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PERPETUITY OF THE EARTH AND THE RACE OF MAN--"END OF THE WORLD" NOT THE EXTINCTION OF THE EARTH--CONTINUOUS GENERATIONS--THE REDEEMED WORLD--THE SCENE OF IT-THE BLESSEDNESS OF IT--THE OCCUPANTS OF IT.
Revelation 21:1-8. (Revised Text.) And I saw heaven new and earth new: for the first heaven and the first earth are gone, and the sea no longer is.
And I saw the city, the holy, new Jerusalem coming down out of the heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of the throne, saying, Behold, the Tabernacle of God, with the men [or mankind], and he shall tabernacle with them, and they shall be his people, and he, the God with them, shall be their God.
And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall no longer be, neither sorrow, neither crying, neither pain, shall any longer be; because the first things are gone.
And the Sitter upon the throne said, Behold, new I make everything. And he saith, Write, because these words are faithful and true.
And he said to me, They are accomplished. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I to him that thirsteth will give out of the fountain of the water of the life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be God to him, and he shall be son to me; but the cowardly, and unbelieving, and polluted, and murderous, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all the false, their part [shall inherit] in the lake burning with fire and brimstone, which is the death the second.
Humanity was created and constituted a self-multiplying order of existence,--a race,--to which this earth was given as its theatre, possession, and happy home. God created man in his own image; male and female created he them, and said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over it. When sin first touched man, it found him thus constituted and domiciled. Had the spoliations of sin never disturbed him, humanity, as a race, must needs have run on forever, and been the happy possessor of the earth forever. Anything else would be a contravention and nullification of the beneficent Creator's intent and constitution with regard to his creature man. Meanwhile came the fall, through the Serpent's malignity; and then a promise of redemption by the Seed of the woman. If the nature of the fall was to destroy the existence of man as a race, and to dispossess him of his habitation and mastery of the earth, the nature and effect of the redemption must necessarily involve the restitution and perpetuation of the race, as such, and its rehabilitation as the happy possessor of the earth; for if the redemption does not go as far as the consequences of sin, it is a misnomer, and fails to be redemption. The salvation of any number of individuals, if the race is stopped and disinherited, is not the redemption of what fell, but only the gathering up of a few splinters, whilst the primordial jewel is shattered and destroyed, and Satan's mischief goes further than Christ's restoration.
I therefore hold it to be a necessary and integral part of the Scriptural doctrine of human redemption, that our race, as a self-multiplying order of beings, will never cease either to exist or to possess the earth.
There is a notion, bred from the morbid imagination of the Middle Ages, which has given birth to many a wild poetic dream, which has much influenced the translators of our English Bible, which has unduly tainted religious oratory, song, and even sober theology, and which still lingers in the popular mind as if it were an article of the settled Christian creed, that the time is coming when everything that is, except spiritual natures, shall utterly cease to be, the earth consume and disappear, the whole solar and sidereal system collapse, and the entire physical universe vanish into nothingness. How this can be, how it is to be harmonized with the promises and revealed purposes of God, wherein it exalts the perfections of the Deity, there is not the least effort to show. The thing is magniloquently asserted, and that is quite enough for some people's faith, though sense, reason, and Revelation be alike outraged.
There is indeed to be an "end of the world." The Bible often refers to it. But men mistake when they suppose the world spoken of in such passages to be the earth as a planet. Three different words have our translators rendered "world: γη, which means the earth proper, the ground, this material orb which we inhabit; κοσμος, which means what constitutes the inhabitableness, the ornamentation, beauty, cultivation, external order, fashion of the world, but not the substance of the earth as a terraqueous globe; and αιων, which is used more than one hundred times in the New Testament, but always with reference to time, duration, eras, dispensations,--a stage or state marking any particular period, long or short, past, present, or future,--the course of things in any given instance, rather than the earth or any theatre on which it is realized. It may be earth or heaven, time or eternity, a material or an immaterial world, it is all the same as to the meaning of the word αιων, which denotes simply the time-measure and characteristics of that particular period or state to which it is applied. And this is the word used in all those passages which speak of "the end of the world." It is not the end of the earth, but the end of a particular time, age, condition, or order of things, with the underlying thought of other orders of things, and perpetual continuity in other forms and ages. Æons end, times change, the fashion of the world passeth away,-but there is no instance in all the Book of God which assigns an absolute termination to the existence of the earth as one of the planets, or any other of the great sisterhood of material orbs.
 "The word αιων appears originally to have denoted the life which hastes away in the breathing of our breath, life as transitory, then the course of life, in general, life in its temporal form--an age or generation-a space of time, course of time, time as moving,-time so far as history is accomplished in it. It always includes a reference to the life, filling time, or a space of time, as sœculum denotes the time in which life passes."--Cremer's Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament.
"Κοσμος is the world, mundus, in its wide extention; αιων, the age, sœculum, the present world, in its distinguishing character, its course, and the estimate to be formed of it."--James Bryce in Bengel's Gnomon, Ephesians 2:2.
"Αιων in its primary sense signifies time, short or long, in unbroken duration; essentially time as the condition under which things exist, and the measure of their existence. All that floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, at any time current in the world, which it is impossible to seize and accurately define, but which constitute a most real and effective power, being the moral or immoral atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale, again inevitably to exhale,--all this is included in the αιων."--Trench's Synonyms of New Testament, second series, pp. 38-40. It therefore refers to something altogether different from the substance of the earth as a planet.
So in those passages which speak of the passing away of the earth and heavens (see Matthew 5:18; Matthew 5:24; Matthew 5:34-35; Mark 13:30-31; Luke 16:17; Luke 21:33; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 21:1), the original word is never one which signifies termination of existence, but παρερχομαι, which is a verb of very wide and general meaning, such as to go or come to a person, place, or point; to pass, as a man through a bath, or a ship through the sea; to pass from one place or condition to another, to arrive at, to go through; to go into, to come forward as if to speak or serve. As to time, it means going into the past, as events or a state of things once present giving place to other events and another state of things. That it implies great changes when applied to the earth and heavens is very evident; but that it ever means annihilation, or the passing of things out of being, there is no clear instance either in the Scriptures or in classic Greek to prove. The main idea is transition not extinction.
Some texts, particularly as they appear in our English Bible, express this change very strongly, as where the earth and heavens are spoken of as perishing, being dissolved, flying away (Isaiah 34:4; Isaiah 54:10; Revelation 6:14; Revelation 20:10); but the connections show that the meaning is not cessation of being, but simply the termination or dissolution of the present condition of them to give place to a new and better condition. At least one such perishing of the earth has already occurred. Peter, speaking of the earth and heavens of Noah's time, says: "The world that then was being overflowed with water, perished." (2 Peter 3:5-6.) But what was it that perished? Not the earth as a planet, certainly; but simply the mass of the people, and the condition of things which then existed, whilst the earth and race continued, and have continued till now. Equally strong expressions are used with regard to the destruction or passing away of the old in the case of one born again to newness of life in Christ Jesus; but no one therefore supposes that the bringing of a man from Satan to God is the annihilation of him. It is simply the change of his condition and relations. And so in the case of the earth and heavens; for the same word which describes the change in the individual man is used to describe the change to be wrought in the material world. It is regeneration--παλιγγενεσια--in both instances (Matthew 19:28; Titus 3:5), and therefore not the putting out of existence in either case. The dissolving of which Peter is made to speak, is really a deliverance rather than a destruction. The word he uses is the same which the Saviour employs where he says of the colt, "Loose him;" and of Lazarus when he came forth with his death-wrappings, "Loose him, and let him go;" and of the four angels bound at the Euphrates, "Loose them;" and of the Devil, "He must be loosed a little season." It is the same word which John the Baptist used when he spoke of his unworthiness to unloose the Saviour's shoestrings, and which Paul used when he spoke of being "loosed from a wife." It is simply absurd to attempt to build a doctrine of annihilation on a word which admits of such applications. The teaching of the Scriptures is, that the creation is at present in a state of captivity, tied down, bound, "not willing, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope; "and the dissolving of all these things, of which Peter speaks, is not the destruction of them, but the breaking of their bonds, the loosing of them, the setting of them free again to become what they were originally meant to be, their deliverance. (Compare Romans 8:19-23.) And as to the flying or passing away, of which John speaks, a total disappearance of all the material worlds from the universe is not at all the idea; for he tells us that he afterwards saw "the sea" giving up its dead, the New Jerusalem coming down "out of the heaven," the Tabernacle of God established among men, and "nations" still living and being healed by the leaves of the Tree of Life.
Great changes in the whole physical condition of the earth and its surrounding heaven are everywhere indicated; but the idea of the extinction of the material universe amid "the wreck of matter and the crush of worlds," is nothing but a vulgar conceit, without a particle of foundation in nature, reason, or Scripture. Things have no more tendency to annihilation than nothing has a tendency to creation. There is no evidence that a single atom of matter has ever been annihilated, whence analogy would infer that such a thing is not at all in the will or purpose of God. On the contrary, the teaching of Revelation is, that "one generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but The Earth abideth forever." (Ecclesiastes 1:4; Psalms 15:5; Psalms 119:90.) Whatever new cataclysms or disasters are yet to befall this planet, we are assured that they will not be as destructive even as Noah's flood; for God covenanted then, and said: "I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake, neither will I again smite any more every living thing, as I have done." (Genesis 8:21-22.) It is specifically promised that "the meek shall inherit the earth," and that "the righteous shall dwell in it forever." (Matthew 5:5; Psalms 37:9; Psalms 37:11; Psalms 37:29; Isaiah 60:21; Romans 4:13.) And if the righteous are to inhabit it forever, it must exist forever. The kingdom of which Daniel prophesied is to be an everlasting kingdom, which shall stand forever. That kingdom is located "under the whole heaven," and takes in among its subjects "peoples, nations, and languages," and has its seat upon the earth. (Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:14; Daniel 7:27.) But if the earth is to have an indestructible kingdom, it must itself be indestructible. John describes the sovereignty of this world as finally assumed by the Lord, even Christ, who is to hold and exercise it to the ages of the ages. (Revelation 11:15.) But how can Christ reign forever in a world which is presently to cease to be? God has specifically and repeatedly covenanted and promised a certain portion of the earth to a certain people for "an everlasting possession" (Genesis 48:1-22), in which they are to "dwell, even they, and their children, and their children's children, forever" (Ezekiel 37:25), and not cease from being a nation before him forever. (Jeremiah 31:36.) How can this be fulfilled if the earth is to be annihilated?
 The subject of the perpetuity of the earth was under consideration in a clerical association some years ago, when one of the members pronounced all such ideas wholly unscriptural, and said the word of God is full of passages which prove that the earth is to be utterly destroyed, so that it will no more be. He was pressed to point out even one. He then referred to Psalms 46:2 : "Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed." This, he said, proved conclusively that the earth is to pass away altogether. He was asked to read a little further, when he gave the parallelism, "and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." To which the remark was somewhat facetiously, but very effectively, made, "Brother, that don't appear to be anything more than a large landslide." The positive objector had no more passages to produce.
Dr. J. Pye Smith, in his Geology and Revelation (p. 161), says: "I cannot but feel astonished that any serious and intelligent man should have his mind fettered with the common-I might call it the vulgar-notion of a proper destruction of the earth. I confess myself unable to find any evidence for it in nature, reason, or Scripture.
There is also a peculiar consecration upon the earth which makes it revolting to think of its being handed over to oblivion. The footsteps of the Son of God upon its soil, the breathing of its atmosphere by his lungs, the saturation of its mould with his sweat, and tears, and blood, the wearing of its dust upon his sacred person, the warming of its fluids in his arteries, ought to be enough to satisfy us that neither the Devil nor destruction shall ever possess it. It is the place where God's only begotten Son was born and reared, and where he taught, and slept, and suffered, and died. It is the territory on which Divine Love and Mercy have poured out the costliest sacrifice the universe has ever known. It is the chosen theatre of the most momentous deeds that ever attracted the adoring interest of angels. It has furnished the death-place, the grave, the scene of the bruising and the triumph of Jesus Christ. And how can it ever be delivered over to everlasting nothingness? Perish what may, a world so consecrated can never be blotted out, or cease to be one of the most cherished orbs in God's great creation.
And with the continuity and redemption of the earth, goes the perpetuation and redemption of the race. For why is the one continued if not for the other? As surely as "the earth abideth forever," so surely shall there be eternal generations upon it. Paul speaks with all boldness of "the generations of the age of the ages." (Ephesians 3:21.) After the termination of the present Æon, he contemplates many more Æons, even an Æon of Æons; and those interminable years he fills up with generations and generations. The covenant which God made with Noah, and all living things, the sign and seal of which still appears in almost every summer shower, is, by its own terms, unending in duration; but that duration is at the same time described as filled in with unceasing generations. (Genesis 8:21-22; Genesis 9:8-16.) Joel tells of generations and generations for Jerusalem through all that "forever" in which cleansed and ransomed Judah is to dwell in the covenanted land. (Joel 3:20-21; Ezekiel 37:25-26.) Eternal generations were certainly provided for when humanity was originally constituted and made the possessor and lord of earth; eternal generations certainly would have been the effect of God's constitution and commands had sin not come in to interfere with the wonderful creation; and as surely as Christ's redemption-work is commensurate with the ruinous effects of the fall, eternal generations must necessarily be. Earth and multiplying man upon it surely would never have passed from living fact into mere legend had sin never come in. Much less, then, can they now pass into mere legend, since the new and more costly expenditures of redeeming love have been superadded to the original gifts of creative wisdom and beneficence.
We thus reach the underlying foundations and background of the sublime presentations of the text. The Apostle here beholds the final redemption of our earth and race, the restitution of all things accomplished, the damages, disorders and spoliations of sin repaired, the glorious picture of The Redeemed World.
I. OBSERVE THE SCENE OF THAT WORLD.
"Heaven new;"--not blotted out; not swept into nothingness; but retouched, changed, renovated, cleansed, and brightened up from all its old disorders and imperfections. The heaven over us now is very charming and beneficent. How beautiful and blessed the never-ceasing procession of sun, and moon, and stars, and clouds, and seasons, and days, and nights, and showers, intermingled as they are with heat and cold, storm and calm, gloom and brightness! This old garment of things is still full of rejoicing, and glory, and scenes and themes to touch, inspire, and lift, and discipline, and make glad the heart. What, then, will that new investment be, to which it is to give place! We cannot describe the meteorology of that new heaven; but it will be a heaven which no more robes itself in angry tempests and menacing blackness; nor ever flashes with the thunderbolts of wrath; nor casts forth plagues of hail; nor rains down fiery judgment; nor gives lurking-place to the Devil and his angels; nor is disfigured with dread portents; nor is subject to commotions breeding terror and disaster to the dwellers under them. We often look at the blue sky that arches over us, at the rosy morning's welcome to the king of day, at the high noon's flood of brightness, at the mellow glories of the setting sun, at the solemn midnight lit all over with its twinkling star-gems, and we are thrilled with the perfection and beauty of Jehovah's works. What, then, shall it be when the great Architect, set to do honour to the love and faithfulness of bis only begotten Son, shall put forth his hand upon it the second time, to renew it in a fresh and eternal splendour!
"And Earth new." The earth now is full of ailments and disorders, and in deep captivity to corruption, yet it has much attractiveness. Most men would prefer to stay in it forever, if they could. Ah, this homestead of our fathers for so many generations, carpeted with green and flowers, waving with pleasant harvests and shady trees, girded with glorious mountains, gushing with watersprings, gladdened with laughing brooks, ribboned with rivers that wind in beauty about the rocky promontories, varied with endless hills and valleys, and girthed about with the crystal girdle of the ruffled seas,-these numerous zones, and continents, and islands,-these youthful springtimes bursting out with myriad life under all their dewy steps,-these blazing summer glories,-these gorgeous mellow autumns,-these winters, with their snowy vestments, and glazed streams, and glowing firesides,-and living Nature in its ten thousand forms, singing, and dancing, and shouting, and frisking, and rejoicing all around us,-what pictures, and memories, and histories, and legends, and experiences have we here, to warm our hearts, and stir our souls, and wake our tongues, and put fire and enthusiasm into our thoughts, and words, and deeds! But this is only the old earth in its soiled and work-day garb, where the miseries of a deep, dark, and universal apostasy from God holds sway. Think, then, what its regeneration must bring!-an earth which no longer smarts and smokes under the curse of sin,-an earth which needs no more to be torn with hooks and irons to make it yield its fruits,-an earth where thorns and thistles no longer infest the ground, nor serpents hiss among the flowers, nor savage beasts lay in ambush to devour,-an earth whose sod is never cut with graves, whose soil is never moistened with tears or saturated with human blood, whose fields are never blasted with unpropitious seasons, whose atmosphere never gives wings to the seeds of plague and death, whose ways are never lined with funeral processions, or blocked up with armed men on their way to war,-an earth whose hills ever flow with salvation, and whose valleys know only the sweetness of Jehovah's smiles,-an earth from end to end, and from centre to utmost verge, clothed with the eternal blessedness of Paradise Restored!
And the Sea new, for I take the specification of it here the same as in the third commandment, where it is said, "In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." (Exodus 20:11; also Revelation 10:6.) It is not mentioned to indicate for it a different fate from that of heaven and earth, but because it is so conspicuous and peculiar a part of them. The sea is not heaven, neither is it earth; hence in God's enumeration of the first creation--work he mentions heaven, earth, and sea; and so in the new creation--work, we have again heaven, earth, and sea. It is the literal sea, just as the heaven and the earth are literal; but the non-existence affirmed of it is the same that is affirmed of the first heaven and the first earth. In other words, it undergoes the same Palingenesia which they undergo, and comes forth a new sea, the same as the old heaven and earth come forth a new heaven and earth. There is renewal, but no annihilation.
Some say there was no sea in the pristine condition of the world, and hence none will be in the finally redeemed world. But they are mistaken in both instances. The first chapter of Genesis tells of the formation of the seas contemporaneously with the formation of the dry land. (Genesis 1:9-10.) When the flood came we are told that "all the fountains of the great deep were broken up," and that "the sea broke forth." (Genesis 7:11; Job 38:8.) There must then have been a sea from the beginning. It existed when Adam was in Paradise, as well as since Noah came out of the ark. And so there will be a sea in the new world, the same as a new heaven and a new earth. If not, this is the only passage in all the word of God that tells us anything to the contrary. We read of a river in the new earth, as of rivers in the original Paradise; and where there are rivers there are seas. When Christ as the cloud-robed Angel (chap. 10) set his feet on the earth in the solemn act of claiming and appropriating it as his own, "He set his right foot upon the sea," and thus claimed and appropriated it the same as he claimed and appropriated the ground. Many passages also which refer to Israel and the kingdom of God in the blessed times to come, distinctly speak of the sea as being turned in their favour, and as taking part in the general acclaim over the ultimate accomplishment of the mystery of God. (See Isaiah 42:10; Isaiah 60:5; Isaiah 60:9; Psalms 24:2; Psalms 96:11; Psalms 98:6-7; 1 Chronicles 16:32; Revelation 5:13.) When the time to which the text refers arrives the present sea "no longer is," just as the first heaven and the first earth "are gone." There is no more left of the one than of the other, but likewise no less. Just as much of the sea as of the earth abideth forever. The Re-Genesis touches both alike, just as the first Genesis. As there is a renewed eternal heaven and earth, so there is a renewed eternal sea also, for one is a part of the other. Then, however, it will be no longer a thing of danger and dread, but only of beauty, joy, and blessing. Some of the old Rabbins taught that, in the new world of Messiah, men shall be able to walk the surface of the sea with equal ease that they now walk the earth. Nor is this unlikely; for the Saviour, as a man, walked on the sea, and did not sink; and so did Peter also, until his faith and courage failed him. The regeneration is the making of Christ's miracles universal. The miracles of Christ were the preintimations and beginning of the great Regeneration to come, and the new creation is simply those miracles carried out into universal effect. Why not then also this with regard to the sea? At any rate it will be subdued and rebegotten to Him who maketh all things new, and become a joy and service without being as now an unmanageable and dangerous hindrance and barrier. People only misread the text, and load themselves with endless perplexities, when they interpret it to mean the total abolition of all seas. As the old sea it is abolished, just as the old heavens and earth; but, as in their case, it is an abolition which eventuates in a more congenial sea, even a new sea.
 See comments (first few paragraphs) on Revelation 10:1-11
A new City. Occasion will offer to consider this when we come to the special vision of it in the after portions of the chapter; but it here presents itself as the crown of the regenerated world. It is called by the old Hebrew name of Jerusalem (Ἱερουσαλὴμ), and not by the Grecized name of the earthly city (Ἱεροσυλυμα). If the heaven, the earth, and the sea be literal, then certainly must this also be a literal city. The harlot Woman was finally developed and embodied in a literal city, and it is the same with the true Woman. It is the Bride, the Lamb's Wife, who appears in this new city for eternal blessedness, as the old Adulteress appeared in the new Babylon for everlasting destruction. That was man's glory proudly lifting itself in defiance of heaven; this is the Lamb's glory, graciously descending in benediction to the earth. That was the consummation of this world's progress, and its end; this is the consummation of the achievements of divine grace, and its memorial forever.
It is a new city, one which never appeared before, one of which all other cities are but the poor preintimations, and one as compared with which all present cities will sink out of mind and memory. It is new in its materials, in its size, in its location, in its style, in its permanence, in its moral purity, and in everything characteristic of it. It is heaven-built; jewelled in its foundations, walls, and streets; perfected in everything that is charming and beautiful, "as a bride adorned for her husband;" lighting the nations with its brilliancy, itself ever luminous with the glory of God and the Lamb; the true "Eternal City;"--the imperishable palace of the immortal kings of the ages.
II. OBSERVE THE BLESSEDNESS OF THAT WORLD.
There is a long list of negations, telling the ills from which it brings relief.
Every tear is wiped away. He who dries them off is God himself. Human hands are poor at drying tears. If they succeed in removing one set, others come which they cannot wipe away. Earthly power, however good and kind, cannot go far in the binding up of broken hearts. Only the hand that made the spirit can reach the deep sources of its sorrows, or dry up the streams that issue from them. The springs of grief yield to no other potency. But then his loving Almightiness shall wipe every tear. "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you, and ye shall be comforted," saith the Lord. "Every tear," for they be many;-tears of misfortune and poverty, such as Job and Lazarus wept;-tears of bereaved affection, such as Mary, and Martha, and the widow of Nain shed;-tears of sympathy and mercy, such as Jeremiah and Jesus wept over the sins and calamities of Jerusalem;-tears of persecuted innocence, tears of contrition and penitence for faults and crimes against the goodness and majesty of heaven;-tears of disappointment and neglect;-tears of yearning for what cannot now be ours;-these, and whatever others ever course the cheeks of mortals, shall then be dried forever.
Death no longer exists. O the reign of death! Whom has it not touched! What circle has it not invaded! What home has it never entered!
There is no flock, however watched and tended,
But one dead lamb is there!
There is no fireside howsoe'er defended,
But hath one vacant chair.
Around our churches lie our graveyards, and all the highways are lined with cemeteries and depositories of the dead. We can scarcely open our eyes without seeing the gloomy hearse, the funeral procession, the undertaker's warehouse, the shop full of mourning goods, or the stonecutter chiselling epitaphs. Every newspaper we pick up has its obituary lists, and every week brings forth its bills of mortality. On the right hand, on the left hand, before us, behind us, around us, beneath us, in all seasons, in all climes, everywhere, is death. We ourselves are only waiting, not knowing what day or hour we shall fall beneath its stroke. Physicians are sent forth by hundreds and thousands every year from our colleges and universities, and myriads of hands are ever busy collecting and preparing medicines for the sick; and yet there is no check, no restraint, to the career and reign of death! But, at length, an end to his fell dominion comes. The time will be when death itself shall die; not by the power of man, not by mortal skill or earthly medicines, but by the great redemption of God. When the sunlight of the new Genesis dawns upon this stricken world, the grand thanksgiving shall ring out over every zone, from the equator to the poles, that "Death is swallowed up in victory." Never another dying-bed shall then be seen again. Never another grave shall then be dug. For "death shall no longer be."
Sorrow then ceases. Thousandfold are the heartaches and the griefs which now beset and torment the children of men. Choose what path of life we will, we cannot escape them. They follow us like our shadow. Bright as the lives of some may seem, each heart knoweth its own bitterness. Martyrs suffer where no faggots or flames are visible. But there is a boundary line over which no sorrows ever pass,-the line which divides between the new earth and this. There hearts no longer bleed in secret; there the cold shadows never again fall on sensitive souls; there the killing frosts no more settle on the springing plants or blooming flowers of human peace. Christ drank the cup of sorrow for our world, and it will be found empty then.
And all crying shall be hushed. Sore complaining is the commonest sound on earth. It is often without just cause; but there is no stoicism from which it is never wrung. Man comes into the world with a cry, and goes out of it with a groan, and all between is more or less intoned with helpless wailing. The cry of pain and passion-the cry of fear and strife-the cry of wrong and oppression--the cry of want, and harm, and danger--the cry of torn affection and blasted hopes--the cry of weariness and disability--the cry of suffering and of death--the cry of a thousand unnamed distresses--how it vibrates on every breeze in every land! But the Halleluias of the renewed world will drown out the voice of woe forever.
Neither shall pain any more be. O the racking torments to which these mortal bodies are exposed! O the ills, and aches, and sharp distresses which come upon us through these earthly tenements! But they shall come no more when the new world comes.
These are blessed exemptions, but there is greater good.
Life is there,--life that is life,--life in its highest fulness and noblest activities and associations,--eternal life,--for all who tread the soil and breathe the air of that new world. "The water of life" flows there free and plenteous for each and all. What that water is, is more than we can tell; but it is a water of freshness, purity, and cleansing,-a water that slakes all thirst,--a water that revives against all symptoms of age or decay. Though years heap on years, and centuries on centuries, and cycles on cycles, never shall they dry up the moisture of immortal youth and beauty which those blessed waters give. They are the life-waters which gladden eternity, and which make eternally glad.
A soul-satisfying worship is there. The children of men there join in sublime fellowship with heaven; for it is "on earth as it is in heaven." The Tabernacle of God, with Deity visible and approachable, as when Adam talked with his Maker as a friend and companion, shall be there, with its living oracles of unveiled truth, and assemblies of the sons of God into which Satan can no more insinuate his foul presence, or introduce a doubt, or jar, or imperfection in the flow of unsullied adoration.
And with it all is the possession of God himself. Jehovah is the highest good, the sum of all good. Union and intercommunion with him, the possession of him, is the crown of human blessedness and glory. To have God with us as our God, to know him, and see him, and enjoy him as our own, is the very height and coronal of all human attainment and possession-the focal point of all the promises--the fruition of the sublimest hopes. In this eternal life reaches its acme and fullest bloom. In this man reaches the superlative of glory; for in it he inherits all things. Such then and so transcendent is the blessedness of the new world, never more to end.
III. OBSERVE THE OCCUPANTS AND POSSESSORS OF THAT WORLD.
Not the "cowardly" who shrink from the conflict with sin, ashamed or afraid to avow and maintain their faith in God and his Christ;--not the "unbelieving," who set at nought the testimonies of their Maker, scorn to trust for salvation in the merits of a crucified Saviour, and will not have Christ to rule over them;--not the "polluted," who basely degrade themselves with their uncleanness, bestiality, and abominations;--not the "murderers," whether such by outward act or inward malice;--not "fornicators," whether of the body or the cherished lust of the soul;-not "sorcerers," practitioners in the black arts, conjurers, necromancers, and seekers and exercisers of powers such as God has forbidden;-not "idolaters," whether in the form of pagan worship, or the giving of the heart to covetousness, selfishness, Mammon, or what is not God;-nor any false ones, who make, or love, or act lies;--for "the cowardly, and unbelieving, and polluted, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all the false, their part [shall inherit] in the lake burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." Not one of all such characters ever comes into the new heaven and earth.
But all saints are there--the Church of the first-born-the holy people of God from Abel to the last martyr under the Antichrist. Jehovah has had a people in every age,--a people called out from the world, marked with holy signs, pervaded with a holy spirit,--a people signalized as pilgrims and strangers on the earth ever seeking for a firmly founded and continuing city whose maker and builder is God. Such were the patriarchs of the early ages, who saw the promises, and embraced them, and lived on earth as citizens of another and heavenly country. Such were the prophets, who prophesied beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, and searched and inquired into those blessed things which the angels also desired to look into. Such were those in the first centuries of the Church who held fast the name of Jesus, and denied not their faith in him even amid the roaring flames, and when the blood of his confessors flowed like water. Such were those who sighed and cried through the gloom of the Middle Ages, like souls under the altar, and those who afterwards shook the torch of Jehovah's truth afresh to light the modern nations into life. And such are those in every land, of every tongue, of every age, who show by their lives and testimony that they seek a city yet to come. All these are there, not in flesh and blood, not returned to an earthy corporeal life, but in resurrection transfiguration, made like to the angels, like to their Redeemer now in glory, and having their home-place and palace in the Golden City for which they looked, and wrought, and waited, and suffered when one earth. These are there, as occupants of the new heavens, the dwellers in the new city, the sublime and heavenly kings and priests of the eternal nations and generations.
And the still ongoing race redeemed is there. Many can think of none but glorified saints in this grand picture; but the terms of the record will not construe with that idea. The glorified saints all belong to the celestial city, and have their home and residence in it. That city is the Tabernacle of God which comes down out of the heaven. Yet when it comes, a great voice out of the throne says: "Behold, The Tabernacle of God [is] with the men, [with mankind], and he shall tabernacle with them, and they shall be his people, and he, the God with them, shall be their God." Who then are these to whom the Tabernacle of God comes, and with whom it dwells? Who are these people distinct from it, and whom it is to enlighten and bless? Who can they be, if not the nations of the ongoing race, dwelling in the new earth in the flesh? They are redeemed now, holy, innocent, undying, and the Lord's people forever; but only the Church of the after-born, and not of the firstborn. Jesus, in Matthew 25:1-46, describes a judgment of "the nations," when, as a shepherd, he shall divide the sheep from the goats, and when the sheep "nations" shall be set on his right hand, and "go into life everlasting," whilst the goat "nations "go" into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." So, in the next chapter, we read of these same sheep "nations" walking by means of the light and aid of this celestial city (Revelation 21:24), but quite distinct from the royal Church of the firstborn, which is the New Jerusalem, the Lamb's Wife. Likewise the whole analogy of the Scriptures, from first to last, bears along with it this implication. There is not a word which asserts any purpose of God to terminate the perpetuity of humanity as an ever-expanding race. It was constituted and given command for unending perpetuity before sin touched it. If it fails to go on forever, it can only be in consequence of the introduction of sin. But there has been promised and constituted a Redeemer to ransom it from all captivity to sin and corruption. And if his redemption does not go far enough to exempt the ongoing race from being finally extinguished, then it is not redemption, and the Destroyer beats out the Almighty Redeemer. There is no escape from this alternative if we do not allow that the race of man as a race continues in the new earth, and there realizes its complete and final recovery from all the effects and ill consequences of the fall. Ransomed nations in the flesh are therefore among the occupants of the new earth, and the blessed and happy dwellers in it, as Adam and Eve dwelt in Paradise. The Sitter on the throne saith, "Behold, new I make everything." That everything includes heaven, earth, and sea, and by necessary implication, had we no other proofs, the race of humanity is also included as a subject of the great Re-Genesis. Hence said the Almighty to Isaiah, "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth. Be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create. And they shall build houses and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them." (Isaiah 65:17-25.)
Men may think we dream when we thus propose to read God's word as it is written; but he has anticipated all their rationalizing and scepticism. The Sitter upon the throne saith, "Write, because these words are faithful and true." There can be no mistake about it. God knew how to say what he meant, and he knew the meaning of what he did say. And to that which he has said, he affixes his own infallible seal, that the words are "faithful and true." Here, then, let us rest till their fulfilment comes.
THE NEW JERUSALEM--MATERIALISM IN THE REVELATIONS OF THE FUTURE--A LITERAL CITY--HOW THE BRIDE OF THE LAMB-ITS DERIVATION--ITS LOCATION--ITS SPLENDOUR-ITS AMPLITUDE-ITS SYSTEM OF ILLUMINATION--ITS LACK OF A TEMPLE--ITS RELATION TO THE WORLD AT LARGE--ITS SUPERLATIVE HOLINESS.
Revelation 21:9-27. (Revised Text.) And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, and he talked with me, saying, Hither, I will show thee the Bride, the Wife of the Lamb.
And he carried me away in the spirit on to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of the heaven from God, having the glory of God; her brightness like a stone most precious, as a jasper stone, crystal-clear; having a wall great and high, having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel; from the east three gates, and from the north three gates, and from the south three gates, and from the west three gates. And the wall of the city having twelve foundation-stones, and on them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
And he that spoke with me had a measure, a golden reed, that he might measure the city, and her gates, and her walls.
And the city lieth four-square, and her length is as great as her breadth.
And he measured the city with the reed to the extent of twelve thousand stadia. The length, and the breadth, and the height of it are equal.
And he measured her wall [height] of a hundred forty-four cubits, measure of a man, which is of an angel.
And the construction of her wall jasper, and the city pure gold, like to clear glass.
The foundation-stones of the wall of the city adorned with every precious stone. The first foundation-stone, jasper, the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius, the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrisoprasus; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.
And the twelve gates twelve pearls, each one of the gates separately was out of one pearl.
And the street of the city pure gold as transparent glass.
And a temple I saw not in it; for the Lord God the All-Ruler and the Lamb is its temple.
And the city hath not need of the sun, nor of the moon, that they should illumine it; for the glory of God lighted it, and the Lamb the lamp of it, and the nations shall walk by means of the light of it. And the kings of the earth bring their glory to [or into] it. And its gates shall not be shut by day, for night shall not be there. And they shall bring the glory and the reverence of the nations to [or into] it.
And there shall not enter into it anything common [or unclean], nor he that doeth abomination and falsehood, but only they that are written in the book [or roll] of the life of the Lamb.
One of the most remarkable paradoxes of the Church of our times is its abhorrence of materiality in connection with the Kingdom of Christ and the eternal future, whilst practically up to its ears in materialism and earthiness. Were one of the old Christians of the Apostolic age to revisit the world to take a look at our modern Christianity, I think he would be greatly puzzled to understand how, under the guise of spirituality, the whole Church is permeated and loaded down with carnal philosophies, hopes, and aims. Remembering the sublime simplicity of the ancient times, when the Church was set, like a golden circlet, on the head of the King of Glory, in contact everywhere with Divinity, he would be amazed to see how that circlet has been divorced from its original setting, stained with the flesh, and pushed into the morasses and bogs of this world, whilst earthly glories-crowns, mitres, tiaras, wealth, and secular consequence-are looked to and worshipped everywhere as the insignia of what in sad mockery is called a "spiritual" kingdom! Would he not wonder to find Christians locating their most orthodox rejoicing in monarchs, in popes, patriarchs, bishops, sect leaders, numbers, luxurious arts, boastful speeches, worldly orators, secular education, march of intellect, and a fancied progress toward a "spiritual" millennium of mere secularism, to merge at last into an empty and impossible heaven! And venturing to inquire of some of our popular preachers, whether this is thought to be the proper waiting for the Lord from heaven,--the way to pray "Thy kingdom come,"-the method by which to realize the blessed consummation when it shall be "on earth as it is in heaven,"--the holding fast of the characteristic and animating patriarchal hope of a celestial city which Christ has gone to build and to bring down out of the heaven as the eternal residence of his enthroned saints,--what would be his surprise to get for answer: "Sir, you are labouring under a delusion,-the kingdom was set up 1,800 years ago,--the speedy coming again of Christ in person to reign on earth is a carnal idea, long since exploded, and held only by a few eccentric people who cannot rise to a conception of the true spirituality of the Bible;-and as to the heavenly Jerusalem, why that is only a gorgeous Oriental symbol of the beautiful church state which you see all around you. The glory of Christianity is to keep abreast with the times, to press popular education, to create machinery to reach and elevate the masses, to follow up the conquests of arms with Bibles and missionaries, schools and civilization, to purify and influence legislation, to improve society by gradual reforms and general enlightenment, to win for the Church the patronage of the rich and great, and so to progress till the whole earth shall rest in the embrace of a worldwide 'spiritual' kingdom (located here in Satan's lap!) to last for indefinite ages!" With a groan over his inability to rise to such a philosophy, I can fancy the ancient saint gladly returning to his grave, to sleep in honest earth till that resurrection on which his hopes were fixed, rather than hear any further about a "spirituality" so carnal, and a Christianity so doubtful and earthy.
A spiritualized earthiness is simply a white-washed sepulchre; and an incorporeal and immaterial eternity for man, is equally aside from the teachings of God's Word. No wonder that professed believers of our day are anxious to put off getting into the heaven they believe in as long as the doctor's skill can keep them out of it, and finally agree to go only as a last despairing resort. It has no substance, no reality, for the soul to take hold on. It is nothing but a world of shadows, of mist, of dim visions of blessedness, with which it is impossible for a being who is not mere spirit, and never will be mere spirit, who knows only to live in a body and shall live forever in a body, to feel any fellowship or sympathy.
But such are not the ideas of our futurity which the Bible holds out to our faith and hope. Did men but learn to know the difference between a Paradise of sense and a Paradise of sensuality, the truth of God would not suffer in men's hands as it does, and their souls would not suffer as they do for something solid to anchor to amid the anxious perturbations of life and death. Did men but rid themselves of the old heresy that matter means sin, and learn to know and feel that there was a material universe before sin was, and that a material universe will live on when sin shall have been clean washed away from the entire face of it, they would be in better position both to understand and to enjoy the foreannouncements of the futurity of the saints which God has given for their consolation amid these earthly vicissitudes and falsities. Says one of the greatest of Scottish preachers: "There is much of the innocent, and much of the inspiring, and much to affect and elevate the heart in the scenes and contemplations of materiality,-and we do hail the information, that, after the loosening of the present framework, it will again be varied and decked out anew in all the graces of its unfading verdure, and of its unbounded variety,-that in addition to our direct personal view of the Deity, when he comes down to tabernacle with men, we shall also have the reflection of him in a lovely mirror of his own workmanship,-and that instead of being transported to some abode of dimness and mystery, so remote from human experience as to be beyond all comprehension, we shall walk forever in a land replenished with those sensible delights, and those sensible glories, which, we doubt not, will lie most profusely scattered over the 'new heavens and new earth.' We are now walking on a terrestrial surface, not more compact, perhaps, than the one we shall hereafter walk upon; and are now wearing terrestrial bodies, not firmer and more solid, perhaps, than those we shall hereafter wear. It is not by working any change upon them that we could realize, to any extent, our future heaven. The spirituality of our future state lies not in the kind of substance which is to compose its framework, but in the character of those who people it. There will be a firm earth, as we have at present, and a heaven stretched over it, as we have at present; and it is not by the absence of these, but by the absence of sin, that the abodes of immortality will be characterized." (Chalmers.)
The New Jerusalem, which we now come to consider, is in the line of these ideas. It stands in antithesis to the final Babylon. John is called by one of the same particular angels, in precisely the same way, to be shown it as he was called to be shown the great Harlot. (See Revelation 17:1-18.) The world and all its activities and achievements is made up of two opposing sides,-the side of the heavenly, the good, the blessed, and the side of the earthy, sensual, and devilish,--the true and the false,--the things which gravitate toward eternal life, and the things which gravitate toward destruction and the second death,-the kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of the devil. These two are at present intermingled, and are differently situated toward each other at different periods, the one often hard to be distinguished from the other. But everything on either side has an affinity for its own, and is true to its own; so that, in the progress of time, each side becomes more and more itself, developed and consolidated, until the two antagonistic influences, tendencies, and parties crystallize to their true spirit, and finally come out in two opposite cities; the one of the earth and from the earth, and the other of heaven and from the heaven; the one for everlasting extinguishment under the wrath of God, and the other for eternal illumination with his unveiled presence and glory. Whatever, therefore, may be the run of our ideas of the one, the same must hold good of the other also; for what Great Babylon is on the side of the bad, this New Jerusalem is on the side of the good; for they are counterparts of each other, and each is the ultimate consummation of that to which it relates.
The Apostle had already seen this city "coming down out of the heaven from God;" but he saw it only at a distance, and without that particular spiritual transport Which was necessary to enable him to see it so as to describe it. God meant that we should have as clear and thorough an outlook upon the ultimate crown on the side of grace and salvation, as he has given us of the ultimate crown and end of the sensual wisdom and the man-wrought progress; and hence this angel comes to show John the Bride, the Lamb's Wife, in her final condition and domicile, and in all the magnificence of her eternal glory. And whatever tabernacle of God, or congregating of true worshippers, or seat or character of Divine economies, constitutions, or manifestations, have been graciously vouchsafed to men, as individuals, nationalities, or churches, from the foundation of the world to this time, is here shown in its final consummation, completeness, and eternal reality.
That a real City as well as a perfected moral system is here to be understood, I see not how we can otherwise conclude. Great Babylon, to which it stands as the exact antithesis, came out finally in a real and universally potent city; so, therefore, must this. All the elements of a city are indicated. It has specific dimensions. It has foundations, walls, gates, and streets. It has guards outside and inhabitants within, both distinct from what characterizes it as a real construction. It is called a city--"The Holy City." It is named as a city, "The Holy Jerusalem." It is called "The New Jerusalem," as over against an old Jerusalem, which was a material city. Among the highest promises to the saints of all ages was the promise of a special place and economy answering to a heavenly city, and which is continually referred to as an enduring and God-built city. Abraham "looked for a city which hath foundations, whose maker and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:10.) Of all the ancient saints it is written, that "God hath prepared for them a city." (Hebrews 11:16.) Jesus assured the disciples from whom he was about to be separated, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also." (John 14:2-3.) Hence the Apostle, in the name of all Christians of his day, said, "Here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come." (Hebrews 13:14.) Hence also it is given as one of the great exaltations of true believers, even here on earth, that they "are come unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Hebrews 12:22); not indeed as to actual possession as yet, but as having attained to title to it and to citizenship in it by faith, hope, and sure anticipation. And whatever difficulty we may have in taking it in, or in reconciling it to our prepossessions, I do not see how we can be just and fair to God's Word, and the faith of the saints of former ages, and not see and admit that we here have to do, not with a mere ideal and fantastic city, but with a true, real, God-built city, substantial and eternal; albeit there has never been another like it.
The angel calls it "the Bride, the Lamb's Wife" The heavenly city is Christ's Bride, not on account of what makes it a city, but on account of the sanctified and glorified ones who inhabit it. Without the saints, whose home and residence it is, it would not be the Lamb's Wife; and yet it is the Lamb's Wife in a sense which does not exclude the foundations, walls, gates, streets and constructions which contribute to make it a city. Mere edifices and avenues do not make a city; neither does a mere congregation or multitude of people make a city. You cannot have a living city without people to inhabit it; and you cannot have a city without the edifices and avenues arranged in some fixed shape for the accommodation of those who make up its population. It is the two together, and the order in which the parts are severally disposed, the animate with the inanimate, which constitute a city. And whilst this holy Jerusalem is the Bride and Wife of Christ with reference to its holy occupants, it is still those occupants as disposed and arranged in that city. So that the city as a city, as well as its people as a people, even the whole taken together, is embraced in what the angel calls "the Bride, the Lamb's Wife," as she finally appears in her eternal form and completeness.
The description which the Apostle gives us of this city, though very brief, is very magnificent, and presents a picture which almost blinds us with its brightness. It is not necessary that I should enter upon a discussion of the numerous details. They can be found more or less accurately given in almost any respectable commentary on the Apocalypse. Only to a few of its broader and more important features do I invite attention at present, with a few brief remarks on each.
1. Its Derivation.--John sees it "coming down out of heaven from God." It is of celestial origin. It is the direct product of Almighty power and wisdom. He who made the worlds is the Maker of this illustrious city. No mortal hand is ever employed upon its construction. The saints are all God's workmanship. They are all begotten of his Spirit, and shaped and fashioned into living stones from the dark quarries of a fallen world, and transfigured from glory to glory by the gracious operations of his hand. They reach their heavenly character and places through his own direct agency and influence. And he who makes, prepares, and places them, makes, prepares, and places their sublime habitation also. It is elsewhere said, in so many words, that the maker and builder of this city is God. (Hebrews 11:10.) It has no architect, no workmen, but himself. He who by his Spirit garnished the heavens, erects and fashions the New Jerusalem.
2. Its Location.--This is not specifically told, but the record is not without some hints. John sees it coming down out of heaven. The idea is that it comes close to the earth, and is intended to have a near relation to the earth; but it is nowhere said that it ever alights on the earth, or ever becomes part of its material fabric. Though coming into the vicinity of the earth, it is always spoken of as the "Jerusalem which is Above." (Galatians 4:26.) The nations on the earth "walk by means of its light," which implies that it is over them. John could only get a near view of it by being spiritually transported to the top of "a mountain great and high," like the greatest altitudes of the Alps or the Himalayas. The prophecies also speak of a future Jerusalem as set at the tops of the mountains, and exalted over the hills. (Isaiah 2:2.) If a final exaltation of the earthly Jerusalem is contemplated in such passages, the language still is borrowed from something higher, in which alone its literal import can be realized, and hence includes more especially the "Jerusalem which is above," of which the earthly Jerusalem is the type. The probabilities are that it will stand high over Palestine, and perhaps stationary, as the earth revolves under it, not so high as not to be in ample view of all the dwellers of the earth, and not so low as not to throw its illumination upon all nations and countries, and upon at least half the earth at a time. Something like what the pillar of cloud and fire were to the tribes of Israel when they came up out of Egypt, shall the relation and location of this glorious city be, with reference to the generations of men in the new earth.
3. Its Splendour.--Here the specifications are numerous and transcendant, as we would expect in a city erected and ornamented by Jehovah, and coming forth direct from the heavens. Everything built by God's direction is the very best and most splendid of its kind. So was the ship in which Noah was saved; so was the Great Pyramid, of which there is reason to believe that it was built by divine direction; and so were the Jewish Tabernacle and Temple. Much rather then would it be so in a "Great City," built with his own hands, and intended as the sublime crown of the most marvellous of all his glorious works. And as we would expect, so the description is.
 See my volume, A Miracle in Stone.
Earthly cities are often very magnificent and charming; but if we take our stand on some high point from which to look down upon them, we can see nothing but irregular heaps of human habitations and buildings, mostly involved in a mist of fumes and smoke, having but a dim light of their own; dusty, dingy, and by no means the most beautiful objects on which the eye can rest. It is very different with this heavenly city. It is as clean, and pure, and bright as a transparent icicle in the sunshine. John describes it as "having the glory of God." Glory is brightness, lustre, splendour. The glory of God, or that in which God is arrayed, that which most bespeaks and characterizes Deity, is Light; for "God is light," and in him is no darkness at all. And this city has, and is invested with, the glory, light, brightness, and radiating splendour of God. That brightness as it flashed on Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, surpassed the radiance of the noonday sun of Syria. The very intensity of its brilliancy struck him blind. And this brightness the New Jerusalem has, only with its sharpness when manifested against sin and sinners softened, for there are no more sinners, and no wrath. Hence the brightness is like a most precious jasper stone. A jasper stone is wavy with the various colours of the rainbow; but it is opaque. This city has this jasper appearance, but without the opacity. It is "like a most precious jasper stone crystal-clear," perfectly transparent, like a diamond or rock-crystal. So pure, so bright, so soft, is the luminous and divine splendour in which this whole city is arrayed.
It has "a wall great and high," which is not only like jasper, but which is built of jasper itself. And that wall stands on twelve foundation-stones, and each of those twelve immense stones is a separate and distinct jewel in itself. There are certain substances in nature, found in very small fragments, which are so scarce, rare, beautiful, and enduring that they are called gems, or precious stones; so precious that the prices of them are almost fabulous, and hence they are used almost exclusively for rich and costly ornament. Twelve kinds of these, each a vast, apportioned, and solid mass, make up the foundations on which the jasper walls of this city are built. Through these walls are twelve openings or gateways, with twelve gates; and each of these twelve gates is made of one solid pearl.
From these gates inward there are as many main streetways, and all the streetway is gold,-gold in perfect purity, such as cannot be reached by any earthly refinement,-gold with a peculiar heavenly quality beyond what is ever seen in our gold,-transparent gold like the most perfect glass. Men have built some very grand cities, the houses of which they have constructed of all manner of costly stones, granite, marble, and other solid productions of the earth, dressed, and polished, and ornamented to degrees of great excellence. But there is one part of every such city which they are satisfied to have of inferior material, only so that it is even and smooth; namely, the part which is trodden under every one's feet. It therefore gives a very high touch to the splendour of this celestial city that its very streets are pure transparent gold.
And the city itself is of the same material,-nothing but "pure gold like to clear glass." It is a true crystal palace, made of nothing but transparent gold. An object is thus presented, the splendour of which far outshines the most sublime creations of which the human imagination ever dreamed.
4. Its Amplitude.--There is no stint or meanness in God's creations. When he set himself to the making of worlds, he filled up an immeasurable space with them. He brought them forth in numbers without number, of grades upon grades, from the moons which play around the planets to luminous masses beyond any power of man to commensurate their enormous magnitude. When he created angels he added myriads on myriads, and orders on orders, till all earthly arithmetic is lost in the counting of them. When he started the human race it was on a career of multiplication to which we can set no limit. When he began the glorious work of redemption, and commenced the taking out and fashioning of a people to become the companions of his only begotten Son and coregents with their Redeemer, these pictures of the final outcome tell of great multitudinous hosts, in numbers like the sands of the seashore. And the city he builds for them is of corresponding dimensions.
Starting from the centre of our own city, though perhaps the largest in extent on this continent, we can travel but a few miles till we get beyond its built-up limits; and its breadth is but slight compared with its length. But the golden city for which the Church of the firstborn is taught to look as its eternal home, is 1,500 miles square; for 12,000 stadia make 1,500 miles. John saw it measured, and this was the measure of it, just as wide as it is long, and just as high as it is wide; for the "length and the breadth and the height of it are equal." Here would be streets over streets, and stories over stories, up, up, up, to the height of 1,500 miles, and each street 1,500 miles long. Thus this city is a solid cube of golden constructions, 1,500 miles every way. The base of it would stretch from furthest Maine to furthest Florida, and from the shore of the Atlantic to Colorado. It would cover all Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Prussia, European Turkey, and half of European Russia, taken together! Great was the City of Nineveh, so great that Jonah had only begun to enter it after a day's journey. How long then would it take a man to explore this city of gold, whose every street is one-fifth the length of the diameter of the earth, and the number of whose main avenues, though a mile above each other, and a mile apart, would not be less than eight millions! "Stupendous magnitude! Alexandria is said by Josephus to have had a length of 30 stadia, and a width of not less than 10 stadia. According to the same, the circuit of Jerusalem is defined by 33 stadia; that of Thebes, according to Dicaearchus, by 43 stadia; that of Nineveh, according to Diodorus Siculus, by 400 stadia. Herodotus, in his first book, says that Babylon had 120 stadia in each side, and 480 stadia in each circuit, and that its wall was 50 cubits thick and 200 cubits high. This Isaiah 12:0 stadia every way. All the cities in the world are mere villages in comparison with the New Jerusalem." (Bengel, in loc.) Even the jasper wall which surrounds it is higher than the highest of our church spires. Earth has no foundations on which such a city could be set, to say nothing of the materials of which it is built; therefore it comes forth out of the heaven from God, and has its place above the tops of the mountains.
It has ever been an anxious question to believing souls, what proportion of the people who have lived, or now live, are likely to reach this blessed city. Men came to the Saviour when on earth, inquiring, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" It is a complex question which could not be made profitably clear to those who put it, and it has nowhere been directly answered. It is better that we should be about making our own salvation sure, than speculating about the number who finally get to heaven. But the picture here placed before us casts a light upon the inquiry, as exalting to the grace of God as it is encouraging to those who really wish to be saved. This golden city has not been built in all this amplitude and magnificence of proportions for mere empty show. God did not create the earth in vain; "he formed it to be inhabited." (Isaiah 45:18.) Much rather, then, would he not lavish all this glory and splendour upon the Eternal City, without knowing that enough out of the family of man would embrace bis salvation to fill and people it. And the population to fill and occupy a city 1,500 miles long, and broad, and high, allowing the amplest room and space for each individual, family, tribe, and tongue, and nation, would necessarily mount up to myriads on myriads, who sing the songs and taste the joys of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Amplitude--amplitude of numbers, as well as glorious accommodations--is unmistakably signified, in whatever way we contemplate the astonishing picture.
5. Its System of Illumination.--What is a city without light! And what is more difficult of management in utilizing city spaces than the arrangements for light! Fortunately no gas trusts are needed in the New Jerusalem, nor light of the sun, nor light of the moon. It is itself a grand prism of inherent light, the Light of God and the Lamb, which illuminates at once the eyes of the body and of the soul, and shines not only on the objects without but on the understandings within, making everything light in the Lord. The glory of God's brightness envelops it like an unclouded halo, permeates it, and radiates through it and from it so that there is not a dark or obscure place about it. It shines like a new sun, inside and out, sending abroad its rays over all the earth, and into the depths of space, making our planet seem to distant worlds as if suddenly transformed into a brilliant luminary, whose brightness never wanes. And that shining is not from any material combustion,-not from any consumption of fuel that needs to be replaced as one supply burns out; for it is the uncreated light of Him who is light, dispensed by and through the Lamb as the everlasting Lamp, to the home, and hearts, and understandings, of his glorified saints. When Paul and Silas lay wounded and bound in the inner dungeon of the prison of Philippi, they still had sacred light which enabled them to beguile the night-watches with happy songs. When Paul was on his way to Damascus, a light brighter than the sun at noon shone round about him, irradiating his whole being with new sights and understanding, and making his soul and body ever afterwards light in the Lord. When Moses came down from the mount of his communion with God, his face was so luminous that his brethren could not endure to look upon it. He was in such close fellowship with light that he became informed with light, and came to the camp as a very lamp of God, glowing with the glory of God. On the Mount of Transfiguration that same light streamed forth from all the body and raiment of the blessed Jesus. And with reference to the very time when this city comes into being and place, Isaiah says, "the moon shall be ashamed and the sun confounded,"-ashamed because of the outbeaming glory which then shall appear in the New Jerusalem, leaving no more need for them to shine in it, since the glory of God lights it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
6. Its Lack of a Temple.--"A Temple," says the seer, "I saw not in it." What a vacuum it could create in every earthly city if its temples were taken away! What would ancient Jerusalem have been without its Temple? How much does the fame and glory of the most renowned of cities, ancient and modern, rest on their Temples! Strip them of these and what would be their nakedness! But it is no privation to the New Jerusalem that there is no Temple in it. Nay, it is one of its sublimest peculiarities. Not that worship is then to cease. Not that communion with the eternal Spirit and Source of all things is no longer to exist. While God and holy beings live, their loving adoration of him cannot cease, nor acts of worship be discontinued. But then and there the worship and communion will no longer be through symbols, veils, and intermediate ceremonials, which now are needed to help the soul to divine fellowship. Deity will then have come forth from behind all veils, all mediating sacraments, all previous barriers and hidings because of the infirmities of the flesh or the weaknesses of undeveloped spirituality. Himself will be the Temple thereof. The glorious worshippers there hold direct communion with his manifested glory, which encompasses them and all their city alike. As consecrated high priests they will then have come into the holiest of all, into the very cloud of God's overshadowing glory, which is at once their covering, their Temple, their God.
When Jesus walked with his disciples on earth, wherever he was they had a Temple. In the mountains and wildernesses of retirement, in the midst of the street concourse, on the heights where he was transfigured, in the upper room where they ate with him the paschal supper, along the way to Emmaus, on the shores of Galilee, on the Mount of Ascension, wherever his divine presence, power, and goodness spoke its "Peace be unto you," was a Temple to them. What an encumbrance and detraction would have been Aaron's garments, and Aaron's breastplate, and Aaron's ceremonials of inquiry and worship, when they had with them "God manifest in the flesh," on whose bosom they could lay their heads, whose cheeks they could kiss, whose feet they could bathe with their tears, whose words they could hear, and whose gracious services and benedictions they could at all times command! What need of Solomon's Temple had they, when the embodied Shechinah himself, in ever-approachable form, was with them by day and by night, their brother, their master, their everlasting friend! And when the saints in immortal glory dwell within the enclosing light of the unveiled presence of God and the Lamb, as his Bride and Wife, what more need have they of Temple, or outward ceremonial, to commune with Deity, or to have fellowship with the Father and the Son! God and the Lamb are then themselves the Temple, and the intervention of any other Temple would be a disability, a clog, and a going back from the sublime exaltation which the saints there reach and enjoy. Hence John saw no Temple in that city, "for the Lord God, the All-Ruler, and the Lamb is its Temple." The worship there is immediate and direct.
7. Its Relation to the World at Large.--Of old, the song of the Psalmist was: "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, the City of the Great King." (Psalms 48:2.) In every land into which the Jewish people wandered, there was a glad thrill upon their souls when they remembered Jerusalem. Night and morning they knelt down with their faces thitherward to chant the praises of Him who there dwelt between the Cherubim; and year by year the pilgrim bands went up from all lands, with gladness of heart, and lute, and song, unto the mountain of the Lord, to the Mighty One of Israel. Thither came the tribes of the Lord, unto the Testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the Name of the Lord; for there were set the thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. (Psalms 122:1-9.) Out of Zion went the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. We cannot look back upon those times, even now, without a degree of fascination which draws like a magnet upon every feeling of the heart. And what was then realized on a small and feeble scale, in the case of one people, is to be the universal experience with regard to this blessed city. It is to be the centre and illuminator of the world.
"The nations shall walk by means of the light of it." Spiritual illumination for the soul, as well as glorious light for the eyes,-the light of truth and righteousness, and the light of Life for all wants, personal, social, and national, in the redeemed family of man,-shall go forth from that sublime city; and "the nations" shall walk in that light. Their polity, their religion, and all that goes to make up for them an economy of Edenic blessedness, shall come forth from that sublime metropolis. Their kings, their judges, their priests, their loving guides, their Saviour, their only Lord God, are there, visible to their eyes, and ever present to their hearts and minds. What never yet has been upon this earth, a really holy nation, will then be found wherever man is found, and all people shall be the people of the Lord. Men talk of Christian nations; but, in all this dwelling-place of man, from the beginning until now, there is nothing of the sort to answer to the phrase. There is no such thing, and there never will be, till the New Earth appears, and the New Jerusalem comes into the view of men. But then, all nations, as nations, shall be sanctified and holy; for they shall walk in the light of the Eternal City of the Eternal King. That City, raised aloft, and filled with the Spirit and glory of God and the Lamb, will be the illumination and the great glory of the world, the centre of supremest interest,-the joy of the waking thoughts and the sleeping dreams of all the children of men.
"And the kings of the earth bring their glory and honour to (or into) it." The Kings will then be Christ and his glorified saints. These will reside in this city, and whatever pertains to them as kings will have its centre and seat there. Their glory as kings, their authority and their thrones, will all go to honour, dignify, and distinguish this city. And if by "kings of the earth" we are to understand sub-kings belonging to unglorified humanity, the statement implies that the homage and gratitude of earthly royalty will then devote everything of greatness and glory that it possesses to the service and honour of that city.
"And they shall bring the glory and reverence of the nations to (or into) it." All the honour the world can give will be given to that city. All nations, as one man, shall then be happy worshippers, and all devotion shall concentre in the New Jerusalem. All eyes, all ears, shall be turned to it. And all the honour that men can render, and all the delight the human heart can feel, will flow forever to that high tabernacle, whose gates are never shut, and where no night is ever known.
8. Its superlative Holiness.--"Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God of hosts," cried the six-winged Seraphim; and where that God is, only what is holy can find place. This is "the mountain of his Holiness," the city where his glory dwells; therefore no common or unclean thing can ever enter it, nor any one that doeth abomination, or worketh what is false. "Holy things for holy people," was the announcement given out by the Church for many ages whenever about to present the mystery of the holy Supper; and a similar word forever flames around those gates of pearl. The city is ample; it is magnificent; and there is place within it for every one ready and willing to become its denizen; but it is "holy," and no one can ever set foot upon its golden streets who is not enrolled in the book of life of the Lamb. Sinners may come there, yes; for sinners it was made; but only for such as are cleansed in the proffered bath of regeneration, by the washing of water and the word. No place is there for them that believe not in Jesus, and submit not themselves to his saving righteousness. No place is there for them that say, "Lord, Lord," but do not the things which he has commanded. And if any love their sins better than God's salvation, the New Jerusalem is not for them. It is for those only whose names, through faith and sanctification of the Spirit, have been written in the Lamb's book of life.
Such, then, in brief, is that holy City which has been glittering in the imaginations and the songs of God's people, in every age and under all dispensation.
Its foundations by their colours speak of grace, mercy, and God's sure covenant earthward. Its gates of pearl speak of righteousness, obedience, and the heart set on the precious things of the divine kingdom, as the medium of transit from earth to glory. Its cubic form, and its streets and constructions of purest gold, proclaim it the embodiment of all perfection, the supremest seat of the supremest saintship. And within those immortal gates, in the very presence and company of God and the Lamb, surrounded with light, riches, and splendours beyond all that human thought can estimate, amid the liberties, securities, and perfections of the highest of all the material creations of gracious Omnipotence, as the jewelled link between the Eternal Father and his redeemed earthly family, and with a strength that walks unshaken under all the exceeding and eternal weight of glory, the Church of the firstborn, the Bride and Wife of Christ, shall live and reign with him, day without end, for the ages of the ages.
Exult, O dust and ashes,
Thy God shall be thy part!
His only, His forever,
Thou shalt be and thou art!
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Seiss, Joseph A. "Commentary on Revelation 21". Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany