Lectures on Revelation 19

Revelation 19
We are now approaching a brighter and happier portion of the book. The providential judgments of God, whether more secret like the seals, more loudly summoning men to repent like the trumpets, or more positive and distinct wrath like the vials, have had their full course. And now, when Babylon who had set herself up to represent God in His grace and truth arrogated to herself, exclusively, the name of the church, the spouse of Christ-when she was set aside forever, there was a burden gone—a heavy burden that had long grieved the heavens and corrupted the earth.
There was freedom, so to speak, now for God to make good the precious things which He had in His heart for poor beguiled men; and that too, as it ought to be, through, and to the praise of the Lamb. Hence you have two things connected together at the beginning of this chapter. The first is the call to rejoice. “The great whore” had presented an obstinate barrier to blessing; not simply because she was evil, but because her profession had been all that was holy and true, while in effect she it was who, above all, had been active in corrupting grace and truth as far as possible; she had utterly and systematically denied Christ in effect, though parading every where the outward symbol of His cross. In vain for her had God's character shone out in Christ; in vain had God pronounced on man and the world, in vain begun a new creation whose Head took His place in heavenly glory. She associated Christ with the flesh and the earth, and there sought and laid up her treasures. In vain had God brought light and incorruptibility to light by the gospel. She plunged men into deeper uncertainty and more positive error than ever, teaching them that every gift of God, and even salvation may be bought with money; cheating souls to sleep by the hope that all would go on well, and that the Lord was not yet coming in judgment. Thus had she shut up, as far as could be, the streams of blessing from the world. But now, the true and righteous judgment of God had smitten her, and there is rejoicing in heaven.
In ch. 18 there was universal earthly sorrow. The kings of the earth who had committed fornication with her lamented. The merchants that had been enriched by her were wailing. Indeed, there was no class free from her snares, and now all that had had to do with her were full of sorrow over Babylon. But heaven was called to rejoice, and here we have the answer: “I heard, as it were, a loud voice of much people in heaven,” not exactly, I heard, a great voice of much people, but “as it were a loud voice,” &c. The words “as it were” have been dropped, but I believe they ought to be inserted; just as a little lower down, in the 6th verse, it is said, “I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters,” &c. “And her smoke rose up forever and ever.” As far as Babylon was concerned, this was her sad amen, if I may so say, to the joy of heaven.
But we are not left with a vague rumor of praise and gladness, not knowing from whom_ exactly it comes. There appear the twenty-four elders, who had understanding of the mind of Christ, and the four living creatures, that had been from the beginning associated with the providential judgments of God, or at least a certain part of them. These “fell down and worshipped God that sat upon the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia” (ver. 4). It is not Christ, who has taken His place upon His own throne yet, but they worship “God that sat on the throne,” &c. “And a voice came out of the throne,” for all must speak now, “saying, Praise our God, all ye His servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude and as it were the voice of mighty thunders, saying, Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come and his wife hath made herself ready,” (ver. 5-7).
This is the second part. Not only is the harlot's day over, but the consummation of the bride's blessing is come. It is important to observe that this is not the moment when the Lord comes to receive the heavenly church. It is a scene in heaven, not the Lord Jesus meeting His saints in the air. A few verses lower down we do get heaven opened, and Christ comes out of it, and the saints follow Him. Nothing, therefore, can be more simple or certain than the inference that the saints were already there. They must have been in heaven before, in order to follow Christ thence when He comes to judge. Now, I ask, how did they get there? They are not said to be now taken up to the Father's house. We have the old familiar parties in heaven. But we have a new fact: the bride is married in heaven-the one for whom Christ reserves the brightest grace and glory—she gets ready; and now is announced, not merely the song of triumph, because of the judgment of evil, but the marriage of the Lamb “Let us be glad and rejoice.” It is grace that flows out to others. “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen clean and white.” As for the other woman, she had, somehow, fine linen too, with her pearls and her other adornments. (Chap. 18:12.) But it was never said of Babylon that it was granted her. We do not hear how she got it. But to the Lamb's wife, to her it was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen. The fine linen is the righteousnesses of saints. (Ver. 8.) God does not forget the work of faith or labor of love.
“And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage-supper of the Lamb.” There is evidently a peculiar solemnity in winding up this account. We are called upon to pause and listen and weigh. “These are the true sayings of God.” To the suffering one, the one that had shared the Lamb's path of sorrow upon earth, to her was now given the fullest joy above. But the marriage-scene of the Lamb is only intimated, and not described here. The purpose of the Revelation is not to show us the Father's house, nor its inner scenes. God is never even called our Father in this book, because it opens out, not the intimacy of His love to us, but rather the righteous ways of God-the establishment of the kingdom and the end, when He is all in all. True, there must be the stern unsparing judgment of all this evil, and this we have had. But when God's part comes, and the full blessedness of the Church, there is but an announcement of it-the bride has made herself ready. It is left there, comparatively hidden. We are told of the invitations to it, as it is said in verse 9, “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
And now I would just ask you to pause before going farther. Is it too much to suppose that the bride, the Lamb's wife, is a different symbol, i.e., represents a class of saints different from these blessed ones who are invited to her marriage? Who is it that God means by these two distinct symbols. As to the bride, the Lamb's wife, few would have the least difficulty. Almost every one sees in her the church- the one that is constantly presented in the New Testament Scripture as the heavenly bride of the Lord Jesus Christ. One turns to Eph. 5, where this relationship is brought out, and the development in her behalf of the fullness of Christ's affections. Observe, by the way, that there it is not merely a question of a future epoch, because the Holy Ghost shows that this is a relationship established now. “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” It is true, from the very first moment when God began to form the church on earth by the presence of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.
The church is always regarded as a real and subsisting body, because, wherever the Holy Ghost is, there is the church. The Holy Ghost was sent down, and it is His personal presence that forms the church. That is the reason why those saints who depart to be with Christ are not directly spoken of as the church. Of course, individually, they are members of the church, but the scriptures which speak of the church contemplate its existence as the body of Christ on earth. Ordinarily, men talk of the. church visible and invisible, militant and triumphant, and think that if Christians depart to be with Christ, there more particularly, and in the truest season, is the church. Yet the word of God never so speaks, but predicates the church of such as are called even here below, and are baptized by one Spirit into one body. No doubt, when all are gathered together, as a fact, in heaven, it will be the church, and is so spoken of in Eph. 5:2727That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27), and perhaps a few more texts. But in general in scripture, where the church is spoken of, it means the actual assembly of God on the earth at any given time. The Holy Ghost was there; and wherever the Holy Ghost dwells, He knits and joins the body into one. This is a weighty truth, and involves the most important consequences.
For I repeat, we are put into this relationship with Christ at the present moment. It is not that we have the hope merely of being made the bride of Christ by and by: we are espoused to Christ now. We shall have the marriage or the actual consummation by and by, when all the members are brought in. But the great and blessed and practical thing for our souls is, that we are brought into this position of union now. It is not only that the affection on which the marriage is grounded is true now; but more than this, the Holy Ghost is on earth uniting the saints to Christ in heaven, and making them as truly one with Him now as they ever will be. When Christ comes, there will be the removal of all hindrances-the putting aside of what Satan employs to make us forget our relationship to Christ, and the change of our vile body according to the body of His glory. But it is important to remember that our oneness with Christ as His body depends on the presence of the Holy Ghost, who has knit us up with Christ in heaven. We are one with Him now.
Here then, the Holy Ghost seems to show that there are others to be there, not as the bride, but as guests, so to speak. These are the called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. You may remember John the Baptist speaking of himself as the friend of the Bridegroom. I presume that those who are here said to be invited to the marriage-supper of the Lamb answer somewhat to the friends of the Bridegroom. They are not angels, for the word “called unto the marriage” would not be said of angels. These last are never characterized as “called,” because the elect angels have always abode in their first estate. The calling of God comes to those who are in a low place to deliver them out of it. We have all, I suppose, been in the habit of assuming that if a man is a saint of God, he necessarily belongs to the church, and that there is only one common blessing for all saints of all times. Here you find the contrary laid down plainly, and upon the face of scripture. You have here a marriage-supper, and one singled out for especial joy, called the bride, the Lamb's wife (composed, it may be, of myriads of people, but here recognized in unity of blessing, being united under one term that of “the Bride,” to show that they have the same portion of love and blessedness). But this is not true of all saints, for there are others who are not in this position; they are present as guests at the marriage-supper of the Lamb, not as His bride.
“And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” What strikes me is the remarkable way in which that solemn appeal comes in, anticipating, it seems, that man would depart from it. John was going to worship the angel! the other extreme.
We had a similar caution in the beginning of the book. The Holy Ghost there says, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein.” He knew well that many would treat the book lightly and, not understanding, would count it dry and unprofitable. Alas! for such as say, “There is nothing for my soul there!” There is no book in the Bible where the Holy Ghost so encourages you, at the very threshold, to hear what God says therein, as the Book of the Revelation. And what makes it the more striking is, that the same kind of admonition occurs at the end, when we have been brought to the close of all the dealings of God, in the last chapter. “And he said unto me, These things are faithful and true.... Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book:” not merely that keepeth the sayings of some particular and choice parts of it, but of the book as a whole. There is the broadest statement: “Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” Thus the Holy Ghost seems to have taken especial pains to warn us against the unbelief of our hearts, as well as against our idolatry. (Ver. 10.)
In the particular case (verse 9) it would seem that we have a guard against the indiscriminate notions which have generally prevailed, even among Christians.
“Write, blessed are they which are called unto the marriage-supper of the Lamb. And he saith, unto me, these are the true sayings of God.” Besides the Bride, there are other blessed persons, who will be there. Now, If I look at Heb. 12 I find that, in the roll of blessing, there are other classes besides the church of the first-born ones. “But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, the general assembly.” For I must say, that such is the true meaning and connection of the verse. “The general assembly” does not belong to “the church of the first-born,” but to “the innumerable company” in verse 22. It may help to make it plain to any reader if it be borne in mind that the word “and” is always the connecting link, which introduces every fresh clause. And this is allowed by those who have no pretensions to what is called dispensational light-that is, by men who simply give their opinion on the genuine structure of the sentence. This being admitted, observe what you get here next: “Ye are come.... to the church of the first-born ones, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” I am aware that there are persons who say that all this means the same thing; that the heavenly Jerusalem, and Mount Zion, &c., and the spirits of just men made perfect, are substantially no other than the church of the first-born. But just look at the passage again, and tell me if such a thought is allowable for a moment. God Himself is spoken of here, and Jesus the Mediator, and myriads of angels. Does any man mean to say, that these are all the same thing? And yet this might as well be said, if the other objects in the scene are not expressly distinct.
Let us look at the real meaning of these verses. “Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” When Mount Zion was referred to, a Jew would naturally think of the earthly city around that celebrated mountain. But the Holy Ghost says, this is not your portion. You are come to the heavenly Jerusalem;1 not to the city of dying David, but to the city of the living God. Then we have “an innumerable company of angels;” and this is called “the general assembly.”
Here, then, we have different objects of millennial glory to which the saints were already said to be come in spirit There is the Mount Zion. There is the heavenly city, the image of the glory that is coming by and by-the city for which Abraham and the other patriarchs waited. Next, we have the angelic host: and, then, the church of the first-born, not merely the local scene of heavenly glory, but the complete assembly of the heirs who are written in heaven, in contrast with the earthly first-born, Israel. Next, we rise up to God, the Judge of all. The Spirit has led us up from the Mount Zion. And now we are brought down from God in His judicial character to the spirits of just men made perfect. It is a very remarkable position in which these are put. We probably, if we had had to do with it, might have set them first; but the object was to correct the Jewish tendencies of those he was addressing, and to give prominence to what was heavenly. Then, having the heavenly seat of glory, and the church in their due place, we get God Himself as the Judge of all, and, following this, those saints who had known God as so acting on the earth. Hence they are called here the spirits of just men made perfect. They are, I think, clearly, the Old Testament saints. (Compare chap. xi. 39, 40.) For they, and not the church, are a class that could be most aptly described as the spirits of just men made perfect. They were in the separate condition then, and are so still. This will never be true of the church as a whole. When the moment comes for the church to leave the world and meet the Lord, there will be a part of the church upon the earth, not in the condition of spirits at all: there will be those that are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord. Of the church, it is said, “We shall not all sleep.” So that this description never can apply to the church of God as such.
We have had the church already separate and distinct from the spirits of just men made perfect. It is not more certain that these are saints, than that they are not the church. Carry the light of this back to Rev. 19 We read there of the church having made herself ready, and are not surprised to read also, as a distinct symbol in the same circle, “Blessed are they that are called unto the marriage-supper of the Lamb (ver. 9).” Let me not be misunderstood. I do not assert that the guests in our chapter are the Old Testament saints. It may be so; but I wish not to go beyond the light that God has given me. Possibly the marriage-supper may extend (though I doubt it) through the millennium, and this would greatly affect the character of those invited. Still, Heb. 12 shows us a class of persons, that will be blessed in the risen state, yet distinct from the church. And here, in Rev. 19 is a scene in heaven, and the bride, the Lamb's wife, is there; and, besides that, we hear, “Blessed are they that are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.” They are blessed, and invited here. Once they were sinners, but they have been drawn out of that place by the grace of God. Are they present, as guests,2 at the nuptials of the Lamb?
But now we have another scene. It is no longer what is going on above, but heaven is open: “And behold, a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness doth he judge and make war.” It is not a door opened in heaven, nor the prophet caught up there, as we had seen in chap. iv. Nor is it anything that had been done then or there. But now heaven is open, and the symbol of the power appears which comes to subdue the earth, not without the signs of victory. The horse is always the symbol of power connected with the earth; and it has the color of prosperity. It is a white horse. None, I trust, would be so foolish as to imagine that, when this blessed scene really comes, it will be a question of horses literally. It is the symbol that passed before the eye of the prophet, employed to show certain realities that will take place by and by. Heaven is seen opened for the purpose of victory over the earth. And the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is plainly referred to as the rider: He is the one who directs the power-.” He that sitteth on him [called] faithful and true, and in righteousness doth he judge and make war,” (ver. 11). This is the subject of the chapter. In the next chapter it is not a white horse that is seen, but a throne, which is the symbol of another character altogether. The throne is for rule, not conquest the horse is for conquest, not a reign. The Lord Jesus is here seen putting forth His power to put down His enemies; as in chap. 20 we have the picture of His reign. “His eyes were as a flame of fire.” That is, there is divine discernment in judging. “And on his head were many diadems” — or royal crowns. “And he had a name written, that no man knew but he himself,” (ver. 12). It is not merely in a certain conferred glory that He comes forth, but in the exercise of His own divine power. It is quite true that He has a name given to Him, as we see in Phil. 2 “Wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.” But here it seems not to be that name of Lord which we all confess, but one “which no man knew but he himself.” He has a glory that is essentially His own, distinct from that which was His reward and incapable of being shared with others; a glory which He has in His own right as a divine person. The name of the Lord here appears to express this, what He really is in His own nature. So, speaking of His person, it is said in Matt. 11, “No man knoweth the Son but the Father.” And it is remarkable how this is stated, in order to guard against the workings of our minds. Wherever there is a question of His Son, God is ever jealous about it. When speaking about the Father it is added, “and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him;” but it is not said that the Father reveals the Son to any one. “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father” —and there we stop. May we not say that thus God guards against the familiarity with which man would venture to analyze the person of Christ? There is nothing so offensive to God as this irreverence. The humanity and the humiliation of the Lord Jesus Christ are brought out plainly in Scripture. But there is no person in the Trinity whose divine glory is more strongly maintained than the Son's—perhaps none so much. It is remarkable that while the same sort of expression is used about God as such in Rom. 1:2525Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans 1:25), and about the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in 2 Cor. 11:3131The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. (2 Corinthians 11:31), as about Christ in Rom. 9 yet there is a further expression about the Lord Jesus that is not used about the Father. God the Father is said to be blessed for evermore, and Christ “God over all blessed for evermore.” The Holy Spirit knew that man was prepared to outrage the person and envy the glory of the Son, and foresaw that, even where they professed to know Him, He would be crucified afresh and put to open shame. Therefore it is that there is no one thing the Holy Ghost more insists upon, than the glory of the Lord Jesus, as indeed He is the constant object of the enemy's attacks. It is the true key to almost every question of doctrinal difficulty one meets among the children of God. Whenever we get our souls firmly fixed on God's thought of glorifying Him, all the power of Satan will be used to hinder in vain. When Christ's person and will are fully seen, difficulty, whatever it may be, is at an end. And so with our practical dilemmas also: the moment we catch the connection with Christ, the difficulty is clean gone. Satan would hinder our having anything to do with Christ about it. He shuts out the glory and the word of Christ from our eyes; and when that is the case, we are ready to fall into any snare: for the same blinding power that destroys a worldly man, darkens and hinders the Christian.
But to return. We next hear that the Lord “was clothed in a vesture dipped in blood,” (ver. 13). It is not now suffering, but avenging. He is coming to execute righteousness and takes His well-known title in revealing God to us. “The Word of God” had been peculiarly the name when the subject was the manifestation of grace and truth, which He used for bringing us round Himself, and putting us in His own position. Here He is the Word of God as manifesting divine judgment. I do not think the Holy Ghost refers to that name in the verse before. It appears to me that the name written which no man knew but He Himself is purposely left in obscurity, that we may not forget the perfect, divine and essential glory of the Son of God.
Now we learn that the Lord for judgment did not come alone. When He came out of the opened heaven, there were armies that followed. “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean,” (ver. 14). And observe, that the words, “which were,” though they are written in italics, are rightly inserted. The sense would be substantially the same whether you read it with those words or not; and therefore the English translators, seeing that it ought to be understood, but not knowing that it was really a part of the text, inserted the phrase in italics; but it ought to be adopted. “The armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” I have no doubt that angels will be in the train of Christ, for in some other parts of scripture angels are mentioned as coming with Him, and not saints, (as for instance in 2 Thess. 1:77And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (2 Thessalonians 1:7).) In this passage saints are mentioned and not angels. Such is the way of the Lord. He does not state things as man does. He has always a moral object in view, and therefore just brings out that part of the truth which bears on the particular subject in hand. Thus, in Matt. 25, where the Son of man is seen seated upon the throne of His glory, all the holy angels are mentioned as being with Him. And why? Because the angels have a special connection with Him as the Head of human glory. (See Matt. 13:44And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: (Matthew 13:4)].; xvi. 27; Luke 9:2020He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. (Luke 9:20)) If the Queen of England were setting out upon some great political occasion, she would be accompanied by ministers of state. But if she were going to visit her army, those officials need not be there; but she would require the presence of the great military authorities. If this is so among the things of men, much more is there a suitable order in the things of God. The Lord is called the Son of man in reference to His glory as connected with the earth: and when He takes the world under His government, He has got His angels whom He employs as the messengers of His power. But He is not called here “Son of man,” but “the Word of God,” and angels are not mentioned in connection with that name. As the Word of God, Christ makes Him known. Here He expresses God in the way of judgment. He had shown Him in the way of grace; as we have in the gospel of John. Thus the Lord Jesus is the expression of all God's ways, whether in perfect grace or perfect judgment.
Here, then, the armies that followed Him out of heaven are saints. 3This very chapter decides the question it seems to me; because in the eight verse, the fine linen with which they are clothed, (and it is the same word that is used,) is said to be the righteousnesses of saints. Others might be there, but could not well be mentioned where the Lord is described as the Word of God. Whereas, the mention of the hosts of heavenly saints is very important; and for this reason: the chapter gives us the deeper connection of the saints with Christ. You have the Bride of Christ, the marriage of the Lamb, and the consummation of the Church's joy in heaven. As far as the world is concerned, no stranger intermeddles with that joy.
But now God is going to put down all the wickedness of man and of Satan on earth. Hence the Word of God comes from heaven; and those that had been the companions of His rejection are now the companions of His judgment. As it is said in chap. xvii. 14: “The Lamb shall overcome them and they that are with him, called, and chosen, and faithful.” There was the announcement that, when the battle came, He would not be alone, but that the saints would be with Him—called by grace, elect, and faithful ones; and accordingly here they are. “The armies which were in heaven followed Him, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” They may not be all who will follow, but it is of importance to see that these are saints The description proceeds: “Out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he may smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God,” (ver. 15). This is a simple description of the various judgments that the Lord will execute when He comes. First, there is the word of power set forth by the sharp sword going out of His mouth. If any must be destroyed, it is enough for the Lord Jesus Christ to speak. “He spake and it was done.” The judgment was executed. But besides, “He shall rule them with a rod of iron.” This is the judgment which is referred to in chap. ii., where there is a promise to those of Thyatira who overcome, that they shall have fellowship with Christ in this judgment of the nations. “And he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.” This is the unsparing judgment that we have seen before in chap. xiv. It is vengeance on religious wickedness, which is always reserved for the severest stroke that God can inflict. “And he hath upon his vesture and upon his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords” (ver. 16)—the same title that we have seen in chap. xvii. 14.
But while there was an invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb, there is another and very different supper, the great supper of God. Here it is not the blessed whom God's grace invites. An angel speaks obedient to His word, and the instrument of His power, standing in the sun—the symbol of supreme authority. For it is not now a thing done in a corner. There are no terms of forbearance: all must be thoroughly open. Nor is it now a partial but a complete and final judgment. “And he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the great supper of God (for so it should be read); 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” (ver. 17, 18). It is the same sort of contrast, I think, that we may have seen in Rev. 14, where we had the first-fruits at the beginning of the chapter, and afterward the harvest before the chapter closes. Here you have the supper of the Lamb above; and the great supper of God, that He will make for those that prey on the remains of the dead.
“And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken and with him the false prophet,4 that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image.” (Ver. 19, 20.) You will observe that one is here called the false prophet He has apparently lost his world-power, and is therefore not presented now as the second beast rising from the earth with lamb-like horns, (i.e. the imitator of Christ's power); He is the false prophet simply. Whatever dominion he had is now merged, and he is seen in his ecclesiastical character, as a teacher of lies—in the capacity of foe to God's truth. Babylon was gone, but there was still this wicked ecclesiastical power who had wrought with the beast, and both now meet with the same tremendous judgment at the hand of God. “These both were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.”
There had been two men singled out from all others for special mercy and glory. One was in the early antediluvian world, when it was fast coming to its close. “He walked with God, and was not, for God took him.” And when the world had grown older in sin, and God's separated people had far departed from Him, God did interpose again, and would show that there are no times, however evil, when His servants may not walk with Him Thus, when Israel was altogether debased in sin, and God had put His servant in the midst of that wicked and corrupt and apostate people, Israel; then and there it was that Elijah gave his testimony, and he, too, without dying, was chosen of God to be taken up to heaven.
And here, in most miserable contrast, we find two singled out from all others,—two men as remarkable for Satan, as Enoch and Elijah had been for God. And these men, the heads of their respective powers of wickedness (the open blaspheming power of the beast; and the more intriguing, corrupting energy of the false prophet, who had specially set himself against the Lord Jesus Christ), are found together. If God had interposed to show signal mercy, in bringing alive to heaven, so now God interposes to send alive down to hell. They had been leaders in evil; they had worn down the saints and overcome them before men. Now their day comes— “And the beast was taken and with him the false prophet, that wrought miracles before him.” “These both were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone!”
The Lord judges their followers too, but not with so terrible a doom. They remain to be judged another day—they must stand and appear before God. Meanwhile they “are slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.” But as for the twain, God required, as it were, nothing more: they were the worst leaders of the world's lawlessness, and therefore judgment takes its course summarily and forever. I know of no judgment so tremendous in scriptures as that these men, untried, should be cast into hell before Satan himself! Yet the goats or Gentile rebels in Matt. 25 approach it.
And solemn thought! the time is fast approaching. It is difficult to realize that such will soon be the doom of the rulers of these western lands. They will be found gathered for battle near Jerusalem. For, as Christendom began with Jerusalem, so the last and terrible end of Christendom will be there. A s the Roman empire will reappear, so there will be found a chief of its political power sustaining and sustained by the religious chief of the east. Such is the crisis which, as God shows plainly in His word, awaits the world. And I have the firm conviction, without pretending to fix the time, that the train is being laid even now. Thus we see the remarkable prominence which, in our day, is given to the east, and its growing connection with the west. These are facts before our eyes; but it is well known to many readers that these same things have been affirmed years before any of these facts had taken place.5 They were stated with the same confidence, and to some of those who read these pages. Thus, what is going on in the world comes in as a remarkable confirmation of prophecy. It is not the circumstances which enable us to judge aright; but taking the word of God alone, we may have a full persuasion in our souls. For whether we see the events or not, no man ever believed the word of God and was ashamed. “The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision.”
The Lord grant that we may remember that there will be a power of deceit in the world that will carry men away! Men may fancy that they will discern and reject the beast and the false prophet. This only shows that they have very little idea of the influence and working of Satan. His most dangerous power lies now, not in that which looks outwardly bad, but in what seems quiet and fair. Thus is it still, as it was when Christ was here. The man possessed with a legion of demons received deliverance and blessing. But what did the Gadarenes do? They besought the Lord to depart out of their coasts.
Let me ask you, do you not prefer something to Christ? You may not show active enmity to His name You may hear the gospel: but have you received it? if not, you are rejecting it. God does not allow one to say, there is something to be done first. He has done everything. Therefore, it comes to be a question of positive rejection—bidding Christ depart. The Lord grant that such may not be your present guilt and eternal misery!