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And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying; after these things I heard, as it were, a great voice of a great multitude, etc. The usual introduction to a new phase of a vision (see Revelation 4:1, etc.). The "great voice," as usual, characteristic of the heavenly utterances (see Revelation 5:2, etc.). Again, we are not told whose the utterance is. It may well be that of all the heavenly inhabitants and saints in glory (cf Revelation 7:9). As usual in the Apocalypse, at the termination of a description of the last judgment comes the triumphant song of the heavenly host (cf Revelation 7:9-17; Revelation 11:17). Thus the account of the conflict between God and the devil, which was begun at Revelation 12:1-17., is here concluded at Revelation 12:8; after which the narrative takes a fresh departure, once more returning, as it were, to the beginning, and tracing anew this warfare. The remaining portion of the book is analogous to the latter part of Ezekiel. Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God; Hallelujah; the salvation and the glory and the power belong to our God. Ἡ τιμή, "the honour," found in several cursives, is omitted in א, A, B, C, P, etc. So also with the word "Lord." Hallelujah—"Praise ye Jehovah"—is found in Psalms 135:1 and elsewhere. It is translated in Psalms 135:5 of this chapter, as is St. John's custom (see on Revelation 9:11). It has been remarked that the word "Hallelujah" is chiefly used in connection with the punishment of the wicked; in which manner it is also used here. (For a similar ascription of praise, see Revelation 4:11, etc.)
For true and righteous are his judgments. This reason for the worship of Revelation 19:1 is similar to that in Revelation 16:7 and Revelation 15:3. For he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. A second reason for the worship of Revelation 15:1. Corrupt the earth; as in Revelation 11:18, where a form of the same verb is used (cf. also Jeremiah 51:25). Her fornication; her unfaithfulness and deceit (see on Revelation 14:4, Revelation 14:8). The prayer of Revelation 6:10 has now been heard (cf. also Revelation 18:20).
And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up forever and ever; goeth up. The "smoke" is that of the burning of Babylon, mentioned in Revelation 18:9, Revelation 18:18. The final nature of this judgment is indicated by the closing words.
And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. (On "the twenty-four elders" as representing the Church of God, and "the four living beings" as typical of creation, see on Revelation 4:4, Revelation 4:6.) God that sitteth (present tense, as in Revelation 19:3) on the throne; as he is described in Revelation 4:2 and Revelation 5:13. Amen; Hallelujah (see Psalms 106:48).
And a voice came out of the throne, saying. Ἐκ "out of," is found in א, P, 1, 34, etc.; ἀπό, "forth from," is supported by A, B, C, etc.; while B reads οὐρανοῦ, "heaven," instead of θρόνου, "throne." Alford suggests that the direction rather than the source of the voice is intended. It is impossible to say to whom the voice should be attributed (cf. Revelation 10:4, Revelation 10:8, etc.). As an invitation to the Church to praise God, we might expect the voice to be that of one of the elders. Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great, א, C, P, omit the first "and," thus reading: "ye his servants, ye that fear him," etc. The first words are a repetition of the "Hallelujah" of Revelation 19:1. The following phrases are found in Psalms 134:1; Psalms 115:13.
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude. This is the response to the invitation just uttered in Revelation 19:5. Again "the voice of a multitude," as in Revelation 19:1. And as the voice of many waters. That is, in its suggestiveness of great power and magnitude (cf. Revelation 1:15; Revelation 14:2; Psalms 93:3; Jeremiah 51:16). And as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying. A repetition of the idea contained in the preceding clause. The case of the participle is doubtful; A, P, and others have λεγόντων; many cursives א has ' λεγόντας; λεγούσων; the nominative λέγοντες is found in B and others. Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. (On "Hallelujah," see Revelation 19:1.) These words connect the present passage with Revelation 17:14. They exhibit, as it were, the culminating reason for this adoration of God. He has exhibited his almighty power in the overthrow of Babylon, who said, "I sit a queen;" and in the overthrow (which has yet to be narrated more fully) of the kings of the earth.
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him; let us rejoice and be exceeding glad, and let us give the glory unto him. Alford reads δώσομεν, "we will give," with א, A. P, 36; but the T.R. δῶμεν, "let us give," which is found in א, B, 1, 7, 38, Vulgate, Cyprian, Primasius, is to be preferred. For the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. This is somewhat anticipatory; the full vision of the bride of the Lamb is reserved until Revelation 21:1-27. But the rejoicing over Babylon and the harlot naturally suggests the allusion to Christ's faithful Church, just as the vision of Revelation 7:1-17. is suggested by the concluding words of Revelation 6:1-17. "The marriage of the Lamb" is the figure under which is depicted that complete union between Christ and his faithful Church, which will be consummated at the last day, when Satan has been overcome and sin destroyed. It stands in contrast with the fornication of the harlot—the union of the spiritually unfaithful portion of Christ's Church with the powers of the world (see on Revelation 17:1, Revelation 17:2). Alford remarks, "This figure, of a marriage between the Lord and his people, is too frequent and familiar to need explanation (cf. in the Old Testament, Isaiah 54:1-8; Ezekiel 16:7, etc.; Hosea 2:19, etc.; and in the New Testament, Matthew 9:15; Matthew 25:1, etc.; John 3:29; Ephesians 5:25, etc.)." This symbol of the wife or bride indicates the redeemed, who have already in several places been alluded to in this book (Revelation 7:9; Revelation 12:1; Revelation 14:1; Revelation 17:14, "they that are with him"). The saints have made themselves ready by enduing themselves with the robe of righteousness (Revelation 6:8).
And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; and it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright [and] pure. The double nature of the process is here set forth. "It was given her," the power comes from God (cf. Revelation 13:5, etc.), and yet "she arrays herself;" the action is still voluntary. (On "white linen," see on Revelation 4:4; Revelation 7:9; Revelation 15:6.) The following words are a sufficient commentary. This verse appears to contain the words of the writer, the heavenly song having ceased at the end of verse7. For the fine linen is the righteousness of saints; the righteous acts of the saints. That is, their former righteousness, exhibited in fidelity to God and hostility to the world, obtained and retained by the grace of God, now forms their chief glory. So "their works do follow them" (Revelation 14:13).
And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb; which are bidden (Revised Version). Cf. the command in Revelation 1:11 and Revelation 21:5, and the prohibition in Revelation 10:4; cf. also the expression in Revelation 14:13, "Blessed are the dead," etc. It almost seems as if the writer has in his mind the connection of ideas indicated by the words quoted above on Revelation 14:8, "Their works do follow them." The figure of the "marriage supper" is rather a new symbol than the continuation of the symbol of the bride; though very probably suggested by it. For those who partake of the "marriage supper" are those who constitute the bride, viz. the faithful Church of God. Cf. Revelation 3:20, the words which are spoken by the "Amen, the faithful and true Witness" (Revelation 3:14): "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." It is impossible to say who the speaker is that thus addresses St. John, except in so far as may be gathered from verse 10. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. Cf. the words of Revelation 3:14, quoted above, and Revelation 21:5; also the "Yea, saith the Spirit" of Revelation 14:13. (On the word "true," see Revelation 3:7.) These words have been restricted to different portions of the Apocalypse by different commentators; but it seems best, on the whole, to understand them as referring to the whole series of visions connected with the harlot and Babylon and the faithful bride of Christ.
And I fell at his feet to worship him. The same thing happens again in Revelation 20:7, Revelation 20:8, and this makes it improbable that St. John imagined the angel to be Christ himself, as some think. More probably (as Alford, Bengel, Vitringa, Wordsworth, and others) St. John was so overwhelmed with the tremendous character of the revelation just made to him, that in his humility he pays undue reverence to the angel who had communicated it to him. This reverence may not have been exactly of the nature of that which he would render to God; but it is evident, from the reproof of the angel, that it was more than could be becomingly and safely paid to a created being. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus; saith … I am a fellow servant with thee and with thy brethren, etc. So the apostles styled themselves (Romans 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1, etc.). (On "hold the testimony of Jesus," see Revelation 1:2, Revelation 1:9; Revelation 12:17.) Worship God. Such also is the command of our Lord (Matthew 4:10). For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Like the words of verse 8, these words are probably an explanation added by St. John. To prophesy is to understand and proclaim the truth concerning God, especially in the face of prevalent ignorance or opposition; this is also what is meant by holding "the testimony of Jesus." The angel in revealing these visions, the martyrs in openly professing Christ, St. John in receiving and handing on the Apocalypse, were prophesying. Thus it was that the angel announces himself to be the fellow servant of St. John, and a fellow servant with the prophets, and with those "who keep the sayings of this book" (Revelation 22:9).
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse. A new vision now opens, which is, however, part of the preceding series, commencing at Revelation 13:1. The destruction of certain forms of evil—typified by Babylon and the harlot—has been declared; the final overthrow of the dragon has vet to be related, though there may be no such separation in the actual infliction of these punishments as there necessarily is in the relation of them. The warfare now to be described must be understood to be that which is taking place between the hosts of Christ and Satan throughout the period of the world's existence. The heaven opened (cf. Revelation 4:1). A similar figure has been already employed in the first seal vision (Revelation 6:2). It has been pointed out that the same image is employed at the beginning and at the end of the description of the warfare between Christ and the devil. He who is the First and the Last, the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8), rides forth conquering and to conquer (Revelation 6:2). And he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. Even the participial construction here employed connects this account with Revelation 6:2. "Faithful and True" are the titles applied to our Lord in Revelation 3:14, which see. In righteousness he cloth judge; cf. Isaiah's prophecy of Christ: "But with righteousness shall he judge the poor" (Isaiah 11:4); cf. verse 2 of this chapter. The purposes of this expedition are "to judge and make war."
His eyes were as a flame of fire; and his eyes [are] a flame of fire. Again as in Revelation 1:13. "Fire" is the type of purity and judgment (see Psalms 97:3; Isaiah 47:14; Isaiah 66:15; Amos 5:6; 1 Corinthians 3:13, etc.; Revelation 3:18). And on his head were many crowns; and upon his head [are] many diadems. Διαδήματα, " kingly crowns " (cf. Revelation 12:3; Revelation 13:1), because he now comes as a King to judgment. The plurality of "crowns" points to his character as King of kings (see Revelation 17:14; cf. Revelation 13:1). And he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself; hath a name … no, one knoweth. Evidently the "new name" of Revelation 3:12, the significance of which St. John is unable to comprehend (see on Revelation 2:7; Revelation 3:12). From the connection with the preceding clause, we naturally infer that this name was written upon his forehead (cf Revelation 7:3); John 16:1); but the writer does not explicitly state this. In B, twenty-five cursives, and Syriac, the words, "names written and," are inserted before "name."
And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and he [is] arrayed in a garment, etc. The idea here is evidently derived from Isaiah 63:3, "I have trodden the wine press alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury: and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment" (cf. Isaiah 63:15). Probably the similarity of this passage has caused the reading, "sprinkled with blood," which is found in a few manuscripts. In the original passage in Isaiah, the blood is doubtless the blood of his enemies; but it is possible that there is here a reference to the blood of Christ himself, which he shed in his warfare with Satan. And his Name is called The Word of God. Only in St. John's writings does this title appear—a strong argument in favour of his authorship of the Apocalypse (cf. John 1:1; 1 John 1:1). This cannot be the "name" of verse 12, which, as there explained, is unknown. This Name, the Word of God, is appropriately used when he is going forth to judgment.
And the amiss which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean; which are … white, pure. These armies are not merely the angels, but the "called, chosen, and faithful" of Revelation 17:14, "the bride" of Revelation 17:8, who are described as being arrayed in white in Revelation 6:11, and Revelation 6:8 of this chapter. Those commentators who consider that the angels only are intended, and not the saints, forget the double nature of the vision; it is not only a description of Judgment meted out, but also of a war waged. (On "white" and "fine linen," see previous chapters.)
And out of his month goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a red of iron. The description is still similar to that given in Revelation 1:1-20. (see Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:12, Revelation 2:16). (For the last clause, see Revelation 2:27; Revelation 12:5; and cf. Isaiah 63:3.) The symbolism is descriptive of warfare, victory, and judgment. "He" is emphatic: "he shall rule"—no longer the kings of the earth. The nations; in the sense of the ungodly (cf. Revelation 16:19, etc.). And he treadeth the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God; the wine press of the wine of the fierceness of the wrath, etc. In Revelation 14:10 we have the figure of "the wine of the wrath" of God, and in Revelation 14:19 that of the "wine press of the wrath;" here the two are combined (cf. also Isaiah 63:3, quoted on Isaiah 63:13).
And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written. What this means is doubtful. The following suggestions have been made:
(1) The name, written at length, is written partly upon the vesture and partly upon the thigh itself, where the garment would (in an equestrian figure) fall away from the thigh (Alford).
(2) The name is written on the vesture, even (καί) on that part of it which covers the thigh (De Wette, Dusterdieck, Hengstenberg).
(3) On the thigh, as the place where the sword usually hangs.
(4) A reference to the custom of engraving the name of the artist upon the thigh of a statue (Cic., 'Verr.,' 4.43; see Wetstein).
KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. As in Revelation 17:14 (but inverted), where, as here, it portrays the victorious career of Christ over the "kings of the earth."
And I saw an angel standing in the sun. That is, in mid heaven (as in Revelation 8:13, etc.); in a place befitting his glory, and also whence he can appropriately issue his summons. And he cried with a loud voice. As is usual in all the heavenly utterances (see Revelation 5:2, etc.). Saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven; the birds that fly in mid heaven (Revised Version) (vide supra); see Ezekiel 39:17, et seq., for the origin of the imagery here employed. Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; come, be gathered together unto the great supper of God (Revised Version). Not, of course, the "supper" of Ezekiel 39:9, but rather a contrast to it; that supper which is reserved for the ungodly, at which they form the prey. The language is employed in filling in the accessory details of the central image, and must not be pressed too far in particular directions; e.g. Andreas considers the birds to be good angels.
That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great (cf. the description in Ezekiel 39:17). All men; that is, all the ungodly. Cf. the description of the same event at the conclusion of the seal judgments (Revelation 6:15). The whole account indicates the widespread and complete nature of God's judgments, which none shall be able to escape.
And I saw the beast; viz. that described in Revelation 13:1, typical of the hostile world power. And the kings of the earth, and their armies. The kings summoned by the unclean spirits of Revelation 16:13, Revelation 16:14, typical of the forces which the beast employs in his spiritual warfare with God. The armies are the adherents of the beast, described in Revelation 13:1-18.—the ungodly, those who follow the world rather than God. Gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. Gathered as described in Revelation 16:14 and Revelation 16:17 of this chapter. Again (as in Revelation 16:7) a double operation. The gathering is voluntary on the part of the wicked (Revelation 16:14), and yet it is overruled by God, and made to serve his ends (Revelation 19:17). Him that sat on the horse; Christ (see Revelation 16:11). "His army" consists of the faithful followers of Christ. They are here pictured as a heavenly army (Revelation 16:14), because the victory which they achieved is the leading feature here depicted, but their warfare took place while they were on earth (cf. Revelation 14:13). The war (with the article); viz. that war which is perpetually waged between the powers of light and darkness, and which will not be terminated until the great judgment.
And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image; that wrought the signs in his sight (Revised Version). Here we have described the destruction of the earthly manifestations of Satan's power; the means by which he seeks to achieve his purposes, and which we have interpreted as the hostile world power and self deception (see on Revelation 13:1-18.). The whole account contained in Revelation 19:11-21 is a brief recapitulation of the whole period of warfare between Christ and Satan, with special attention given to the final overthrow of the powers of evil. It, therefore, covers the same ground as the vision of seals, and then that of the trumpets, then that of the vials, and afterwards that of the beasts, each occupies. The chief difference is that in all those visions the everyday conflict is more particularly described; whereas in this passage the termination of the conflict is specially brought before us. The same ground is covered in the next chapter, advancing, however, one step further, and showing us the final punishment of Satan himself, as well as of his instruments (Revelation 20:10). These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone; they twain were cast alive into the lake, etc. (On "brimstone," etc., see on Revelation 9:17, Revelation 9:18. Cf. Revelation 20:10, Revelation 20:14, Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:8.) This "lake of fire" is the place of punishment for Satan and his hosts; not the place in which he at present works and reigns—which is described as the abyss (Revelation 9:1; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1, Revelation 20:3).
And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh. The remnant; that is, the adherents of the beast, the "armies" of Revelation 19:19. (For this description of Christ, see Revelation 19:11, Revelation 19:15.) Spiritual death is inflicted upon those who have proved themselves hostile to God. The last sentence emphasizes the nature of the punishment by the reference to the indignity offered to their bodies after death.
Revelation 19:1-9 (coupled with Revelation 18:20)
Rejoicings over the fall of Babylon.
When we put side by side the lament of the kings, merchants, and seamen, with the rejoicings of the great multitude in heaven over Babylon's fall, the effect is very strange. At first sight there seems an incongruity between them. We are taught in the Word that there is such deep sympathy between heaven and earth, and that there are emotions of tenderest pity felt in heaven towards man below. And yet in this series of symbolic visions we have the representation that heaven is made glad by that which brings wailing on earth. How is this to be accounted for? Observe:
(1) It is not the wailing itself at which there is rejoicing, nor yet at its immediate cause.
(2) It is not from any vindictive feeling. All such feelings are, we are sure, dead in the completely sanctified character. But
(3) there are matters of immensely greater importance than the happiness or misery of individuals. It may be a grievous thing to see a human being with a tear in his eye; it is much more so to see him in rebellion against God. And if there are those who need to be taught this, it is better to see them weeping over the bitter fruits of rebellion than to see them at ease in the revolt itself.
(4) That may be joyous in one aspect which is sad in another. It may be a sad thing to see so many precious things perishing. It is good to find that when aught is poisoned by sin it is not allowed to continue.
(5) As the great multitude in heaven often grieved over the burden of sin which the earth was carrying, how can they but rejoice that from it the earth is freed?
(6) While angels in heaven have sympathy with man, they have no sympathy with his sin, but much, very much, with God.
(7) Hence they see that while man's sin is the blight of earth, God's righteous judgments against sin are the guard of righteousness. Especially when
(8) the Divine vengeance is a perfectly righteous one, never erring by excess or defect. At the same time, it may be thought that not even these considerations entirely remove the difficulty. One may say, "Think of all the souls who are lamenting over Babylon's fall! I for one do not feel as if I could be happy, or take up such a song of praise as the passage contains, so long as there is a single being in the universe who is not rejoicing in God. I would not have the slightest speck or flaw anywhere—no, not one unhappy soul in all creation!" There is a great deal to admire in such philanthropic feeling, and yet even such a state of mind may bring its own perils. For even such feelings have to be regulated by the disclosures of God's Word, and ever to be kept in curb by an absolute faith in God himself. To such a one we would therefore put queries like these: Would you be satisfied with the dealings of God if God himself is satisfied with them? Would you be satisfied if those in heaven are so? Would you be content if our blessed Saviour were satisfied with the joy set before him? Would you not be vastly more than content if you could see that the fall of Babylon was but preliminary to the ushering in of a brighter glory? Would you not even be transported with delight if God should show you that he means from the present chaos of sin to gather up things anew, and to bring about an issue more glorious than if sin had never been permitted to intrude? because, if such should be the case, even this fall of Babylon may be but one event in a process in which God is going to do exceeding abundantly for us above all we can ask or think. Let us, then, watch for the sequel. And meanwhile let us: in the light of the paragraph before us, ask and answer three inquiries—
I. WHO ARE THE REJOICING ONES? "A heavenly hallelujah celebrates the first act of the final sentence upon the antichristian powers which served as Satan's instruments. At each crisis in the Apocalypse we find a similar hymn of praise (Revelation 4:8; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:10; Revelation 11:15; Revelation 15:3; Revelation 16:5)." £ An unknown voice—possibly from "him that sitteth upon the throne;" this would seem to be the more appropriate conclusion, as the word is in the form of a mandate. The song itself comes:
(1) From the four living creatures—representatives of the higher orders of creation.
(2) From the four and twenty elders—the representatives of the Old and New Testaments.
(3) From the great multitude in heaven, whose voices rise up as the voice of many waters. From the point of view at which the blessed in heaven study the works of God, they see ground for adoring praise and for rapturous song. It is only here among ourselves, who dwell in clouds below, that the song is checked by our misapprehension and partial sight.
II. WHAT IS IT WHAT FURNISHES MATERIAL FOR SONG?
1. "He hath averaged the blood of his servants," etc. (Revelation 19:2.) This one expression, "the blood of his servants," carries with it a tale of fearful import. It would include:
(1) The blood of the millions slaughtered under the sanction of papal Rome.
(2) The blood of those put to death under paganism.
(3) The blood of those who have perished under the iniquities of the slave trade.
(4) The blood of those whose consciences and souls have been trampled on by mammon's greed. There are two sorts of feelings which may be cherished under these crying ills—that of angry revenge; that of a burning indignation at a moral outrage. The first is wrong, and has no place in this song; the second is right—yea, and not only right, but one which it would be wicked not to have. And when God arises in his strength to avenge the cause of the helpless, he would be unworthy the name of a man who would not rejoice over this.
2. "He hath judged the great harlot." This great harlot, Babylon, corrupted the earth. Whether the iniquity thus specified assumed the commercial or the ecclesiastical form, in either case it was a huge system of iniquity, of apostasy, whereby either "the priest" or "mammon" sat in the seat of God. The seventeenth chapter points to the former; the eighteenth chapter, to the latter. And surely when apostasy from God is exposed in all its ugliness, and branded with everlasting shame, that is enough to cause a mighty shout of joy to peal forth from the mighty host above. What has so often made pleasure a forbidden thing? Apostasy! What has befouled commerce? Apostasy! What has dragged the banner of science in the mud and the mire? Apostasy! What has made even religious forms a stumbling block and a shame? Apostasy! And surely it will be a festive day alike for earth and heaven when this gilded and bedizened demon shall be stripped exposed and slain.
3. The dew fall of so much evil is the prelude to the salvation. (Revelation 19:1, "The salvation … unto the Lord our God.") By this is meant not so much that aspect of salvation which belongs to the forgiveness of sins—that had been long ago enjoyed; but that which pertains to deliverance from the burden of evil in many and every form. After long and weary conflicts with iniquity, after seeming to be almost smothered with the weight of outside ungodliness, after the voice of the righteous was all but drowned in the confusion and roar of Babylon—then comes the deliverance! Their great foe is forever dead. "Alleluia!"
4. The Lord God hath taken the kingdom. (Revelation 19:6.) Hath showed himself to be King indeed, as he was before King by right of his enthronement in heaven; i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ, who now is exalted "a Prince and Saviour," shall then be acknowledged as King. And certainly the universal acknowledgment of Jesus as Lord may well call forth a shout of praise from all the blest in heaven!
5. The Church is prepared for her Lord. (Revelation 19:7, Revelation 19:8.) The Lord God will not only crush sin in the world, but will also purge it out of the Church; and all unclean rags of Babylon the great, some of which may be found in the purest Church on earth, shall be burnt up. "In fine linen, clean and white," the bride of Christ shall shine. In the seventh verse this is looked at from one point of view, and in the next verse from another. In the former, as an act of personal preparation for the appearing of the Bridegroom; and in the latter, as a grant from the grace of God. These are the two aspects of Divine truth which always coalesce—human effort and the grace of God.
6. The Lord cometh to claim his Church. "The marriage of the Lamb is come." These words, like many others with which we have met in the course of our expositions, overleap the intervening distance and events, and glance onwards to the outcome. The fall of Babylon will be one of the preliminaries to heaven's great bridal day! And then, then the mutual rejoicing! "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb." This is the festive scene which is descried in the distance, as that to which the evolution of things is pointing. It is sketched in Revelation 22:1-21. Between now and then are the binding and loosing of Satan, the victory over Gog and Magog—and after these things the New Jerusalem appears. And each incident as it occurs is a new pledge of the nearing of heaven's great triumphal feast. But we have not gone far enough yet in interpreting the spirit of this chapter. We have seen what we may call the momenta, of the joy—the items which furnish the material of it. We have yet to ask—
III. ON WHAT GROUNDS DOES THAT JOY REST WHICH THUS EXPRESSES ITSELF IN SONG? All these events which prompt the joy do so because they are, to the eye of renewed creatures, the expression and development of the infinite perfections of God. Here they see our God unveiling his purposes of grace. It is in him and in his holy will that all these events have their unity and their continuity. "The salvation, and the glory, and the honour … unto the Lord our God." Glancing over the paragraph, we find that there are no fewer than five different manifestations of the Divine perfections.
1. There is a manifestation of power. (Revelation 22:1.) The power belongs to God. In him is the origin of force; its eternal and exhaustless fount. Even when Babylon is at the height of its pride, he can hurl it down and cast it forever away. Is it not matter for infinite joy to know that evil is not strong enough to perpetuate itself? "Though thou make thy nest among the stars, from thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord."
2. There 's a manifestation of equtity. "He hath judged … he hath avenged" (Revelation 22:2). "He will render to every man according to his deeds."
3. There is a manifestation of grace. (Revelation 22:8.) "To her was granted"—as a free gift. It is the glory of the Divine sovereignty to enrich out of the aboundings of grace, and thus to do exceeding abundantly for us above all that we ask or think.
4. There is a manifestation of the Divine mercy. For he hath conferred salvation on those who were ready to perish; and hath, of his own pity to the unworthy, made them fair, though he found them foul.
5. There is a manifestation of faithfulness. Of faithful adhesion to all the promises; of perpetual continuation in faithful love to the bride whom he will come to claim as his own. This union is forever! The tie between the Redeemer and his redeemed shall never be dissolved, but shall outlive the "wreck of matter, and the crash of worlds."
Note: The one lesson which the unrolling ages teach us is—God. There is a profound truth hidden in pantheism, albeit it perverts the truth which alone gives it its plausibility. All events—in the town, the city, the empire, the world—are hastening on the unfolding of God, and writing new pages of that unfinished and unfinishable Name! Hence the deep meaning in the prophecy so oft repeated, "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." It is not in heaven that we shall find God; it is in the eternally unfolding manifestation of God that the righteous will find their heaven, and the theme for a song that will be ever new.
"King of kings, and Lord of lords."
In this paragraph we have a marvellously vivid sketch of a mighty conflict, in which the most high God, in the Person of his Son, goes forth to war and victory. Strange as it may seem to speak of God being engaged in a struggle, it is clear that what we call "good" is in the world with its legion forces, and that what is evil is also here. Both are at work. They are necessarily opposed. God must be on the side of good. Hence the war. Probably we have reason to believe that God could, if he pleased, terminate in a moment all that is opposed to his infinitely holy nature. But he does not see fit to do this. We do not know why, except as he tells us. It may be that in and by the conflict lessons are to he taught which otherwise could not be learnt. Any way, while this strife lasts, it is the Lord's controversy, which will be brought to an issue in "the battle of the great day of God Almighty." Not that we are to look for the literal fulfilment of such words in a material contest headed by the Messiah in person leading an army! No, no! nothing so sensuous. God's battle is a silent one. Its weapons are not carnal. Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh. The forces which have to be subdued are spiritual. Hence the war must be spiritual too. The forces which have to be subdued are:
(1) Worldly power and policy in every unrighteous form.
(2) False religious systems of every kind.
(3) Varied false and corrupt forms of Christianity itself.
(4) Sin and crime, whether open or secret.
These are the adverse forces which are sketched in this book. These are the evils which are manifest in the world. And it is against them that the mighty conflict is going on. But by whom it is to be headed, and to be so conducted that the victory is sure—what human intellect can solve the problem? what human foresight peer into the future? what human strength grapple with the foes? Woe be to us if the whole were left in human hands! But it is not so. The apostle sees heaven opened, and lo! he sees above, the Lord and Leader in this mighty conflict. Concerning him and it the paragraph gives us replies to five questions.
I. WHO IS THE LEADER, AND WHAT IS HIS NAME? This question receives here a threefold answer. Surely no student of Scripture can fail to see that here is a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ, although neither the personal nor the official name is given. But we are told:
1. He has a name which no one knoweth but he himself. There are aspects of his nature which are known to us, or it would be impossible to reverence and love him. But there are other aspects which to us are unknown. There are fathomless depths in his own infinite nature. "No one knoweth the Son but the Father."
2. He has a name which is known. A name which expresses at once his relation to God and to man. "His name is called The Word of God." This is the name in which the beloved apostle so much delights (John 1:1-5). The "Word;" the expression of thought. The Lord Jesus as "the Word" is the revealed expression of the mind of the invisible Father.
3. He hath also a title expressive of kingly authority, of supremacy over all earthly names—"King of kings, and Lord of lords." "All kings shall fall down before him." His monarchy shall put all else into the shade.
"The might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!"
II. WHAT ARE THE ATTRIBUTES OF THIS LEADER? They are such as absolutely to qualify him for the work here assigned to him.
1. His eyes are as a flame of fire. Here his omniscience is set forth as that which no sin, no sinner, can escape.
2. He is called Faithful. The Faithful One, in whom fidelity is embodied as its archetype, its source.
3. He is True. The Truth. The Substance. These attributes bespeak the almightiness and essential Godhead of the Son. Creatures have them partially and derivatively; he, infinitely and independently.
4. Equity, too, is his. "In righteousness he doth judge and make war." In the integrity of his sway there is no flaw. In the rectitude of his decisions there is no defect. These are the names and titles; these are the attributes by which he is distinguished. "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, and in thy majesty ride prosperously, because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness."
III. HOW DOTH HE APPEAR IN GOING FORTH TO WAR? The characteristics here specified are three.
1. He is seen on "a white horse." So at the opening of the first seal. The white horse being the emblem of dignity, and of the peaceful triumphs he was about to win. There, however, he went forth at the beginning of his triumphs. Here he is seen going forth to a decisive and final conflict.
2. He is "arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood." The question has been asked—Is the blood his own, or that of his foes? We reply—The symbolism is drawn from the responsive song in Isaiah 63:1-19., and we cannot question that here the blood intended is that of his foes. Not, of course, to be taken as otherwise than symbolic of the completeness of the victory he has achieved, having put all enemies beneath his feet.
3. On his head are many diadems. In allusion, perhaps, to the ancient custom of a conqueror wearing the diadems of the vanquished kings. If so, the figure is one of immense suggestiveness and power. The beast, or the ungodly world power, had seven heads—seven kings or kingdoms. Of these, at the time of the writing of the Apocalypse, five had fallen—Egypt, Assyria, Chaldea, Persia, Greece. Rome hath gone also since then. And as earthly crowns one by one are falling from kingly brows, he to whom the globe belongs shall bear the glory. The glory of Egypt is gone; but the men of Egypt shall rise again, and crown him Lord of all. So with other realms, empires, nations. All worldly glory must depart, to reappear no more, save as all honour gathers round his majestic brow. The world's crown is waiting for Jesus! From every nation, kindred, tribe, and tongue, men shall exclaim ―
"Take the kingdom, it is thine,
King of kings, and Lord of lords!"
IV. BY WHAT METHODS DOTH CHRIST BRING THIS ABOUT? Andrew Fuller remarks, "Christ's war is of a twofold kind—spiritual … and providential." This is true. And though we need not regard the symbolism of this passage as a complete indication of the methods of Christ, yet there are three methods specified here.
1. By the sword, which may signify
(1) judgment, and also
(2) the Word which goeth forth out of his mouth.
In fact, both (1) and (2) may blend as one, as the Word of his mouth is living and mighty, and sharper than any two-bladed sword; this is the rod of his strength. The "sword of the Spirit is the Word of God."
2. By the armies of heaven. Some take these to be the glorified saints; others, the angels. But seeing this is a vision of a conflict which is to take place on earth, it would seem to be more in accordance with the analogy of Scripture and with the nature of the case, to regard these armies as the friends of the Saviour, who, first redeemed by him, afterwards cooperate with him, going forth under his direction to pursue the holy war. Thus they may include
(1) believers on earth;
(2) departed saints;
(3) angels, who minister to the heirs of salvation.
These, these make up the glorious armies of heaven. All who are working and warring for God are now enrolled therein, "clothed in fine linen, white and clean."
3. By stern and terrible judgments. Surely nothing less than this can be intended by the expression (Isaiah 63:15), "He treadeth the wine press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God." Judgment is God's strange work. But when it comes, it will be terrible. "That great and terrible day of the Lord."
V. WHAT ARE THE ISSUES OF THIS MIGHTY CONFLICT? (Isa 63:17 -21). These may be grouped around four of the figures employed in the text—the sword, the wine press, the rod of iron, the lake of fire. All images of terror, because the theme in hand is the Divine triumph over sin; and righteousness must often—perhaps always—have an aspect of terror with reference to sin. Hence the apparent severity of the symbolism. Infinitely pure love must be severe upon sin. Sinners may be renewed; sin must be expelled. Enemies may be reconciled; enmity cannot. And it is sin itself, as the foe alike of God and man, that is ultimately to be put to shame; and so must all who strive against God, and in final impenitence reject his grace. By the sword of judgment they will be smitten down. As grapes are crushed in the wine press, so will the enemies of God and the right be crushed. With a rod of iron shall they be ruled and be utterly powerless to resist when he riseth up in his day of final conflict. "The God of peace will bruise Satan under our feet shortly;" "He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet." Babylon hath already fallen. Next, the first beast is captured and thrown into the lake of fire; the second beast likewise, and they that worship his image. And thus one by one the foes are falling, till all things shall be subdued unto him. The whole creation will acknowledge the equity of the Great Supreme, and whether in joy or terror will own that Jesus Christ is Lord. Then, then the enemy shall be still as a stone. Temptation shall have sped forever. "Alleluia! Alleluia! the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth." Thus have we traced in outline the sketch which the Holy Ghost by the apostle's pen hath given us, of the great Destroyer of evil as he is now enthroned in glory, preparing to overturn, and overturn, and overturn, till he shall come, in the glory of his majesty and might, and claim the kingdom as his own. "What shall we then say to these things?" Note:
1. How great is the mercy that heaven hath been "opened "for us to have such visions! We are not left to the adventurous flights of human speculation nor to the curious varieties of human guessing, nor even to the devout aspirations of philanthropic zeal. However decidedly any or all of these might tend in one direction, they could not—even if they all coincided—give us solid ground on which to rest. But here, here we have a firm rock on which we stand; here we fix our hopes; here we cast anchor; nor can our vessel ever be drifted from her mooring. "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." And however we may have been disheartened by the tangled maze and troubled aspect of this world's affairs, when we ponder over such visions as these, our hope revives. In him who is the Word of God, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, we see an amplitude of wisdom and a plenitude of power. In the blood-stained robes we see marks of a conflict already encountered, and pledges of a victory already secured. For such a Leader no mazes of evil can be too complex, no massing of power too strong. "Alleluia!"
2. The vision shows us the grandeur of the strife between good and evil. When the everlasting Son of the Father takes it up as his own cause, it assumes new dignity. In an ancient battle it inspired God's people when they were told, "The battle is not yours, but God's;" and since that which was true in a material conflict cannot be less so in a spiritual one, we may well draw a holy inspiration for our contest with sin, in the thought that the King of kings, and Lord of lords, is the sole Leader in the fight. His honour is engaged. He hath it in trust from the Father to put down evil, and to gather home the redeemed. "In righteousness doth he make war!" Never was there such a holy war, never one on which such stupendous issues hung, as that one with which we are asked to identify ourselves.
3. It is an act of great condescension that, in going forth with his armies, our Saviour deigns to make use of human instrumentality. He would use us. He commands us to enter his army.
(1) Some are engaged on his side. And they find it their noblest joy and their highest honour to cooperate with their redeeming Lord. Let them not forget the garb in which the Saviour's hosts go forth—"clothed in fine linen, white and clean."
(2) Some there are who have not yet openly espoused the Saviour's cause. Let such remember that there are only two sides. "He that is not against us is for us;" here is what Vinet called "the tolerance of the gospel." "He that is not with me is against me;" here is what the same writer called "the intolerance of the gospel." Christ allows no neutrality. We are either siding with the armies of heaven or with the worshippers of the beast and his image. But let us remember that just in proportion to the severity of the defeat which awaits us if we are on the wrong side, is the greatness of the joy which will attend us if, through the Holy Spirit's grace, we are won over to the side of Jesus. We go not a warfare at our own charges. We shall be well equipped for the most perilous expedition and the longest marches, and also furnished with wisdom and strength for the severest fight. And if we could but cause men to see the glory of the conflict, instead of having to plead with them to side with Jesus, the pleading would be heard from their side that they might have the privilege of fighting in the holy war!
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
The triumph of the redeemed.
When Handel wrote the "Hallelujah Chorus" he endeavoured, so he said, to picture to himself what the great gladness of the glorified must be. He rightly and reverently sought—and, it seems to us, sought not in vain—to imagine the whole scene as it is recorded here. And it is good for us to muse much on a scene like this. It is a veritable sursum corda for poor sin and sorrow laden men such as we are. It helps us to obey the word, "Be not weary nor faint in your minds." Let us, then, observe—
I. TO WHOM THIS TRIUMPH IS ASCRIBED. The "Alleluia" and all the resonant rejoicing praise is "unto the Lord our God." When we consider who join in this praise, we shall see amongst them many who were eminent in service, who did heroic work for Christ and his cause—prophets, apostles, martyrs, and ministers of God of all degrees. They had not stinted their toil, nor grudged aught they could do and be for their Lord; but not to them, not even to the greatest, is the praise of heaven ascribed, but all "unto the Lord our God." There and then will it be seen, as it is not now, how insignificant in comparison with his work was that of any of his servants, and how even that was only in his strength. This vision, therefore, endorses our Saviour's words, "When ye have done all, say, We are unprofitable servants."
II. BY WHOM. A goodly company is presented to our view. For:
1. "Much people in heaven" were seen by St. John, and he heard the "great voice" of their united praise. And as they beheld the proof of their ancient adversary's utter overthrow, in that "the smoke" of the fire by which his city was consumed "rose up forever and ever," then their praise burst forth again: "and again they said, Alleluia" (verse 3).
2. And next, the representatives of the whole Church of God, "the twenty-four elders," and the representatives of the creation of God, "the four living creatures"—join in this praise, and prostrating themselves worship him, saying, "Amen; Alleluia."
3. Then is heard "the voice of a great multitude" (verse 6), and the sound of their praise was as vast in volume and force as that of the many waters of the much-resounding sea, or the deep reverberating thunders which roll amidst the clouds of heaven. Blessed it is to see the great throng of those who render this praise; let us be thankful for the multitude of the saved, but mindful, too, that not one was there, whether small or great, but were "servants" of God, and feared him.
III. How. The words which express their gratitude and joy are worthy of our careful heed.
1. Alleluia. Here alone in the New Testament is this word found, where it is repeated four times. It is borrowed from the Psalms, of which fifteen either begin or end with "Hallelujah." In Psalms 104:35 it is first found, and allusion seems to be made here to that passage. "The sinners shall be consumed from the earth, and the wicked shall be no more. Praise the Lord, O my soul. Hallelujah." Thus in the dark times of old the Church sustained her faith by these holy songs, and now the redeemed in heaven, having realized what then was but hoped for, lift again their "Hallelujah." The praises of earth are prophetic of and preparatory to the praises of heaven.
2. Then comes the ascription to the Lord of salvation. It is meant to affirm that salvation is of the Lord. There had been times when their faith faltered and well nigh rafted amid the darkness and distress of their earthly lot. But now they know and they acknowledge that salvation is of the Lord. And of him only. It is all due to him.
3. Glory. Of this, too, there had at one time been sad misgiving. For the cause of God seemed to be everywhere suffering defeat. The world seemed everywhere to win, and the Name of God to be held in contempt. The glory did not seem to belong to God, but to some other. But now all doubt was gone. The glory was the Lord's. His foes had made war with him, but had suffered complete overthrow at his hands.
4. Power. This also was now evidently the Lord's. Sometimes it had seemed as if the might and malice of the devil were too strong to be overcome. But now it was certain. "Salvation, and glory, and power belong to our God." And all this they repeat, and with them the elders and the living creatures unite. Thus in innumerable throng, with loud acclaim and with deepest, holiest love, they render praise to the Lord, to whom they owe their all, and to whom, therefore, all praise is due. Let us listen to this glorious praise, this heavenly hallelujah, and learn to doubt our doubts and deny our denials; learn that salvation is of the Lord, and glory and power likewise, however much our unbelieving hearts may question and fear and faint.
IV. WHEREFORE. A threefold cause is given.
1. The judgment of the harlot city. For
(1) she had made others sin; she had corrupted the earth with her abomination. She had, by her emissaries, spread her deadly influence far and wide, poisoning the springs of life, making them fountains of evil and sin. Ah, how differently we judge here on earth! If a bad, depraved, vicious man—a corrupter of youth, a poisoner of men's moral life—live amongst us, and he be but wealthy as this harlot was, and has, like her, pleasing and attractive manners, we condone his wickedness and make all manner of excuse for his sins. But not so with the saints of God. And
(2) she had shed the blood of God's saints. Those who were the salt of the earth she had put out of the way; those who were the light of the world she had ruthlessly extinguished as far as she could. They who would have been as breakwaters, buffeting back the inrushing floods of sin, she put to death. All her power had gone to make earth like hell. That such a one should be judged was indeed good cause for heaven's hallelujahs. Have we sympathy with such joy? Would the like reason excite in us like delight? Do we hate such as Heaven hates, such as this harlot was and is evermore?
2. The marriage of the Lamb. (Psalms 104:7.) Marriage festivals are ever, and rightly, regarded as joyous seasons if the marriage be worthy of the name. How much more, then, the marriage, the consummation of the union betwixt Christ and his Church! There is joy on account of the Bridegroom. The bride he has so long and truly loved he possesses at last. "He that hath the bride is the Bridegroom." But, long ere this, this Bridegroom had sought his bride, had loved her from the first, had shed his blood to save her. But he had a formidable rival. Another suitor sought his bride, and endeavoured by every beguilement to win her for himself. The world wooed her, and sometimes it seemed as if it had really won her. But at length the Bridegroom told of here won her heart. That was at length fully, freely given, so that when he asked, "Lovest thou me?" the answer came back, "Lord, thou knowest that I love thee." But with all this love she was not yet ready for her Lord. And the preparation was a long process. But her Lord waited for her patiently; visiting her often in her earthly home, loading her with tokens of his love; and at length, dearer to him than ever, she stands at his side, for the marriage day is come. May not the friends of the Bridegroom rejoice on his account? And there is joy because of the bride. That she should have been led to give her heart to One so worthy; that she should have been chosen by him who was so worthy, when she herself was so unworthy; oh, what wondrous happiness was that for such as she was! And now that she should be deemed worthy, and through his grace be worthy. And that at last, made ready, she should stand by his side to whom her heart has been so long given, and know now that they can never be separated any more. No wonder, then, when we remember who the bride is, and who the Bridegroom, that at this marriage there is great joy. The union of Christ and his Church, which has of necessity been so imperfect and interrupted here, now perfected forever. Well may the bride put on the lustrous linen raiment, white and glistering in the sheen of its exquisite beauty, and the symbol of the purity and righteousness with which she had been spiritually endowed! For:
3. The preparation of the bride is named as another spring of the heavenly joy. "His wife hath made herself ready." But never could she have done this had it not been "granted to her" to array herself in the bright and pure spiritual raiment which became her marriage dress. So that it is both true that the Church makes herself ready for Christ, and that it is Christ who makes her ready. But for him she could not make herself ready, and without her consenting heart he will not make her so. She works out her own salvation, because he worketh in her both to will and to do. But no matter how the blessed work has been accomplished, there is the unspeakably joyful fact that it is accomplished. His wife is "ready." The vision is yet future. The robing of the redeemed, the making ready of the bride, is yet going on. This is the meaning of all our disciplines and trials, of all the pleadings of God's Spirit, of all the means of grace which we are bidden employ, of all the strain and toil of heart which we often have to bear; it is all the making "ready" of the bride. But when it is all complete for all the redeemed, all done that had to be done, all borne that had to be borne, and God shall have wiped away all tears from off all faces—that, too, may well call forth, as it assuredly will, another of the hallelujahs of heaven. See to it that we are present at that marriage; for "blessed are they which are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb."—S.C.
The "linen" of Scripture.
"For the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." There are highways and byways of the Bible. Many think they have exhausted the Scriptures when they have traversed the King's highway. But there are, as many a delighted traveller has found, byways less known, and far less frequented paths, which yield up to the explorer knowledge and beauty and good which they were ignorant of before. The land of Scripture is a glorious land. There is no region upon earth, however endowed with well nigh all forms and possibilities of the beautiful, that can compare, for variety and sublimity, for loveliness and richness, to the Word of God. But whilst we may be familiar with its main features, if we will be at the pains to search out its less-trodden paths and its hidden nooks and corners—if we may so speak,—it is wonderful what fresh interest and instruction may be often gained. Now, one of those more diligent searchers of the Bible (B. W. Newton) has noted the fact that there are three different kinds of linen spoken of in Scripture, and that the vestments made from them were worn on specific and appointed occasions; so that each kind of linen had its religious significance. Let us try and see what that was. Now, of this familiar fabric there were three different kinds.
1. The ordinary material, which gives the name to all varieties of it. The Greeks translated the Hebrew word and called it λίνον, as we also call it. Now, in four books of the Bible this common and inferior variety of linen is referred to. In Leviticus, twice.
(1) When the priest is renewing the fire upon the altar, that it may not go out (Le Leviticus 6:10). He comes in the early morning, gathers up the ashes, etc. In doing this he was to wear a particular dress made of this linen.
(2) On the great Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:1-34.), Aaron and his sons are not to be arrayed in their "garments of glory and beauty," but in their plainest attire. Hence they were to put on vestments of this linen. In Ezekiel (Ezekiel 9:2, Ezekiel 9:3, Ezekiel 9:11; Ezekiel 10:2, Ezekiel 10:6, Ezekiel 10:7), where the vision of Jerusalem's coming desolation is given. Ezekiel sees a man with an ink horn by his side, who is in company with five others. Their mission is to execute God's vengeance; his, to report of it. Now, this man is dressed in this linen. Six times (see verses given) attention is called to this fact. In Daniel (Daniel 10:5), where a similar vision is recorded, the Divine messenger is dressed in like manner, and foretells the judgments of God. Then, in Revelation 15:6, "the seven angels, having the seven last plagues," are arrayed in this linen.
2. Then there is a second and superior kind of this fabric, and of this we have a twofold mention. It is distinguished from the former by being called "fine linen," or "fine twisted linen." It was made not merely of a finer thread, but was composed of six threads twisted, and therefore called "fine twined linen." Now, this fabric formed the vestments of the chief and other priests when arrayed in their "garments of glory and beauty" (Exodus 39:27). Then it was used also (Exodus 26:1) for the hangings of the tabernacle, in the most holy place. There were ten of these, all made of this fine twined linen.
3. And there is a third and choicest kind of all, and to this we have several references. It was a most costly fabric, and of such fine and skilful manufacture that its whiteness came to have a "glistering," a bright and dazzling, appearance. It was of great value, and used only by monarchs and the very wealthy, or upon great occasions. As
(1) when David brought up the ark to Jerusalem from the house of Obed-edom, he was clothed, so we read (1 Chronicles 15:27), in a robe of this magnificent texture. There was a splendid procession, and all the tokens of the gladness and triumph which filled the hearts of king, people, and priests. David "danced before the Lord," thus vested in royal and priestly array.
(2) At the dedication of the temple by Solomon (2 Chronicles 5:12) the priests were similarly arrayed.
(3) So in Mordecai's triumph (Esther 8:15), there were put upon him royal apparel of blue and white, a great crown of gold, and a garment of fine linen. Now, our version, neither in the Old Testament nor in the New, ever distinguishes this most beautiful fabric from the others named above; but both in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures it is clearly defined by the use of an entirely different word.
(4) In our Lord's transfiguration, he was seen by the three disciples in raiment "white and glistering." This is probably an allusion to the known appearance of that rare and costly fabric of which we are now speaking.
(5) Finally, in our text, it is again named as the raiment of the redeemed. Now, on all these observe:
(a) That in each case there is an essential oneness. That which was worn was in substance the same in all. It was "linen, white and clean," which was on the priest when tending the altar fire, and on the Day of Atonement, as truly as when arrayed in their pontificals, their garments of glory and beauty, or as in the hangings of the most holy place. And so, too, in the raiment of the redeemed. It is essentially the same in all. Different in texture, but one in substance.
(b) When any particular form of this fabric is spoken of, it is always connected with one class of circumstances. The first is always associated with the ideas of sorrow, sin, judgment (cf. supra). The second, with the idea of God's gracious acceptance. The priest is arrayed in garments of glory and beauty, to symbolize the honour and joy which are his as God's accepted priest. And in the tabernacle hangings the same idea is set forth. The third, with glad triumph and glory won (cf. instances). Therefore inquire—
I. WHAT IS TAUGHT BY THE ESSENTIAL ONENESS OF THE FABRIC IN ALL ITS FORMS? In all there is the "linen, white and clean." This, therefore, tells of the common and essential qualification of all believers—to be clothed with righteousness. And as it is "put on," something not inherent, but external, it shadows forth the righteousness which is ours in Christ, "who is made unto us Righteousness," who is "the Lord our Righteousness." Every one of us, in whatever stage of the Christian career—at its beginning or at its consummation has his acceptance not in himself, but in Christ. He is "all and in all." "Him first, him midst, him last, and without end." That is the declaration of Scripture, of conscience, of right reason, of Christ's people always and everywhere, and of this symbol of the" linen, white and clean."
II. WHAT BY ITS VARIETIES? They tell of the different circumstances in which the believer is found.
1. The first tells of him as conscious of sin. He is a believer, a saved soul—his raiment proven that; but when conscious of sin, garments of glory and beauty would be out of place.
(1) Thus, when conscious of sin's magnitude and amount, as on the annual Day of Atonement, when Israel was commanded "to afflict their souls," the priests were to wear these vestments. And so before the altar, as the believer before the cross.
(2) Or of sin's awful consequences. See Ezekiel; Daniel; seven angels (cf. supra). There, again, this raiment. Yes, if we be Christ's, we shall often, daily, in our hours of confession and penitential prayer, be thus vested spiritually. But this not "the sorrow of the world," but that "godly sorrow" which worketh eternal life.
2. The second, as conscious of Christ. He is not only accepted, but conscious of it. Hence he wears the "garments of glory and beauty." It was fitting the priest should; it is fitting that we, when realizing that we are Christ's and he ours, should in heart be vested thus. The symbolic "fine linen" clothed his limbs, the seat of his strength; was in the most holy place; was worn as a fair mitre upon his head; all this telling how his daily life, his approaches to God, his intercessions for others, were accepted of God. May not a man's heart sing for joy, may he not spiritually put on this "fine linen," when he knows that he and all he does is accepted of the Lord?
3. As possessed of eternal glory. The source of his blessedness still the same, but now he realizes all he had anticipated. And, moreover, the righteousness which it was given him to put on has become a righteousness in him, and has developed in "righteous acts;" for so the Revised Version renders our text: "The fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." It would be false to Scripture, to conscience, and to fact, to teach that all the righteousness needed for the bride of the Lamb is one that is put on as a vestment. No; it is one formed within also, and expressed in "righteous acts"—in that "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord."
Would we wear that splendid vestment at the last? Then see to it that we wear the plain one now.—S.C.
The four names of Christ.
There were three great enemies of Christ and his Church, each of which have been told of in the previous chapters of this book—the dragon, the first beast, and the second beast, or the false prophet. In the immediately foregoing chapters we have had told the destruction that came upon them that worshipped the beast. Generally upon them all by the outpouring of the seven vials; and then, more particularly, upon the city Babylon, which was the seat and centre of the authority of the beast. Then there came the vision of the blessed in heaven—a vision once and again given in this book, to reassure those on earth that, amid all the awful judgments of God upon their enemies, they, his faithful witnessing people here upon earth, should not be, were not, forgotten. Their bright, blessed condition in the presence of God is what is shown them for their comfort, their hope, their strength. That cheering vision having been given, the awful judgments upon the beast and the false prophet are next shown. We see the Lord summoning his armies, his eyes flashing in anger, the diadems on his head, the crimson vesture, the sharp sword, and the four names emblazoned thereon. Probably St. John had in view some near catastrophe on the enemies of the Church of his day, which supplies the groundwork of this vision. Or, as some affirm, the heathen nations who were slain, not so much by awful war as by the sword of the Spirit, and ceased to be heathen, and became Christian. For the kings—these say—are the heathen Goths, Vandals, and the rest who invaded the empire everywhere and destroyed Rome, but who soon became Christian and were received into the Church. Or, it may be, that the vision is all for the future. Who can tell? But the names of Christ, as here given, are for all time, and are full of instruction and help.
I. THE "FAITHFUL AND TRUE." (Verse 11.) So was he:
1. In avenging his people. This is the thought suggested to those for whom St. John wrote. And so will he ever be.
2. In carrying out his purposes. It mattered not who or what withstood.
3. The past proves the righteousness of this name. His prophecies have been fulfilled. His promises made good. His precepts owned as just. Whoever disputes a verdict he has given? Who does not feel that, when he has spoken, the last word, be the subject what it may, has been said, and that there is nothing more to be said?
II. THE UNKNOWN NAME. (Verse 12, "And he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.") It was a written name, but illegible, incomprehensible, to all but himself. The names advance in majesty. "Faithful and True"—that is an august name, but it cannot be said to be incomprehensible, and known to none but himself. Glory be to him that we do know him by that name, and that the name is rightly his. But now the ineffable nature of the Son of God seems to be suggested. "Who by searching can find out God?" Christ is more than all our thought, than all we have understood or have imagined. In him are "unsearchable riches." Who knows what is the relation between him and the Father, and what the nature of the union in him of humanity and God? Who can understand the profound philosophy of the atonement, the Incarnation, the Resurrection? "No man knoweth the Son but the Father"—so said our Lord; and this unknown name, written, though not read, endorses that sublime saying. And do we wonder that we cannot understand? Why, this we fail to do even with our fellow men if they be of higher nature than our own. Let us be glad and grateful that, whatever riches of grace and glory we have already known, there is an inexhaustible fountain and an unsearchable store yet remaining. And now a name more majestic still is given.
III. "THE WORD OF GOD." (Verse 13.) This name refers to that "Word of God which is … sharper than," etc. (Hebrews 4:12). Also it points back to his name as given in John 1:1, "The Word, which in the beginning was with God, and was God." For the Word is the expression of the inner thought. And so Christ declares the mind of God; he is "the heart of God revealed." Hence "he who hath seen the Son hath seen the Father." Now, all this is true, or else he is what we would not even say. Si non Dens, non bonus—so of old was it argued, and so it must be still. The doctrine declared by this name is, therefore, of infinite importance. All our conceptions of Christ, all our hope, all our salvation, depend on it. If he be not the very Word of God, then we have no Saviour and no hope. The last of these names is—
IV. "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." (John 1:16.) It is the battle of the ten kings against him to which he is on his way when St. John beholds him (verses 18, 19). And now on his vesture and on the scabbard of his sword—"on his thigh"—are emblazoned these majestic words, this title prophetic of victory for himself and those with him, but of utter defeat to those who dared to oppose him. But how blessed to humanity at large is this name and the fact that it declares! Vast is the power that monarchs wield, and—alas, that it should be so!—bad is the use that most of them have made of it. And so the days of kingship are—it is said—numbered. But there may be worse depositaries of power even than kings, seeing that others called by lowlier names have used it not much better. But it is blessed to know that, let kings and rulers do and be what they may, our Lord is "King of kings, and," etc. Meanwhile
(1) see that he rules in us;
(2) take the rich comfort there is in these names.—S.C.
The coronation of the Saviour.
"On his head were many crowns." We know whose head is meant. It was "the head that once was crowned with thorns;" the head that was once pillowed on a human mother's breast; the head that "had not where," during the days of his earthly ministry, "to lay" itself down to rest; the head that once and again was a fountain of tears because of man's sorrow and man's sin; the head that was beaten and spit upon by his enemies; the head that was bound about by the linen wrappings of the tomb; the head that was "bowed" when on the cross "he gave up the ghost;"—on that head St. John saw in vision "many crowns." To see desert rewarded, especially when the deserving has been conspicuous, marked by great toil, great self sacrifice, great suffering, great purity, great love, and great good gained for those for whom all this was borne—to see such deserving duly recompensed is ever a real joy. What, then, must be the believer's joy to see on his Lord's head the many crowns which tell of his reward! The figure is taken from the ancient diadem, which consisted of many circlets, or bands, the whole forming one crown, though consisting of many diadems, Now, it is given to us not only to rejoice in, but to add to, these many crowns; and that we may be roused to a holy ambition thus to minister to our Saviour's glory, let us consider these "many crowns." And—
I. THOSE THAT ARE NOT OF EARTH.
1. The heavenly crown. What glorious scenes does this book present to us of the palace and court of heaven, and of him who is the Centre and Sovereign of it, "Lord of lords, and King of kings"! Have we not had shown to us the adoration of the Lamb? All these, love, worship, and obey.
2. He is Sovereign of death. "I," said he, "have the keys of hell and of death." By this is meant that all that unseen world where the departed are owns him as its King. He "openeth, and no man shutteth; he shutteth, and no man openeth." Blessed thought! they who have left us went only at his bidding, and they have gone where he is Lord.
3. Hell is beneath his feet. It did its best and worst to defeat and to destroy him, but in vain. When he was but a Babe, hell put it into the heart of Herod to seek to kill him. When he went forth to his ministry, he was forty days and forty nights tempted of the devil. During that ministry hell assailed him, now with blandishments, now with terror. At last the powers of hell had their way, and Jesus was hung up and crucified. And he entered the shades of death. But it was "not possible that he should be holden" of the grave. He broke through its power, and overcame its sharpness, and opened the kingdom of heaven, which hell would have shut, to all believers. And by virtue of his great atonement Satan has received a "deadly wound," is fallen, is doomed, is "reserved unto the judgment of the great day." And the lien, the hold, that hell had on humanity, Christ has destroyed by his death, which, though not a ransom paid to Satan—as the ancient Church long thought—was, nevertheless, effectual as a ransom, opening the prison doors and setting at liberty them that were bound. Yes, Christ has this crown also—iron crown though it be—amid his many crowns.
II. THOSE OF HEAVEN AND EARTH COMBINED. By these we mean his mediatorial crown, by which he becomes the King of grace. For he united heaven and earth. He was the true Ladder set upon earth, but whose top reached to the heaven, and upon which the angels of God ascend and descend. So he himself explained the vision of Jacob at Bethel. And in his nature he was Son of man and Son of God; born of Mary, and yet" in the beginning was with God, and was God." "The Word was made flesh." Thus has he become the "one Mediator between God and man." In his hand, there-lore, is the bestowal of all grace. Whatever I need I can turn to him to give to me. Pardon, peace, holiness, heaven—all are in him for his people. He is my very Brother as well as my Lord, Friend as well as Sovereign. His is the mediatorial crown.
III. THOSE OF EARTH.
1. The material earth owns him her Sovereign. By him "the worlds were made." He sustains them in all their orderly course. "By him all things consist." He directs and governs by his unerring laws all their movements. His miracles showed his sovereignty over nature. "What manner of Man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!"
2. But especially does he wear the crown of sovereignty in regard to man.
(1) Even those who say, "We will not have this Man to reign over us," though they may be suffered for a while to slight his authority, yet will one day own that "his are all their ways;" that it is "in him they live, and move, and have their being." "To him every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess." God has placed that crown upon his head.
(2) But especially is he the crowned King of his Church. Redeemed, saved, men delight to "crown him Lord of all." All they who know his love—and what an ever growing multitude they are!—"old men and maidens, young men and children," all ages, ranks, and conditions of men, for that they each and all have some special knowledge of his grace, are eager to crown him with their love. Myriads of children transplanted in infancy from this drear, desert world to the fair garden of heaven; sufferers so sustained that they could rejoice even in tribulation; great workers for him who could do all things, and did all they did, through his strength; hoary age, to whom he gave light at eventide;—but what a throng is there of those whose love would add yet another to the many crowns of their Lord! Have we none to lay at his feet, to place on his head? None, though forgiven; none, though his Spirit dwells within us; none, though his home waits for us? Enthrone him in thy heart, crown him there, for that is his desire.—S. C.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The bride of Christ.
"After these things"—the overpoweringly impressive vision just granted to the holy seer—a song as "of a great multitude in heaven" breaks upon the ear. it is a song of praise to God, ascribing to him the "salvation" wrought out for his people, and the "glory" of that salvation, and the "power" by which it has been accomplished—a song of praise for his "true and righteous judgments" upon "the great harlot," and the avenging of "the blood of his servants at her hand." And again and again loud "Hallelujahs" follow. The song is from the heavenly multitude rejoicing over the destruction of the kingdom and power of evil, and in its chorus is heard the voice of the universal Church represented by "the elders," and of the whole creature life by "the four living creatures." Now a voice is heard "from the throne" calling upon all the "servants" of the Lord, "the small and the great," to "give praise to our God." Then is heard the voice—a mighty voice—as "of a great multitude, as the voice of many waters, as the voice of mighty thunders." It is still a song of triumph and a song of praise—"Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth." He has laid low his adversaries. He has taken to himself his mighty power. Babylon licks the dust. As a consummation, the song bursts into a marriage song. The undying relation of Christ to his Church is herein anticipated; and our thought rests on the final blessedness of the Church as the bride of Christ. This condition is coincident with the destruction of the kingdom of evil. The harlotry of evil is at an end. The pure love of the pure and faithful bride, and her joyful union with the Lamb, form the antithetical idea.
I. THE CHURCH'S FINAL BLESSEDNESS IS FOUND IN AN INDISSOLUBLE UNION WITH CHRIST. It is a union that never loses sight of the redemption that is by Christ Jesus. He is ever, in the Church's view, "the Lamb." Hitherto the union has been by faith, and subject to all the fluctuations of the frail heart. Now the bond is indissoluble. It is eternal. It is a marriage which no death occurs to dissolve.
II. FOR THIS THE CHURCH IS PREPARED BY SANCTITY AND FIDELITY. The sanctity is seen in that she "hath made herself ready." She is arrayed in "fine linen, bright and pure," which symbolizes at once the pure spirit and faithful service: "the righteous acts of the saints."
III. THE ULTIMATE BLESSEDNESS OF THE SAINTS IS THE OCCASION OF JOY TO ALL. "Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb." They who sang loud "Hallelujahs" because the harlot was judged now find a spring of new blessedness in the purity, triumph, and felicity of the faithful saints—the bride, the Lamb's wife.—R.G.
The holy war.
There now opens to our view another scene of warfare. It is brief, comprehensive, and decisive. It is a view of the heavenlies. The conflict is between the heavenly and the earthly powers. It is a "representation of the conquest of the kingdoms to Christ, which, like all his conquests, is accomplished by the power of the truth, wielded by a faithful Church, and rendered efficacious by the power of his Spirit."
I. THE COMBATANTS ARE DISTINCTLY BROUGHT TO VIEW, These are:
1. One called "Faithful and True"—"the Word of God." He is distinguished by symbols which indicate his Divine power and authority. He is "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." His visage corresponds to earlier descriptions: "his eyes are a flame of fire;" "on his head are many diadems;" his name is unknown but to himself; his garment is sprinkled with blood; from his mouth proceeds a sharp sword; his feet wend the wine press of the Divine wrath; he is seated on a white horse.
2. He leads forth an army also upon white horses, and clothed in "fine linen, white and pure" Thus is represented the Divine Captain, the Lord Jesus, leading forth his faithful ones to do battle against sin in its various guises.
3. On the other hand is represented the contending foes: "the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies." Against these Christ and his faithful Church wage war: war against sin—foul, filthy sin—"the beast;" and against all the spirit of error and untruth, "the false prophet;" and against all the powers of evil which by them inspired domineer over the life of men, and they wage war against whatever stands in opposition to the idea of "the Christ"—the King set upon the holy hill, of whom the psalmist sings. They are the enemies, the "foes" of David's Son and Lord, which shall be made his "footstool."
II. THE CONFLICT IS NOT DELINEATED. It has been already, and abundantly. We are to see in it all the contention long continued between the diverse elements, light and darkness, truth and error, righteousness and sin, Christ and Belial, the judgment of human conduct by the true standard of right, the life of Christ. This is the struggle now going forward.
III. THE ISSUE IS A VICTORIOUS CONQUEST GAINED BY CHRIST AND HIS ARMY OVER ALL THE POWER OF THE ENEMY. "The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet." Their destruction is complete and final. They are cast alive, as in their activity, into a "lake of fire that burneth with brimstone."
IV. THE INSTRUMENT OF WARFARE SUFFICIENTLY INDICATES THE NATURE OF THE STRIFE. In a few words is indicated the nature of the weapons (weapon), and so the nature of the strife. He smites the nations with the sword which proceeded out of his mouth: "The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." With this only weapon the "rest are killed."
V. THE FINAL JOY OF ALL in the ascendency of the truth is indicated in the gathering of the fowls of the air to the supper of the great God, called by an angel standing where all can see—in the sun.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
The Eternal in the universe, and his Representative to man.
"And after these things I heard a great voice of much people," etc. "Babylon" in this book I take as the symbol of moral evil on this earth, or, in other words, of all that is corrupt in human life. From its establishment on this globe, it has been "falling." It is "failing" now, and will continue to fall until its mighty mountain shall become a plain, and there will be found "no place" for it. In the preceding chapter the effect of its fall was seen. How the bad howled lamentations! and how the good shouted its jubilations! Looking at this chapter, not as a verbal critic, a prophetic interpreter, or as a sensuous pietist, but as a practical man, it suggests and portrays to me the Eternal in the universe, and his Representative to man. We have here—
I. A SYMBOLIC ASPECT OF THE ETERNAL IN THE UNIVERSE. How does he appear here? As receiving the highest worship. "After these things I heard [as it were] a great voice of much people [a great multitude] in heaven, saying, Alleluia," etc.
1. The worship was widely extensive—"much people," "elders" (Revelation 19:1-3), "beasts," "small and great," "a great multitude." In this worship, the "four and twenty elders," the representatives of the sainted dead who have reached the heavenly state, and the "four beasts" [living creatures], unfallen spirits through all ages and worlds, all these unite in the one grand "Alleluia," "Praise our God [give praise to our God]." Worship is the vital breath and inspiration of all holy intelligences. On the Eternal their eyes are fixed with supreme adoration, and their hearts with intensest love turned in impressive devotion.
2. The worship was supremely deserved. "True and righteous are his judgments" (Revelation 19:2). He is true and righteous, absolutely so in himself is he. "He is light, and in him is no darkness at all." Not one dark thought has ever passed through his infinite intellect, not one sentiment of evil has ever ruffled the immeasurable sea of his emotionality. The Father of lights is he; all the beams of holy thoughts and ideas stream from him, as rays from the central sun of immensity.
"O holy Sire, O holy Sire,
Sole Fount of life and light!
Thou art the uncreated Fire.
Burning in every pure desire
Of all who love the right."
Not only is he absolutely "true and righteous" in himself, but it is suggested that he is so in his procedure against the wrong. "He hath judged the great whore [harlot], which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath [he hath] avenged the blood of his servants at her hand" (Revelation 19:2). This "great whore" stands, I think, the same as Babylon, for the moral evil in the world. Her description is given in Revelation 17:1-18. It suggests and illustrates three great evils in the world:
(1) Political subserviency;
(2) worldly tendency; and
(3) religious intolerance.
Is he not "true and righteous" in crushing such a moral monster, such a curse to the earth, so that her "smoke rose [goeth] up forever and ever" (Revelation 17:3), which means utter destruction? Now, were he not "true and righteous," both in himself and in his procedure, who could worship him? Moral mind is so constituted, that to worship the false and the wrong would be an impossibility. You may urge me to do so with the threat of eternal damnation, but I could not bow my knee to such; nor ought I, if I could. But the worship of an immaculate God meets the moral cravings of my soul, and brings out all the faculties of my nature in harmonious play and rapturous delight.
3. The worship was intensely enthusiastic. "Alleluia," "Praise our God," etc. "In the present episode," says Moses Stuart, "trichotomy as usual is plainly discernible. In the first division, all the inhabitants of the heavenly world are represented as uniting in a song of triumph and of thanksgiving on account of the righteous judgments of God which are about to be inflicted (Revelation 17:1-4). In the second, a voice from the throne in heaven speaks, and requires of all his servants everywhere, renewed praise, which accordingly is shouted (Revelation 17:5-8). In the third, a glorious prospect of suffering martyrs is disclosed. They will be guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb; the Church is indeed the Lamb's bride, and the exaltation of the Messiah is vividly sketched in the declaration of the angel interpreter, at whose feet John, in a state of astonishment, falls. Jesus, the angel declares, is the Object of worship by him; and therefore he (the angel) cannot claim the worship of his fellow servants, who, like him, are merely instruments in making known the prophecies respecting the triumph of redeeming grace (verses 9, 10)." The "Alleluias" seem to wax louder and louder as they are repeated, until they become as "the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings [thunders]" (verse 6). The voice seems as loud as the vociferous noise of a mighty army when victory has been won, or as the boom of old ocean when lashed into fierce storm.
II. A SYMBOLIC ASPECT OF THE ETERNAL IN HIS REPRESENTATIVE TO MAN. "Let us be glad and rejoice [rejoice and be exceeding glad], and give honour to him [let us give the glory unto him]: for the marriage of the Lamb is come," etc. (verse 7). As Christ is in other places of the Bible represented as the "Lamb of God," and also as being wedded to his genuine disciples, the symbolic language here suggests him to our minds in some of his grand relations to mankind. He appears here:
1. As the loving Husband of the true. "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready" (verse 7). By the true, I mean his genuine disciples, those of Christly character. In various places elsewhere, his relation to such is represented as the foundation to a building, as the root to a branch, as the head to a body. But his relationship here represented varies from these in at least three respects.
(1) There is mutual choice. There is no mutual choice of the superstructure to the foundation, of the branch to the root, of the limb to the head. But there is a mutual choice in the connection between husband and wife, bridegroom and bride. In true marriage, which, I trow, is somewhat rare amongst what are called the marriages of the race, the true are brought together, not by coercion, or accident, or blind passion, but by mutual selection; the one offers, the other accepts, freely and fully. Christ says to all of us, "Will you accept me as your Husband, your Guardian, Protector, and Friend?" Whilst the millions say, No, there are some who say; Yes, and the two become one; there is a vital identification.
(2) There is mutual sympathy. Not convenience or passion, but pure, disinterested love—the love of admiration on the one side, and the love of condescending pity on the other.
(3) There is a mutual aim. Christ's aim is to promote the glory of his Father, in advancing his benevolent plans and the best interests of the human race. This is also the grand purpose of those who in very soul wed themselves to him. They accept him as their Bridegroom, not from selfish motives, not from the dread of hell, nor for the hope of heaven; not to escape Gehenna, and reach a Paradise; but in order to promote the true well being of humanity, and the glory of their Maker. The scene here suggested is that of a bridal feast, a banquet to celebrate the sublime union of souls. "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come."
(1) The bridal costume on this occasion. "And to her was granted [it was given to her] that she should be arrayed [array herself] in fine linen, clean and white [bright and pure]: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints [righteous acts of the saints]" (verse 8). The bridal garment here described agrees with that worn by the bride at the Jewish nuptials. And here it must be regarded as a symbolic representation of the soul's attire. The pure, refined, righteous character, which covers and adorns the spirit of the bride—"the ornament that covers a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." Moral character is evermore the garment in which the soul is clad. If the character is impure, its apparel is but filthy rags; if holy, it is clad in the "robes of righteousness." There is no bridal union with Christ when souls are not thus enrobed.
(2) The happy guests on this occasion. "Write, Blessed are they which are called [bidden] unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (verse 9). All the guests themselves are brides; all of them have on the wedding garment; with hearts of joyous gratitude, they have come to welcome one or more of those who have just entered into the blessed community. "These are the true sayings [words] of God." They are not fictions, not poetic rhapsodies; they are attested by the dictates of nature and the facts of experience. "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."
(3) The suggestive talk on this occasion. "And I fell at [down before] his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant [with thee], and of thy brethren that have [hold] the testimony of Jesus: worship God," etc. (verse 10). John, in this vision or dream of his, seems so enraptured, so transported with ecstasy at the scene, that his devout emotions overcome him, and he falls down at the feet of the angel interpreter, the man who bade him "write" the words, "Blessed are they," etc. The words which this interpreting spirit addressed to John as he prostrated himself before him are very beautiful and suggestive. "He saith unto me," says John, as I lay overwhelmed with emotion at his feet, "See thou do it not;" my relationship to thee forbids it: "I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren." We are engaged in the same work and members of the same family. "See thou do it not." It is the characteristic of small men that they require their fellow servants to worship them, to render them homage. Hence their assumptions, their glitter, their pomposity, and parade. The greatest man is ever the most humble. "That have [hold] the testimony of Jesus: worship God." His testimony is the spirit of all true teaching and "prophecy." John and his coadjutors are both sent on the same errand, engaged in the same work, partakers of the same prophetic spirit; the one must not, therefore, worship the other.
"The more thy glories strike my eyes,
The lower I shall lie;
Thus while I fall my joys shall rise
How sublimely blessed the condition of all genuine disciples of Christ! They are wedded to him; he is their spiritual Husband, and each can say, "I am his, and he is mine."
2. As the triumphant Conqueror of the wrong. Earth is the arena of a tremendous campaign, the battle of the right against the wrong, of the true against the false, of the benevolent against the selfish. As a Chieftain in this grand moral campaign against wrong, the following points are suggested as worthy of note. Observe:
(1) The instrumentality be employs, and the titles he inherits. "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war" (verse 11). A portion of the machinery (perhaps the greatest) which this great Hero uses is represented as a "white horse." In the sixth chapter of this book, which we have already noticed, there is a similar picture of the implements employed. "And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer." A "horse," strong, swift, daring, manageable, like the war horse in the Book of Job. "White," emblem of the pure and the right. The campaign in which Christ is engaged and the methods he employs are all right and pure. "He that sat on him"—the triumphant General—"had a bow: and went forth conquering, and to conquer." The bow projects the arrow, and the arrow penetrates the heart of the foe. See what titles this Hero inherits. He is called "the Faithful;" he never breaks a promise. "True"—true in his conceptions of realities, and true in his representation of those realities; ever in lip and life in strict conformity to eternal facts. "In righteousness he doth judge and make war." All his campaigns are right; he fights not against existence, but against its evils. He never strikes a blow but to crush a wrong, and to save a soul. "His name is called The Word of God" (verse 13). The Revealer of the Absolute, and his Representative to man. Here are titles how unlike those which ignorant men confer on their fellows—titles which disgrace alike the donors and the donees!
(2) The aspect he wears, and the.followers he commands.
(a) "His eyes were [are] as a flame of fire" (verse 12). The eye is the best mirror of the soul; one glance reveals more of the inner self than the strongest words in the most affluent vocabulary. The eyes of this conquering Hero, riding forth victoriously on his white horse, are like a "flame of fire"—all pure, all searching, ablaze with an unquenchable fire.
(b) "On his head were [are] many crowns [diadems]" (verse 12). These crowns were the emblems of that empire of his, which is coextensive with the universe, and as lasting as eternity. They had names or titles written on them. "He had [hath] a name written, that [which] no man knew [no one knoweth], but he himself" (verse 12). They had a significance surpassing the interpretation of all minds but his. He is "the fulness of him that filleth all in all."
(c) "He was clothed [arrayed] with a vesture [garment] dipped [sprinkled] in blood" (verse 13). This is true of a worldly conqueror; he comes up from Edom, the scene of the campaign, with garments "dipped in blood." Of the spiritual warrior, it only expresses the vital expenditure of the struggle. The very life has been sacrificed to it. As to the followers he commands, who are they? Who are his battalions in this grand campaign? Who does this majestic Chieftain lead forth to battle? "The armies which were [are] in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean" (verse 14). Who knows the numbers of his armies? They may baffle all arithmetic to calculate; but their moral character is known. "They are clothed in fine linen, white and clean," exquisitely refined and spotlessly pure—sainted men and holy angels.
(3) The course he pursues, and the greatness of his supremacy. "Out of his mouth goeth [proceedeth] a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations" etc. (verse 15). His force is moral. "Out of his mouth goeth forth a sharp sword." It is not by physical force, such as bayonets, cannons, swords, that he wins his victories; but moral words, His words are as a "sharp sword;" they cut down the errors, the wrongs, the miseries, of the race. Mind alone can conquer mind. His force is mighty. "With it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron" (verse 15). How mighty is his word! It creates, sustains, and destroys universes every day. How independent is his course! "He treadeth the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (verse 15). In the corresponding expression in Isaiah 63:3 it is said, "I have trodden the wine press alone." The "wrath" or the anger of God! What is this "wrath"? Not passion, but principle; not indignation against existence, but antagonism to all the wrongs of existence. Against these wrongs Christ fought alone. "I have trodden the wine press alone: and of the people there was none with me." Mark also the greatness of his supremacy. "He hath on his vesture [garment] and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords" (verse 16). There are degrees of authority in the empire of God, one ruling power over another, rising up to the highest heights of being; but Christ is over all, the King of all kings, and the Lord of all lords. He is "exalted far above all heavens." There are heavens rising above heavens. No astronomy can measure the height of the lowest, the highest transcends all imagination; Christ is far above the highest. All authorities, worlds, systems, laws, events, are under his vast and absolute control. What a benediction to know that he is love, and that he "knoweth our frames, and remembereth that we are dust"! He knows man, for manhood belongs to his wonderful personality.
(4) The war he wages, and the victories he achieves. It is suggested that this war he wages deserves the attention of all. "And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls [birds] that fly in the midst of [in mid] heaven, Come and gather yourselves [be gathered] together unto the supper [great supper] of the great God [of God]" (verse 17). Mark the author of this address. How grand his position! "Standing in the sun." Mrs. Browning, perhaps struck with its sublimity, sings of "God's archangel standing in the sun," wrapped in luminous splendour and exposed to all eyes. How earnest his effort! "He cried with a loud voice." How vast his audience! "Saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven" (verse 17). The birds are personifications of men—men, perhaps, of genius, ambition, and celerity in movement. But the men, perhaps, especially of martial passion and purpose are meant here; hence the imperial bird. The cruel, ravenous eagle is the symbol of war. How strange and startling his summons! "Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper." "Wheresoever the carcase is, there shall the eagles be gathered together" for feasting. The ravenous vultures devour the flesh of thousands. The carrion on the battlefield is a rich feast for those armies, who, like the rapacious birds of prey, not only kill, but devour. These are the men engaged in this tremendous battle, in destroying all that makes human existence worth having—purity, freedom, kindness, friendship, worship. "Unto the supper of the great God." What is the feast of God? It is the utter ruin of all that is opposed to the interests of the soul. Does not Heaven call on all to rejoice in the fall of wrong? This feast is here represented in striking symbol as the "flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both [and] small and great" (verse 18). The utter ruin of all those mighty forces, who fought for moral wrong, portrayed as a "beast," the "great whore," etc. Such a ruin is in truth a rich feast of God to all regenerate souls. Mark the victories he achieves. "And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies," etc. (verse 19). All the abettors and promoters of wrong. The great truth suggested by these verses on to the end of the chapter is that moral evil shall one day be utterly destroyed from off the earth; even its last remnant shall be consumed. The great Chieftain came to "destroy the works of the devil," to "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself," to sweep the world of it.—D.T.
Servility and humility.
"And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren." These words may be taken as a representation of one bad thing and one good thing.
I. SERVILITY THE BAD THING. John fell down before some one whom he regarded as greater than himself; not to one true God. This state of mind:
1. Bad in itself. The crawling, sycophantic, cringing spirit is one of the most detestable things in human life. It is opposed to true manhood; it spanielizes the human soul.
2. Bad in its influence. It is just that element in human life that makes heroes of the base, saints of hypocrites, lords of money grubs, and divinities of rulers. It builds up and sustains in society all manner of impostures in Church and state. It is that which has stolen nearly all true manhood from England.
II. HUMILITY THE GOOD THING. He to whom this homage was rendered refused it. "See thou do it not." Worship belongs only to God. "I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren." How unlike is this man to the millions who are hungering for the cheers, the plaudits, the flatteries, the "praise of men"! Authors, artists, preachers, premiers, prelates—most of them also love the "praise of men." A truly great man, however, despises it; he shrinks with disgust from the courtiers, and kicks with indignation the canting spaniels.—D.T.
The dignities of Christ.
"On his head were many crowns." It is suggested—
I. THAT THESE DIGNITIES ARE OF PRICELESS VALUE. What on earth does man regard as more valuable than a "crown"? Poor fool! He has waded through seas of blood, wrecked thrones, ruined empires, risked all he possessed, even life itself, in order to win a "crown." But what are all the crowns of the world compared to the diadems that encircled the Being of Christ?
II. THAT THESE DIGNITIES ARE MANIFOLD. "Many crowns." There is the dignity of an all knowing intellect, the dignity of an immaculate conscience, the dignity of an absolutely unselfish love, the dignity of a will free from all. the warping influences of sin, error, and prejudice. These diadems of priceless worth, though manifold, are as yet undiscovered by the multitude.
III. THAT THESE DIGNITIES ARE SELF PRODUCED. The honours which unregenerate men possess, such as they are, are conferred by others, and the giver and the receiver of them are alike morally dishonoured in their acts of bestowment and acceptance. But the dignities of Christ, like the majestic branches of a tree, or the splendid pinions of a bird, grow out of himself. All his dignities are but the brilliant evolutions of his own great soul.
IV. THAT THESE DIGNITIES ARE IMPENETRABLE. How soon the "crowns" worn by men grow dim and rot into dust! But Christ's diadems are incorruptible; they will sparkle on forever, and fill all the heavens of immensity with their brilliant lustre.—D.T.
The manifoldness of Christ's dominion.
"On his head were many crowns." Crowns are man's emblems of the highest dignities and powers; and, in accommodation of our poor thoughts, Christ is here spoken of as having "many crowns." And truly he has many dominions.
I. THE DOMINION OF MATTER IS HIS.
1. Inorganic matter is under his control. Atoms, mountains, rivers, oceans, planets, suns, and systems. He controls the atoms; he heaves the ocean; he rolls the heavenly orbs along; he is the Master of all chemical and mechanical forces.
2. Organic matter is under his control.
(1) All vegetable life. The tiniest blade, up to the hugest monarchs of the forest, are under him. He quickens, sustains, and develops them.
(2) All animal life. All that teem in earth and air and sea; he is the Master of all life forces.
II. THE DOMINION OF MIND IS HIS.
1. All mind in heaven. He inspires and directs all the hierarchies of celestial worlds.
2. All mind on earth. The thoughts, impulses, passions, and purposes of mankind are under his masterhood. He originates the good and controls the bad. How impious, how futile, how monstrously foolish, is it for man to oppose the great Redeemer! He does reign, he must reign, and will reign forever. He will reign over you, with your will or against your will.—D.T.
Intense earnestness of being.
"Clothed in a vesture dipped in blood." What was the "blood" that dyed the robes of the illustrious Chieftain? Not that crimson fluid that streams from the veins of slaughtered men. It may be regarded—
I. AS A SYMBOL OF HIS OWN AGONIZING EARNESTNESS. In Gethsemane it is said that he "sweated great drops of blood." It was earnestness. The man who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of those who have not resisted unto blood, "striving against sin." There is moral blood—the blood of intense earnestness.
II. AS A SYMBOL OF THE MORTAL ENMITY OF HIS FOES. During the three years of his public ministry they thirsted for his blood. "His blood be upon us." It is characteristic of the enemies of the Church in all ages that they seek his destruction—the destruction of his character, his influence, himself.
Our great Leader does not prosecute his grand campaign against evil in a cold, mechanical, professional manner, but with the earnestness of "blood."—D.T.
The Word of God.
"The Word of God." The infinite Father has spoken two great words to his intelligent family. One word is nature. "The heavens declare his glory," etc. The other word is Christ. He is the Logos. The latter word is specially addressed to fallen humanity, and is a soul-redeeming word. In relation to this Word the following things may be predicated. He is—
I. THE WORD OF ABSOLUTE INFALLIBILITY. Conventionally, men call the Scriptures the Word of God. Mere traditional believers assert their infallibility. The best, however, that can be said concerning that book is that it contains the Word of God. It is not the Divine jewel, but the human chest. Christ is the Word itself, absolutely true, the Bible. He is the Word. By him every word, whether oral or written, written in whatever form, language, style, or book, is to be tested, whether true or false. "No man hath seen the Father at any time:" nor Moses, or the prophets, or the evangelists, but "the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him." Let us, therefore, reject all words, wherever we find them, if they agree not with the spirit, character, and aim of Christ.
II. THE WORD OF EXHAUSTLESS SIGNIFICANCE. There are faculties and possibilities in him, ideas, purposes, and susceptibilities in him that will take ages upon ages without end fully to develop. "In him dwells all the fulness of God." In this he meets the law of mind, which bids it ever to search after the new and the fresh.
III. THE WORD OF ALMIGHTY POWER. The character of a word is determined by the character of the mind that utters it. Weak minds utter weak words; strong minds, vigorous words. The words of some are as empty as the wind; others are as vigorous as electricity; they shatter the mountains and shake the globe. Christ, as the Word, is Almighty. He has not only created Christendom, but by him were "all things created."
IV. THE WORD OF UNIVERSAL INTERPRETABILITY. Even the written words that make up what we call the Bible are frequently uninterpretable. Hence their renderings and meanings are constantly fluctuating, and often contradictive. But here is a word that stands forever—"the same yesterday, and today, and forever." This Word is a life. A life a child can interpret; and the greater the life of a man, the more generous, truthful, loving he is, the more readily a child can read and understand him. Hence no life is so interpretable as Christ's life.—D.T.
Armies invisible and distant on the side of good.
"The armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean." Heaven, it would seem, is populated with numerous intelligent beings, existing in various types of condition, influence, power, etc. It is suggested—
I. THE HOSTS OF HEAVEN ARE INTERESTED IN THE MORAL CAMPAIGN WHICH CHRIST IS PROSECUTING ON THIS EARTH. They not only know what is going on in this little planet, but throb with earnest interest in its history. They desire to look into its great moral concerns. No wonder some in heaven are related to some on earth; they participate in the same nature, sustain the same relation, and are subject to the same laws. Here, too, stupendous events have occurred in connection with him who is the Head of all principalities, powers, and that must ever thrill the universe.
II. THE HOSTS OF HEAVEN LEND THEIR AID TO CHRIST IN HIS TREMENDOUS BATTLES. "The armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses." If you ask me in what way they can render him aid, I can suggest many probable methods. We know that one great thought struck into the soul of an exhausted and despairing man can revive and reinvigorate him. May it not be possible for departed souls and unfallen spirits to breathe such thoughts into the breasts of feeble men on earth? If you ask me why Christ should accept such aid as theirs, or the aid of any creature in his mighty struggles, I answer, not because he requires their services—for he could do his work alone—but for their own good. By it he gratifies their noblest instincts, engages their highest faculties, and gains for them their highest honours and sublimest joys.
III. THE HOSTS OF HEAVEN ARE FULLY EQUIPPED FOR SERVICE IN THIS MARTIAL UNDERTAKING ON EARTH. "Upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean." It was customary in Oriental lands for soldiers of the highest rank to go forth to battle on steeds. It is a law of Christ's kingdom that those only who are holy and pure can enter therein; hence these heavenly soldiers are furnished with "white horses," the emblem of purity, and "white linen" also. No one in heaven or on earth will Christ allow to fight under his banner who are not qualified, both in capacity and character, for the work they undertake.
Encouraging subject this! Small as this little planet of ours is, it is not isolated from the family of worlds. As materially this globe, by the law of gravitation, is linked to the most distant planet, so the meanest human spirit here is linked to the highest hierarchies in the great realm of mind. They are all at the bidding of the great Leader in the battle of life. "Thinkest thou that I could not pray to my Father, and he will send me twelve legions of angels?" etc. "More are they that are for us than those that are against us."—D.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Revelation 19". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30