Chapter 6

 •  33 min. read  •  grade level: 8
It is happy and establishing to the soul to bear in lively faith and recollection that it is the very same Jesus who was here on earth that is now in heaven, and whom we are to know “through His own eternity.” When we keep this in memory, every passage of His life here will be introduced afresh to us, and we shall feel and own that we have in the evangelists a more wonderful page to meditate, yea, and in some sense a much happier one too, than we once counted upon.
In the days of His sojourn among us, everything was a reality to Him; all was living and personal. He did more than touch the surface. When He healed a wound or removed a sorrow, He, in a way, felt it. “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” His spirit drank of the springs, as of the stream; for not only were His joys real, His sorrows real, His fears and disappointments, and the like, real, but He entered into every occasion in all its character. He knew the unuttered language of that needy soul that touched Him in the crowd, and felt that touch in all its meaning. He was filled with delight at the faith of that Gentile who pierced the thick cloud of His humiliation, and reached the divine glory which shone in His person beneath it; and He alike feasted on the bold—but not too bold—faith of that sinner of the city who pierced the dark cloud of her own sin and shame, and reached the divine grace which could heal it all (Luke 7). He understood the hasty step of Zacchaeus as he climbed the sycamore tree and the thoughtfulness of Nathanael as he sat under the fig tree.
He heard the strife of the disciples by the way as they went up to Jerusalem; heard it in the tumult of the lusts within, before it broke out in wars and fightings. And He knew the love, as well as the self-confidence, which drew Peter from the ship to the water.
Surely, then, it is for us, as we read “the wondrous story” in the recollection of this, to feel after Himself; as we mark the hand that did the deed or track the foot that was treading the path. Every act and word would be felt with something of a new impression; and if so, what more blessed advance could we be making? Would it not be edifying, in a high sense indeed, if we could be thus acquainting ourselves more really with a living, personal Jesus? At this time of ours, beloved, there may be a tendency to forget His person or Himself in the common testimony that is now borne so extensively to His work. The region of doctrine may be surveyed as with a measuring line and a level, instead of being eyed with an admiring, worshiping heart, as the place of the glories of the Son of God. And yet it is this He prizes in us. He has made us personally His objects; and He looks for it that we make Him ours.
And I ask myself, Is not this, in a sense, the very topmost stone? Is not this personal desire of Christ toward us chief in the ways of His grace? Election, predestination, pardon, adoption, glory, and the Kingdom—are they not only crowned by this desire of Christ toward us, this making of us an object to Himself? Surely it crowns all; surely it is the topmost stone; lying above and beyond all; fuller and richer and higher than any. Adoption and glory, welcome into the family and participation in the Kingdom, would be defective, were there not also this mystery—the Son of God has found in us an object of desire. It assumes all the other works and counsels in the history of grace and is thus beyond them all.
The Spirit delights to tell of the work of Christ and to bear it in its preciousness and sufficiency to the heart and conscience. Nothing could stand us for a moment, had not the work been just what it was, and so counseled and ordered of God. But still the work of the Lord Jesus Christ may be the great subject, where He Himself is but a faint object; and the soul will thus be a great loser.
But these meditations on the Son of God, which I have been following now, I may say, to their close, suggest to me another thought just at this time.
When considering the deeper and more distant parts of God’s ways, we sometimes feel as though they were too much for us; and we seek relief from the weight of them by going back to earlier and simpler truths. This, however, need not be. If we rightly entertained these further mysteries, we should know that we need not retire from them for relief; because they are really only other and deeper expressions of the same grace and love which we were learning at the very beginning. They are but a more abundant flow, or a wider channel, of the same river, just because they lie somewhat more distant from the source.
Till this assurance is laid up in the soul, we are ill prepared to think of them. If we have a fear that when we are looking at glories, we have left the place of affections, we wrong the truth and our own souls. It is not so by any means. The more fully the glories unfold themselves, the more are the riches of grace revealed. The rising of a river at its birthplace, where we take in the whole object at once, without effort or amazement, possesses its own peculiar charm; but when it becomes under our eye a mighty stream, with its diversified banks and currents, we only the rather learn why it ever began to flow. It is still the same water; and we may pass up and down from its source and along its channels with various but still constant pleasure. We need seek no relief by turning to its source, as we survey it in its course, along and through the ages and dispensations. When in spirit (as now in the way of these meditations), we reach the “new heaven” and the “new earth,” we are only in company with the same glorious Person, and in fellowship with the same boundless grace, whom we knew and which we learned at the very beginning.
The same One made real to the soul and brought near, is what I would desire, in God’s grace, to be the fruit of these meditations: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” He is so both in His own glory and to us.
In earlier days there were manifestations of Him, the Son of God, sometimes in veiled, sometimes in unveiled glory. To Abraham at the tent door, to Jacob at Peniel, to Joshua under the walls of Jericho, to Gideon and to Manoah, the manifestations were veiled, and faith, in more or less vigor, through the Spirit, removed the covering and reached the glory that was underneath. To Isaiah, to Ezekiel and to Daniel, the Son of God appeared in unveiled glory; and He had, by a certain gracious process, to make the brightness of the glory tolerable to them (Isa. 6; Ezek. 1; Dan. 10).
The Person, however, was one and the same, whether veiled or unveiled. So, in the days when He had really (and not as in those earlier days), assumed flesh and blood, the glory was veiled and faith was set to discover it, as in the time of Abraham or of Joshua; and after He had ascended, He appeared to John in such brightness of unveiled glory, that something had to be done by Him in grace, as in the case of Isaiah or of Daniel, before His presence could be sustained (Rev. 1). Times and seasons in this respect made no difference. Of course, till the fullness of time came, the Son was not “made of a woman.” Then it was that “the Sanctifier,” as we read, “took part of the same” flesh and blood with the children (Heb. 2:11,1411For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, (Hebrews 2:11)
14Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; (Hebrews 2:14)
). For flesh and blood indeed He took then and not till then; very Kinsman of the seed of Abraham He then indeed became. “It behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren” (Heb. 2:1717Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)). And all this waited for its due season, “the fullness of the time,” the days of the virgin of Nazareth. But those manifestations of the Son of God in earlier days were pledges of this great mystery, that in due time God would send forth His Son, “made of a woman.” They were, if I may so express it, the shadows of the forthcoming substance. And what I have been observing has this in it—which is of interest to our souls—that those foreshadowings were beautifully exact. They forecast, in forms both of glory and of grace, the ways of Him who afterward traveled and sojourned here on earth in humble, serving, sympathizing love, and is now set as glorified in heaven, the Son of Man, the virgin’s Seed, forever.
It is delightful to the soul to trace these exact resemblances and forecastings. If we have a veiled glory at the threshing floor at Ophrah, so have we at the well of Sychar. If we have the brightness of the unveiled glory by the side of the Hiddekel, so have we the same in the Isle of Patmos. The Son of God was as a traveling man in the sight of Abraham in the heat of the day, and so was He to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus as the day was fast spending itself. He ate of Abraham’s calf, “tender and good,” as He did of “a broiled fish and of an honeycomb,” in the midst of the disciples at Jerusalem. In His risen days, He assumed different forms, to suit, in divine grace, the need or demand of the moment; as He had done of old, whether as a stranger or a visitor, whether as simply a “man of God” to Manoah and his wife in the field, or as an armed soldier to Joshua at Jericho.
And it is this, I think I can say again, which I specially value in following these meditations upon Him—to see Jesus one throughout; and that also, near and real to us. We need (if one may speak for others) the purged eye that is practiced to see and delight in, such a heaven as the heaven of Jesus must be. Will it be nothing, we may ask our hearts, will it be nothing to spend eternity with Him who looked up and caught the eye of Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree, and then, to the thrilling joy of his soul, let his name fall on his ear from His own lips? With Him who, without one upbraiding word, filled the convicted, quickened heart of a poor sinner of Samaria with joy and a spirit of liberty that far more than abounded? Surely we want nothing but the child-like, simple, believing mind. For we are not straitened in Him, and there is nothing to Him like this believing mind. It glorifies Him beyond even the services of eternity.
Nature, it is indeed true, is not equal to this. It must come from the inworking and witness of the Holy Spirit. Nature finds itself overwhelmed. It always betrays itself as that which, as the apostle speaks, comes “short of the glory of God.” When Isaiah, on the occasion already referred to, was called into the presence of that glory, he could not endure it. He remembered his uncleanness and cried out that he was undone. All that he apprehended was the glory; and all that he felt and knew in himself was his unfitness to stand before it. This was nature. This was the action of the conscience which, as in Adam in the garden, seeks relief from the presence of God. Nature in the prophet did not discover the altar which, equally with the glory, lay in the scene before him. He did not perceive that which was fully equal to give him perfect ease and assurance, to link him (though still a sinner in himself) with the presence of the glory in all its brightness. Nature could not make this discovery. But the messenger of the Lord of hosts not only discovers but applies it; and the prophet is at ease in the possession of a cleanness or a holiness that can measure the very “holy of holies” itself, and the brightness of the throne of the Lord of hosts.
The Spirit acts above nature, yea, in contradiction of nature. Nature in Isaiah—in us all—stands apart and is abashed, unable to look up: the Spirit draws us right inward and upward in liberty. When Simeon is led by the Spirit into the presence of the glory, he goes up at once in all confidence and joy. He takes the child Jesus in his arms. He makes no request of the mother to suffer it to be so; he feels no debt to any one for the blessed privilege of embracing “the Salvation of God,” which his eyes then saw. He, through the Spirit, had discovered the altar; and the glory, therefore, was not beyond him (Isa. 6; Luke 2).
And true still, as true as ever, as true as in the days of Isaiah and of Simeon, are these things now. The Spirit leads in a path which nature never treads. Nature stands apart, and is afraid; yea, will rebuke where faith is full of liberty. And these diverse ways of nature and of faith we may well remember for our comfort and strengthening, as we still look at the Son of God, and meditate on mysteries and counsels of God connected with Him.
Our meditations have waited on the Lord from the eternity of the Father’s bosom to the coming days of the millennial kingdom. We have watched His ascendings and descendings in the intermediate dispensations, and marked the links between the successive parts in this great mystery, or the transition-moments in the stages of these wondrous journeys.
We have but little liberty from Scripture (our only chart and compass) to follow Him farther. The Psalms and the prophets open the door into the coming Kingdom, and open it widely. But they scarcely carry us beyond it. At least, if they lead us to know that there are regions still in the farther distance, which is almost all they do. They never give us to survey them.
This coming Kingdom they again and again speak of as everlasting. Rightly so, as I need not say, but in this sense; that it is not to give place to any other kingdom. As Daniel says of it, “The Kingdom shall not be left to other people” (Dan. 2:4444And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (Daniel 2:44)). It is to be as untransferable as the priesthood of the same Christ, the Son of God. It is to be as enduring as royalty, as long continued as power “ordained of God” is to be; for it shall not cease while He “to whom power belonged” has anything to do by means of power. But still, it will in season have discharged its office and service, and then cease.
Of this mystery, this ceasing or delivering up of the Kingdom, we have a verbal or literal intimation in Psalm 8. That psalm celebrates the lordship of the Son of Man, in the day of His power, over the works of God’s hands. But it contains an intimation (as we find from an inspired commentary upon it in 1Cor. 15:27-2827For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:27‑28)) that that day of power shall yield to another order of things.
We have also moral intimations of the same mystery. For instance, the age or dispensation we are now contemplating is, as we see, to be a kingdom, the time of a scepter; and, as such (may I not say?) it must have an end. Could a scepter be a symbol of the divine eternity, the eternity of God’s presence? A scepter may exercise its prerogative power for its season; but Scripture would lead us to say that it could not be a symbol of our eternity in the blessed presence of God. Even Adam can scarcely be said to have had a scepter. He had dominion but was it exactly that of a king? His was lordship and inheritance, more properly, not a kingdom. It was not royal rule, though there was the fullest subjection to him, and the most perfect order. A kingdom was not developed for a long time in the progress of the divine way and wisdom. And all this suggests, that when the time of a kingdom, or the rule of a scepter, or the exercise of royal power comes, such a form of things will not be final or eternal. It cannot, I judge, give rest to the thoughts which are spiritually or scripturally exercised toward God and His ways. A scepter of righteousness is not so high nor so eternal a thought as a dwelling-place of righteousness; and that is what Scripture confirms (2 Peter 3:1313Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (2 Peter 3:13)).
And, further, as another moral intimation of this same truth, the coming Kingdom will be but an imperfect condition of things. We need not determine how far there may be the need of it or the demand for its exercise; still, power will be present to put itself forth. The prophets, as we said, widely survey this Kingdom in its strength, its extent, its duration, its glory, its peace and blessedness, and the like; but withal, the presence of evil and of sorrow is contemplated, though with authority to control, and resources to relieve.
Is not this then, I ask, a further intimation of a moral character, that such an order of things is to yield to a better? Surely, it is. But there is more than even this: The Kingdom is a delegated thing, a stewardship; and being such, we may say in divine or scriptural reasoning, it must give an account of itself and be delivered up. But here, beloved, meditations on Jesus Himself, the Son of God, afresh invite the soul.
In this character of it, to which I have now referred, His Kingdom is like His past time of humiliation on earth and His present time of priesthood in heaven. All, in a great sense, was or is or will be stewardship. He came here to this earth of ours to do God’s will, and when He had accomplished it, He rendered it up as in sacrifice: His present seat in heaven is a stewardship. As a High Priest there, He is faithful, “faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all His house” (Heb. 3:22Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. (Hebrews 3:2); Num. 12:77My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. (Numbers 12:7)). And after these patterns will be His coming Kingdom and power. It will be, like the rest, a stewardship, though of something new, something which had not been committed to Him or put into His hands before; something, too, very glorious and excellent: Still, it will be a stewardship. And, being such, in due season it will have to be accounted for and delivered up. And such a mystery is full of blessedness, had we but faith and bowels to enjoy it. For, after this wondrous manner, subjection and obedience to God—which man, a creature of the dust, cast off and refused,—from the unutterable glory of the person of Him who owns it and renders it, receives such value as all creatures, from the highest to the lowest, though they had all continued in unintermitting and full service, could never have imparted to it.
And this is a precious truth, which the soul loses just so far as the enemy robs it of the sense and apprehension of the person of the Son.
The Son Himself delights to be all this—the Steward or Servant of the will of God, whether in grace or in glory, in humiliation or in power. And when we, in the spirit of worship, consider or recollect who He is throughout all changes and conditions, we can and will say that changes and conditions, whether the highest or the lowest, are as nothing. What, in one sense, can raise such a One? Can glory and a kingdom elevate Him? Faith finds it easy indeed to see such a One a Steward of power and dominion and royal honors, when He comes to sit on a throne, just as He was a Steward when He traversed the path of life in weakness and humiliation. Such distances, in one sense, are nothing to such a One as “the Son.” In another sense, the distance, we surely know, is immense; for He entered into sorrow in its season, and will enter into joy in its season. All was, and is, and will be, real to Him, as we said before; and, therefore, in another sense, the distance is immense. The “Man of sorrows” will take “the cup of salvation.” Will that be nothing? To Him who was despised and rejected, insulted and scorned, every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. But the Person is the same throughout, God and man in one Christ; and faith, therefore, receives it, that having been the Steward of the Father’s will and grace in days of humiliation, He may still be Steward of the Father’s Kingdom in days of exaltation and strength.
And so it will be, as scripture after scripture tells us. “When I shall receive the congregation,” says. Christ, anticipating the Kingdom, “I will judge uprightly” (Psa. 75:22When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly. (Psalm 75:2)); thus owning that He is under commission or in stewardship, when in the Kingdom. So, to the like intent, He owns that the time of His receiving the Kingdom and the distribution of the rewards and honors of the Kingdom, are not in His hands, but in the Father’s (Mark 13:3232But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. (Mark 13:32); Matt. 20:2323And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. (Matthew 20:23)). Every tongue in that day, it is most sure, shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; but then, this is to be “to the glory of God the Father.” The Lord Himself again and again calls it the Father’s Kingdom. And further, He will be anointed for the ministry of it, just as He was anointed for the ministry of the days of His flesh (Isa. 11; 61:1-2). And further still (may I say?), He will be a Dependent on God during His day of strength, as He has already been or as He once was, in His day of sorrow and weakness. Therefore we read, “Prayer shall be made for Him continually”; as Solomon, the typical king, by a public act of intercession, put under the care of the God of Israel the kingdom which he had received (Psa. 72; 2 Chron. 6).
All this is moral intimation that there must be a delivering up of the Kingdom; for all this shows us that the Kingdom is a delegated thing, a stewardship; and, as we said, this moral intimation is affirmed by the divine reasoning in 1 Corinthians 15 and Psalm 8. All is subjection: the kingly days of power, the self-emptying days of sorrow, the heavenly days of priestly ministry; all is alike subjection and service. As Christ did not glorify Himself to be made a High-Priest, but He who said unto Him, “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee”; so, we may say, neither did He glorify Himself to be made a King, but He which said unto Him, “Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a Kingdom” (Psa. 2:7; 110:17I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psalm 2:7)
1<<A Psalm of David.>> The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. (Psalm 110:1)
; Dan. 7:13-1413I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13‑14)).
This is the institution of the coming Kingdom of Christ. And thus it is a delegated thing, taken from the hands of Another, in its time to be delivered back. The Son, most surely, will be faithful, where all others have been found wanting. Of them it is written, “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty: He judgeth among the gods,” but of the Son it is written, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy Kingdom: Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, path anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows” (Psa. 45; 82; Heb. 1).
But all this still tells us that He holds the Kingdom as a stewardship. Whether it be the sword or the scepter of the Kingdom, whether He act as the David or as the Solomon, He will be alike faithful. When He goes forth to the judgment or to fight the battles of the Lord, this will be so; as it is said of Him, “The Lord at Thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of His wrath” (Psa. 110:55The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. (Psalm 110:5)). And again, “Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations He hath made in the earth” (Psa. 46:88Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. (Psalm 46:8)). When He sits on the throne or ministers the Kingdom in peace, this will be so. “I will walk within My house,” says Christ the King, “with a perfect heart” (Psa. 101:22I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. (Psalm 101:2)). And it is said of Him to Jehovah, “He shall judge Thy people with righteousness, and Thy poor with judgment” (Psa. 72:22He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment. (Psalm 72:2)). But, again I say, all this intimates delegated power, though in a peculiar hand. His Kingdom shall perfect that which concerneth it, as did His death once and forever and as His heavenly priesthood is now doing day by day. And then His scepter shall be laid aside, the Kingdom shall cease. As it is written, “He shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God, even the Father.” And again, “Then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”
“That God may be all in all.” Yes, God, by the Son, made the worlds or the ages. And when the worlds or the ages have run their course and discharged their trust; when dispensations have manifested the counsels and the works and the glories appointed them; the Son, as the One in whom they were laid and by whom they were ordered, may well be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
It is the subjection of office, the subjection of Him who had all things put under Him, to Him who did put all things under Him. That is the character of this subjection. As to the Person, unlike the office, it is eternal. The Son is of the glory of the Godhead, as is the Father and as is the Holy Spirit.
“Thou art the everlasting Word,
The Father’s only Son;
God manifest, God seen and heard,
The Heaven’s beloved One.
In Thee most perfectly expressed,
The Father’s self cloth shine;
Fullness of Godhead, too: the Blest,
Eternally divine.
Image of th’ Infinite Unseen,
Whose being none can know;
Brightness of light no eye hath seen,
God’s love revealed below.
The higher mysteries of Thy fame
The creature’s grasp transcend;
The Father only Thy blest name
Of Son can comprehend.
Worthy, O Lamb of God, art Thou
That every knee to Thee should bow.”
It is the mystery of mysteries, the Person, we are here looking at. When we think rightly of Him, even all the brightness of the coming Kingdom will be seen but as a veil. Can the splendor of the throne display Him? Would not the honors of Solomon, yea, of the kingdoms of the world, be a veil over the glory of the Son, as really as the scorn of Pilate’s judgment hall or the thorns of Calvary? Is the Bethlehemite the measure of His personal worth a single title more than the Nazarene? Therefore, to faith it is easy to see the Servant still, in days of exaltation as in days of sorrow. He served as a Servant, He serves as a Priest, He will serve as a King.
It is the link of links, this mystery we are here contemplating; and in the faith of it, all distances and intervals vanish. Heaven and earth, God and man, the Sanctifier and the sanctified, the highest and the lowest, are introduced to each other in ways of unutterable glory to God and blessing to us.
What links, indeed, what mysteries, what harmonies, what counsels about the ends of creation, in the hidden ages of divine, eternal wisdom before creation! “Vast as is the course which Scripture has traced, it has been a circle still; and in that most perfect form comes back to the point from which it started. The heaven which had disappeared since the third chapter of Genesis, reappears in the latest chapters of the Revelation. The tree of life again stands by the river of the water of life, and again there is no more curse.”
“Even the very differences of the forms under which the heavenly Kingdom reappears are deeply characteristic, marking, as they do, not merely that all is won back, but won back in a more glorious shape than that in which it was lost, because won back in the Son. It is no longer Paradise, but the New Jerusalem; no longer the Garden, but the City of God; no longer the Garden, free, spontaneous, and unlabored, as man’s blessedness in the estate of a first innocence would have been, but the City, costlier indeed, more stately and more glorious, but at the same time the result of toil and pains, reared into a nobler and more abiding habitation, yet with stones which (after the pattern of the elect cornerstone), were, each in its time, laboriously hewn and painfully squared for the places which they fill.”
We may join in these thoughts, but having reached the delivering up of the Kingdom, we are on the borders of “new heaven” and the “new earth.” The heavens and the earth which are now will have been the scene of the Son’s exercised energies, and the witness of His perfections in grace and in glory, in humiliation and in power, in the services of the Servant, the Priest, and the King, in the life of faith and in the lordship of all things. And when the Son has been thus displayed, as in weakness and in strength, as on earth and in heaven, from the manger to the throne, as the Nazarene and the Bethlehemite, the Lamb of God and the anointed Lord of all, according to predestination of eternal counsels, these heavens and earth which now are will have done all they had to do; when they have continued unto this display of the Son, they have continued long enough. They may give place; and the soul that has surveyed them as having accomplished such a service may be prepared to hear this from the prophet of God, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away” (Rev. 21).
But, as I said before, we have but little liberty from Scripture (our only chart and compass) to follow the Lord farther than the Kingdom. There are, however, characteristics of the “new heaven” and the “new earth” given to us in the passing or occasional notices of the Spirit.
Isaiah speaks of the former heaven and earth not being remembered when the new creation comes; thereby intimating the abounding excellence of the latter. And, again, he says, “The new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me,” thereby suggesting that it is the eternal state (Isa. 65-66).
Paul says, that after the delivery of the kingdom, God shall be “all in all”; by that intimating, I judge, that all delegated power, all stewardship, of which I have spoken, even in the hand of the Son, is over, as having completed its purpose.
Peter speaks of the “new heavens” and the “new earth” as being the dwelling-place of righteousness; by such a thought carrying our minds beyond the time of the scepter of righteousness.
But John, in the Apocalypse, is more full: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” And again, John says of the same new heaven and new earth, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21).
This is blessed: “The former things are passed away.” Tears are gone; death is gone; sorrow and pain and crying are gone. No trace remains of the former things of sin and death. The millennial earth will not be a witness of so high an order as that.
“The former things are passed away.” Not that we lose anything which has been given or communicated in His counsels of grace and glory, in the services of the Son, and in the operations of the Spirit. Nothing will be lost to us, which we have gathered in the progress of the divine dispensations. That could not be. Even the passing refreshments of the Spirit, which the in-working of corruption spoils us of for many and many a season, are not lost to us. They are the witness of that which is eternal in its very essence. And in like manner, all the unfolded wisdom of God must be enjoyed forever in its bright result. It is itself essentially eternal, and cannot be lost to us. These manifestations of God in His wisdom and power, and grace and glory, have come forth and shown themselves in the progress of the ages, and they have found a struggle in an injured, ruined, degraded scene of action, like this world of ours; but in the “new heavens” and the “new earth” all this struggle in every form of it is over, and these manifestations will be known in their full, triumphant and glorious result.
Before Him that sits on the white horse, the apostate powers of “this present evil world,” in the hour of their fullest pride and daring, are smitten; and the Lord and His saints take righteous rule in the earth for the appointed millennial age. Before Him that sits on the white throne, the present heaven and earth pass away, and there is found no place for them; and He that sits on the throne says, “Behold, I make all things new.” Surely these are distinctions; distinctions, too, full of meaning and as significant of advance and development in divine counsels and ways as any earlier moment.
It will not be the scepter of righteousness, but its dwelling-place; and accordingly, it will not be the throne of the Son, but “the tabernacle of God.” It is not divine authority over the scene, but the home of God in the scene.
It will no longer be the earth that was once stained with the blood of Christ and has been the grave of a thousand generations, but “a new earth”; no longer the heavens that have been clothed in sackcloth, and where thunders and wind and deluge have done the work of judgment and borne witness of righteous wrath, but “new heavens.”
He that is athirst shall drink of the fountain of the water of life; he that overcometh shall inherit all things (Rev. 21:6-76And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 7He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Revelation 21:6‑7)). Blessed characters of the saint! How little realized in the souls of some of us! But still blessed, when we can but read of them or think of them; to be longing after the living God and conquering the course of this evil world.
I would, however, say but little more. We must not speculate where we cannot teach; we must not listen where we cannot learn from Him. His written Word is the standard of the thoughts of all His saints, while some have that Word more largely made the possession of their souls, through the Spirit, than others. We are to know the common standard, and also our personal measure in the Spirit. I would, therefore, pause here; just adding one thought which has been happy to myself: that though we see not those distant regions, we may trust them—trust Him, rather, who is the Lord of them. We may assure our hearts in His presence that they will be just what we would have them to be, just what our new conditions would ask for.
Heaven has always been what the earth needed. At the beginning, the sun was there to rule the day and the moon and the stars to govern the night. Those ordinances were set in heaven then, for they measured the earth’s need then. But there was no rainbow in the sky, for the earth needed not a token that God would debate with judgment. Judgment was not known. But when conscience had been quickened, and judgment was understood and feared, when God was known (in the doings He had accomplished) to be righteous, and earth needed a pledge that in wrath He would remember mercy, heaven wore the token of that mercy and hung it out as on its very forehead.
After this manner, heaven has already changed itself, or arrayed itself anew, with the changing need of the earth; and the past pledges the future, though “a new heaven and a new earth” be to be revealed. Yea, I may add, the millennial earth, in its day, will know the same fidelity of heaven to it. For the habitation of the glory shall be seen to be there then (as the sanctuary of peace is known by faith to be there now), and the heavenly city of that age will descend in that very character which the nations of the earth, their kings, their glory and their honor, will both need and delight in. The God of heaven and earth, in boundless and unwearied goodness, will, after this old and constant and undeviated way, be ever and alike true to the blessing of His creatures. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:1717Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17)). And the “new heaven” and the “new earth” will but take up the same tale of various but exhaustless goodness.
We need only the happy faith which realizes it all to the soul.
“Our Father’s house! No more our souls
At fearful distance bow;
We enter in by Jesus’ blood,
With happy boldness now.
“Our Father! thought had never dreamed
That love like Thine could be—
Mysterious love which brings us thus
So very near to Thee.”
May these meditations help our souls to know this nearness and this reality of the blessed things of faith. Amen.