Click to donate today!
This Chapter opens with an Account of the Sealing of the Servants of God. The Number sealed! John hath shown Him an innumerable Multitude, gathered out of all Nations, standing before the Throne. They are described who they are, and how they came there. The Glories of the Lamb.
(1) And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. (2) And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, (3) Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
This is a most sweet and interesting Chapter. Between the close of the events of the sixth seal, and before the seventh seal is opened, the Lord was graciously pleased, to manifest his watchful care over his Church and people, by sealing them. See that blessed scripture, Isaiah 27:3 . A new state of things was now to arise. The heathen world, that is, the Roman Empire, and called the world, Romans 1:8 ; Colossians 1:6 , was now under the sixth seal become Christian, that is, professing Christianity. A belief in Christ was now openly avowed. The Emperor himself, professed his faith in Christ. But amidst this national creed, deadly heresies were now arising to afflict the Church. Arius had now sprung up with his awful doctrine in denying the Godhead of Christ, though professing his belief in Christ. And under what a variety of different shades hath his heresy, from that hour to the present appeared, in what is called the Christian world? Christian only in name. Reader! pause and adore the Lord for his grace, in causing his Church to be sealed at such a period, as if to say, when errors of a more than ordinary nature are springing up, then the Lord will appear for his people, and have his servants know how secure they are, for he hath sealed them. And take one thought more with you on the subject. God the Spirit hath graciously caused this record of the Lord's care over his Church to be handed down through all ages of his Church, as if to say, let this comfort the Lord's people in perilous times, they are also sealed. For as the Lord watched over them then, so doth he now. And this one record, is in the place of a thousand arguments, to teach the Church these precious truths, Let men or devils rage, at one time more than another, nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal; the Lord knoweth them that are his, 2 Timothy 2:19 . And the sealed servants of the Lord know also whose they are, and to whom they belong. For after that ye believed, saith the Holy Ghost by the Apostle, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, Ephesians 6:24 .
By the four Angels which John saw, I am not inclined to think anything particularly is intended from their number. As there are four corners spoken of, and four winds, alluding to the several directions from whence the various winds blow, so it should seem probable, the four in number of Angels, only mean one for each department. But, by the other Angel so called, whom John saw ascending from the east, it is evident could mean none, but the Lord Jesus Christ; and though here called an Angel, or Messenger of the Covenant, as he is called, Malachi 3:1 . yet the office he is both there and here said to perform, could belong to none but God. Him hath God the Father sealed, John 6:27 . And his office as God-Man Mediator, is to seal his people. Indeed, everything is here said of him, implies it. His command to the four Angels prove it, being the head of all principality and power, and whom the Angels worship, Colossians 2:10 ; Hebrews 1:6 . And his having the seal of the living God no less shows it, for who should have the seal or use it, but He who alone was found worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof, Revelation 5:5 . He who is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his Person, and who upholds all things by the word of his power, Hebrews 1:2-3 . And what a volume of the richest blessings, are included in this view of Christ sealing his people? I hope the Reader will indulge me, with mentioning a few of the gracious contents.
First. The Person sealing, is the great and leading point to be regarded in this account. And this, as hath before been observed, could be no other than the Lord Jesus Christ. And there is a very blessed consideration, connected with this view of Christ sealing his people. It was not to inform him, for all the names of his people are in his book of life. Luke 10:20 ; Isaiah 4:3 ; Philippians 4:3 ; Revelation 21:27 . And his flock must again pass under his hand. Jeremiah 33:13 . And all he hath received of his Father he hath undertaken for, John 6:37-38 and John 10:28 . But the sealing of his people seems to have been with a special eye to their comfort. It is, as if the Lord had said, behold the love I have for you, I hereby acknowledge you for mine, Isaiah 43:1-7 .
Secondly. Who they are that are sealed; namely, the servants of our God. Such, as the Lord by electing grace, chose from all eternity; and by sovereign grace, are called in time. They were once, when in the A dam-nature, servants of sin; but by regenerating grace, are brought into the family of God in Christ. And because from all eternity they were sons, they received in the fulness of time the call of adoption by the Holy Ghost, whereby they cry, Abba Father, Galatians 4:6 ; Colossians 1:12-13 .
Thirdly. This sealing of God, not only confirms whose they are, but their high privileges also Given by the Father, betrothed and redeemed by the Son, and regenerated by the Holy Ghost, they carry about with them, both the outward sign of their seal, and the inward testimonies in the effect of grace in the heart. For as seals are worn in sight, and rings on the finger, are tokens to bring to remembrance the friend or giver, so, the sealed soul makes manifest, by every suitable and becoming testimony, his love and attachment to Jesus. I have set the Lord (said one of old) always before me. He, is on my right hand, I shall not be moved, Psalms 26:8 . And the child of God desires, that Christ shall have the whole affections of the heart. The Lord Jesus, may be supposed to have all these things, and much more in view, when he called to his Church and said, Set me as a seal upon Mine heart, as a seal upon thine arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave, the coals thereof are coals of fire, which have a most vehement flame, Song of Solomon 8:6 .
Fourthly. There is somewhat very, expressive, in what is said in the place of sealing, namely, in their foreheads, that is, it shall be open and not concealed. The world shall know whose they are. And although the marking here made, was intended as preparatory to very awful times coming on, yet, God would have his people known. Their seal shall be in their foreheads. Now, as the Arian heresy was then opening, and beginning to shed its baleful influence, and God would bring his redeemed out of great tribulation, (as verse the fourteenth showeth,) it should seem to be very plain, that this sealing took place chiefly, if not altogether, to guard against this most awful heresy, which however little thought of by some, and considered as of small moment with others, will be found a much greater apostasy, than the religion of the beast, or the false prophet. The Godhead of Christ is the whole bottom and foundation of the faith. The man that denies this, may as well relinquish all that belongs beside to Christianity, for there is nothing left worth retaining. And tremendously awful will be the state of all such at the last day. I would say to everyone, under this awful delusion, as Tertullian did to Marcion, whom he called the Murderer of Truth; Spare said he, the only hope of the whole world! But blessed be God, the hand of man might sooner snatch the sun of the natural world from its orb, than take Jesus the Sun of Righteousness from the firmament of his scripture, by denying his Godhead, neither would the darkness of the former be half so great as the latter.
I need not dwell long on that part of those verses, by way of explaining, which speaks of not hurting the earth, or the sea, or the trees. These are well known to be figurative expressions. Winds imply wars. And the earth seas, and trees mean people. And the winds or wars, are said to be held until God hath secured his people. Thus, in the days of Noah, before the Ark was ready to, receive the Church, the fountains of the great deep were not broken up. These waters were restrained, as those winds are said to be held. But as soon as Noah and his family were housed in the Ark, the deluge followed, Genesis 7:1-16 . In like manner by Lot. Yea, to show the Lord's watchful eye over his people, the Lord said to Lot, haste thee and escape thither, for I cannot do anything, till thou be come thither, Genesis 19:22-25 . Reader! depend upon it, the same is now, as much carrying on, as then. God's care over his people, cannot for a moment cease. Sweetly the Holy Ghost saith by Peter, casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you! 1 Peter 5:7 . Yea, the Lord saith by Moses, he loveth the people, all his saints are in his hand, Deuteronomy 33:3 . The Church is engraven on the palms of his hands, her walls are continually before him, Isaiah 49:16 . And it must be so. For God the Father hath given the Church to Christ. Jesus hath taken the Church into union with himself. He hath loved her with an everlasting love. He hath given himself for her, he hath died for her, he hath washed her in his blood, and the Holy Ghost hath sealed her to the day of redemption. One of the Prophets felt the strength of these blessed truths so forcibly, that under the impression he cried out, the Lord is good, a strong hold (or strength itself) in the day of trouble, and he knoweth them that trust in him, Nahum 1:7 .
(4) And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. (5) Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. (6) Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand. (7) Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand. (8) Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
I do not presume to speak decidedly on the subject, when I say, in relation to the number John saw sealed, that by the hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of Israel, is not meant exactly twelve thousand of a tribe, and no more, and all the tribes the same, but the sense is, that as twelve is what is called a square number, and the square root of it, when multiplied by itself, must forever produce the same; so the whole is put here in one determinate number, to intimate the Lord's knowing, numbering, and sealing everyone The Holy Ghost, by his servant the Prophet, had said ages before the coming of Christ, that though the people of Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return; the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness, Isaiah 10:22 . And the Lord the Spirit, by his servant the Apostle, was graciously pleased to remind the Church of this declaration of his and thereby to keep the expectation of its accomplishment alive in the hearts of his people. See Romans 9:27-28 . Here, then, once more, John, is brought to see the servants of the Lord, in the tribes of Israel, sealed, as if to confirm the blessed assurance, that, as the Holy Ghost was now about to close the sacred volume of scripture, the Church of God might have these things in remembrance, looking forward to the last days events in the earth, when the whole should be accomplished.
Reader ponder well the thought, for it is blessed. We live in a day approaching to the accomplishment of all the great events prophesied concerning the Church. Sweet is that promise, He that scattered Israel, will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd doth his flock, Jeremiah 31:10 . There shall be a day, it is said when the Deliverer shall come out of Zion, and turn away ungodliness from Jacob, Romans 11:26 . And who shall say where, and in what countries is Israel scattered? Who shall say their number, or count them up by their tribes? By whom shall Jacob arise, for he is small? Jesus hath blessedly said and that's enough to comfort the whole Church of God concerning it, that he will gather his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven, Mark 13:27 if the Reader wishes to have his soul refreshed with a view of some of the sweet promises concerning this glorious event, he will find a multitude of them in the Bible, Isaiah 54:7; Isaiah 54:7 ; Jeremiah 31:8 ; Ezekiel 11:17 ; Micah 4:0 ; Zephaniah 3:0 ; Zechariah 10:1-12 etc.
In going over the names of the several tribes of Israel here mentioned, I beg the Reader to notice with particular attention, that Judah, though not the eldest of Jacob s sons, is first mentioned. I do not here again speak decidedly, but I am inclined to think, that precedency was given to this tribe, because our Lord sprang out of Judah, Hebrews 7:14 . And very blessed was the dying Patriarch's prophecy to this amount. Judah! thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise; thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee, Genesis 49:8 . It is blessed to eye Christ in everything, and honor given for Christ in all things.
And I would make one observation more respecting those tribes of Israel. If the Reader will consult the Old Testament, concerning the twelve tribes of Israel, and compare it with the number here, he will find, that though here are indeed twelve tribes enumerated, in correspondence to the number of the sons of Jacob, yet one of Jacob's sons is not mentioned, even Dan; whose place is supplied with Manasses, one of the sons of Joseph, though Joseph himself, as a tribe, is also in the number. Various have been the opinions of men concerning it, though the Holy Ghost is silent upon it. Some have thought it was because the tribe of Dan apostatized, in the instance of the idols of Jeroboam, 1 Kings 12:26-30 . But, I confess that this opinion doth not satisfy me. We find the Danites, in the days of the Judges, setting up a graven image; and at that time the sons of Manasseh, even Jonathan, the son of Gershom, and his sons, became the priests of this idol. And yet the tribe of Manasseh is among the sealed, though Dan is not. This, I think, therefore, cannot be the reason, Judges 18:30 . Ephraim, also, is omitted in this sealing. And the same reason is assigned. By the Prophet Hosea, the Lord indeed said, Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone, Hosea 4:17 . But, we find, fourscore years after this, (for so much time had run out between the ministry of Hosea, and that of Jeremiah,) the Lord, by the latter Prophet, said of Ephraim, Is Ephraim my dear Son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord, Jeremiah 31:20 . I cannot venture, therefore, to conclude, that those are the reasons. But, if the Reader wishes me to go further, and assign a cause. This I dare not. The Holy Ghost is silent upon it. I presume, therefore, not to speak upon it. Dan is omitted. And we learn from it a solemn truth. And it is our duty to have it in remembrance. What the Holy Ghost hath said, upon another occasion, meets us here, If God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee, Romans 11:21 . If the tribe of Dan had then none to seal, what a breaking off was here! And if on the great day of God, when the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, and a remnant shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters; and that great purpose of God is seen, he hath declared what a manifestation will then be made of the remnant, according to the election of grace? Very blessed to this point, is that most gracious scripture, Yet, behold, saith the Lord, therein shall be left a remnant, that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters; behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way, and their doings; and ye shall be comforted, concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it. And they shall comfort you, when ye see their ways, and their doings; and ye shall know that I have not clone without cause all that I have done, saith the Lord God, Ezekiel 14:22-23 .
When the Reader hath made his full observations on this part of the sealing of the tribes of Israel, I beg to propose another consideration to him, of a very sweet and refreshing kind, as it strikes my view on the subject, namely, hew very gracious and timely it was, thus to seal the Church, before those awful days came on, which we know followed in the persecutions of the people; I mean, not only generally so to the Church at large, but specially with an eye to the Lord's people, the Jews.
In order for the better apprehension of the subject, I would have the Reader connect with it what we now know. Many hundred years have run out since that period. The children of God were then beginning, but as it were, to be scattered, to what they have been since. The Lord's ancient people, the Jews, had not been driven, from their beloved Jerusalem, comparatively speaking, but a short space, to what was to run out, before they were to be again called home. The great power that was now arising in the East, under, the false Prophet, was to take into the different branches of that vast empire, multitudes of the dispersed of Israel. And as that power still remains, and so many ages and generations were to expire, during Israel's subjugation, what a mercy was it to the Church thus to be taught, in this vision shown John; that notwithstanding all outward appearances, the Lord had marked, and knoweth them that are his. Let the Reader duly observe this, and notice God's love to his Church, in the appointment. And then let him go on to another observation.
Christ, the angel John saw, coming to seal his people, was beheld by him ascending from the East. Surely, this ascension from the East, plainly pointed, as with a finger, that the great cause for which the Church, in the tribes of Israel, was now sealed, was an allusion to the affairs of the Church in the East. And, as much about this time, under the sixth seal, and before the seventh should be opened, the false prophet would arise, and extend his vast empire over the East; here the Jews would be scattered in abundance, and therefore the Lord's mark should be upon them. Who shall calculate the number of Israel to this hour, which have been, and yet remain, from the time of John's vision, through a period of seventeen centuries? We are not come down yet, in our progress through this book of prophecy, to the season of the Trumpets; but we may in this place observe, for the better apprehension of the whole, (which, the distant age we live in to that of John's, gives us the advantage to form our conclusions upon) that, as we are now, in point of time, under the influence of the sixth trumpet, we can discover much of what was prophesied under the sixth seal. Who shall say, therefore, how many of his sealed ones, from those regions in the vast empire under the false prophet, the Lord hath been gathering home, from age to age, even to the present hour? When we consider that the awful delusion of Mahometan imposture extends its baleful influence over the vast empire, in the East, of lndostan, Persia, Turkey, Morocco, we may reasonably conclude, that this sealing, which John saw in a vision, was meant to comfort the Church with those views. And, Reader, what an amazing bringing back to the Church, from those regions, will it be when the Lord shall cause the seventh Trumpet to be sounded, and when those voices will be heard in the Church, saying, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever? Revelation 11:15 .
But, though I have just glanced at these things, we must not altogether anticipate the history in bringing them forward here. They will meet us in their proper place. In the mean time it is sufficient for the present to observe, that the Lord was pleased to show his servant John, by vision, in the interval between the sixth and seventh seal, how safe and secure his redeemed of Israel are The Lord hath sealed them, and owned them as his And thus John's mind must have been very graciously relieved from the awful persecutions he was called upon to notice, when the seventh seal came to be opened.
(9) After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; (10) And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. (11) And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, (12) Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever. Amen.
If we admire, as that we cannot but admire, and at the same time bless God for the gracious manifestation made to John, for the Church's consolation, in the foregoing representation of God's care over his tribes of Israel, in sealing them; with what thankfulness ought we, of the Gentile Church, to bless God for the discovery made here, of the innumerable body of Christ's members, gathered Out of all the varieties of the earth. Here is evidently the whole Church of Christ, beheld by John in a vision, even the bride, the Lamb's wife. Such, as will be seen in reality, in that day when the Lord will make up his jewels. And it should seem to have been intended by way of confirmation, through the medium of John, to convince the Church, by so plain and palpable a testimony, that both Jew and Gentile form but one and the same Church in Christ. They are no more than one. So saith Christ, and blessed it is to know it m y dove, my undefiled, is but one; she is the only one of her mother; she is the choice one of her that bare her, Song of Solomon 6:9 . And this seems to have been particularly designed also for the greater joy of the Church, through John; because, as John had seen Christ seal Israel, and nothing had then been said, concerning the sealing of the Gentile Church; here his mind should be refreshed immediately upon, with the representation of the whole Church, both Jew and Gentile, when brought home to glory. Instead of sealing, which was a most gracious act, before a time of persecution, John shall now see the whole Church after all sorrows are over, when palms of victory, and white robes, shall show, that their troubles are ended. And, instead of an hundred and forty and four thousand of head only he shall behold a multitude of all Israel, Jew and Gentile, which no man could number; to show, that Christ's triumphs shall bear a suitable correspondence to the Almightiness of his Person and offices; nations, that is, some of all nations, shall be blessed in him, and all nations Shall call him blessed.
The best service I can render the Reader, in looking together with him over this most precious scripture, will be, I conceive, to gather out some few of the more special and leading particulars of it, and one by one, offer some remarks, as may be supposed, were particularly intended for them.
And, first. John observes, that this blessed society he saw consisted of a multitude, which no man could number, Such views give us a most pleasing consideration, that although the Church of Christ, compared to the world of ungodly, is but as the remnant of Jacob, in the midst of many people, and therefore called, by Christ himself', a little flock: Luke 12:32 yet, when the whole redeemed of the Lord comes to be gathered into one, they will form an immense body, and such a multitude as no man can number. Paul, speaking of the Church, saith: ye are come to an innumerable company of Angels, Hebrews 12:22-23 . And our Lord himself speaks of his mansions in his Father's house, as being many, John 14:2 . But it is a blessed thought, that though no man could number them, Jesus can. All his flocks must again pass under the hand of him that telleth them, Jeremiah 33:13 . All the Father hath given him, shall come to him, John 6:37 . Jesus hath all their names in his book of life, Revelation 21:27 . And he said, that as a good Shepherd, he calleth them all by name, John 10:3 . Sweet thought, to the least, and weakest lamb, in Christ's fold! However unknown, or unnoticed by the flock, the Great Shepherd both knoweth them, calleth them by name, feedeth them, watcheth over them, and will bring them home to his fold. As it was in coming out of Egypt, so it will be in bringing in to heaven; not an hoof belonging to God's Israel will the Lord leave behind.
Secondly. This multitude is to be gathered out of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. And consequently, Christ hath a people in all places; otherwise they could not be said to be gathered out. Here opens a most blessed subject to contemplate. And, I very particularly desire the Reader to bear with me, and hear me with patience, upon this very interesting subject. I find cause to bless God, for whit he hath here said of the Gentile Church in this place, as I no less would bless him, for what he had before said and done, in sealing the Jewish Church; for I confess, that I am inclined to think, that in both instances, there was a special design of the Lord in it. I beg indulgence to explain myself.
By sealing Israel, before their long oppressed state, under the despotism and delusion of the false prophet in the East, took place, we have seen the watchful eye of God over his Church. And by this further manifestation to John, concerning the whole Church, both Jew and Gentile, we no less see, how the Lord hath secured the present, and everlasting interests of all his people. But under both we are led to conclude, that both Jew and Gentile were alike to be gathered from the varieties of the earth. What a thought it is, that the seed of Christ should be thus dispersed over the whole world! And what a thought again follows upon the heels of the former, like wave after wave, in the sea; how the Lord's purposes are accomplished. His thoughts not our thoughts, neither his ways our ways! I cannot but admire this plan of infinite wisdom the more, because, for all the eastern world there is no prophecy in this whole book of the Revelation, except in this part. Surely, one might suppose, in so large a tract of the inhabited globe, some respect would be had, in a book of this kind, to those who peopled the East; and especially, As it was in the East that all the glorious transactions, of man's recovery from the fall, by Christ, was accomplished. But without an eye to what is here said, as referring to them, we have none. From the subsequent parts of those prophecies, to the end of the ruin of Antichrist, everything that is said, refers to the Western world. Hence, therefore, this becomes a precious testimony to the recovery, in after days of the Lord's appearing for his people. This view was evidently designed to show the Church, that God hath sealed Israel; and that, from hence also, his Gentile Church should arise; and both be fully known to be the Lord's, when the purposes of God were accomplished.
I would beg to add one word more, upon this gathering of Christ's Church from the varieties of the earth; namely, how blessedly it teacheth us of the safety of God's children, wheresoever they are. Jesus hath marked his sheep. And he will assuredly bring them all home to his fold. Let no child of God, therefore, ever despond, from any situation, or exercise of life. As the day is, the strength shall be. Thousands now in glory, were once, when upon earth, encompassed, as we are, with difficulties, and exercised with temptations. They who have entered into rest, have triumphed over all. If the poor, tried, tempted, and exercised child of God, here upon earth, could see the multitude now before the throne, and could hear their account of the Lord's grace, concerning them, while here below; how would it animate, and encourage his mind? He would learn, that what he now feels, they once felt, what he encounters, they once endured. These things would help him, through grace, to go on. And, being encompassed with so great a cloud of witnesses, he would lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset him, and rim with patience the race that is set before him, looking unto Jesus, the Author, and Finisher of his salvation! Hebrews 12:1-2 .
Thirdly. There is one feature more of this multitude John saw, which is strikingly descriptive. They are said to have been standing before the throne, and before the Lamb! Here we plainly discover, that the throne of God is one, and that Jesus is in the midst of the throne. And we no less discover, from what is said of the Church standing before the throne, that this is both the everlasting safety, and the everlasting happiness of the redeemed. It is our distance from this throne of God, which is the sad cause of all our misery. We live below our privileges. We have too little actings of faith upon the Person of Christ Jesus. Perfect love casteth out fear. If we love Christ because he first loved us, we shall soon apprehend the blessedness of always living to him, and living upon him. In his presence is fulness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore!
Fourthly. They are said to be clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. Intimating that they had overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and were therefore crowned with the emblems of victory There is somewhat very interesting in this account. Jesus hath made all his redeemed kings and priests, to God, and the Father; therefore, as such, they stand before him, both in their royal, and priestly garments. But the sweetest view is, that these robes of white, implied both their sanctity in Christ, and their everlasting freedom from all sin. Oh! the unspeakable felicity of such a state of holiness and sanctification, and that forever in Christ?
Fifthly. Their hymn of praise is beautiful. Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. Let the Reader from hence observe, how the Church gives her acknowledgments unitedly to all the Persons of the Godhead, as being the joint Authors of all her mercies in redemption. And, when it be considered, that all the Persons of the Godhead alike concurred in that vast design, the song of tribute becomes sweet, and suitable, in being addressed to the Holy Three IN One. God the Father Set forth Christ as a propitiation through faith in his blood. God the Son gave himself an offering, and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet swelling savor. And God the Holy Ghost, through whom that offering was made is the great cause of regeneration, in making the redeemed the happy partakers, by grace, of those unspeakable mercies. Hence the song of salvation to God, that is, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as God; and the Lamb, that is, the God-Man Mediator, Christ Jesus.
Sixthly. Though the Angels are said to fall before the throne on their faces, and to have worshipped God, saying Amen; yet they sung not of their salvation; for having, through God's grace, kept their first estate, they needed not salvation. But only as participating in the Joy of the Church of God, and rejoicing in the glories of the Lord, they enter with an holy ardor of affection, into all that belongs to the Church's welfare, and therefore, put their hearty Amen to the heavenly hymn. And the sevenfold praise that follows, is descriptive both of their views of God's glory, and their happiness in it. Blessings say they, for God is blessed in himself, and blessed in his Church and people; yea, is their blessedness, and the fountain of all blessedness. And Glory, because God is the glory of his people. His glory is in himself, and of himself; and his glory is great, in the salvation by Christ, Psalms 21:5 . Wisdom, is another of his distinguishing attributes, and most eminently displayed in the salvation by Christ. For Christ himself is both the wisdom of God, and the power of God to salvation, 1 Corinthians 1:24 . Thanksgiving: most suitably is this added, for if heaven, in the hierarchies of the place, could be supposed possible to be silent in the contemplation of God's love to the Church, in all that relates to it, the very stones of the earth might be supposed to cry out. Honor is also brought into the vast account. For as God, he is to be honored; and as God in Christ to be everlastingly beheld as the sole source of all honor; and the Lord will take to himself honor, in the destruction of all the foes of our salvation. Power is eminently displayed in salvation, since nothing but the wisdom of God could have contrived it, and nothing but the power of God accomplished it. And Might, to bear up the whole government, in all the departments of nature, providence, grace, and glory. Well might the heavenly host, therefore, catch fire at the Church's song, and join in, with all their powers, to swell the loud Chorus of praises to God and the Lamb. Reader! Shall you and I join our feeble notes to the same? Yes if so be we know, that we have redemption through Christ's blood, even the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace.
(13) And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? (14) And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (15) Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. (16) They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. (17) For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
This is as beautiful and interesting a part as any, of the whole vision. We may suppose, that the mind of John was wrapt up in the most profound meditation, as he looked on, and heard, and stood, like one amazed, at what he saw. One of the Elders, therefore, interpreting by John's looks, that he longed to enter into a perfect apprehension of the whole, put the question to him, which John perhaps would himself, had he presumed, have ventured to ask: What are these things which are arrayed in white robes and whence came they? And the Elder, answering his own question, for John and the Church's information, is most gracious. And is, if I mistake not, in direct reference to the Church of God in the Last particularly at the time now coming on And though I do not presume to suppose, yea, I think the contrary, but that the Church in all ages may be referred to; yet, as this vision was given in a very particular manner, for the comfort of the Church then, when the seventh seal should open, I do conceive, that those here mentioned, as coming out of great tribulation, were those gathered more especially froth the Eastern part of the world, from among the dominions under Mahometan delusion, and had a primary respect to them.
And, I will venture to go further, under an humble hope, that I do not err in the relation, and say, that now in the day in which I am writing these observations, even in the day and year of our Lord God April 1, 1816, I do well remember the return of a godly man from the Turkish dominions, during the late war, who had formerly been a member of the Church of God to which I belong, and having been called into Egypt, there, found other godly persons, sent upon a similar occasion of war, with himself; and who, having formed meetings together for sacred worship, had the pleasure to find some from among the inhabitants of that city, who came and joined their services. A plain proof, that God's people are scattered; and, that Jesus hath his people, whom he is calling from the East as well as the West, and the North, and the South. And, oh! what a multitude will arise, from all those different corners of the earth, at the last day, when Jesus shall send his angels to call them. home! Though they are now separated by distant seas and climes, though diversified by customs and manners; yet Christ, the desire of his people in all nations, hath in all nations a people that serve him: and of all these it will be found, that as the Father hath given them to his Son, so all shall come to him; and nothing shall separate the members from the glorious Head of his body the Church, who filleth all in all.
I must not trespass too largely, but otherwise the subject is as extensive as it is great, and as interesting as it is beautiful. The Elder that put the question to John, answered it himself. He gives an account of their persons, their former state, their present felicity, with the source of all their happiness in Christ, and the everlasting home of blessedness, to which they are brought, in the service of God and the Lamb, forever. If the Reader will indulge me with few outlines, I hope the Lord may make them profitable.
First. They are said to have come out of great tribulation. Though it may be safely said, that the Church of Christ, in all ages, more or less, come out of great tribulation; for Christ himself hath made it a mark of Sonship, that in the world his disciples shall have tribulation; while in him they have peace; John 16:33 . yet those times which followed the sealing, between the sixth and seventh seals, were eminently marked with persecutions. The history of the Church, which relates to us the dreadful ravages made by the sword of the false prophet and his followers at that time, Most plainly prove it. And indeed, what was the sealing of the hundred and forty and four thousand intended for, but as the Lord's token of love to his Church, before the coming on of those persecutions? Reader! mark then, this first feature in the Latin's people. They have come, out of great tribulation Every child of God knows somewhat of this, if not from the open persecution of the world, yet, from the plague of his own heart. It is blessed to know the tribulation from this quarter, in order to endear Christ. Till we know somewhat of our own wretchedness, we think lightly of his righteousness.
Secondly. They are said to have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Reader! I pray you, mark well what is here said. They come out of great tribulation. But, that was no cause of their acceptance before God. They had white robes, and palms in their hands. But the former were not made White by their washing, nor the latter put into their hands for their victory. No washing of their's, no sacrifice, no blood of bulls, or of goats; no merits, no works of their's, which they had done; not an atom of their's contributed to it: but it was the blood of the Lamb, the blood of Jesus Christ, God's dear Son, in which their robes were washed; and therefore that is, for that very cause, and that alone, they were before the throne of God, and served him in his temple day and night.
And under this particular, I beseech the Reader to remark yet further, that it is their robes which they are said to have washed. Not their sins only, but their robes, that is, their very best things, or a man's robes are his best things. And what may we suppose is implied in their best things, but their best prayers, their best deeds, their most holy services, their Lord's day robes, their ordinance robes, their sacramental robes their holy conversation robes. All need washing. All must be washed and made white, in the blood of the Lamb, or all become offensive before God. Nothing but the blood of the Lamb, can make holy before God, neither any but the Person and righteousness of the Lord Jesus justify in God's sight. It is in Him and Him only, the Church of God find access here in grace or hereafter in glory. He hath made us accepted in the Beloved, Ephesians 1:6 .
Thirdly. Let our next view of this sweet subject be, to contemplate the blessed consequences which follow. Having looked at them in their Persons, being washed, being sanctified, being justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God; let us hear the Elders account to John of the blessedness of their station, 1 Corinthians 6:11 . They are before the throne of God. They have the immediate enjoyment of God and the Lamb. Here it is in grace. Above it is in glory. Here, they enjoy that presence by faith. There, in sight. Here, in part. There, in a fulness of joy at God's right hand forevermore.
Moreover, they are described in their service of God before his throne night and day. We know not what the blessedness of such services consist in. We must be endowed with the faculties of the redeemed in glory, to speak of their employments. But we can, in some measure, conceive, what glory must continually pour in upon the soul, when no fleshly corruptions, any longer arise to interrupt spiritual pleasure. We can, and do now at times, for a short moment, when grace is in lively exercise, feel ourselves as in the suburbs of heaven, in contemplating God and the Lord. Sweet and precious, though rare and short, those holy seasons are. But what must it be, when the disembodied spirit of a redeemed regenerated child of God, shall join the spirits of just men made perfect, and is fully some not by faith, but by sight, to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to God the judge of the Judge of all?
Fourthly. The Elder added another information, by way of heightening to John 's view the unspeakable blessedness of the redeemed; namely, that He that sitteth on, the throne, shall dwell among them. God's presence among his people is the superlative degree of all happiness and glory. Even here on earth, it is the sweetner of all blessings. Where Jesus is there is blessedness. No blessing void of him can be called a blessing. Hence, for the want of Christ it is, that so many aching hearts are in fine houses while on the contrary, where Jesus is, however poor and humble, the Lord brings all blessedness with him. And what then must it be in heaven, where the immediate presence of God and the Lamb, forms the very heaven to the soul When John heard a great voice out of heaven, speaking of peculiar blessedness to the Church, it was to say, behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people; and God himself shall be with them, and be their God! Revelation 21:3 .
Fifthly. The blessedness of their state is further described, in their being forever exempt from hunger and thirst, and a complete freedom from sickness, or the pressure of the sun's heat. They are brought into that happy climate, where none of the inhabitants shall any longer say I am sick, for the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity, Isaiah 33:24 . It is blessed here upon earth, to have tasted the heavenly manna, even Christ's body the bread of life, spiritual hunger is then satisfied with Christ. And when the Lord Jesus gives of the water of life freely, this becomes in the spirit, a well of water springing up to everlasting life. The child of God which daily feeds upon Jesus, will hunger no more after the empty, unsatisfying husks of this world. But in heaven, what unspeakable felicity must it be, to have Christ for our portion, and to live upon him forever!
Sixthly. There is somewhat peculiarly sweet and endearing in this whole account, in calling the Lord Jesus the Lamb. There can be no doubt, but that the personal glory of the Lord Jesus, is intended by it. The Holy Ghost delights in holding up to the Church the Person of her Lord. The inherent holiness of Christ, and the personal purity of Christ, in that pure portion of our nature, taken into union with the Godhead; underived as it was from all created power, possesseth in itself an holiness infinitely beyond the holiness of Angels. For though the Angels which are Elect Angels, are kept from sinning, yet this is by election. Their nature, without that electing and preserving grace, being in itself necessarily changeable, as all created excellence must be, would be necessarily subject to fall. And that they do not fall, is wholly to be ascribed to election. For those Angels which were not Elect, have fallen. And hence it is said, God putteth no trust in his servants, and even his Angels he chargeth with folly; that is, with a weakness capable of sinning, Job 4:18 . But Christ in that holy portion of human nature, he took into union with himself, is said to be holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; that is, higher than Angels, being the uncreated Word, Hebrews 7:26 ; John 1:1 .
It is on this account, if I do not greatly mistake, that the Holy Ghost so often dwells in this Book on this expression, when speaking of Christ in calling him the Lamb. And there are numberless beauties in the name, as it concerns the Lord's Church and People. To mention only a few. First. It hath a sweet and sacred allusion to God the Father's decree, when Christ in our nature, was set up from everlasting. Hence he is called in this Book, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Revelation 13:8 . And hence also in reference to the same, the names of his people are said to be written, in the Lamb's book of life, Revelation 21:27 .
Secondly. Through all the old Testament scripture, when the Holy Ghost speaks of the Lord Jesus, under the meekness and gentleness of his character, it is as the Lamb. Hence by the Prophet, he is said to have been led as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth, Isaiah 53:7 . And no less in the New Testament dispensation, God the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of his servant John the Baptist, calls upon the Church to behold him, under this endearedness of character. For looking upon Jesus as he passed, he said; Behold; the Lamb of God! which taketh away the sins of the world, John 1:29-36 .
Thirdly. God the Holy Ghost never loseth sight of the same, by way of holding up to the Church's view, the personal holiness of the Lord, for when Jesus returned to his exalted state, still it is the Lamb. He, who was, and is the Lamb, slain before the foundation of the world; was, and is the Lamb as had been slain, which John saw, in the midst of the throne, Revelation 5:6 . And now again in this vision, as in the midst of the throne, feeding the Church, leading them to living fountains of waters, and wiping away all tears from their eyes.
Reader! do not too hastily pass away from those views. The subject is too precious, too blessed to be so treated. Methinks I should like to dwell upon it forever. Lord the Spirit! I would say, give me grace to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. Let my soul gaze upon him by faith, and feed on him in spirit, as my passover sacrificed for my sins. That while Jesus Seeds my soul, my soul may feast upon his blood and righteousness, and as Jesus hath said, he that eateth me, shall live by me, John 6:57 .
One view of Christ, as the Lamb in the midst of the throne, is so blessed, so gracious, and so delightful, for the faithful to meditate upon, that I would very earnestly, and very affectionately recommend it to every true follower of the Lord, as an effectual antidote against the poisonous breath of those men, who think lightly of our Lord, in this present Christ-despising generation. I mean, in that his being in the midst of the throne, must imply his Godhead. What can Christ be in the midst of the throne, and yet not God? Is there a hardened mind upon earth, so desperately bent to allow the one, and yet deny the other. Oh! how will such men turn into everlasting paleness, and an horrible dread overwhelm them, when they shall see our Jesus in the midst of the throne, where he now is, and the heavens passing away before his presence with a great noise, and the earths and all that is in it, burnt up.
Oh! the blessedness to God's people. Your God, your Jesus, is in the midst of the throne. And to you it is a throne of grace, where you are sure to obtain mercy and grace, to help in all time of need. It is to you a throne of justice also, where the Lamb is in the midst. For he hath satisfied justice, answered all the demands of the law, silenced all the accusations of Satan against his people, and reigns and rules: in his throne of righteousness, to see: all the merits of his blood, completely answered in blessings to his Church and people. And to you it is a throne of glory, for the Lord that gives grace, will give glory; and it is Christ's own glory which is concerned: to see, that the travail of his soul shall be satisfied, for in bringing many sons to glory, it behoved Jesus, as the Captain of our salvation, to be made perfect through suffering: Reader! shall you and I go to this throne, now Jesus is in the midst of it? Every way, and in every direction, it is open to poor sinners, behind and before, for Christ the Lamb slain is in the midst of the throne.
And how he feeds his people, here in grace, and there in glory; surely, every regenerated child of God cannot but know. Himself is the whole of our food. By faith, at his house, at his table, in ordinances and means of grace, all spiritual partakers truly eat of his flesh, and drink of his blood. And they find, by soul experience, what the Lord hath said, that his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed. John 6:55 . And wherefore should it be questioned? If animal life is supported day by day, from the sustenance received in the bread which perisheth with using, shall it be thought incredible, that spiritual life is kept up and maintained, in constant supplies of grace and strength, from the bread of life which is Jesus himself, in the continued communications the Lord makes of himself to his people. Precious Lamb of God, that art in the midst of the throne! do thou, while giving out glory to thy redeemed above, feed with grace thy Church below. For surely, Lord, they are equally dear to thee, by every tye which can make them so, by thy Father's gift, thine own purchase, the conquest of thy Spirit over them in regeneration, and their surrender of themselves to thee, as thine, since thou hast made them willing in the day of thy power!
READER! while we look with holy meditation at this vision which John saw, and mark the four Angels holding as they were commanded, the four winds of the earth, from going forth to destruction; until the Lord had done his gracious purpose towards his servants; Let us behold our Almighty Jesus ascending from the East, to mark, his own against the day of tribulation! And while we see him so gracious to his Israel, and while we see him so gracious to his Gentile Church also, to which you and I belong, oh! for grace, to stand impressed with this most certain assurance that He is the same watchful, loving, and all lovely Lord now, as he was then. He is; He must be Jesus Christ; the Same yesterday, and today, and forever. Oh! then, depend upon it, that he hath sealed, he doth seal, and he will seal, every individual one of his redeemed.
And, Reader! let you and I behold our Jesus, (if so be, by regeneration you can call him yours,) encircled with his blood bought sons and daughters, now on his throne. Hath Jesus washed their robes, and will he not wash ours? Hath he made them white in his blood, and shall ours remain uncleansed? Hath he loved his Church only in heaven; and doth he not regard his Church upon earth? Did Jesus show so much attention to his beloved at the time here shown, and would not suffer the winds or wars to come on; until that he had sealed his redeemed, and will he behold Our exercises, our difficulties and tribulations, and look on unmoved? Oh! no, thou dear REDEEMER! thou art still the Lamb, and still in the midst of the throne. All power is thine, in heaven, and in earth. And such is thy love to thy poor ones below, that thou art watching over them night and day, lest any hurt them, and whoso toucheth them, toucheth the apple of thine eye! Oh! how sure, how safe, how blessed are all thine, both in earth and heaven.
Reader! let us seek grace, to eye Christ unceasingly, as in the midst of the throne. He hath all divine attributes, all divine blessings, all suited grace, all suited mercy. To Him may all his people come. In Him they find all suited fulness. From Him they receive the every needed grace. And to Him offer all praise and glory. Lord! hasten the hour, when thy whole Church shall be round thy throne, and thou shalt have wiped all tears from off all eyes. Amen.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Revelation 7". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension