I am the first and the last - Revelation 1:11
It is true, O Son of God. Thou art! The First in order of Being, and last in the full completeness of Thy glory.
First in respect of Time, for Thou art the everlasting Father - Father and Creator of the ages; and when time shall be no more Thou wilt last forever. From everlasting to everlasting Thou art God. Thy years shall not fail.
First in respect of Creation. - Thou wast before all things; Thine was an age prior to the creation of matter; all things were made by Thee: and when the heavens and earth that are now have passed away forever; when the elements shall have melted with fervent heat; when the sun shall be burned out and the stars wane - Thou wilt still be the last, able to bring into being new heavens and a new earth.
First in the order of Redemption. - God first loved us. From before the foundation of the world, Thou wert the Lamb slain; before the foundation of the world we were chosen in Thee. First in the love that resolved to redeem; first in the mystery of Thine incarnation, lowest in the depth of Thy descent unto death, and in the resurrection through which Thou becamest the Firstborn among the dead; first to open the way within the vail, to bear our nature risen before the throne, and to inaugurate for man the life of resurrection-power.
First in respect to the experience of Thine elect. - None is to be compared with Thee, Thou Prince of the kings of the earth. Their Alpha, their Beginning, the Day-star of their Hope, the Dawn of their Life, the Origin of all that is good and blessed in their Life; whom they take to be their Ideal, their Goal, their Aim, their Omega, their End.
I will give him a white stone - Revelation 2:17
There is every reason to suppose that this white stone is a diamond, and that it stands for the Urim and Thummim stone, which the high priest wore in his breast-plate, and which he consulted for the oracles of God. It probably darkened with the Divine No, and grew lustrous with Yes.
The believer may have direct knowledge of the will of God. - You may have your white stone. If only your heart is right with God, you may know His will for your path, not only by the pillared cloud of outward circumstances, but by the inner bearing of the heart. By a quick intuition you may know what God's mind is, both when you kneel in prayer and when you are called on to act. Only the surface of the inner life must be unruffled and pure; there must be no anxious agitation, no blurring miasma of sin.
Each revelation of God's will carries with it a deeper knowledge of Himself. - On the Urim stone were engraven the mystic characters of the Divine name. On these no eye but Aaron's might rest; so, deep in our heart, these revelations of God's nature are given, which are direct and special for each loving and obedient soul. Eye hath not seen nor heart conceived what God says to His children about life and death, and Himself, and their relationship, and the glorious future.
Such revelations are in proportion to our overcoming life. - If you are perpetually yielding to sin and impurity, and being trodden down by the heel of passion, such communications from the Infinite will be rare and indistinct. To him that overcometh, not once for all, but perpetually, shall be made the revelations of God.
I will make . . . A pillar in the temple of my God - Revelation 3:12
All who lived on the seaboard of Asia Minor were familiar with the vast and beautiful temples, in which Oriental lavishness and Greek art combined to realize the utmost magnificence. Their ruins strew the deserted sites of former cities to this day. The Lord therefore used familiar imagery in this promise. A column hewn from its rocky bed, richly sculptured, and conveyed to the rising temple-structure!
Stability. - "Shall go no more out." God Himself shall establish, strengthen, and settle, the soul which trusts Him, and is willing to follow at all costs where He leads. He will make such a one to be as Jachin or Boaz, the two mighty pillars which Solomon erected in the Temple court, their names signifying establishment and strength. There is no spectacle more inspiring than to behold the steadfastness of the soul that wavers and swerves not, but stands to its post, though all nature rocks.
Responsibility. - The pillar bears up some part of the structure; and it is Christ's good pleasure to call us to share with Him the weight of ministering to His Church. As you show yourself true and faithful, God will allow you to bear up the common life of His people by ministering comfort, direction, encouragement, to such as could not stand by themselves.
Beauty. - The mediaeval architects and masons took great pleasure in their designs. In many cases each pillar is sculptured as to its capital in its own fashion. There is infinite variety and beauty in the patterns. So Jesus is cutting deep into us the name of His Father and Himself, and making us bear new revelations to the world. Do not shrink from the deep cutting of His chisel.
A door opened in heaven - Revelation 4:1
You must remember that John was in the isle of Patmos, a lone, rocky, inhospitable prison, for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. And yet to him, under such circumstances, separated from all the loved ones of Ephesus; debarred from the worship of the Church; condemned to the companionship of uncongenial fellow-captives - were vouchsafed these visions. For him, also, a door was opened.
We are reminded of Jacob, exiled from his father's house, who laid himself down in a desert place to sleep, and in whose dreams beheld a ladder which united earth with heaven, and at the top God stood.
Not to these only, but to many more, doors have been opened into heaven; when, so far as this world was concerned, it seemed as though their circumstances were altogether unlikely for such revelations. To prisoners and captives; to constant sufferers, bound by iron chains of pain to sick couches; to lonely pilgrims and wanderers; to women detained from the Lord's house by the demands of home; to domestic servants, missing the blessed opportunities of the sanctuary - how often has the door been opened in heaven. And what has not Nature been to some of us! How often in a country glade, the first flower of spring, a bird's warble, a gleam of light checkering the path, has been as a door opened in heaven!
There are conditions. You must know what it is to be in the Spirit; you must be pure in heart, and obedient in life; you must be willing to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Then, when God is all in all to us, when we live, move, and have our being in His favor, to us also will the door be opened.
In the midst of the throne stood a lamb as it had been slain - Revelation 5:6
It is a marvellous combination, but how reassuring! Not the throne without the Lamb, else sinners dare not venture nigh: not the Lamb without the throne, or we might question His victory, His omnipotence to succor and save. No; but the throne with the Lamb, the Lamb and the throne, the Lamb in its very midst.
How does the Lamb come there? Surely meekness, humility, gentle submissiveness to an irresistible lot, are not the virtues that win thrones! Perhaps not in man's world, but they do in God's. In the eternal world the passive virtues are stronger than the active; sufferers wield more might than wrestlers; to yield is to overcome; to be vanquished is to conquer. It is because He was God's Lamb that He is now God's Anointed King, having seven horns for His omnipotence, seven eyes for omniscience, and seven spirits sent into all the world for omnipresence.
But see: the marks of suffering, of agony and death, of sacrifice, are stamped upon His flesh. "A Lamb as it had been slain." The redeemed ones that stand around tell the story; He purchased and cleansed them by His blood; He is worthy to fill the throne and rule forever. He who could make Himself the supreme sacrifice and offering for the sins of the world is worthy to be the world's King. The angels corroborate their verdict. In concentric rings they stand around the throne in their massed myriads. From ten thousand times ten thousand clear voices the acclamation rings out, Thou art worthy!
Take the scroll of history, of empire, of our lives, O gentle, holy, victorious, mighty Lamb. Break the seals, and unroll it page by page. All must be well that passes beneath Thy tender and mighty hand.
Come! - Revelation 6:1
The A. V. reads, Come and see. The R. V., with the majority of Greek MSS., drops the last two words, and puts the simple word come into the lips of the four living creatures. Indeed, that word rings through the corridors of this book like a clarion. Come, Son of God! Come, according to Thy plighted word! Come, for creation travails in pain together until now! Come restore Thine ancient people, and bring in the golden age! Come! Take to Thyself Thy great power, and reign! The time is rife! Midnight has faded into dawn, and dawn is lightening fast to day!
The ages which are characterized by the bloodless victories of civilization and peace are incomplete without Thee; and as the white horse issues forth, men are not satisfied with the abundance of this world's goods, there is still an unsatisfied yearning which says, Come.
The ages most saturated with blood - the blood of men, shed by the hands of men, where harvests grow rank because the soil has been so richly fertilized by blood and tears - need Thee sorely; and as the red horse comes forth, sad Mother Earth, who has received so many mangled bodies to her bosom, bids Thee come.
The ages, filled with plague, pestilence, and famine, wherein beasts multiply about the homes of men, because there is no hand to keep them back, since men have perished from the earth, as the livid horses go forth, cry, Come. And listen to the cry of Thy martyrs, from beneath the altar. Is it not time to arrest the heavy hand of the persecutor, and avenge their blood? Then come, and add to all Thy other crowns, the crown of all the earth!
The lamb shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life - Revelation 7:17
We do not live until we have been born again. The moment of regeneration is the first moment of life. All the years before are as though they had never been. But from the moment we receive the life of the eternal God into our being, we begin an endless progression.
The entrance of that life makes us lambs in the flock of the Good Shepherd. - We no longer resist, or fight, or boast in things of which we should be ashamed. We become pure, sweet, gentle, lowly, and submissive. We are willing to lay down our lives for others. We follow the way of the cross without murmur or complaint. Every time we eat of that bread and drink of the cup we witness to the world our desire to absorb more and more of the lamb-like nature of the Son of God. Hence, it is said, the Lamb shall lead, shall shepherd, shall tend us as His flock.
The life which God has inplanted yearns for satisfaction. - As a parched flock desires the crystal streams that purl over the pebbles, so the flock of God in this life and the next cry out for God, for the living God. Nothing will satisfy God's lambs and sheep but God Himself. And this is satisfied in Jesus. In Him the eternal God comes near to us; we follow Him without fear.
And in that life there is eternal progression. Jesus leads us from one fountain to another, from one well to the next; always deeper into the heart of heaven, always further toward the very centre of all things, which is God. We shall always be satisfied; but our capacity will constantly enlarge, and it will become necessary to give us fuller manifestations, according to His own promise (Joh 17:26, (R. V.).
That he should add it unto the prayers of all saints - Revelation 8:3
Each series of seven, whether of the candlesticks, the seals, the trumpets, or the vials, is introduced by some appropriate and suggestive appearance of Christ. Here, for instance, the seven trumpets are restrained until this inspiring vision of the Redeemer is delineated as an imperishable fresco on the wall of Scripture.
It is not startling that He assumes here the appearance of an angel. This was His frequent guise in the ages which preceded His incarnation. And as to the priestly function here ascribed to Him, they are His habitual practice and wont throughout the present dispensation. He appears in the presence of God on our behalf. He has gone within the vail to make intercession for us. Such a Priest becomes us who is a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle which the Lord has pitched, and not man. And since it is necessary that, as High Priest, He should have somewhat to offer, there is given to Him the praises, prayers, and gifts of the saints, that He should mingle them with the much incense of His own merit, and present them at the golden altar which is before the throne. Whenever we approach God in the name of Jesus we are really appealing to Him on the ground of that presentation, of that much incense, and the prevalence of that intercession.
Our prayers appear at times too utterly unworthy to bring to God. How can we dare to believe that they can be acceptable to the Holy God! Granted! It is all true. But never forget the much incense which is added to each petition; and remember that Christ gave Himself unto God, and is perpetually giving Himself, for us, an offering and a sacrifice, for an odor of a sweet smell.
Only such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads - Revelation 9:4
This reference carries us back to Rev. 7, with its sublime description of the angel ascending from the sunrise, having the seal of the living God. He had cried with a great voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea (Rev 8:3).
The seal of God! Whatever that means in this pictorial or hieroglyphic book, we know what it means throughout the Epistles. The sealed have no doubt about their personal acceptance with God. They have set their seal to God, and He to them. They realize that they belong to Him in bonds of ownership which neither life nor death can dissolve. They bear upon their lives the impression of His image and superscription. They go to and fro about the world under the protecting escort of His high angels, who are commissioned to bring them safely to their Father's home. They have been anointed as kings and priests.
What a remarkable inference may be derived from the prohibition of the previous chapter, and the immunity accorded to the sealed ones in this! If the hordes of horsemen are withheld from touching the servants of God, whom the Angel sealed, we may infer, when no such caution is uttered about our lives, and no such immunity secured, that God has allowed pain, and sorrow, and death to hurt us for some sufficient reason-one which we shall be able to appreciate when we stand in His light. If He who has power to withhold the power of the adversary does not withhold it, the assaults which make our frail craft tremble from stem to stern must be His appointment and choice for us, and we must dare to look up into His face, and say, It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good.
Time no longer - Revelation 10:6
Time is but an incident in the procession of eternity: a wreath of cloud on its expanse; a throb of its pendulum; a drop in its multitudinous ocean. There was a moment when it began; there shall be another of its pause and cessation.
But we may look for this expiration of the Time Ages without alarm. We have already received the germ of the eternal life, which existed before time began, and will last when it has fulfilled its course. "The witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath the life." We are the children of eternity; our eternal life dates from the moment of our regeneration; we know not how it befell, but we awoke in the time sphere to discover that we were objects of an eternal love, and that we are destined to a life which will outlast the universe of matter. From everlasting to everlasting Thou art God; and Thou hast made us partakers of Thy Divine Nature, who art, and wast, and art to come!
The margin suggests another rendering, that there should be no longer delay for the finishing of the mystery of God. From times eternal God has been elaborating His secret purpose, which surely must include the overruling of evil for good; the vindication of His permission of evil; and the final restitution of all things. For long that mystery has remained unfinished. God has not told His deep design. To many questionings He has given no reply. But the moment is at hand when the mystery of God will be finished, and the draping vail will be removed. Then, beloved, but not before, you will understand. Then you shall see the end from the beginning; and in God's light, see light.
There was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant - Revelation 11:19
We are constantly encountering evidences that the Bible is one. Its writers are as various in their styles and characteristics as their respective ages; but they keep striking the same notes, and making allusion to the same objects. We have not heard of the Ark for centuries. Now we suddenly meet with it in a description of the coronation of the Son of Man. He has taken His great power and reigned. The kingdoms of the world have become His. The portals of the temple of God have been thrown open, and within is seen the Ark of the Covenant.
God will never forget His covenant. - When once He has pledged Himself to a nation or an individual, to Israel or Abraham, or to Christ and His seed, He will infallibly stand to it. All traces of His faithfulness may elude the eye of the earthly watchers, obliterated by the storms of sorrows that sweep the world; the very emblems of the covenant may have passed from human custody; and the time may be long - but at the destined hour the parted vail will reveal the Ark of the Covenant, as though to show that the victory of Christ was the fulfillment of that ancient pledge.
The covenant, which means blessing to God's children, is fraught with terror to His enemies. - "There followed lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and great hail." It was so of old, when the ark brought deliverance to Israel, but disaster to Philistia. The savor of life and of death; the pillar of cloud which was light, and midnight darkness; the "Come, ye blessed," and "Depart, ye cursed " - these alternatives are presented to us all.
They overcame him because of the blood of the lamb - Revelation 12:11
The overcoming and casting-out of Satan is the theme of the Book. First he overcomes; then he is overcome. Overcome first by Christ; and secondly by those who belong to Christ. Cast out from Heaven to the heavenly places or the air, of which as prince he wields the power. Cast out from there into the earth. Cast out thence into the bottomless pit. Cast out thence into the lake of fire. Such are the stages of the overthrow of the adversary of God and man.
Though Satan has no access to the presence of God now that the risen Saviour has entered there by virtue of His own blood, yet he may accuse us to our own conscience:
" I hear the accuser roar
Of ills that I have done:
I know them well, and thousands more;
Jehovah findeth none."
How are such accusations to be met? By the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of our testimony. There is no force so potent as the witness of the saints for truth, purity, and spirituality. Oh that there were more of this, by life and lip! Oh that there were more unswerving loyalty to the King, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession!
For when this is so Satan gives back. The darkness cannot withstand the light. Victory is assured to those who love not their life unto the death, in their steadfast obedience to the truth. Then the fruit of the tree of life, immunity from the second death, the hidden manna, the white stone, the morning star, the confession before the angels of God, and the pillar in the temple of Eternity!
That no man should be able to buy or to sell, save he that hath the mark - Revelation 13:17
From many hints dropped from time to time by business men it would seem as though the time described in these words is already being inaugurated. Christian men are finding it increasingly difficult to carry on their business without adopting a lower standard than that of the sanctuary. Trades people are strongly tempted to adopt two prices, adulterate, or sell beneath their samples. Workmen are hardly put to it when association with their fellows threatens to involve them in movements from which in their secret souls they revolt. How much business is done over the glass of wine or in the public-house!
Under these circumstances, Christians must resolve:
First, that they will not trifle with their conscience, but will dare in all respects to obey the law of Christ. - For every one there is an inevitable choice to be made and maintained, whether a clear conscience or a fortune is to hold the first place in their business career. At many a subsequent crisis the decision may be tested; but the peril of reversing it will become always less.
Second, men must be content to bear poverty as part of the cross of Christ. - We admire and canonize the martyrs, but are strangely unwilling to face the disgrace of poverty, the dens and caves of the earth, which they endured for principle. Our religion will cost us something, or we may fairly question its vitality and worth. What a man will not suffer for he does not value.
Third, Christian people should teach their children the nobility of frugality, simplicity, and contentment. - There would be fewer hearts broken by prodigals if we lived as though Christian life did not consist in our possessions, but in God.
The first-fruits unto God and unto the lamb - Revelation 14:4
What a word is here! The apostle points to the radiant throng, grouped around Christ as His bodyguard of personal attendants. We had just beheld in the previous chapter the mighty legions mustering under the prince of darkness, and which furnish a strange contrast to this galaxy of strength and beauty. And as we wonder and admire, we are told that they are but as the first fruit sheaf of the mighty harvest to be reaped from the earth.
By examining the first-fruit sheaf, we are able to tell the nature and quality of all the other sheaves that stand in the harvest-field under the golden autumn light. It is by studying the characteristics of these happy and holy spirits that we may learn what we shall be, and what the whole body of the elect shall be one day. Let us consider their number, their character, and their occupation.
Their number. - "With Him, a hundred and forty-four thousand." But if this vast multitude is only a sheaf, what will not the entire harvest be but a multitude which none shall be able to compute?
Their character. - Stamped indelibly with the name of God and of the Lamb; singing a new song, which only redeemed hearts can learn and redeemed lips utter; virgin souls, clad in stainless purity, with no lie in their mouths, and no blemish in their lives; purchased from among men to follow the Lamb. Such are they before the throne.
Their occupation. - Adoration: they sing a new song. Loyal obedience and companionship: they follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. They cannot claim aught to themselves. Their whole story is told in the announcement that they were purchased - purchased by the blood of the Lamb they love.
Righteous and true are thy ways, thou king of the ages - Revelation 15:3
This is the scene of the deliverance from Pharaoh on the shores of the Red Sea, translated into the imagery and language of eternity. The hosts of God shall emerge ere long from their long oppressions; by suffering they shall conquer; they shall come off victorious from the beast, and from His image, and from the number of His name. Behind them shall be spread out the sea of time, so calm and still, so hushed from all its tumult and storm, that it shall seem to be like sheets of glass; and as the morning of eternity breaks, it shall be drenched with fire. Fire here is probably an emblem of the holiness and the judgments of God.
Israel broke into rapturous thanksgiving, as the people saw their enemies dead upon the shore. "Sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously!" But those triumphant notes, though chanted by an entire nation, shall be as a whisper compared with that song which shall break in thunder from the saints of all the ages. Those who were brought up under the dispensation of Moses, and the followers of the Lamb in the present dispensation, together with all holy souls who have overcome, shall constitute one vast choir.
But search the song of Moses as you will, you will fail to find one note that equals this in sublimity. Here are the saints of God, trained in distinguishing the niceties of righteous and holy government and behavior, enabled from their vantage-ground in eternity to survey the entire history of the Divine dealings, adoring Him as King of the Ages, and acknowledging that all His ways had been righteous and true. What a confession! What an acknowledgment!
Behold, I come as a thief. . . . . blessed is he that watcheth - Revelation 16:15
The Second Advent will come on men generally suddenly and unexpectedly. When they say, Peace and Safety, then sudden destruction shall overtake them, as travail a woman with child, and they shall not escape. With the rapidity of the lightning flash; with the suddenness of a flood or avalanche; with the surprise of the midnight robber - Christ will come. When men are asleep, when every bolt and fastening refuses admittance, when the streets are still and hushed, behold the Judge will stand before the door.
As Lightfoot, quoted by Dr. Macduff, suggests, the allusion may be to a Jewish custom in the service of the temple. Twenty-four wards or companies were appointed night by night to guard the various entrances to the sacred courts. One individual was appointed as captain or marshal over the others, called the "Man of the Mountain of the House of God." His duty was to go round the various gates during the night to see that his subordinates were faithful to their charge. Preceded as he was by men bearing torches, it was expected that each wakeful sentinel should hail his appearance with the password, "Thou Man of the Mountains of the House, peace be unto thee!" If through unwatchfulness and slumber this were neglected, the offender was beaten with the staff of office, his garments were burned, and he was branded with shame.
It was in contrast with these slumbering Levites that Jesus pronounces a blessing on His own people who watch and keep their garments, and are saved from the reproach of spiritual nakedness. Let us, therefore, wait for the promise of His coming, looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God.
Drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus - Revelation 17:6
Pagan and papal Rome have had to contend with an unbroken line of the witnesses of Jesus. In the words of an exiled Huguenot, "Since the birth of anti-Christianity, there have not been wanting those who have cried against its errors and idolatries." They have been called by various names - Paulicians, Waldenses, Albigenses, Wicliffites, Lollards, Lutherans, Zwinglians, Pietists, and Schismatics; but God never left Himself without witness. They might all have adopted the symbol and motto of one of them, "A. lighted candle in a candlestick," with the words, "The light shineth in darkness."
But how terribly has the vision of the text been verified! Think of the persecutions under the Emperors, when the entire empire was filled with fire and sword. Take the single instance of the Empress Theodora, who slaughtered and drowned one hundred thousand of these Paulician Christians. During the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, Romanism, then in the plentitude of its power, gathered itself for a great, determined, and persistent effort to crush out all that opposed its supremacy, and to clear Christendom of heresy. And wherever any revival of true religion took place, or any confessors of Christ could be found, they were hunted, if possible, to death.
We have not yet resisted unto blood, in the strife against the sin and evil of our time. It is not that the world or the professing Church loves us better, but, probably, we are deficient in the spirit that lived in the martyr's breast. O Spirit of the Living God, kindle that flame of love again which shall make us willing to suffer the loss of all, even of life, for the sake of Jesus!
Come forth, my people, out of her - Revelation 18:4
We cannot be surprised to find that God has people in the midst of Babylon. Probably in the most corrupt days there has always been a remnant of seven thousand who have not bowed the knee or kissed the hand to Baal. It is the presence of true, though benighted, piety which has perpetuated the existence of organizations which are an offence and a stumbling-block. But their presence in such company cannot be tolerated.
It is often argued that we should stay in the midst of churches and bodies whose sins and follies we deplore, in the hope of saving them for God and man. And such reasoning has a good deal of force in the first stages of declension. A strong protest may arrest error. A vigorous policy may stop the gangrene. But as time advances, and the whole body becomes infected and diseased; when the protests have been disregarded, and the arguments trampled under foot; when the majority have clearly taken up their position against the truth; when her sins have reached up to heaven, and the plagues are about to befall - there is need for another policy; we have no alternative but to come out and be separate, and not touch the unclean thing. "Let us, therefore, go forth unto Him without the camp bearing His reproach."
The place from which we can exert the strongest influence for good is not from within, but from without. Lot lost all influence of his life in Sodom; but Abraham, from the heights of Mamre, was able to exert a mighty influence on its history. Obadiah might hide the prophets of God by fifties in a cave; but Elijah, from the Mount of Carmel, was able to exterminate the priests of Baal, and call back again the people's hearts to God.
Blessed are they which are bidden to the marriage supper of the lamb - Revelation 19:9
At the epoch described in the text we behold the Church of Christ unveiled and visible to heaven and earth. She has laid aside her weeds of sorrow, her ashen garments, her evidences of persecution and rejection, and stands forth a monument of grace, the masterpiece of Christ, the joy of the Bridegroom's heart. There will be no churches then, but one Church, which will contain within her borders the believing ones of all the churches.
The marriage supper, it has been truly said, is the arrival of that epoch which the redeemed of every age have anticipated. It has been the longed-for day of patriarchs, the glowing prediction of prophets, the burden of songs, the hope of the Church, the era for which creation groans and the sons of God pray.
But there must be a present character to fit us for this future felicity. Who are they that are thus called to the marriage supper? They are of every kindred, nation, people, and tongue, who have accepted the promises and invitations of the everlasting Gospel, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Let us now pass on that invitation; let him that heareth say come. Let us go forth into the highways and hedges and compel men to come in, that God's feast may be furnished with guests. Let us not be content with the first refusal, or the second; but with eager persistency press on men the urgency of these closing hours of opportunity, remembering that, when once the Master of the house has risen up and shut to the door, it will be hopeless and impossible to secure an entrance. "Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation."
A great white throne - Revelation 20:11
Great, because of the great causes that will be decided there; the great destinies that will impinge; the great God who will sit there; the great eternity which will be decided for good or bad.
White, because of its immaculate purity. Sir Walter Raleigh, involved in a network of malice, and unjustly condemned to die, turned from the earthly court in which he had suffered vile insult and cruel wrong to the thought of heaven's unimpeachable truth. Whilst being ferried from Westminster to his dark cell in the Tower, which we visit with hushed footsteps and bated breath, he wrote by lamplight of,
"Heaven's bribeless hall,
Where no corrupted voices brawl,
No conscience molten into gold,
No forged accuser bought or sold,
No cause deferred, no vain-spent journey -
For Christ is there, the King's Attorney."
A Throne, because a King will sit there, the Son of Man, the Son of God. What a change is here! He that hung upon the cross in shame, shall sit upon the throne in glory. He who stood condemned before the earthly tribunal, shall decide the destinies of the race, and reveal the principles of the Divine government.
But that judgment will not affect those who have fled to the refuge of His wounds. These cannot come into judgment. Let us always distinguish between the judgment of the world-spirit, when Jesus died; the judgment of sin on the cross; the judgment which awaits each believer as to the use he has made of his talents, and the work he has done in the world; and finally, the last great judgment which has to do with those who have refused the love and light of God, and have voluntarily cast in their lot with Satan.
The sea is no more - Revelation 21:1
All through this book we hear the clash of the waves. Throughout there is the voice of many waters. But when there dawns on the eye of the seer the bright and blessed time, which is yet to come; when the new heavens and earth appear, this is among the chief attractions of that glorious world - that there is no more sea. The sea is a characteristic emblem of this age, but not of the next.
There shall be no more painful mystery. - To the Jew there was a double mystery in the sea-that which lay in its sunless caves, and that which lay beyond the rim of the horizon; and because there was mystery there was dread and alarm. We, too, live on the shores of mystery, and float above it, with only a plank between it and us. But there we shall know as we are known; our questions answered; our problems solved.
There shall be no more rebellious power. - The sea is the emblem of untamed power. Lashed into yeasty foam it drives the great ships before it and eats into the land. Men cry, Let us break His bands asunder, and cast away His cords. But God laughs at them. Remember the motto that England struck on its medal to celebrate the destruction of the Armada: "The Lord blew upon them, and they were scattered." And so shall it be one day when all proud opposition to His will is vanquished.
There shall be no more disquiet and unrest. - Life is like a voyage over the sea - now miles of calm, then days of storm; now monotonous and slow progress, then the awful stress of peril and threatening death. Outside of Christ life is like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, but casts up mire and dirt. But yonder there will be unbroken peace and rest.
His servants shall serve him; and see his face; his name shall be in their foreheads - Revelation 22:3,4
These are the three elements in heavenly bliss:
SERVICE. - In the disciples' prayer the Lord taught us that the will of God is done there. Not that there is any breach in its perfect rest. Activity there will be as easy and natural as the play of the bees among the limes, or of minnows in the pool. There will be no strain, no effort, no exhaustion. To stay those ministries which the blessed render to Him would be intolerable pain. They would be weary with forbearing, and could not stay.
VISION. - "They shall see His face." Here, through a glass darkly; there, face to face. Here, as when the two walked to Emmaus, and knew not their Companion, though their burning hearts might have told them the secret; there, as when their eyes were opened, and they knew Him (though He will not vanish from our sight). Oh, what a glad surprise!
TRANSFIGURATION. - "His name shall be in their foreheads." The name of God is the totality of the Divine perfection and beauty, and the bearing of His name on their foreheads indicates that they are becoming like Him, whilst they see Him as He is.
There the Bible closes its record, finding man in a garden, leaving him in a city; demonstrating that where sin reigned unto death, there much more grace reigned through righteousness unto eternal life, giving man a more exalted and blessed lot than Adam enjoyed in the cool of the day in Eden.
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