—’the Lamb’s wife.’
III. How she was obtained.She is a captive, and must be set free. This the Bridegroom undertakes to do; for her sake becoming a captive. She is a criminal, under wrath, and must be delivered from condemnation and death. This also the Bridegroom undertakes; for her sake submitting to condemnation and death, that so her pardon may be secured, her fetters broken, and life made hers forever. Thus she is plucked from the dungeon and the curse and the wrath—which were her portion.
IV. How she was betrothed.The Bridegroom Himself came down in lowly guise to woo and win her for Himself. But now He is carrying on His suite in absence, through the intervention of others, as Isaac’s proposals to Rebekah were carried on through the faithful Eleazar of Damascus. It was with this suit that Paul felt himself charged, when he went about ’preaching Christ’; for, speaking to the Corinthians, he says—’I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 11:2). So it is with this suit that ministers are charged—no, all friends of the Bridegroom. We come to sinners as did Eleazar to Rebekah. We tell of our Isaac’s noble lineage, His riches, His honors, His worth. We tell of all that He has done to win your love, and set before you the glory of His person, that you may see how worthy He is of all this love—how blessed, how honorable it would be for you to be the bride of such a bridegroom—and we say, ’Will you go with the man?’
V. How she is prepared and adorned.It is through the Holy Spirit that this is carried out. This Spirit having overcome her unwillingness, and persuaded her to consent to the glorious betrothment—immediately commences His work of preparation. He strips her of her rags—and puts on royal apparel. He cleanses her from her filthiness—and makes her whiter than the snow. Having taken her out of the horrible pit and the miry clay—having drawn her with the cords of love and the bands of a man—He proceeds to divest her of everything that made her unlovable—and to bestow on her everything that could make her lovely and attractive in the eyes of the Bridegroom.
Part of the preparation is now in this present world—but much is reserved for the future, and especially for the day of the first resurrection. White robes are given her—not purple, or scarlet, or glittering jewels, such as the harlot Church is decked with—but the fine linen, which is the righteousness of the saints. For her a throne is prepared; a beautiful crown set upon her head; a royal banquet is made ready; and all this in the Bridegroom’s own glorious city, the new Jerusalem!
Of this wondrous future we know but little now. It does not yet appear what we shall be. But we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. To that day when the marriage shall take place, and the long-waiting bride shall become the Lamb’s wife, Scripture has bidden us look forward as our hope. And it is a blessed hope. For then shall the long absence cease, and we shall see Him face to face, whom not having seen we loved. Then shall the day break and the shadows flee away. Then shall the everlasting festival begin in the great palace hall of the new Jerusalem. Then shall the Bridegroom rejoice over the bride. ’He shall rest in His love, He shall joy over her with singing.’ Then shall the Song of Songs be sung and understood, in a way such as it could not be sung or understood before; and we shall hear the Bridegroom call his bride the ’fairest among women,’ ’His love, His dove, His undefiled;’ and we shall hear her call Him ’the Chief among ten thousand!’.
Such then is the honor in store for the redeemed—to be ’the bride, the Lamb’s wife!’ As such He writes upon her the name of His God, and the name of the city of His God, and His own ’new name;’ so that after the marriage is completed, the bride loses her own and takes her Husband’s name; the Lamb and the Lamb’s wife becoming more indissolubly one—one in name, and nature, and glory, and honor, and dominion—forever! To get the tree of life and the hidden manna—to get the white stone, and white clothing, and the morning star—all that is much. But to be the bride, the Lamb’s wife, and as such to be partaker of His love, and blessedness, and glory—this is surely more—how much more only the day of the Bridegroom’s coming will reveal!
Such is the love of God. It is the love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father chooses in His own sovereignty; the Son washes in His own blood; the Spirit purifies and prepares by His mighty power. Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us! It is free love! Sovereign love! Eternal love!; Unchanging love! Boundless love! Love which not merely delivers from wrath—but which makes the delivered one an heir of God, more—the bride, the Lamb’s wife!
This is the day when the proposals are made to the sons of men; when, in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we urge the blessed entreaty upon sinners, that they may be partakers of this infinite honor. We set before you all the worth, and the glory, and the love of this divine Bridegroom—and ask you to accept the proposal and ally yourself to this glorious One. Among men, to be offered the prince’s hand in marriage is counted no small honor; what then must be the offered hand of the King of Kings?
O men, accept the glory! Listen to the proposals made to you in the name of the Son of God. We describe His excellency and beauty. We tell you also of the honor for which the church is destined. We say, ’Come here, and I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife!’ We point you to the resplendent glory of that city, which is after all but part of her dowry, part of her adorning; and we invite you to a share in its glory! We make known the Father’s testimony concerning His own free love, and concerning the blood and righteousness of His Son. We demand your present acceptance of that testimony, that in the belief of it you may become a sharer of the glory and the kingdom!
The Holy City.
This city is not earthly, but heavenly, and is among the heavenly things said by the apostle to be purified by the ’better sacrifices’ (Hebrews 4:23). Why did such a city need ’purifying?’ Not because unclean, but because sinners were to dwell in it; and they would have defiled it, had it not been for the great sacrifice. For the blood does two things—it makes the unclean clean, and it keeps the clean from being defiled. Its use in the holy of holies was not to cleanse that place, but to prevent its being defiled by the entrance of the sinner. Our possession of this heavenly city, then, we owe to the blood of the Lamb; and hence He stands on Mount Zion, and sits on the throne, as the Lamb slain (Revelation 5:6, Revelation 14:1).
The earthly Jerusalem is to be cleansed from its impurity by the blood of the Lamb; and the heavenly Jerusalem is to be preserved from impurity by the same blood. The inhabitants of both will find that they owe all to this blood. It is the blood which opens the entrance—and it is the blood which secures the everlasting possession for sinners. This double efficacy of the blood we see also in the case of the elect angels. It is this that keeps them from falling, just as it is this that raises man out of his fall. Let us prize that blood which works such wonders. It is ’precious blood.’ O man, do not trample on it!
But let us mediate on the city as described in these two chapters. It contains in it everything that is excellent and lovely, perfect and enduring.
1. It is a great city.’That great city,’ said John, gazing on it. Its province is vast, beyond Babylon, or Nineveh, or Paris, or London. That ’mighty city,’ says John, speaking of Babylon the Great (Revelation 18:10); but this is mightier far. There has been no city like it. It is the city, the one city—the great metropolis of the mighty universe—the mighty city of the mighty God.
2. It is a well-built city.Its builder and maker is God. Its foundations are eternal; its walls are jasper; it gates pearls; its streets paved with gold. It is ’compactly built together,’ a perfect cube, and complete in all its parts, without a break or flaw, or weakness or deformity.
3. It is a well-lighted city.Something brighter than sun and moon is given to fill its heaven. The glory of God lights it; the Lamb is its ’light’ or ’lamp,’ so that it needs no candle, no sunlight. There is no night there.
4. It is a well-watered city.A pure river of the water of life flows through its streets, proceeding from the throne of God and the Lamb. What must its waters be! What must be the rivers of pleasure there! Who in it can ever thirst? Its inhabitants shall thirst no more.
5. It is a well-provisioned city.The tree of life is there, with its twelve variety of fruits and its health-giving leaves. It has more than Eden had. It is paradise restored; Paradise and Jerusalem in one; Jerusalem in Paradise, and Paradise in Jerusalem.
6. It is a well-guarded city.Not only has it gates, and walls, and towers, which no enemy could scale or force; but at the gates are twelve angels, keeping perpetual watch.
7. It is a well-governed city.Its king is the Son of God, the King of kings, Immanuel, the King eternal, whose scepter is righteousness who loves righteousness and hates iniquity. No misrule is there, no disorder, no lawlessness, no rebellion.
8. It is a well-peopled city.It has gathered within its walls all generations of the redeemed. Its population is as the sands or the stars; the multitude that no man can number; the millions of the risen and glorified.
9. It is a holy city.Its origin is heavenly, and it is perfect as its builder. Nothing that defiles shall enter; no spot or speck or shadow of evil. All is perfection there, divine perfection.
10. It is a glorious city.The glory that fills it, and encircles it, is the glory of God. All precious stones are there; no marble nor granite such as we boast of now—all of it is gold, and pearls, and gems. Everything resplendent is there. It shines like the sun.
11. It is a blessed city.It is truly ’the joyous city.’ It is the throne of the blessed One, and all in it is like Him. Its name is Jerusalem—the city of peace. Its King’s name is Solomon—the Prince of peace. There is no enemy there; no sickness, no curse, no death, no weeping, no pain, no sorrow, no change forever. Those who dwell in it shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more (Revelation 7:16-17).
Blessed city! City of peace, and love, and song! Fit accompaniment of the new heavens! Fit metropolis of the new earth, wherein dwells righteousness! How eagerly should we look for it! How worthy of it should we live! It has not yet arrived. Eye has not seen it. But God points to it above, and assures us that it shall come. The right of citizenship is to be had now; and those who are to dwell in it are not angels, but men; not the unfallen, but the fallen. It is as such that we apply for the ’freedom of the city.’ He who is its Builder and Maker gives it freely. He who is its Prince, whose blood has bought and opened it, gives it freely. He waits to receive applications—no, He entreats men to apply. He announces that whoever will only take Him at His word, and trust Him for entrance into it, shall have it. He specially proclaims to us His own sacrifice, His infinite propitiation, His divine blood-shedding on the cross, and gives us to know that whoever will receive the testimony to this great work of atonement shall enter in through the gates into the city. It is the blood that brings us to the mercy seat—it is the blood that brings us into the city. It will be a joy to enter that joyous city. By this joy we beseech you now to make sure of your citizenship, by making sure of your connection with the King. He who has the King—has the city.
It will be a sorrow to be shut out. By that sorrow we entreat you to make sure. Believing the good news, become citizens of this great and holy city. Then all shall be well with you forever!
The Light of the New Jerusalem.
It is the ’new Jerusalem’ that these words are written; the city of glory and blessing; the city of the saints and home of the redeemed; the metropolis of creation; the city of God and of the Lamb; the habitation of the bride, the Lamb’s wife; the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
The passage might more truly be rendered, ’the Lamb is the lamp thereof,’ or ’its lamp is the Lamb;’ for lamp, not light, is the correct translation. The two clauses in this verse are meant to give us the complete idea of the illumination of the city. ’The glory of God did light it—and the Lamb is its lamp.’ All that sunlight-splendor is to a city—the ’glory of God’ or Shekinah is. And all that lamps are to a city, publicly or privately—the Lamb is. As with us now there is the alteration of the lights of day and night, so then and in that city there is to be the alternation of the glory of God and the Lamb. There shall be no night there; and they ’need no candle (no earthly "lamp"), neither light of the sun,’ for they have that which is better than both; not created nor borrowed light, but uncreated, unreflected light from the divine and eternal fountainhead. That which is written of the earthly Jerusalem is much more true of the heavenly, for the one is the image or counterpart of the other.
’No longer will you need the sun or moon to give you light, for the Lord your God will be your everlasting light, and he will be your glory. Your sun will never set; your moon will not go down. For the Lord will be your everlasting light. Your days of mourning will come to an end!’ (Isaiah 60:19-20).
The figure here carries us back to the temple and the lamp in the holy place—the seven-branched lamp of gold which burned day and night in the sanctuary. As the Shekinah, which rested between the cherubim, enlightened ’the most holy place,’ and the seven-branched lamp ’the holy place,’ so in that coming day, when both these places shall be one—the veil no longer existing—the type shall be fulfilled, when that shall come to pass which is written, ’The glory of God did light it, and the Lamb is the light (lamp) thereof.’
But the figure of our text is wider than this, and refers not to a temple merely, or a chamber in a temple; but to a city, and to every house and chamber of that city. It gives us the idea of a resplendent lamp hung in some vast hall or palace, shedding a mild and tempered light down upon some festal assembly, such as that in the father’s house upon the prodigal’s return, when the household were gathered together to eat and make merry. But it does more than this. It shows us a wondrous lamp, of infinite luster, suspended above a whole city, as was the pillar-cloud above the camp of Israel in the desert. This is the picture presented in these words—’Its lamp was the Lamb.’ Christ the light of the heavenly city; the crucified One the lamp—a lamp at once human and divine. The Lamb in the midst of the throne is the lamp of the new Jerusalem. All is concentrated in Him—all excellency, and power, and perfection, and beauty, and glory. Now at last He gets the praise, the love, the admiration that are His due.
I. It is a SPECIAL light.There is none like it. Fed by no earthly oil, its blaze is not earthly. Yet it is truly light for men. It is divine, but it is also human. All created and all uncreated brilliance is concentrated in it. The man Christ Jesus is there. God over all is there. The Word made flesh, and that flesh truly ours—that flesh broken and given for the life of the world—this is the essence of the light. Christ Jesus filled with the Spirit—the Lamb to whom pertain the seven lamps of fire—Christ Jesus, the Lamb slain—it is He as such, that is the lamp of the holy city, possessing and giving forth all the light the city needs, yet that light softened and mellowed by His cross and grave. It is not so much as God, or as the Christ, that He is the lamp of the city, but as the Lamb.
II. It is UNCHANGING light.He from whom it emanates is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Here there is no rising nor setting; no clouding nor eclipsing. It is one calm, full, clear light, from which nothing can be taken, and to which there can be nothing added; without variableness or shadow of turning. It terminates and supersedes all other lights, and itself remains forever, like the lamp of the temple which went not out by night nor by day. The lamps of the virgins who went forth to meet the Bridegroom are no more needed now; and He who in the dark ages of His own absence from earth walked in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, has now become so fully the light of His saints and of their city, that they shall fear no darkness. He Himself has become their everlasting light, and that in a larger and completer sense than when He announced Himself as the light of the world.
The foolish virgins might say ’our lamps are gone out;’ but of this eternal lamp there shall be no quenching, no going out. The wise virgins would find that when they entered into the marriage-hall of that Bridegroom whom they had gone forth to meet, there was no more need of their lamps; for the Bridegroom Himself would be their light forever; a lamp that would never burn low or wax dim, but retain its brightness for evermore.
III. It is FESTAL light.The feast is spread; the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. ’Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ The light of this great feast—the lamp of this hall and of this city—is the Lamb. This feast-day has not yet come; the Bridegroom is absent, and His friends are fasting, not feasting; and not only fasting, but passing through this land of deserts with just enough of light to show them the way. But when they enter the festal hall and sit down at the marriage supper, then shall they not only feed on the royal dainties, but enjoy the light of that lamp which is to gladden their festival with its soft rays—rays which shall be altogether in harmony with the bridal feast, the bridal dress, and the bridal song.
IV. It is ALL-PERVADING light.It is not confined to a few favored dwellings; to a palace, or a temple, or one region of the city. The whole city shall be full of light. It shall enter every house, and room, and chamber, until each corner and crevice is illuminated, and every face made to shine with the gracious splendor, as was the face of Moses when he conversed with God, or the faces of the disciples on the transfiguration mount. The light is all pervading. It penetrates everywhere; it fills all things; it can be excluded by no hindrances; no, the very walls, which here on earth shut out the light, there help to convey it and to enhance its brightness. Christ is all and in all, spiritually and materially, for soul and for body!
As our earthly atmosphere finds its way everywhere, unbidden and unsought, so shall it be with this heavenly light. We shall not need to go in search of it. It shall be in every place, night and day, round the whole year. Its walls are Christ; its foundations are Christ; its cornerstone is Christ; its joy is Christ; its glory is Christ; its light is Christ.
V. It is the light of LIFE.It is living light, life-giving light; not dead and inert like that of our sun, and moon, and stars, but living; instinct with life, and health, and immortality. It fills the whole man with life—body, soul, and spirit. Where it is, death cannot enter, and the curse cannot exist. It diffuses blessing as it shines—the blessing of undecaying health and an endless life. When enjoying ’summer’s sunshine’ here, we feel as if there were health in it, life in it; much more shall we find of the true health and life in this more glorious light. The Sun of righteousness has healing in His wings, and He who is the Sun of righteousness is the lamp of the new Jerusalem.
VI. It is the light of LOVE.For that name, ’the Lamb,’ contains within it the revelation of the love of God. Where the Lamb is there is love, the love of God—the love of the Son in coming, and the love of the Father in sending. That lamp, which is the Lamb, then must be love; its light must be the light of redeeming love. It pours its radiance through transparencies, which all speak of the cross and the blood, of Gethsemane and Golgotha, flooding the golden streets of the jasper city with an effulgence that shall speak throughout eternity of the broken body and shed blood of the Lord. Every ray shall carry us back to the cross; and the light which shall be cast by it on every object in the happy city shall partake of that crimson tinge, which shall not merely remind us of the ’Word made flesh,’ but of the great propitiation, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. From the lamp of the new Jerusalem there shall shine forth the eternal song, ’Unto Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory and dominion forever!’
We have then a city for our residence hereafter; a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Yes, God is not ashamed to be called our God, for He has prepared for us a city. The proprietor of it is the Lamb; and as the Lamb, He gives it to us for an everlasting possession. As the Lamb, He is its king and priest; and He makes us partakers of His royal priesthood in this city of the great Melchizedek. As the Lamb, its honorsare His, and He shares them with us; its gloriesare His, and He shares them with us; its joys are His, and He shares them with us; its richesare His, and He shares them with us; its festivalsare His, and He shares them with us; its lightis His, and He gives it to us; its treesare His, and He gives us their shade and their fruit; its hallsare His, and He brings us unto His banqueting house, where His banner over us is love; its living watersare His, and the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall lead us to the living fountains of water, and God Himself shall wipe away all tears from our eyes!
We are heirs of God, as His sons; but this is not all. We are not heirs in some inferior sense or degree, nor do we come in for some little fragment of the family estate. We are ’joint heirs with Christ,’ sharing along with him all that He possesses as Son and as heir of all things; for not only do we read, ’He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son,’ but, ’to him who overcomes will I give to sit with me on my throne, even as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne.’ This city of the living God, of which we have been speaking, this new Jerusalem, with all its splendor, He shares with us. It is our city as well as His; ours, because His; the center and capital of our kingdom, because the center and capital of His. There Christ is all. He is not only its King—the Son for whom the Father built the city—but He is its joy, its glory, its lamp and light. All that makes it bright and blessed is from him. All that gladdens its citizens is from Him. Its foundationsspeak of Him. Its gatesproclaim Him. Its golden streetsreflect Him. Its river glows with Him. Its treestell of Him. Its dwellingsare His; its palaceis His; its throneis His; its beautyis His; its festivals. are His; its songsand hallelujahs are His.
The Lamb is everywhere. He is on the throne; He is at the head of His redeemed, leading them to living fountains of waters; He is in every dwelling and in every chamber; He is the glory over all; Prince, Shepherd, Bridegroom, lamp and sun; alpha and omega, beginning and ending, first and last. He meets you at every step; He is seen in every object; He is heard in every sound; His name is the theme of every melody; and the chorus of each Psalm and hymn is, ’Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive blessing, and glory, and honor.’
What are the attractions of that city to us?Are they the gold and gems that make up its everlasting splendor? And when we read, or hear, or sing of its glory, is it the external brilliance that dazzles? Is it its exemption from sorrow, and change, and death, and night, and darkness, and the curse? Or is it the presence, the universal presence, of the Lamb? Sentimentalism can feast itself upon the former—but only faith and love upon the latter.
The question—What think you of the new Jerusalem? Is intimately connected with the more searching one—What think you of Christ? What is He to you? What is His cross to you? To be engrossed with the splendor of the new Jerusalem, while yet you have not tasted that the Lord is gracious, nor been begotten again unto a living hope—will profit nothing. Your imagination is kindled or soothed with the picture of our text, ’Its lamp is the Lamb;’ but what do you say to His own words on earth, ’I am the light of the world?’ Has that light which has enlightened millions enlightened you? He is the light of life, the true light that enlightens every man that comes into the world, and all light is darkness, but that which radiates from Him. What has that light been to you, or done for you? It is this present light on earth, filling the soul, that is the preparation for enjoying the light of the city; and he who walks in darkness here, shall walk in darkness forever.
We bid you look away from every other light and turn to this. It is the light of the cross! For the cross is light and not darkness. It is the light of love. It sheds its rays of pardon, and reconciliation, and joy into the darkest soul. These rays go out with each proclamation of the gospel; for our gospel is the gospel of the light, the gospel of the risen Sun. He who receives that gospel receives the light; and he who holds fast that gospel abides in the light, being a child of the light and of the day. He who receives it not, is a child of darkness, and walks in darkness, and knows not where he goes, because the darkness has blinded his eyes!