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THE NEW JERUSALEM CONTINUED--A MORE INWARD VIEW--THE WONDERFUL RIVER--THE TREE OF LIFE--THE CURSE REPEALED--THE EVERLASTING THRONE--THE ETERNAL BLESSEDNESS.
Revelation 22:1-5. (Revised Text.) And he showed me a river of water of life clear as crystal, coming forth out of the throne of God and the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it [the city] and on either side of the river, tree of life producing twelve fruits [or kinds of fruit], according to each month yielding its fruit, and the leaves of the tree unto healing of the nations. And every curse [or accursed thing], shall not be any more; and the Throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face, and the name of him [shall be] upon their foreheads; and night shall not be any more, and they shall not have need of lamp and light, because the Lord God shall shine upon them, and they shall reign to the ages of the ages.
The Apostle here continues his description of the New Jerusalem, and for this reason these verses should not have been separated from the section which precedes them. They relate to the same subject, and have nothing to mark them from what has gone before, except that they refer more to the interior of the heavenly city. The description throughout is rather external than internal. John saw from the outside, and from a distance; and his account is necessarily more occupied with what the city is to those who contemplate it from without, than with what it is in itself or to those who have their homes in its "many mansions." The reason may be that it is not possible for us to form right conceptions of things so much above and beyond all present experiences. When Paul recovered from his trance-vision of Paradise, and the third heaven, he said that it was not permitted him to tell the transcendent things which he saw and heard. And so John is not brought to such a view of the sublime palace of the saints as to tell us all about its internal economy. Yet, what was shown him, as narrated in these verses, relate more to the inside, than what we had before us a week ago. To these more inner particulars, then, let us direct our thoughts, humbly looking to God to aid us to form right impressions of his glorious revelations.
It is due to remark that we here have the final touches in the picture of the eternal future. These verses give us the furthest and fullest outlook into the everlasting economies. Precious, therefore, should it be to us. With what deep and anxious attention should we dwell on every intimation, and cherish every image! Even when about to leave off contemplating some noted earthly picture, we always turn to take a last impression to carry with us as we depart. How much rather, then, should we incline our energies to get a clear idea of these richest and fullest delineations of that ultimate home to which we aspire, beyond which there is no further knowledge to be had till we come to take up our everlasting residence there!
Very noteworthy also is it that these last glimpses of a finished Redemption end up with the same images with which the first chapter of human history begun. All worlds move in circles; and the grand march of God's providence with man moves in one immense round. It starts with Paradise, and thence moves out through strange and untried paths, until it has fulfilled its grand revolution by coming back to the point from which it started; not indeed to repeat itself, but thenceforward to rest forever in the results of that wonderful experiment. Genesis is the Book of beginnings; the Revelation is the Book of the endings of what was then begun; and the last laps back again upon the first, and welds the two ends of the history into the golden ring of eternity.
There was a time of innocence, and then came a long and dreary time of the absence of innocence; and here we are shown the time of innocence returned, to depart no more. Nor is it without the most cheering significance, that in the account of the final consummation we again come upon a group of objects answering to the most conspicuous and fondly remembered in all the bright story of the original opening of the world.
I. The Apostle begins by telling us of a wonderful River.
One of the gladdest things on earth is water. There is nothing in all the world so precious to the eye and imagination of the inhabitant of the dry, burning and thirsty East, as a plentiful supply of bright, pure, and living water. Paradise itself was not complete without it. Hence "a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted and became into four heads," rolling their bright currents over golden sands and sparkling gems (Genesis 2:10-12), as if meant to water and gladden all the earth. "A city without water would be a most disconsolate and unpleasant thing; therefore we see cities at the greatest pains to provide themselves with water, and those are reckoned the best which are the most happily watered. It is one of the great excellencies of Ezekiel's city, that it has a river ever deepening as it flows." (Ezekiel 47:3.) And so the New Jerusalem is not without its plentiful supply of living waters. Of the angel who came to show him this great metropolis of the saints, John says: "And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, coming forth out of the throne of God and of the Lamb."
With whatever tenacity the interpreters of this Book cling to the notion that waters, in prophetic language, always mean peoples, they give it up when it comes to this river. Peoples do not issue from the throne of God. But what to make of this water they hardly know. Some make it Baptism. Some make it saving knowledge, flowing out from God over all the habitable world. Some make it the grace of God through the preaching of Christ crucified. Some make it the giving of peace to the perturbed nations. Some make it "the renewing and sanctifying influences by which the nations are to be imbued with spiritual life." Some make it a mere Oriental image of abounding happiness and plenty. And many who even see in the description a picture of Paradise regained, are still so fettered down to the present world, that they cannot get on with it above or beyond what is purely earthy. Why cannot men see and read that it does not belong to the earth at all, nor to any earthly people, or any earthly good. There is not a word said to show that these waters in this particular form ever touch the earth, or any dwellers on the earth. The river is a heavenly river, and belongs to a heavenly city, and is for the use and joy of a heavenly people. Its waters are literal waters, of a nature and quality answering to that of the golden city to which they belong. Man on earth never knew such waters, as men on earth never knew such a city; but the city is a sublime reality,-the home and residence of the Lamb and his glorious Bride,-and these waters are a corresponding reality. Of old, the Psalmist sung, "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High" (Psalms 46:4), "the river of God's pleasures," where they that put their trust under the shadow of his wings shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of his dwelling-place, even at the headspring of life, amid visions of light in the pavilion of his glory. (Psalms 36:7-9.) Heaven is not a place of dust and drought. It has its glad water-spring and ever-flowing river, issuing direct from the eternal throne, whose crystal clearness cannot be defiled. There flow the immortal waters, for the joy of glorified natures, bright with the light of God, and filling all with life-cheer as immortal as themselves.
These waters are called "water of life coming forth out of the throne." They are the issuing life of the throne, as the city itself is the embodiment of God's glory. The throne is the throne of the Lamb, in whom is the eternal Godhead. The Father reigns in and through the Son, and this is the reviving and all-animating life and spirit of all this embodiment of Deity in that sublime city. It is the Holy Ghost for that celestial Tabernacle, as God and the Lamb are the Temple of it. It is the divine emanation from the Father and the Son which fills and cheers and forever rejoices the dwellers in that place. These waters also come to the inhabitants of the earth, and refresh and bless them too, as these celestial king-priests have to do with the people of the earth; but they reach the earthly population in other forms, and not in the form of this voluminous river. In this form they belong to the Holy City alone. Only these saints in glory come to the throne, and share its life and administration; and for them alone is the crystal river which issues from it. It is the Spirit of glory which they drink and embody; and it is for their pleasure and blessedness, as to no other class of the human family. Yet we are not without something of those waters in the saving administrations of the Holy Ghost, even now, and the dwellers in the New Earth shall have more of them than we have; but neither now nor then can those living in the flesh have them in anything of the unmingled purity, heavenliness, and glorious fulness with which they flow forever in the New Jerusalem. In the first Eden, "there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground." (Genesis 2:6.) There was a watering through an earthly medium. And in some such mediate way these waters come to the Church now, and will come still more plenteously to the nations when this Great City comes to its place. But in the Holy City they roll as a river, through no secondary medium, and give forth their exhaustless blessedness direct from the throne of God and the Lamb.
The Jordan is often spoken of as a sacred river, and many sacred memories connect with it. Palestine's penitent thousands there flocked to the wild Baptizer, and sought in that stream to wash away their sins. Thither the Saviour himself came, to receive upon his spotless person those same consecrating waters. But Jordan is the symbol of earthly, not heavenly life. Bright and beautiful in its cradle, it laughs away its merry morning amid the flowery fields of Hulêh; then plunges with the recklessness of youth into the tangled breaks and muddy marshes of Merom; and thence it issues full-grown, like earnest manhood with its noisy bustle, dashing along till it quiets into a picture of life's sober midday in the placid Lake of Genesareth. Thence its course is down, down, like the declivities of age, sinking lower and lower amid doublings and windings innumerable, until it finally reaches the sea of death, where there is no remedy but to breathe itself out upon the thin air, and vanish in the clouds. Like human life, it is mostly a turbid and clouded stream. This, however, is a different river, and betokens a very different life. It rises from no dark caves of earth. It does not grow from additions from without. It has no windings, no stagnations, no obstructions, no clouds, no muddiness, no rising and falling, no sea of death, no precipitations of earthiness, no evaporations to deadly asphalt and salt. The life it symbolizes, and is, and gives, is divine life, the life of the throne of God and of the Lamb, the life that rolls forth in highest fulness from its living source, pellucid as the city which it supplies, and as unfailing and all-gladdening as the Spirit of holiness itself. O the blessedness of the eyes that see and the people who enjoy this river of God-these crystal waters of eternal life.
II. In the next place the Apostle tells us of a wonderful Tree.
What is more beautiful than trees? What a charm they add to our world! What a joy they are to the monotony of a city! How did the fancy of the Greek poets revel in the hanging gardens and artificial forest scenery with which the king of Babylon adorned bis imperial city to gratify his Median queen! There trees twelve feet in circumference, fifty feet in height, grew on mounds of masonry, nodding like woods on their mountains, and still defying the wastes of time in the days of Quintus Curtius. The first Eden had its glad and glorious trees, "the tree of life also in the midst of the garden." (Genesis 2:9.) It was not one individual tree, but a particular tree as to its kind, as we speak of "the apple" or "the oak," denoting a species of which there are many specimens. It has the name of the Tree of Life, because man in innocence was to keep and preserve his life by eating of its fruits. It was the symbol and support of eternal life, both for body and for soul. And it is one of the special joys and provisions of the New Jerusalem that it is supplied with this same tree, in the same multitudinous sense, fulfilling something of the same offices. "In the midst of the street of the city, and on either side of the river," John saw "the Tree of Life [in numerous specimens] producing twelve fruits [or kinds of fruit], according to each month yielding its fruit; and the leaves of the tree unto the healing of the nations."
In Ezekiel's visions of the renewed earthly Jerusalem, a similar presentation is made. There a river issues from the sanctuary and runs down into the sea, of which the angel said, "By the river, upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months; because their waters issue out of the sanctuary; and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine." (Ezekiel 47:12.) But that relates to an order of things on earth, which comes into being during the thousand years. What John describes is the order of things in the heavenly Jerusalem, which comes into existence only after the thousand years have passed away. But the one has its model in the other, the earthly is a picture of the heavenly. The trees in both cases line the river; but in the earthly order they are outside of the city; and though bread trees, they are not the Tree of Life. The heavenly River issues not from the sanctuary but from the throne. It does not flow to the sea, but through the avenues and streets of the city. From the grand centre of the whole establishment it seems to flow through the midst of all the streets in the city; that is through every street. And both sides of it are lined with the Tree of Life; so that all the myriad mansions of the New Jerusalem thus open upon the Tree and the River of Life.
These trees, like the River whose sides they line, are first of all for the joy and blessedness of the dwellers in the Holy City, to beautify their eternal home, and to minister to their happiness. They are fruit-bearing trees, yielding their products every month, and each month a new variety.
It is sometimes asked whether the glorified saints are to eat in heaven? We may safely answer that they can eat, although under no need to eat; just as we can enjoy a rose, and yet not suffer from its absence. The Saviour after his glorious resurrection did eat, even of the coarse food of mortals. The angels did eat of Sarah's cakes and of Abraham's dressed calf. (Genesis 18:6-8.) There is also much that is moral and spiritual in eating. It was by eating that the fall and all its consequences came into the world. All the holy appointments of God in the old economy had eating connected with them. The highest impartation of Christ and his salvation to his people on earth is done in connection with a sacred eating and drinking. The Saviour several times refers to eating and drinking in the kingdom of glory. He again and again likens the whole provision of grace to a banquet, a feast. One of the most emphasized scenes of the future, to which this Apocalypse refers, is a supper, even the supper of the marriage of the Lamb. And so the implication here is that there will be eating in ibis Eternal City, the eating of fruits, the eating of the monthly products of the Tree of Life. The inhabitants there drink Life-water, and they eat Life-fruits.
The eating of the fruit of the Tree of Life in the first Paradise was the sacrament of fellowship with life, a commemoration, pledge, support, and participation of life eternal, for soul and body. Hence sin cut off man from it; and all the ordinances and ministries of grace since that time are meant for his recovery and readmission to that Tree. Hence also the promise was given to the Church of Ephesus, "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of my God." (Revelation 2:7.) And so again, "Blessed they who wash their robes, that they may have right to the Tree of Life." (Revelation 22:14.) Like the golden table of shewbread which ever stood in the ancient Tabernacle and Temple for the priests to eat, so the Tree of Life stands in all the golden streets of the New Jerusalem, with its monthly fruit for the immortal king-priests of heaven. And whether they need it for the support of their undecaying immortality or not, it is everywhere presented as one of the most precious privileges of God's glorified saints. We cannot suppose that they ever hunger or thirst in that high realm, or that there is ever any waste in their immortal energies needing recuperation from physical digestion; but still the participation of these Life-fruits bespeaks a communion with Life, the joy of which exceeds all present comprehension.
But these trees are for a still further purpose. The leaves of them are for the healing of the nations. As the fruits add to the joys of heaven, the leaves add to the joys of earth. Who gathers them, and how they are applied, and what the healing is which they are to work, is not told us, and it is vain to attempt to be wise above what is written. But "nations" are then to be who cat not of these fruits, though benefited by the leaves in connection with which the fruits are produced. Two classes of people are thus distinctly recognized in the new heaven and earth;-a class in glory who get the fruits of the Tree of Life, and a class in the estate of "nations" who get the leaves; but, whether fruits or leaves, a great and glorious blessing. As there will always be need for the ministrations of these celestial king-priests to those dwelling on the earth so will those ministrations also bring them the healing leaves from the Tree of Life. As the Life-waters are not wholly shut up in the city, but descend in a form to men on the earth; so the Life-tree, in a form, yields its benefits to them too. The meaning is not that the nations are full of sicknesses and ailments; for these remains of the curse are gone then, though it may be from the virtue of these leaves. The meaning rather is the preservation of health and comfort, and not that maladies then exist to be removed. The Life-leaves are for the conservation and augmentation of Life-blessedness of men on earth, as the Life-fruits are for the joy of the saints in heaven.
III. The Apostle further informs us that there all sin and its ill consequences will no more be.
The first Paradise was glorious; but with all its blessedness, sin entered it, and the curse came, under which earth and man have been labouring and sighing for six thousand years. Hence, with all the transcendent glory described by the Apostle, the question plight still be open as to its permanence,-whether sin might not again insinuate itself, with its ever-attending spoliations. Man once had a happy and unabridged right to the Tree of Life, but lost it; and that Tree, and all the Garden in which it grew, evanished from him, and left the world smoking under the tokens of Jehovah's anger. The curse came. It came upon man himself and all his seed. It came upon innocent nature with which he stood connected. It came upon the very ground on his account. Might not the same happen again, even to Paradise regained? Therefore the special assurance is here inserted, that "every curse, or accursed thing, shall not be any more." The relief from it is to be an eternal relief. Its disappearance from all this scene of things is to be an everlasting disappearance. The glory and blessedness will never again give place to darkness, sin, and death.
I do not fancy that the freedom of man redeemed will be any more constrained than it was when man first sinned; but the victory having been fairly achieved, under far mightier trials, by the second Adam, the Tempter will be restrained, a training and experience will then be upon the redeemed which will stand like a wall between them and danger, and the love and appreciation of what has been so dearly purchased will be so intense and high after all these ages of the reign of sin and death that they will never consent for anything to let it go. Holy angels stand fast in their blessedness forever, not because they are less free to sin than were those who kept not their first estate; but because, having stood the test, the whole momentum of their moral being moves only toward what is true and good, and so they never fall. And such shall be the security of man redeemed. Stationed on the high vantage-ground of a victory won through pain and suffering, and made strong in the unfailing helps and mercies of his God, there will be no more fuel left in him for sin to kindle, and no more curse or danger to him forever.
Being innocent, man ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and learned to know evil. For all these weary ages he has been tasting and experiencing the bitterness of evil. Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, they that believe in him come to know good; and knowing good, there will be no more turning of their hearts from it, and hence no more sinning and no more curse. And man being finally and permanently redeemed, everything that has been disordered, disabled, or cursed for man's sake, shall also be permanently delivered. (Romans 8:9-23.)
When God pronounced judgment upon the sins committed in the first Paradise, "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." (Genesis 3:15.) All this was imposed as penalty and curse, peculiar to her who "was first in transgression." But here the assurance is that it will be completely lifted off, and be no more. (Com. 1 Timothy 2:15.) "And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." (Genesis 3:17-19.) Here was penalty and curse, whose potent condemnation has been binding and afflicting earth and man from that day to this. It affects all the elements man touches, and the whole order of things amid which he lives. It affects what he eats and what he drinks, the air he breathes and the ground on which he walks. It affects all the growths of nature in all its sublunary kingdoms, and conditions the seasons and the sea. It has opened the avenues of disease, calamity, and death, till the earth is no longer habitable for man, except for a few brief years. Everywhere, on everything, we read and have it flashed upon us, that man is a sinner; that a fearful condemnation hangs over him; that a curse for his sin is festering in all that pertains to him and his dwelling-place. But it is not incurable. The remedy may be long in taking effect, but it is provided,-provided in Jesus Christ, his achievements as the second Adam, and his sovereign power and purpose to destroy all the works of the devil, and to subdue all things to himself. The first note that John heard coming forth from the Throne when the final judgment was over, was, "Behold, new I make everything." (Revelation 21:5.) And the effect of that renewal is further stated in the text to be, that every curse shall cease to exist. Not of the holy city alone can this be said; for there the curse never was. It is a word which applies above all to the place where the curse has been. It was upon woman, and man, and earth, and the economy of things on the earth, that the sentence was put; and from them therefore must be its cessation. Nor do we go beyond the necessary implications of this divine assurance when we read from its massive terms that this whole scene of earthly life, where sin and death have reigned so long, will yet come up out of all its desolations; that the very blessedness of Paradise shall revisit all its hills and vales; and that throughout this nether world, disordered, cut with graves, and full of miseries, that goal of the prayer our Lord has taught us shall be realized, when it shall be "on earth as it is in heaven."
IV. The Apostle tells us also of a glorious throne.
There is a central throne of the universe where Christ now sits and reigns with the Eternal Father. The dominion which he there holds as "head over all things for the Church," he is to deliver up when the time for the great consummation arrives. He is now with the Father on his throne, but there is another throne peculiarly his own, which he will then take, and on which his glorified people shall reign with him, as he now reigns with the Father. (Compare 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, and Revelation 3:21.) This throne is in the New Jerusalem. It is "the throne of God," as Christ is God; and it is "the throne of the Lamb," in that it is held and occupied as the result of Christ's achievement as a sacrifice for sin, and in his particular character as the world's Saviour and Redeemer. It is the throne of God as the Lamb, the All-Ruler, who once was slain, but lives again, and here is to reign with his glorified saints to the ages of the ages.
There is something peculiar about these thrones. In the first three chapters of this Book, Christ appears in the sanctuary, walking amid the golden lampstands, noting and pronouncing upon his Churches. There no throne is visible, for the Church is only the kingdom in process of formation, answering to the period of Israel's pilgrimage in the wilderness. In the succeeding chapters a throne appears; but with surroundings indicative of a special dispensation with regard to the old earth, partly retributive and partly remedial. It is the throne of the judgment period which holds only during "the day of the Lord," in which Christ is engaged in enforcing the principles of his Kingdom and his claims by visitations of successive judgments upon the world; answering to the reign of the Judges, when the Ark and its accompaniments were yet in the movable and temporary tabernacle, and the kingdom was not yet established. With the Halleluias over the fall of Babylon, this particular throne disappears, and we see only the thrones of the Shepherdizers, who for a time rule the nations with a rod of iron; answering to the warlike reign of David, when the preparations for the Temple were making. The last rebellion, typified by that enacted by Absalom against his father, having been put down, the "Great White Throne" appears, the final judgment throne, with no signs of blessing, consigning all the unholy dead to their final doom. And then comes the Holy City and the full establishment of the Kingdom of peace, answering to the illustrious reign of the wise and peaceful Solomon, when the Temple took its place on Mount Moriah, and there "was neither adversary nor evil." In the Holy City the throne then takes its position, as the final throne of God and the Lamb with reference to the earth and man. It is a single throne, the seat and centre of all the authority and power ever thenceforward put forth for the regulation and government of human affairs. And its occupants, and the only administrants of its dominion, are God, the Lamb, and his glorified saints. "And they shall reign to the ages of the ages." No more faulty politics, no more false religion, no more rabble rule or oppressive tyranny, shall then be any more. For the reign of righteousness has come, and it will fail no more forever.
V. Finally, the Apostle tells us of the condition of things under this administration.
He has already given us something on this point. He has told us of the directness of communion with God in that Blessed City,-of the centre of light, interest, attraction, and holy reverence which it will be to the whole earth,-of the joyful obedience with which the nations will walk in its light,-of the health which is to go forth from its immortal trees,-of the endless and unintermitting light of God and the Lamb which shall be in it;-but he adds still other items as instructed by the angel.
"His servants shall serve him." In general the servants of a king are his subjects. So taken, there is in this affirmation a picture of universal obedience and loving devotion;-no more sin, no more rebellion, no more forgetfulness or neglect of the claims or word of the Eternal King. All life is to be permeated and transfigured with the most complete and happy accord with the divine will, which then is done "on earth as it is in heaven." The prophecies are everywhere full of the most glowing pictures on this point. Even the bells or bridles of the horses shall be Holiness unto the Lord, and the commonest utensils in the houses and kitchens of mankind shall take on a sacredness like that of the consecrated vessels of the temple itself. (Zechariah 14:20-21.) For the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. It will be the abounding element in which everything is bathed.
But the servants of a king, in a more particular sense, are his immediate attendants, those who are in waiting upon the throne, and who act as its agents and representatives. Hence, when the Queen of Sheba saw "the sitting of Solomon's servants, and the attendance of his ministers and their apparel, and his cup-bearers," she said: "Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants which stand continually before thee." (1 Kings 10:5; 1 Kings 10:8.) So Solomon made hewers of wood and drawers of water of some of his subjects, but others he made "men of war, and his servants, and his princes, and his captains, and rulers of his chariots and his horsemen." (1 Kings 9:22.) So the priests, the prophets, the ministers of the Word, and such as hold official rank and place in the divine economies, are more especially called the servants of God. Such are all the members of the Church of the firstborn, the elect, the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, the sharers in the administration of that holy kingdom. And of these especially is this word spoken. It tells of the very highest honour and dignity, of the closest intimacy with eternal power and authority, of the most inward nearness and participation in the administration of divine government. But it tells also of mighty activities and responsible duties. It shows us most clearly that the heaven of the glorified saints is not one of idleness. They have something more to do than to sing, and worship, and enjoy. Indeed the perfection of worship is service, activity for God, the doing of the will of God. And this is to be one of the highest characteristics of the heaven of the saints. They are to do work, heavenly work, the highest kind of work, the execution and administration of the will and bidding of the throne of eternity, the work of the high officials who stand nearest to the throne, and through whom the throne expresses itself. Like "the seven princes of Persia and Media which saw the king's face, and which sat first in the kingdom" (Esther 1:14), so these "servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face, and the name of him shall be upon their foreheads."
The Jewish high priest, when fully arrayed as the officer and agent of Jehovah, in addition to his mitre, had a plate of burnished gold upon his brow, on which was engraved the great Name of that almighty Being for whom he served. These dwellers in the New Jerusalem are all priests then, as well as kings, and so they have the tokens of their sublime office and consecration on their foreheads. The name of their King and God is there, to tell of their dignity, their office, and the transcendent authority and glory of him for whom they officiate. In the courts of kings, the most honoured servants and favourites wear badges and marks in token of the king's confidence, favour, and affection. The noble knights have their ribbons; and those whom the king delighteth to honour have their chains of gold about their necks, their rosettes, their indications of standing with their sovereign. So these all have the Name of the All-Ruling Lamb upon their foreheads, showing exaltation, honour, and blessedness of the very highest degree. They are the enthroned princes of the eternal realm, the servants of the Supreme God, the very organs and expressions of the everlasting Throne.
Again it is said that "night shall not be any more." The repetition of this particular, emphasizes it as a very special and a very glorious blessing. The light of God and the Lamb shall be so full, glorious, and abiding, that night no longer can exist in that city. Its inhabitants need no shutting off of day to give them sleep. They are independent of all material orbs or their revolutions. Of course, this statement does not apply to "the nations" on the earth. The succession of day and night existed before Adam fell, and he needed the repose of night even in his innocence. He lived in an earthly body, and that body needed sleep. We also have the positive statement that he did sleep, even before he sinned. Likewise those who then live in the flesh, will need sleep, and their seasons of repose. Hence, the covenant with Noah was, that, "while the earth remaineth, day and night shall not cease." (Genesis 8:22.)
But in the home of the glorified saints there will be no more night. Darkness of all orders, physical, mental, and moral, shall have no place there. As the glory of the Shekinah ever glowed in the Holy of Holies, so shall the Jehovah brightness ever illuminate the heavenly Jerusalem, and all its inhabitants shall themselves be light; for they "shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars forever and ever." (Daniel 12:3.)
"And they shall reign to the ages of the ages." Not for the thousand years only, but forever shall their glory and dominion last. This tells at once their eternal dignity, and the eternal perpetuity of men in the flesh. If they are to be kings forever, they must have subjects forever; and their subjects, whom they shepherdize, over whom they rule, and for whom they hold the dominion, are everywhere described as "the nations"-"all people, languages, and nations under the whole heaven." (Revelation 2:26; Revelation 12:5; Revelation 21:24-26; Revelation 22:2; Daniel 7:14; Daniel 7:27; Matthew 19:28-29; 1 Corinthians 6:2.) Either, then, their kingdom must come to an end for want of subjects, or nations, peoples, and men on the earth must continue in the flesh, as Adam and Eve before the fall. But these glorified ones are to "reign to the ages of the ages," and their "kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;" and as they cannot reign without subjects, so nations on earth must last coequally with their regency. Both their office, and the activities in which their sublimest happiness is located, must fail them, if the nations over whom their rule is, ever cease to be. They neither marry, nor are given in marriage; for they are as the angels of God; but their subjects are of a different order, and their dominion and glory shall grow forever, by the ceaseless augmentation of the number of their subjects throughout unending generations.
Such is the final picture set before us in these wonderful prophecies and foreshowings of the purposes of our God. Such are the fore-intimations of that new heavens and earth wherein eternal righteousness dwells. And such are the glimpses which our gracious Saviour has given us of the dignities and blessedness to which we are called by bis Gospel.
See, then, my friends, how very high our calling is. And shall we not value, cherish, and improve it? Shall we throw away our chance for such an eternal home? Shall we slight the offers and opportunities of blessedness like this? Let fortunes pass; let friendships be forfeited; let earthly comforts go unenjoyed; cast honours, titles, crowns, empires to the wolves and bats; but let not the privilege go by of becoming an immortal king and co-regent with the Lamb in the Golden City of the New Jerusalem.
Rise, my soul, and stretch thy wings,
Thy better portion trace;
Rise from transitory things
Toward heaven, thy native place.
Sun, and moon, and stars decay,
Time shall soon this earth remove;
Rise, my soul, and haste away
To seats prepared above!
LAST SECTION OF THE BOOK--CERTAINTY OF THESE REVELATIONS--THE REPEATED BENEDICTION UPON THOSE WHO TREASURE THEM--EFFECT OF THEM ON THE APOSTLE-THE DIRECTION TO HIM WHAT TO DO WITH THEM--AN ARGUMENT FOR THE SAME--THE CONDITION ON WHICH THE BEATITUDES OF THIS BOOK ARE TO BE ENJOYED--A PARTICULAR WASHING OF ROBES.
Revelation 22:6-15. (Revised Text.) And he said to me, These words [are] faithful and true and the Lord the God of the spirits of the prophets sent his angel to show to his servants what things must come to pass shortly.
And behold, I come quickly: blessed he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book.
And I, John [was] hearing and seeing these things. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. And he saith to me, See, no; I am fellow-servant of thee and of thy brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book: worship God.
And he saith to me, Seal not up the words of the prophecy of this book; the time is near. Let the unjust one do injustice more and more, and the filthy [or polluted] one defile [or do pollution] more and more, and the righteous one do righteousness more and more, and the holy one sanctify more and more.
Behold, I come quickly, and my reward with me, to give to each as his work is, I the Alpha and the Omega. First and Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed they that wash their robes that they may [in that they shall] have the power over the tree of life, and enter by the gates into the city. Excluded [or outside are] the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one loving or making a lie [or, what is false].
We come now to the last section of this wonderful Book--the Epilogue--the closing remarks. The Grand Panorama of an ending and renewing world has reached the point where everything enters upon the eternal state, and we are now to take leave of the wonderful exhibit. We have seen the Church in its universality and varied historic continuity from the days of the Apostle down to the time when Christ shall come for his people, and how he will end its career by taking one here and another there, and leaving the rest, because of their unreadiness to taste the sorrows of the great Tribulation. With the judgment thus begun at the house of God, we have seen it roll along through the breaking of seals, the sounding of trumpets, and the pouring out of bowls of wrath, in ever-varying scenes of miracle and wonder, towards saints and sinners, the living and the dead. We have seen the Antichrist coming up from his abyss, captivating the world, running his course of unexampled blasphemy, and sinking forever in his deserved perdition. We have seen the final doings of Satan, in heaven and earth, his arrest and imprisonment, his short loosing, and his final consignment, with all his, to the lake of fire. We have seen the thrones of the shepherdizers of the nations, the breaking down of all rebellion, and the coming forth into the living world of the eternal principles of righteousness. We have seen the shaking of the old heavens and earth, and the same passed through the throes of the long-expected Regeneration. We have seen the crowned princes of the first resurrection wedded to the All-Ruling Lamb, and led into the golden city of their hopes. We have seen the New Jerusalem come down out of heaven from God; Sin, Death, Hades, and the curse swept into Gehenna; the Tabernacle of God taking its place among men; redemption complete; Paradise regained; and the nations of the earth in Edenic peace and glory setting out under their immortal kings for an eternity of uninterrupted blessedness. And it only remains now to give a few closing particulars with reference to these momentous Revelations, that men may attend to them with that reverence and faith which of right belongs to them. May God help us to hear, learn, and inwardly digest them to our abiding consolation!
I. The first thing we are called on to note is, their absolute truth and certainty. There is nothing in which the difference of the Scriptures from all other teachings is more manifest than in the positiveness and authority with which they deliver themselves on all subjects, even where reason can tell us nothing, and where the presentations are so marvellous as to stagger belief. When the Saviour was on earth, he spake with such clearness and simplicity, and with such knowing majesty and commanding mastery of all wisdom that men who heard him were amazed, forgot all other authorities, and hasted away in awe, saying, "Never man spake like this man." And so it is in all the word of inspiration. Even where angels would scarce dare to tread, it enters with perfect freedom, as upon its own home domain, and declares itself with all that assured certainty which belongs only to Omniscience. Even with regard to all the astounding and seemingly impossible wonders of this Book, the absolute truth of every jot and tittle is guaranteed with the abounding fulness of the completest knowledge of everything involved. In case of some of the most wonderful of these presentations, the word to John was, "Write, because these words are faithful and true" And so here, with regard to all the contents of the Book, it was said to the Seer, "These words [are] faithful and true."
Thrice is it repeated, that these presentations are faithful and true (Revelation 19:9; Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6); and twice is it affirmed that these showings are all from God. In the opening of the Book it is said, that he "sent his angel to his servant John" for the purpose of making these revelations, and here at the conclusion, we have it repeated, that "the Lord the God of the spirits of the prophets sent his angel to show to his servants what things must come to pass. Nay more, Christ himself adds special personal testimony to the fact: "I, Jesus, sent my angel to testify to you these things." Thus the very God of all inspiration, and of all inspired men, reiterates and affirms the highest authority for all that is herein written.
Either, then, this Book is nothing but a base and blasphemous forgery, unworthy of the slightest respect of men, and specially unworthy of a place in the Sacred Canon; or it is one of the most directly inspired and authoritative writings ever given. But a forgery it cannot be. All the Churches named in its first chapters, from the earliest periods succeeding the time of its writing, with one accord, accepted and honoured it as from their beloved Apostolic Father. Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, a disciple of St. John, a colleague of the Seven Angels of these Churches, and who gave much attention to the collection of all the memorable sayings and works of the Apostles, accepted and honoured this Book as the genuine production of this venerable Apostle. Nor is there another Book in the New Testament whose genuineness and inspiration were more clearly and strongly attested on its first appearance, and for the three half-centuries next following. Augustine and the Latin Council unquestionably had good and sufficient reason for classing it with the most sacred apostolic records, and the Church in general for regarding it as a Book of prophecy "from Christ's own divine, omniscient, and eternal Spirit." And if it really is the Lord Jesus who speaks to us in this Book, there is nothing in all the Canon of Scripture which he more pointedly attests, more solemnly guards, or more urgently presses upon the study and devout regard of all Who would be his disciples. People may account us crazy for giving so much attention to it, and laugh at our credulity for daring to believe that it means what it says; but better be accounted possessed, as Christ himself was considered, and be pronounced beside ourselves and mad, after the manner of Paul, than to take our lot with Pharisees, and Festuses, and Agrippas, and Galios. If we err in this, we err with the goodly fellowship of the saints, with the noble army of the martyrs, in the society of many great and good and wise in many ages and nations. And if it should finally turn out that we have been beguiling ourselves with dreams, they still give us the most consistent philosophy of Providence, and the most comforting solutions of life's mysteries whilst our pretensionless submission to what seems most surely to be our Creator's word and will may serve us best when we come to answer at his judgment-seat. We believe that it is God who tells us, "these words are faithful and true;" therefore we so take them, and build our faith upon them, and testify them to all the world.
 See comments on Revelation 1:1-3.
II. A second particular to be noted in this Epilogue is the repetition of the benediction upon those who treasure what is written in this Book. In the opening verses the inspired writer said: "Blessed he who readeth, and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and observe the things which are written in it." But here the Saviour himself, even he whose nearing Apocalypse these records were given to describe, says, in a voice uttered from his glorious throne in heaven, "Blessed he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this Book." All this is additional to the seven times repeated admonition, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches." Is there another Book in the holy Canon so intense, so emphatic, so constant, so full from end to end, in its expressions of the good to be gained and the ill to be avoided by the hearing and learning of its own particular presentations? It is precisely as if the Saviour knew and foresaw, as he certainly did, what neglect, prejudice, and mistreatment this Book would encounter in the later ages of the Church, and how it and the students of it, and especially the believers in its wonderful descriptions, would be ridiculed, avoided, and put aside, as not in the line of proper and wholesome edification. And how will some of these pious scorners, whom Christ has set and ordained to feed his sheep and give them meat in due season, feel and fare, when from the judgment-seat he shall say: "Sirs, I gave you the complete chart of my promised Apocalypse; I caused it to be made as plain as words and visions can make anything of the sort; I told you over and over of the momentous importance of studying, treasuring, and making known to the Churches what I thus sent my angel and my beloved disciple to show you; and yet you have held it to be a crazy Book, one which either finds or leaves crazy those who study it, and have not believed my word, nor taught it to my people, nor allowed it to speak in the appointed Lectionaries, and have only sought to explain away its momentous import into a little dim foreshowing of a few ages of ordinary earthly history! Was this the way for good servants of their Lord to act? Was this being faithful stewards of the mysteries of God? Was this the way to treat what I have been at such pains to give, and pointed you to with so much solemnity, and promised to reward your study of it with such special benedictions?" Alas, alas, what answer will they make? Will they say that it was too difficult a Book for them to understand? This would only be adding insult to their unfaithfulness. Dare we suppose that the merciful Jesus would hang his benedictions so high as to be beyond the reach of those to whom they are so graciously proposed? Would he mock us by suspending his offered blessings on terms beyond our power? Yet this is the charge men bring against their Redeemer when they think to plead the incomprehensibility of this Book for their neglect and practical rejection of it. The very propounding of these blessings and rewards is God's own seal to the possibility of understanding this Book equally with any other part of Scripture. Would he, the God of truth, lie to us? Would he, the God of mercy, mock us? Would he who gave his life for us, and ever lives and ministers in heaven and earth for our enlightenment and salvation, give us a Book to tell us of the outcome of all his gracious operations, command us to note its words, to believe and treasure its contents, and promise us a special blessedness in so doing, if what he has thus put into our hands is not at all within the limits of our comprehension and successful mastery? Does not everything that we know of the dear God above us rise up to condemn all such thoughts as slanderous of heaven, and blasphemy against our precious Saviour's goodness? Therefore these very benedictions pronounce against the common notion that this Book is too difficult for ordinary Christians, and rebuke all who despise and avoid it. If it is anything, these proffered blessings are more than a divine justification for all the time and pains which we have been bestowing upon it, and for accepting, believing, holding, and testifying as the very truth of God all that we have found herein written. Let men estimate us and our work as they please, we have here the unmistakable authority of heaven for it, that this Apocalypse is capable of being understood; that its presentations are among the most momentous in all the Word of God; and that the highest blessedness of believers is wrapped up with the learning and keeping of what is pictured to us in it. And if Christians would rise to the true comfort of their faith,--if they would possess themselves of a right philosophy of God's purposes and providence,-if they would be guarded against the greatest dangers and most subtle deceptions of the Old Serpent,--if they would really know what Redemption means, and what the height and glory of their calling is,-let them not despise or neglect this crowning Book of the New Testament, but study its pages, take its statements as they read, get its stupendous visions into their understandings, treasure its words in their hearts, and believe and know that it is comprehensible for all who are really willing to be instructed in these mighty things. If we wait till they are fulfilled, it will then be too late to get the blessing which the reading, hearing, and keeping of what is said concerning them is to bestow. It is in our understanding of them before they come to pass that the blessedness lies; for when once Christ comes in the scenes of his Apocalypse, the time to begin to put ourselves in readiness for it will be past. We must understand beforehand, as this record was meant to advise us beforehand, or it will be useless to think of getting ourselves in position when once these momentous scenes become accomplished realities. By all that is sacred, therefore, let us beware how we treat this Book, and the showings which it contains, remembering this word of the Lord Jesus, spoken to us from heaven: "Blessed he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this Book."
 James Robertson, in issuing his book on the Revelation in 1730, made this remark: "Some are not ashamed directly to flout at, and spit contempt upon these that meddle with the exposition of this Prophecy; which is an indirect battering of a great part of God's word. Thus Dr. South, in one of his sermons, affirms, that none but a madman will meddle with the Revelation; or, if he has wits at the beginning, before he has done they will be cracked. And Davies, a Welsh bombastic barrister, has the impudence to insult a learned and reverend prelate, yet alive, because he consumed two full years and more on this Prophecy." But we can afford to let men sneer when we have the sure benediction of God.
III. Another particular to be noticed is, the effect which these showings had upon the Apostle at the time. So wonderful were the revelations, and so wonderful was the knowledge and understanding of the angel which communicated these things, that John was filled with the profoundest adoration. Twice he fell down before the feet of the angel to worship him. He meant no idolatry; but so wonderful in wisdom and intelligence was his heavenly guide, and so transcendent were the things shown, that he could not but think that it was God himself. The presentations all along were such as to make it hard to distinguish whether it was God himself speaking, or whether it was through a created messenger that he spoke. And in this instance particularly, it certainly was the Lord Jesus whom he heard say, "Behold I come quickly;" and not distinguishing between him who spoke, and the messenger through whom he spoke, John "fell down before the feet of the angel." This clearly shows that the holy Apostles held Christ to be a worshipful being, and that he was none other than true God as well as true man. John knew that it was and must be Christ who spoke, and his instant adoration was meant for Christ, therefore he held Christ to be adorable God. The only mistake was that he did not at the moment perceive that it was a created angel speaking for Christ, and not Christ himself in the form of an angel. Even the best and holiest of men may make mistakes from their human impulses, as Moses when he broke the tables of the Law, and Peter when he avoided the Gentile Christians at Antioch. But innocent mistakes, and those which result from the truest and devoutest intentions, may be very injurious, and need to be promptly corrected. There was danger here of a double sin, one on the part of John in giving worship to the angel instead of Christ, and one on the part of the angel in accepting worship which belongs only to Deity. But John was in doubt, which the angel had not, and therefore it belonged to the angel in truth and fidelity to John, as well as to God and himself, to correct John's mistake on the spot. The Devil solicits adoration, but holy angels repel it as a detraction from Jehovah. Hence, when John fell down to worship before this holy angel's feet, promptly came the word, "Take heed, no; I am fellow-servant of thee and of thy brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this Book! worship God." The misapprehension being dispelled, the Apostle of course desisted. The incident shows that no saint or angel worship can have the approval of heaven. If it was wrong to worship this glorious heavenly messenger, in and through whom came forth the very voice of Jesus, how can it be right to worship and pray to the Virgin Mary, to whom is assigned no such dignity or office? The impulse and intention may be devout and good; but it is a great mistake, and we take the side of heaven and holy angels when we say to those who do it: "See, no, no; you do greatly err; you are taking Christ's honour from him and bestowing it upon his human mother or friends; worship God, for it is written, 'Him only shalt thou serve.' "
But whilst this incident brings out the fact that the best of men may mistake, even out of the holiest motives, it also brings out the more important facts, that John fully believed all these revelations, that he was most profoundly convinced that they were from God, that angels also treasure them as the great divine lights touching what is to be, and that John is recognized in heaven as a genuine prophet. The angel calls him a fellow-servant with himself, the same as the whole brotherhood of sacred prophets. Mistaken as he was for the moment in not distinguishing his heavenly guide from his Lord, he yet was duly illuminated as a prophet, and still had the office and inspiration of God for the understanding of these mysteries, and the making of them known to the Churches. Angels have often been commissioned to disclose to men important sacred truths. It was an angel who was thus employed in acquainting Ezekiel and Daniel with many of the most important features of their wonderful prophecies; and so it was in the giving of these particulars of the Apocalypse to John. In this respect angels are prophets too, and prophetically minister to the heirs of salvation. Not only as servants of God are they the fellow-servants of the prophets; but they also become fellow-prophets when engaged in communicating a knowledge of the divine mind and purposes to men. And in this fellowship of servants of the same Lord, and of service in making known divine things, John is here acknowledged as a copartner with the angel himself. What he writes us, therefore, is true prophecy, and demands to be received as such.
IV. A further particular here to be noted is the direction to John what to do with these revelations. Whether from Christ direct, or through the angel whom Christ sent to show him these things, command was given him: "Seal not up the words of the prophecy of this Book." Some take this as antithetical to the command given Daniel with regard to his prophecies. (Daniel 8:26; Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:9.) But that is plainly a mistake. There is no reference whatever to Daniel. Besides, the direction given to Daniel was the very reverse of what is thus assumed. The true antithesis is the command with regard to what the seven thunders uttered, as referred to in Revelation 10:4. From the beginning of these marvellous experiences John was directed to write what he saw and heard, and to make the same known to the Churches. So, "when the seven thunders spoke," he "was about to write;" but a voice from heaven said, "Seal up those things which the seven thunders spoke, and write them not." The sealing enjoined stands over against writing and making known, and hence is quite a different sealing from that which was commanded Daniel. John was to bury up the thing in his own breast, not to write it, not to make it known at all. But what he was not to do respecting the utterances of the seven thunders, he was to do with reference to all other "words of the prophecy of this Book." He was not to seal them up; that is, not to conceal them, but to record them, to make them known, to publish them to the Churches.
 See my Voices from Babylon, pp. 304-306.
Not from any self-will on his part, therefore, have these Apocalyptic records been put before us; but by direct command of our God and Saviour. They constitute his last and crowning legacy to his Church and people. They are written by his appointment and command. They are put into our hands by the specific direction of eternal power and Godhead. They are therefore God's word to us. And if he commanded the writing of them, I cannot see how men are to excuse themselves from the reading and study of them; or how any Christian can think lightly of them, or put them from him as of no practical worth, and yet retain his holy faithfulness to the plain will and inculcations of our blessed Lord and Judge. O, my friends, let us beware how we neglect or despise a Book upon which God Almighty has laid so much stress, urgency, and importance. If John had sealed it up, or failed to lay it before us as it is, he would have forfeited his place and standing as an apostle of Christ; how, then, can we think our duty discharged, or the provisions for our highest blessedness duly accepted and used, if we pass it by as a dead letter, or make it to us as if it had never been?
V. Again, there is added here a very singular argument. It is not easy to give the exact literal sense of the peculiarly constructed phraseology; but taking the whole connection and bearing of the passage, it may perhaps be best rendered, "Let the unjust one do injustice more and more, and the filthy one defile more and more, and the righteous one do righteousness more and more, and the holy one sanctify more and more." Many take the statement as referring to the eternal fixedness of character, both for the bad and good, when once these Apocalyptic scenes have been fulfilled. It is indeed a great truth, that a time comes to every one when the seal of permanence is set upon the spiritual condition, rendering the unjust one unjust forever, and the righteous one righteous forever. The same is also involved in this statement. But it is hardly to be taken as the main thought. The meaning has immediate reference to the non-sealing, that is, the writing and publication of "the words of the prophecy of this Book," and the nearness of the time of their fulfilment. The direct bearing of the statement is that of an argument for the writing and publishing of these revelations, and the holding of them up to the view of all men, over against the non-effect or ill effect they may have upon the wicked and unbelieving, or upon the Antichrist and his adherents, who is emphatically the unjust and unclean one. Though "wicked men and seducers shall wax worse and worse," and even wrest what is herein predicted of them as if it were a licence for their wickedness or a fixing of it by an irresistible necessity, and so are only the more encouraged and urged on in their injustice and abominations; still, this is not to prevent the freest and fullest proclamation of the whole truth. Let the unjust one be the more confirmed in his unbelief and wickedness;--let the filthy one go on in his idolatries and moral defilement with all the greater hardihood and blasphemy;--that is not to restrain the making known of what shall come to pass. If it accelerates the antichristian development, and the wicked are only the more indurated in their wickedness, let it so be. Though the sun breed pestilence and death in the morasses, and only hasten putrefaction in what is lifeless and rotten, it must not therefore be blotted from the heavens, or hindered from shining into our world. There is another side to the question. If it is an ill thing to what is ill, the life of what is living requires it. Believers must be forewarned and forearmed, or they too will be deceived and perish. And if the wicked are made the wickeder, the righteous and holy will be the holier, and without it cannot be defended and kept as they need to be. Therefore, let not this holy book be sealed up, nor its grand prophecies shut off from the fullest record and the most unreserved proclamation. There is always a twofold effect from the preaching of the divine word. It is quick and powerful, and never leaves men where it finds them. It either makes them better, or it makes them worse. It if does not absolve, it the more condemns. If it does not soften to penitence, it hardens in iniquity. If it is not a savour of life unto life, it is a savour of death unto death. And, unfortunately for the great masses of its hearers, it is an instrument of damnation rather than of salvation. Particularly is this true with regard to the foreshowings of prophecy as set forth in this Book. For the most gracious purposes have these revelations been given. They come to us freighted with spiritual blessing, light, and confirmation. They are the very things, in God's estimate, for the setting of believers right in their conceptions, lives, hopes, and aims, and for shielding them against perils from which it is next thing to impossible otherwise to escape. And yet there is the strangest unwillingness to believe or receive them as they stand written. Even good men are offended at them, denounce them, ridicule them, explain them away, do anything with them but admit them into their belief and expectations of the future. I doubt not, that this Apocalypse has been and will be the rock on which many a one's salvation is wrecked by reason of the offence taken at its presentations. To the savants and scientists of this world, there is no part of all the Scriptures which seems so absurd and impossible. They can get on with everything else a thousandfold better than with the outlines of the future which this Book gives. To their philosophy it is the very consummation of nonsense. And if this is the scheme and outcome of the Gospel system, they will have none of it. They know better. They have got beyond all such puerilities. They would not swallow such things for their lives, and scorn to take for divine what embraces them as the consummation of this world. Their sneers, contempt, and blasphemy nowhere rise to such a pitch as when they are asked to accept and believe that this Book is of God, and means what it says. And all the more so shall the temper be as the sensual and devilish wisdom matures, develops, and exhibits its proud knowledge and mastery of the material elements. But the truth of God must be spoken nevertheless. Let the unjust one do injustice all the more; let the filthy one defile himself all the more; let the offence, and the stumbling, and the scepticism, and the scorning, and the blasphemy, and the condemnation be aggravated by it as they may, "the words of the prophecy of this Book" must not be sealed up. There are some elect ones whom it will benefit, enlighten, and save from the toils of the Old Deceiver. There are righteous ones whom it will establish and secure in their righteousness. And there are some consecrated ones whom it will the more set apart for God and the more intensify in their devotion and their ready-making to join their Lord and Master in the Golden City of the New Jerusalem. Though the wicked shall do wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand, yet the wise shall understand, and for them the Book is necessary.
VI. One particular more in this Epilogue is all that I can notice tonight. It is a particular which the oldest and best manuscripts and all the most competent critics agree in giving in a different form from that in which it stands in our English Bibles. It relates to the conditions and qualifications upon which the beatitudes of this Book are suspended. Our English version reads, "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." The now better-established reading, to which all consent, literally rendered, is: "Blessed they that wash their robes, that they may [in that day shall] have the power over the tree of life, and enter by the gates into the city." The meaning is not essentially different; but the true reading cuts out the possibility of a legalistic interpretation, gives to the passage its genuine evangelic flavour, and conforms its imagery to what was previously said in this Book with reference to what brought the great multitude out of the great tribulation. (Revelation 7:14.)
 See the Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, the Vulgate, the Ethiopic, and some Armenian copies, Lachmann, Buttmann, Ewald, Thiele, Tregelles, Alford, Wordsworth, and all the great authorities.
Washing, or cleansing, is the great qualification for heaven,--"the washing of water by the word" (Ephesians 5:26),--"the washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5),--cleansing by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7). There is no doing or keeping of commandments that can save us without this. (Ephesians 2:8-9.) Hence Paul speaks of the Corinthian Christians as "washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11); and John ascribes glory and dominion to the Lord Jesus for having washed [freed] us from our sins in His own blood (Revelation 1:5); and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of our drawing near to the holiest of all, "having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" as the high priest of old (Hebrews 10:22). Nor can we ever hope to enter the Holy City, or eat of its fruits, or taste of its blessedness, without this spiritual washing from all the filthinesses of the flesh and of the spirit. "The dogs, or unclean ones, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one loving and making a lie [or what is false]," are all excluded from that pure and holy habitation. And whoever hath good hope of seeing and being with Christ in heaven, "purifieth himself even as he is pure." (1 John 3:2-3.)
But the washing of which the text speaks, whilst presupposing and including this general cleansing, is something more special. It is a washing of garments or robes. It has reference to habit in particular, in addition to the nature in general. One's clothes are reckoned with himself. They are an outside part of him, but that which marks the form, order, or habit in which he bears himself. There is something moral and spiritual in clothes. They express much of the inward taste and character. They come between us and society, to a large extent represent us to society, and react again on our inner consciousness, moral sense, and state of mind and heart. We cannot always judge one from the clothes he wears, but we cannot help the effect which clothes have upon our judgment of people. They tell a story of the wearers of them. And if any one is habitually filthy, slovenly, unclean, and untidy in his garments, it is a blur upon him, a repugnance, a thing to make his presence unwelcome and undesirable in respectable company. When it comes to agreeable social recognition and intercourse, clean clothes are associated with a right heart, a right mind, and a right feeling. Anything short of this is an offence and a disqualification. Hence the Scriptural figure of keeping one's garments and washing one's robes, as a spiritual requirement for the society of heaven. He that hath not on "a wedding garment" is cast out, and not permitted to have place at the supper-table of the king. We must therefore distinguish this washing of robes and cleanness of apparel from the spiritual and more inward washing of the man in general.
What, then, is this particular washing of garments? This question I have nowhere seen answered; and yet it needs to be answered, and can be answered. Nor need we be surprised if it should turn out to have direct reference to the main subject of this Apocalypse. The chief honours of the kingdom at Christ's coming are everywhere connected with a looking and waiting for that coming, and the earnest and loving direction of our hearts and hopes to it as the great goal of our faith. Thus we read, "Unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." (Hebrews 9:28.) "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared, teaching us that denying ungodliness and fleshly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:11-13.) "There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing." (2 Timothy 4:8.) "Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven." (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10.) It appears from this, and suchlike passages, that the attitude of looking, waiting, watching, and constant stretching forth of the heart, for the coming again of the Lord Jesus in his great Apocalypse, is the proper Christian habit, and that we put our prospects in peril where this habit is not cherished and kept as the very spirit and life of our faith. And the putting of ourselves in this attitude, and the cultivation of this habit, is what I take to be the particular washing and keeping of our garments to which the Scriptures so frequently refer. It is the general washing in the blood of Christ carried out into the habit of the soul toward his promised return.
An example of this particular washing and whitening of the Christian's robes is given us in the case of the great multitude which comes out of the great Tribulation. (Revelation 7:9-14.) What was the particular defect and trouble which brought them into that tribulation? Why were they not in the company of those who were kept from that "hour of trial" and already crowned in heaven before the great tribulation set in? The Saviour himself, in Matthew 24:42-51, and elsewhere, gives the explanation. They would not believe that Christ could come in their lifetime. They did not watch and keep themselves in readiness for his return. They said, "My Lord delayeth his coming;" and began to smite their fellow-servants, to run with the common world around them, to eat and drink with the drunken, and did not keep themselves girded as servants that wait for their Lord. Hence they were not ready when their Lord came, and for that reason were cut off from the exalted favours of the waiting and ready ones, and compelled to feel the weight of the afflictions which then fall in judgment upon the godless world. And this was the having of soiled garments, unwashed robes, which had to be made white to fit them for place in the society of heaven. A great multitude of them get to heaven afterwards, because they wash their robes and make them clean in the blood of the Lamb. And that washing, as we learn from the Parable of the Ten Virgins, is the bringing of themselves to a true advent faith and habit.
So again, in Revelation 16:15, this same keeping of garments is specifically connected with a state or habit of watching and being in readiness for the impending advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. "Behold, I come as a thief; blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments."
It is therefore clear to me that this washing of robes and keeping of garments relates to the attitude and habit of looking for the coming of Christ, and keeping in constant expectation and readiness for it as an impending event. And the blessedness of access to and power over the Tree of Life, and of entrance by the gates of pearl into the Golden City, is here made to depend on this very washing of our robes and keeping of our garments. What a lesson for those who despise the advent teachings and make light of the doctrine of the certain and speedy coming of the Lord! Brethren, as you hope to walk those golden streets, and eat of those immortal fruits, see to it that you have your garments clean and "your loins girded about like unto men waiting for their Lord."
Watch! 'tis your Lord's command;
And while we speak, He's near.
Mark the first signal of His Hand,
And ready all appear.
O happy servant he,
In such a pasture found !
He shall his Lord with rapture see,
And be with honour crowned.
END OF THE BOOK-CHARACTER AND MAJESTY OF CHRIST--TIME FOR FULFILLING THESE WONDERS--HOW WE ARE TO BE AFFECTED TOWARD THEM--GUARDS ABOUT WHAT IS WRITTEN--CHRIST'S OWN SUMMATION OF THE CONTENTS OF THE BOOK--THE ATTITUDE OF THE CHURCH--CONCLUSION.
Revelation 22:16-21. (Revised Text.) I Jesus sent my angel to testify to you these things upon [or, over] the churches. I am the Root and the race [or, Offspring] of David, the bright, the morning star.
And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let him who heareth say, Come. And let him who is athirst come. He who willeth let him take water of life freely [or, as a gift], I testify to every one who heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any one add for, shall have added] to [or, upon] them, God shall add to [or, upon] him the plagues which are written in this book; and if any one shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and the holy City which are written in this book.
He who testifieth these things saith, Yea, I come quickly.
Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus [be] with all the saints.
Every attentive reader will observe how much the conclusion of this Book is like its beginning. Its derivation from God, the signifying of it by the angel, the seeing, hearing, and writing of it by John, the blessing upon those who give due attention to it, the nearness of the time for the fulfilment of what is described, the solemn authentication from Christ, the titles by which he describes himself, and even the personal expressions of John, recur in the Epilogue, almost the same as in the Prologue. Much, therefore, which would here be in place has already been anticipated in the opening Lectures in this course. And after what was said a week ago, there remain but a few points more upon which to remark in bringing this exposition to a close.
I. The first of these points relates to the character and majesty of Christ.
Before he was born, the angel said to Joseph, "Call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21.) This name was given him; and this name he still owns in heaven. He says: "I, Jesus, sent my angel to testify to you these things." It is as our Saviour that he has given these revelations, and it is as our Saviour that he will fulfil them. It is part of his salvation work-the great superstructure of which his first coming was the foundation-the bloom and fruitage of what was then planted. As Jesus, Saviour, he was spoken of by the ancient prophets; as Jesus, Saviour, he was born into our world; as Jesus, Saviour, he died, rose again, and ascended into heaven; as Jesus, Saviour, he sent the Holy Ghost, and ever liveth to intercede for us; and as Jesus, Saviour, he sent his angel to signify these things, and will come again to fulfil them.
But, in claiming that he sent this angel, he at the same time claims to be the sovereign of all sacred wisdom and truth. In Revelation 22:6 it was said that "the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets," sent this angel; and here he says, "I, Jesus," sent him-sent him as "my angel." He thus identifies himself with the eternal source of all inspiration-with the very Lord God Almighty. He is not only a Saviour, but "a great one." What he thus does, and proposes to do, and tells the churches that he will do, he does, not as a mere man, not as a mere prophet and high priest, but as the possessor of all prerogatives and powers of Godhead-as the Lord God of angels, and the Lord God of the spirits of all prophets. There is no place for the Arian heresy in this Book. Whilst he is ever Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, and the Lamb that was slain, he is nevertheless the ever-living Jehovah, true God as well as true man, whom all the principalities of heaven worship even as the Lamb, to whom "the blessing, and the honour, and the glory, and the dominion, for the ages of the ages," is to be ascribed.
Nor are these the only titles under which he here presents himself. He who says "Behold, I come quickly, and my reward with me to give to each as his work is," further adds, "I, the Alpha and the Omega, First and Last, the Beginning and the End." Three times does he take to himself this designation. (Revelation 1:8; Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:13.) Of these three expressions, the first is symbolic, signifying the same relation to the universe which the first and last letters of the alphabet bear to the whole series of letters; the second is the same in signification, and is the Old Testament designation of God, even that by which he encourages confidence in the promises and predictions given through the prophets (Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 48:12); and the third emphasizes the same thought only in a more philosophic style. The three together are among the most profound and intense denotations of the eternity, the immutability, the almightiness, the omniscience, and the faithfulness of Deity. In thus appropriating them to himself, the Lord Jesus claims to be the eternal One, from whom all being proceeds, and to whom all being tends and returns,-the source and the end of all history,-he who called the world into existence, presides over all its changes, and brings it to its consummation according to his own will. He thus sets himself before our faith as he who originated all things, who knows equally all that has happened and that will happen, and who is the ever-living and unchanging Administrator of all that is or can be, so that what he makes known as yet to take place may be accepted and relied on with perfect confidence, as rooted and grounded in the eternal Wisdom and Almightiness. He must therefore be very God of very God, the coequal and coeternal Son of the Father. And in this character he makes and engages to perform whatever is predicted in the prophecies of this Book.
And still further does he describe himself in relation to these revelations. Sending his angel to testify these things for the churches, he declares, "I am the Root and the offspring of David, the bright, the morning Star." The duality of his nature, as at once both God and man, is here affirmed. As God, he is the Root or origination of David,-he who gave David being and place, and out of whom David was raised up, even David's Lord; and as man, he is the offspring of David, David's son, one born of the house and lineage of David. (Matthew 22:43.) He is the Kernel in the Kernel of the ancient Theocracy, at once the source and blossom of it,-the Jehovah which induced it, at length revealed as its product,-the object of Old Testament adoration incarnated as the great promised One of the seed of Abraham, of the house of David. Hence the additional statement, that he is "the bright and morning Star." The covetous prophet, Balaam, impelled by the Spirit contrary to his wishes, prophesied of a star to come out of Jacob, and a sceptre to rise out of Israel, with which should be the dominion. (Numbers 24:17-19.) That star, now come to its full brightness, and ushering in the morning of the eternal blessedness, Christ here claims to be. And as the Godman risen out of Jacob, and possessed of all authority and dominion, he gives forth these revelations, and pledges to fulfil them. He thus teaches us what a sublime Lord and Saviour we have, and what is the foundation on which we may count that he will fulfil all the wonders of this Apocalypse.
II. A second of these remaining points relates to the time when these things shall come to pass.
One cannot but be impressed with the constantly repeated expressions touching the nearness of these occurrences. In the very opening verses the note was sounded, "The time is near." The same is heard throughout all that followed. And here, in the conclusion of all, the same is reiterated, over and over, that these things "must come to pass shortly." Three times the Saviour says, "Behold, I come quickly." And the voice which commanded the seer not to seal up what he heard and saw, also adds, "The time is near." Nor is it here alone, but throughout the New Testament in general, that such expressions are used. Everywhere is the promised Apocalypse of the Lord Jesus represented as close at hand, liable to occur at any time. The impression thus made upon the early Christians was, that Christ might come at any day or hour, even in their own lifetime. Exactly when he would come, was nowhere told them. According to the Saviour's word, it was not for them to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. (Acts 1:6-7.) Nay, from that time to the present, and for all time till the promise itself comes to be fulfilled, the saying of Christ has held, and must hold, "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (Matthew 24:36.) It was useless, therefore, for them, and will continue to be useless for any one, to attempt to ascertain or determine, how long it will be till Christ shall come again, or how soon all these things shall be accomplished. When once they begin to come to pass, men will be able to tell where they are, and to know that the time has arrived; but, till then, they must needs remain in ignorance. All the instruction which we have upon the subject is, that what is foreshown will certainly come to pass; and that, from the beginning until the fulfilment commences, we are to be in constant expectation of it any year, any day, any hour; to which the ever-present and ever-intensifying signs, together with the multiplied precepts of the holy Scriptures, continually admonish us. Well has Archer Butler said, "To seek to penetrate more closely into these awful secrets is vain. A sacred obscurity envelops them. The cloud that shrouded the actual presence of God on the mercy-seat, shrouds still his expected presence on the throne of judgment. It is a purposed obscurity; and most salutary and useful obscurity, a wise and merciful denial of knowledge. In this matter it is his gracious will to be the perpetual subject of watchfulness, expectation, conjecture, fear, desire,-but no more. To cherish anticipation, he has permitted gleams of light to cross the darkness; to baffle presumption, he has made them only gleams. He has harmonized with consummate skill, every part of his revelation to produce this general result;-now speaking as if a few seasons more were to herald the new heaven and the new earth, now as if his days were thousands of years; at one moment whispering into the ear of his disciple, as if ready to be revealed, at another retreating into the depth of infinite ages. It is his purpose thus to live in our faith and hope, remote yet near, pledged to no moment, possible at any; worshipped not with the consternation of a near, or the indifference of a distant certainty, but with the anxious vigilance that awaits a contingency ever at hand. This, the deep devotion of watchfulness, humility, and awe, he who knows us best knows to be the fittest posture for our spirits; therefore does he preserve the salutary suspense that ensures it, and therefore will he determine his advent to no definite day in the calendar of eternity." But the much-emphasized fact, put forth with all these promises and predictions of his return, that the interval between us and their accomplishment dare never be extended in our estimate, and is always represented as brief,-so brief that we never know but that another year, or month, or week, or day may reveal to us our coming Lord,-ought not to be without the most quickening effect upon our hearts and devotions. Certainly, what we are so solemnly told is "near," and "must shortly come to pass," we are at no liberty to postpone, or to think yet far away. And especially how, that eighteen hundred years of that "shortly" have passed, and that every symptom of the close proximity of the end is so manifest, should we beware of thinking that years and ages are yet to intervene before our Lord's corning can occur. Ever, as the Church moves on through time, and above all in the days in which we live, the next thing for every Christian to be looking for in this world is the coming of Christ to fulfil what is written in this Book. The Bible tells of nothing between us and that Day.
III. A third of these remaining points relates to the proper spiritual affection toward the speedy accomplishment of these holy predictions.
The Apocalypse of Christ is the coming or revelation of Christ in the scenes and achievements which are here described. But it is not made known to us as a thing of cold and barren speculation. It is the living outcome of all our faith and hope as Christians. It is a thing to which every proper Christian impulse necessarily goes out. There can be no genuine Christianity, no true and living sympathy with what we profess to believe, if there be no going forth of the soul to what is thus set before us. This is here expressed with a depth and intensity which should not fail to impress every serious heart.
First of all, the Holy Ghost himself calls for the Apocalypse of Christ. "The Spirit says, Come;" that is, Come thou; as an answer made to the announcement of the preceding verse. So the Syriac version, and all sound interpreters. When the promise of the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, was given, Christ said: "He will guide you into all truth: and he will show you things to come." (John 16:13.) Descending upon the Church always to abide with it, that Spirit has ever been active and operative in and through the Church. And in all these gracious operations there is a direct and constant reference to these things to come, to make them known, to awaken and nurture faith in them, and to prepare men to become partakers in their blessedness. In all these operations there is therefore a constant looking and yearning for the fulfilment of what is thus to come, and hence an unceasing calling of the Holy Ghost to the bright and morning star to come, as promised and foreshown,-to consummate the great work by that Apocalypse to which all prophecy, all faith, all hope, and all the operative graces of the Spirit have reference. In other words, it is the very spirit, soul, and aim of divine grace to bring the great consummation, which comes alone through the coming of Christ. In the inspiration of prophets and apostles, in the regeneration and sanctification of men, and in all the appointments, endowments, and labours of the Church, in so far as the Holy Ghost is potent and active in them, there is one unceasing call and pleading for that return of the Godman, by whose coming again all things are to be completed and the whole work finished up. Two things, therefore, are thus certified to us; first, that there is no true and saving religion-no piety originating from and resting in the Spirit of God-which does not anxiously move toward and centre on Christ and his promised Apocalypse; and second, that the fulfilment of these predictions is absolutely certain, in that the operations of the Holy Ghost in the Church are all conditioned to and ever calling for the bright and morning star to come.
And what the Spirit looks to and calls for is repeated in the spiritual consciousness of the Bride. The Bride is not the Church outwardly taken; for not all who have connection with the Church as a visible body shall be everlastingly joined with the Lamb. None are the Bride but those who in living inward fact are joined to Christ as the branches are joined to the vine. Only those who are spiritually in Christ, "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" (Ephesians 5:30), are his Bride. And it is here given as a characteristic of the Bride, that she re-echoes and embodies the call of the Spirit, even the call for the bright and morning star to come. When men forget to think of the coming again of the Lord Jesus in his great Apocalypse,-when they cease to look and long for that as the crown and goal of their faith and hope,-when they make light of it, and treat it as a fable, and regard all concern about it as fanaticism,-they show and prove that they do not belong to that elect body of God's saints which constitutes the Bride of the Lamb; for the deepest heart-voice of the Bride, with that of the Spirit itself, is, "Come, Lord Jesus; come as thou hast promised and foreshown; come quickly." Taking all the precepts and inculcations of the sacred Scriptures with regard to Christ's return, it becomes a plain and evident impossibility for people to be true and obedient followers of the Gospel, and not to look, and watch, and long, and pray, and make it a great point in all their religious activity and devotion to be ready for the glorious coming of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. The Apostles and early Christians were all alive to this subject beyond everything else in Christianity. It was their life, their inspiration, the pole-star of their faith and hope. It was the thing which most marked them, set them apart from the world, and was their great distinguishing spirit, as compared with other people. And if it is not so with Christians now, it is because they have sunk away from the original life of their religion, and lost their proper fellowship with the true and only Bride of the Lamb; for the voice of the Bride to her Lord continually is, "Come." Nor can she be in the spirit and life of a true Bride without having this feeling ever living in her soul, and permeating her whole being. Destined for Christ, and haying her chief joy and salvation in him and what he is ordained to accomplish for his people, she cannot but go out with all zeal and fervency for his revelation, or she ceases in soul from her character as his Bride.
And what the Spirit and the Bride say, every one that heareth is to say, and must learn to say, if ever he is to become partaker in these glorious things. The hearer is he who is made acquainted with these great purposes of God, and is informed of what is in reserve for God's true people. But his hearing will profit him nothing if it does not awaken his soul, kindle his desires, and draw him to devout longing and endeavour to possess and realize these things for himself. Nor is he rightly awake and appreciative to what he hears, so long as he does not care whether Christ is to come again or not, or does not centre his soul upon what can only come with Christ's glorious Apocalypse. Therefore the word here is, "Let him who heareth say, Come." Redemption lies in that coming; and if men do not learn to desire it, they do not yet desire the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and are not yet true and believing hearers. For all effectual hearing of the Gospel must come to fervent and loving desire and prayer for Christ to fulfil all his plan and purposes of grace.
And from this emphatic and all-pervading looking and yearning of everything Christian for the Apocalypse of Christ, the call for it widens and deepens into an invitation and incentive to all who desire eternal blessedness, and to all who have any mind or appetite for the waters of life. "And let him who is athirst come. He who willeth let him take the water of life freely." The meaning is, that the waters of life, as they flow in the New Jerusalem, which comes not till Christ comes, are to be had without money and without price; but that those who thirst for those waters are to join with the company and call of those who thus yearn for the blessed consummation. If any one is athirst for these waters, or has a mind and appetite for them, the word is, "Let him come." Come whither, come to what? Come into fellowship with the Spirit, the Bride, and every believing hearer of their testimony, in yearning, and looking, and praying for the coming of the Lord to fulfil what he has promised, and this Book describes. Everything in grace is moving and looking to that; and if any are athirst for God's living waters, or if any have a will to partake of them, this is the way to get them. No price is set upon them. They are free as the air to every one who would have them. But the free partaking of them is by faith in Christ, by seizing hold upon his promises to his Church, and by joining the cry of the Spirit, the yearning of the Bride, and the soul of all right hope, in "looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God," even the glorious Apocalypse of the blessed Christ.
IV. Accordingly there is presented still another point with reference to the preservation of what is set forth in this Book. It is the Book of the outcomes of all the operations of God in our world. It is the great Redeemer's own foreshowing to his people how and wherein all their faith in him and all their expectations as true believers are to reach their final goal. There is therefore no more important sacred Book, none more necessary to regulate the beliefs and anticipations of Christian people with regard to the future. To tamper with it, is to tamper with the divinely given chart of the most momentous things in the destiny of Christ and his Church and people. And hence, with a solemnity that we nowhere else encounter, and with a stringency the most intense in all the word of God, the Saviour himself, from his throne in heaven, says: "I testify to every one who heareth the words of the prophecy of this Book, If any one add [or shall have added] to or upon them, God shall add to or upon him the plagues which are written in this Book; and if anyone shall take away from the words of the Book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and the holy City which are written in this Book."
As if this Book were itself the Tree of Life which it describes, here are the Cherubim with flaming sword turning every way to guard and protect it. To Israel, in the days of Moses, God said, "Ye shall not add unto the word that I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it." (Deuteronomy 4:2.) At a later period the wise man said, "Every word of God is pure. Add thou not unto his words lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." (Proverbs 30:5-6.) But here the warning and prohibitions are far more intense, and the penalties terrible in the extreme. To mutilate this Book, to take from or to add to what it describes as the course and outcome of the divine purposes, is simply to forfeit salvation itself. Could this be if we did not here have the very kernel and consummation of all that prophets have written, and in which grace and salvation have their chief significance and crown? Would God affix the profoundest sanctions of eternity to a dim outline of a little mixed history of this world, which three-fourths of its readers never knew or could understand, and which might never have been revealed at all without any appreciable damage to the piety or to the hopes of God's people in any age? The very absurdity of the thought is demonstration that this Book is something infinitely higher, more solemn, and more essential than the vast mass of modern exposition makes it. No man can be lost or saved simply on account of bis receiving or rejecting what the historical interpreters set forth as the chief meaning of the Apocalypse. On their theory, the whole Book might be sunk in eternal oblivion, and still no serious damage result to the faith of the Church, or men's calculations for the future. But in the estimate of God, he who adds to or takes from what it presents, disables all right conception of the system of redemption, and inflicts an injury so great that he who does it need never hope for salvation. How important, therefore, how precious in the eye of heaven, how necessary to the right instruction of God's people, how vital to the proper Christian faith and hope are the unmutilated and unchanged foreshowings which this Book was given to set forth!
The penalty upon every corrupter of these records also helps to fix and establish the right interpretation of them. "Plagues" constitute one of the prominent subjects; and those "plagues" are to be laid upon each hearer who involves himself in the guilt of adding to or diminishing the contents of this Book. They must therefore be literal "plagues," such as can be laid upon separate individuals, and not mere symbols of disturbances of nations, shakings of empires, calamities to systems, and revolutions in governments. Such "plagues" are incapable of being imposed upon individual men, and individual men are contemplated in this anathema. Except, therefore, where otherwise indicated, "the plagues which are written in this Book" are contemplated by Christ himself as literal "plagues;" and we have simply followed his mind in so explaining them. Just what particular plagues are covered by the threat, we may not be able to determine; but what the wicked suffer, the same is to be the portion of him who dares to abridge or augment the contents of these records. And when we consider how unbelief despises this Book and its philosophy of things,-how a self-wise and rationalistic latitudinarianism neglects it, ridicules all serious attention to it, and empties it of all respectable meaning and worth,-how a presumptuous criticism disables it with wild and stilted theories of poetry and symbolization,-and how even Christian men fight against the admission of its clear teachings when allowed to speak for themselves,-what are we to conclude, but that in these very things we have the sowing for the whole harvest of plagues written in this Book?
O, my friends, it is a fearful thing to suppress or stultify the word of God, and above all "the words of the prophecy of this Book." To put forth for truth what is not the truth,-to denounce as error, condemn, repudiate, or emasculate what God himself hath set his seal to as his mind and purpose, is one of those high crimes, not only against God, but against the souls of men, which cannot go unpunished. With an honest and ever-prayerful heart, and with these solemn and awful warnings ever before my eyes, I have endeavoured to ascertain and indicate in these Lectures what our gracious Lord and Master has been so particular to make known and defend. If I have read into this Book anything which he has not put there, or read out of it anything which he has put there, with the profoundest sorrow would I recant, and willingly burn up the books in which such mischievous wickedness is contained. If I have in anything gone beyond the limits of due subjection to what is written, or curtailed in any way the depth and measure of what Jesus by his angel has signified for the learning of the Churches, I need not the condemnation of men to heap upon me the burden of censure which I deserve. If feebleness, or rashness, or overweening confidence in my own understanding has distorted anything, I can only deplore the fault, and pray God to send a man more competent to unfold to us the mighty truths which here stand written. According to the grace and light given me, have I spoken. And before God, angels, and men, I am compelled to protest, especially, against all that modern interpretation which dwarfs this Book into an overwrought and indeterminate showing of a few meagre chapters of the Church's history this side the day of judgment. If I err, God forgive me! If I am right, God bless my feeble testimony! In either case, God speed his everlasting truth!
V. Yet one other point remains to be noticed. It is Christ's own final summation of the contents of this Book. From the beginning we were told that it was given to show the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ. The whole series of visions fit together as so many successive acts and administrations in the closing up of this present world, and the introduction of the eternal order, according to God's eternal purpose. And so here, in the last words of the Book, the Saviour himself sums up the all-comprehending substance of the whole in this one brief sentence: "He who testifieth these things saith, Yea, I COME QUICKLY."
Who that has ever looked carefully into the subject, but has been struck with the towering prominence which the Scriptures everywhere assign to the coming again of the Lord Jesus? The New Testament has more references to this particular topic than it has pages. Of all the seven or eight thousand verses of which it is composed, one out of every twenty-five points forward with eager gesture to the appearing again of the Lord Jesus. Again and again it is set forth as the great hope of the Church. There is not a Christian grace or virtue for the enforcement of which appeal is not made to it. Nor is there another subject upon which more stress is laid in all the Word of God. To many, indeed, it is anything but welcome. There be even professing Christians who would rather not hear about it, and who, if they could have their way, would erase it from the Creed, and silence all preaching concerning it. But the religion of such is much aside from the Scriptures, and occasion is urgent for them to bestir themselves to re-examine and relay their foundations. Christian faith and hope have no outcome but in the glorious Apocalypse of Jesus. And only when we come to understand that the coming again of Christ is the fulfilment of the things described in this Book, can we appreciate why so much is referred to that coming, and why the venerable Apostle should here, at the end of his Book, bow his hoary head, and say, and write, his solemn "Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus."
The truth is, my friends, that there is no greater or gladder promise in all the Book of God, than this last word of Jesus to his people, "Yea, I come quickly." It is the promise of promises-the crown and consummation of all promise-the coronation of all evangelic hopes-the sum of all prophecy and prayer. Nature and grace alike proclaim a glorified Messiah, come again from heaven in his almightiness, as indispensable to complete their appointed course. Nature calls for him thus to come, to rectify her unwilling disorders, to repair her shattered structures, to restore her oppressed energies, to vindicate her voice of conscience long despised, her sublime testimony to the Creator so long questioned and overlooked. But grace sends forth a still mightier call. If the whole creation groans and travails together in pain for the manifestation of the sons of God, how much more those sons of God themselves!
And why should not this be our spirit? Compare the sordidness of this world with the crystal purity and splendour of the New Jerusalem. Think of the dust, and dearth, and soil and toil of earth, in comparison with that River and Tree of Life which refresh, and adorn, and satisfy the dwellers in those eternal mansions. Consider the ill mixtures, defects, wearinesses, vexations, darkness, and disabilities of life here, alongside of the perfections and sublimities which mark the society and estate of those who walk those streets of gold. Why should we wish to suffer, and toil, and sigh amid the miseries of a scene like this, when such a city of unchanging blessedness throws open its gates of pearl for our admission? Are we so in love with aches, and ills, and wrongs, and disappointments, and treacheries, and diseases, and death-beds, and graves, and torments and temptations of Satan, as not to be willing to be done with them forever? With what ardour, then, and delight, and enthusiastic joy, should we embrace this word of our Saviour, "Yea, I come quickly!" Have we no mind for the realization of that precious "liberty of the children of God,"-no wish to behold our lowliness glorified in the glory of the Man of Nazareth,--no longing to have our humble labours recognized and approved by our enthroned Redeemer,-no appreciation of the vindication of our persevering faith, of the consummation of our hopes and prayers, of the brightening of our love and charity into rewards eternal and infinite? Ah, yes; everything in and about us, in the weakness of man and in the working of God, yearns and calls and prophesies for the coming again of Jesus,-everything but the cold, unfeeling, unsanctified heart of man! But there, alas, no voice is heard going forth to bid the Lord of salvation welcome! People's hearts are inured to the world's corruptions, and how can they hail an immortality of meekness, simplicity, and love? Men's spirits are habituated to seek unholy ends by means still more unholy, and how can they endure the bringing in of everlasting righteousness? Their calculations, hopes, and aims are bounded to things of time and sense, and how can they regard otherwise than with terror so complete a change as that when he who now rules behind a mass of permitted evils visibly assumes the reins of universal dominion? Of course all such are ill at ease with our doctrines, and well may tremble, and call to rocks and mountains to cover and hide them from the discomfiture and sorrow which Christ's Apocalypse must bring to souls so earthy. But let all God's saints hold fast the blessed hope, and lift up their heads as they see the time approaching. What is there to command our fondest joy, our gladdest anticipation, if not this coming day of our completed happiness and finished redemption?
Fiction has painted the picture of a maiden whose lover left her for a voyage to the Holy Land, promising on his return to make her his beloved bride. Many told her that she would never see him again. But she believed his word, and evening by evening she went down to the lonely shore, and kindled there a beacon-light in sight of the roaring waves, to hail and welcome the returning ship which was to bring again her betrothed. And by that watchfire she took her stand each night, praying to the winds to hasten on the sluggish sails, that he who was everything to her might come. Even so that blessed Lord, who has loved us unto death, has gone away to the mysterious Holy Land of heaven, promising on his return to make us his happy and eternal Bride. Some say that he has gone forever, and that here we shall never see him more. But his last word was, "Yea, I come quickly." And on the dark and misty beach sloping out into the eternal sea, each true believer stands by the love-lit fire, looking, and waiting, and praying and hoping for the fulfilment of his word, in nothing gladder than in his pledge and promise, and calling ever from the soul of sacred love, "Even so come, Lord Jesus." And some of these nights, while the world is busy with its gay frivolities, and laughing at the maiden on the shore, a form shall rise over the surging waves, as once on Galilee, to vindicate forever all this watching and devotion, and bring to the faithful and constant heart a joy, and glory, and triumph which never more shall end.
To bring listless and uninstructed souls believingly and intelligently to the position and attitude of that maiden, is the intent of this Book, and of these Lectures upon it. And if by these long studies any hearers are brought to such love-waiting and watching on these dark shores of time, with thanks and praises to Him from whom has come the grace, and with heart and soul set in confident expectation of the speedy fulfilment of the wonders we have been contemplating, I am content to take my leave of these labours.
"The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints."
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Seiss, Joseph A. "Commentary on Revelation 22". Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany