Christ for the Saint and Christ for the Sinner: Part 3

Revelation 22:17
Scripture describes the present in one aspect as “night.” Well might it be so I since our Lord was crucified. It is the night of man's day. But the light of God's glory in Christ has shone into our hearts, once utterly dark; and we can look up into the heavens, and by faith behold the One who is coming. And this hope brightens the heart before He comes, and makes us long for Him. The first object of the Christian's heart is Christ. This only the better fits us to seek the perishing, that they may be saved; as we have a yet nearer call of love toward brethren in Christ. But the first and deepest affection is and ought to be toward Christ. Our constant and due attitude is to be patiently waiting for Him, that is, for “the bright, the morning star.”
Now, let me ask, Is it so with you that believe? What is the use of any truth if you do not make it your own, and live in it? It will otherwise only condemn you. Who can be said to set a just regard on God's truth if he does not earnestly act on it? We owe all to His love; and in fact it was His love that sent Christ to die and bring us salvation. “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:88But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)). So also just before, we were yet without strength, when “in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” This is God's gospel; and the proper hope of him that has received the gospel is Christ coming for us, when also we shall reign with Him. The Old Testament saints shall also share His reign; they suffered in faith. But none had the Bright, the Morning Star revealed, as Christ does it now. Hence see the force of “The Spirit, and the bride say, Come.” For the Holy Ghost is in us now, and leads the church to. say, Come; as he that hears, the individual believer, is invited to bid Christ come. But how could anyone ask the Lord to come, the Judge of quick and dead, unless he were justified by faith and had peace with God?
Beware of the too common view which mixes up the coming of the Lord for the saints, with His appearing to judge the world. Shall I tell you what such a theory is like? It actually makes the Lord, when He comes to receive His bride, array Himself as it were with the black cap of the Judge. To him who knows the symmetry of God's word there can scarce be a sadder perversion of the truth. The Lord coming with a black cap to meet His bride! Oh, what folly man can conceive when he slips from Scripture into his own thoughts!
There are two parts in Christ's coming. First, He will receive His saints and take them to heaven. There is the great importance of the fourth chapter of the Revelation. None can find the church on earth after chap. 3; for the conclusory word in chap. 22 goes back of course, and is no exception to the fact named. The second and third chapters of the Revelation show the churches in seven different types, which furnish a somewhat prophetic view of what it seemed good to the Lord to notice therein until He comes. The next chapter 4 lets us see all the saints glorified in heaven. How did they get there? The Lord had translated them. It does not belong to the purpose of the Revelation to give a vision of the Lord's coming to receive them to Himself. The vision we have in chap. 19 is of the Lord coming from heaven with the saints following Him when He executes judgment.
Confessedly, the only way (and how happily!) believers can be caught up to heaven is by Christ's presenting them there at His coming. The fullest revelation of it, is in 1 Thess. 4, in 2 Thess. 2:11Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, (2 Thessalonians 2:1), and in 1 Cor. 15. In these three scriptures, which, ought to more than suffice, we have the proof that, in this way only are the saints to be taken in a moment together out of the world; as they will at a later season leave heaven—at the time of His appearing to execute judgment. There is thus not the least mixing of the Bridegroom's coming for the bride, and of the Judge's execution of judgment on the world. This enforcing of judgment might suit such a cap of condemnation (at least in human style). But think of so grotesque an array for one meeting and marrying a bride, even though he were a judge! Yet this reflects symbolically what such a system of confusion makes of our Lord's coming. It is as contrary to Scripture as to the nature of things. Distinguish the two parts, and you have, Christ coming for His saints, and in due course His other act of coming with them to judge the world.
The distinction preserves the hope in its constant power. We may always wait if there be no revealed events to intervene. Such is the unquestionable impression formed by the Gospels and the Epistles, and confirmed, not impaired, by the Revelation rightly understood. Still more profuse again are the references to His appearing to judge the world, before which important events must necessarily be fulfilled. Then in the Revelation we have the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven vials, to say nothing of signs and solemn facts which the Lord and the apostle declare must be before that day. But the coming for His own is carefully apart, that it may be a simple hope, and not an event of providence or of prophecy. They are both true, but distinct, parts of His Second Advent.
Hence the moment the bride hears of Him as the Bright, the Morning Star, she answers, “Come.” She knows of no revealed delay; she asks for no tokens; she thinks of no preparation further in this world. The church alone (and so the Christian individually) has the Spirit thus guiding in perfect peace and confiding affection before the Lord comes. Whatever outpouring of the Spirit the Jews receive is after He appears. It is therefore eminently characteristic of the bride, the church, that the Spirit is shown here leading her to say, Come. It is not a mere expression of her own feeling (which might be enthusiasm), but a Spirit-given and sanctioned call to Christ, as the fruit in her of His grace and truth. And what has ever wrought in saints effects more acceptable to God than the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ? The bride is, without doubt, the church, longing for Christ to come, and rightly interpreting by the Spirit His way of revealing Himself.
It is not at all doubted that Jerusalem will be in a similar relation comparatively on the earth.
Jerusalem is the bride referred to in the Song of Solomon as well as Psa. 45 and elsewhere in the Old Testament. There the associations are all earthly. Of course it is a figure in either case, meaning the one dearest to the Lord respectively in heaven or earth. There is no real difficulty; only we must not confuse the two. When we have as here, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come,” the words can apply only to the church waiting for Christ. But the words that follow are of much moment, and serve to guard us from over-valuing knowledge in comparison with the possession of Christ by faith.
I have seen people rather proud of their knowledge, which then bred worms and stank; but grace never despises those who may not know as much as others. We ought to love dearly Christ's own who know but little—to cherish them all the more because they are short. Do you not see this in the mother who has a child not so pretty or bright as the rest? She tries to make up for its defect by the most marked affection. She knows that the beauties of the family can get on very well for themselves. Most people like a handsome boy or girl; but the plain one is apt to fare ill with strangers. Not so with the mother, who cleaves to it, so that sometimes even the poor little soul is in danger of getting a little conceited or selfish, because so much love is showered upon it. But without question grace would lead one to care especially for the feebler among God's children, Those who are strong do not well to overlook the weak and please themselves. It is according to Christ that we help the needy in this way, and take pains to lead them on.
Here we have a special addition that illustrates His grace in a practical shape. “And let him that heareth say, Come.” There are not a few who have never understood, never enjoyed, the pledged relationship of the bride. Are they then to be silent? Are they forbidden to welcome Christ's coming? Not so. If one has really heard the voice of Christ, without appreciating the bridal place, let him not hesitate. He believes in Christ and His work, he knows His love already, and that He is coming to consummate His love; for He will change the body of our humiliation, so as to be conformed to the body of His glory, and have us thus like Himself, and with Him where, He is.
Here the word warrants the weakest one “that heareth” to say, Come. This is grace indeed, as it disproves the theorists who slight the deficient in knowledge. They are more to be blamed than those they look down on. “Let him that heareth say, Come,” is an encouraging word to the feeble believer.
But this is not all. Having now set in their place those who answer with bridal love, and such as hear Christ but know not that relationship, the revealing Spirit is careful even here to insist on seal for the gospel, and warm interest in souls who are strangers to Christ and in danger of perishing. There are those of the world or such as look like the world, as the publican did to the Pharisee in the temple. For the publican, not the Pharisee, bitterly bewailed his condition and cast himself on God's sovereign mercy. Far different he who despised and hated him with a bard and haughty bearing, most hateful to God. But the Lord entered into the publican's need; and just because he did not justify himself, he is declared to have gone down to his house justified rather than the other. Some such state seems described in the next words of our text, “Let him that is athirst come.” It is an address to one who is no longer indifferent, but thirsting for what would relieve his soul. He could scarcely be athirst if unawakened to feel it; but a sense of want, a craving for the blessing he does not yet know, there is. And here is the invitation of grace— “Let him that is athirst come.” He is not told to say, Come, as in both the former cases. How could a man in his misery ask the Lord to come? He is just realizing his wants and his ruin; and the question for him was how to assuage his burning thirst. “Let him come.” For the water of life is here to be taken freely. Nothing but life's water can refresh the thirsty soul. Let him come and drink then without money and without price.
The Spirit goes further still and addresses any one willing to hear. “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Impossible to meet souls more widely than this. Here truly as it were the extreme verge of gospel grace is reached. It not merely meets the soul that condemns itself and loathes its sins, but stretches out to meet such as still seem careless if peradventure the conscience may he reached. What goodness in God thus yearning after the evil and impenitent, that the very invitation may act divinely on their souls! “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Oh hear the message of love from God to-night if you never hearkened to Him before. He is willing to save you on your receiving Christ. Are you unwilling even to be saved? Tremble to think of Him and of yourself. The bride, as the Christian, does not say, “Come to me.” This is what a certain corrupt woman says, who sits upon the seven hills of Babylon, a false prophetess. Her cry is, “Come to me; there is no salvation outside me; I am infallible.” Never does the bride so speak; only the great harlot. The water of life she has indeed drunk; but she is not the giver of it, and she is jealous for Christ's glory. From Him, not her, the water of life flows, and whosoever will, let him take that water freely. Christ is the spring, the fountain; and there is none other. May God bless His own word. W.K.
(Concluded from p. 271).