Revelations 21, 22

Revelation 21‑22  •  51 min. read  •  grade level: 6
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We have here the description of " the heavenly city." It is called " the Bride, the Lamb's wife," that we may know how to identify it. " The Bride," however, as such, would awaken altogether a different train of thoughts. But it is important to identify the city and the Bride, and to give its true character to the heavenly city in contrast with Babylon. The state described here, is not the perfect and eternal state, as " the leaves or the tree for the healing of the nations" shows; though of course the heavenly saints themselves are perfect. It is God's great center-the heavenly one-of all He has brought together in power and government, the heavenly capital, so to speak, of His millennial empire; and therefore we find it in connection with Christ, and presented as a city. It is to be, after Christ, the manifestation and center of glory. And we have to thank God, that He not only gives us what satisfies personal affection by presenting to us the person of Jesus in the glory, but unfolds also to us, by means of figures-the Spirit enabling us to understand them-what the glory is prepared from everlasting, so that the heart thus becomes acquainted with it.
We have seen already in this book that, previous to the display of this heavenly city, the imperious One who said, " sit as a queen; and I shall see no sorrow," has been destroyed, and now we get " a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Of the other, we may say it was " earthly, sensual, devilish." It had all that Satan could produce to attract man, as man. Everything that ministered to the ease, comfort, and glory of man, was to be found there; the merchandize of gold, and of silver, and of precious stones, and all that was costly and desirable. Thus, taking it as a whole, it -was man s city and Satan's city. For whatever is now of man, as man on the earth, is looked at by God as in connection with Satan. Therefore, when Peter said, " This be far from Thee, Lord," the Lord replied, " Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou art an offense unto Me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men." Here the Lord stamps that which is " of men, as being according to Satan," and therefore an offense to Him. So to the Jews He said; " Ye are from beneath, I am from above; ye are of this world, I am not of this world"; thus stamping everything that is of the spirit of this world as " from beneath." Babylon had this in perfection, for she was the mother of harlots -the spring and source of corruption; but to every true tie to the things of God, or to God Himself, she was an utter stranger. But we have seen that this great Babylon was judged of God-that after that, and the marriage of the Lamb, the Lord came out in person and made war with the ad-verse power, accompanied by the saints; the first resurrection having taken place, and that then, the victory achieved, the kingdom was in the hands of Christ, and the saints, who live and reign with Him a thou-sand years; that during this period, Satan is bound, after which he is loosed again for a little season; and that when he is cast into the lake of fire, and the judgment of the white throne passed, and the new heavens and the new earth come in, then " God is all in all."
In the first eight verses of this twenty-first chapter, we have the time when God shall be all in all, closing the prophetic history of the book. Beyond that period it evidently cannot go; in what follows, the prophet turns back to the description of the New Jerusalem; to what the Bride, the Lamb's wife is, while Christ is reigning. The scene here displayed is the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven, from God. The prophetic history entirely closes; the mediatorial kingdom passes away when all is perfectly brought into order -when God is all in all. But though the mediatorial kingdom is given up, of course Christ does not cease to be man. It is part of His perfection which remains forever. Instead of carrying on the mediatorial kingdom, when He has put down all rule and all authority, He delivers up the kingdom to God, even the Father. The result does not pass away. The proper personal glory never passes away. The mediatorial glory will close, that which is personal never can.
It is well to notice, that when the angel comes to show Babylon in 17:1, he describes her wide-spread influence, " sitting by the many waters;" but when here he comes to show the New Jerusalem, there is nothing to be said of her; it is enough to say, that she is "the Bride, the Lamb's wife." The harlot could ride the beast, and spread corruption far and wide; she had immense power, but affection she had none. While the harlot is saying, " I sit as a queen, and shall see no sorrow," the Bride feels that she is not her own, but that she belongs to another. While the love of influence, the "sitting be-side many waters" is the spirit of Babylon, the character of dependence marks the Bride. Ah! beloved friends, if we are seeking power or worldly influence, the spirit of Babylon is in us. The only influence we should 'court, as to service or as to anything else, should be the result of attachment to Christ alone, and dependence upon Him. Affection for Him is the one thing. There will be plenty of trial and difficulty, where this exists: but there will be no thwarted affections when He is the object. We shall never find in Him what does not satisfy. This is happiness. There may be plenty in us needing to be subdued, and this will give us trouble, and 'tis labor, alas, often, to keep the heart up to a sense of His love; but that single word, " the Bride, the Lamb's wife" is quite enough for us; for was there ever an affection wanting in Christ toward us? Never. Never shall we find defect in the object of our affections, though we shall find defect in the affection in ourselves, lack of ability to enjoy the fullness of our portion. A true sense of the abiding love of Jesus to us is that which gives perfect peace to the love that is looking to Jesus. One source of our failure in realizing the love of Jesus is, that our hearts, though enlarged by the Holy Ghost, are too little to answer to it. Herein lies the marked difference as has been remarked between the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. In Ecclesiastes it is said, "What can the man do that cometh after the king, who hath gathered to himself peculiar treasure of all the sons of men?" But the larger his heart was in its intelligence and in its de-sires, the less there was to fill it, so that everything issued in "vanity and vexation of spirit." But what was wanting in the Song of Solomon-primarily applicable no doubt to the Jewish remnant-was a heart large enough to take in the all-satisfying object of its love. And oh, what a thought it is, that Jesus and all the glory He has received is ours! as He says, " the glory which Thou gavest me, I have given them."
The heavenly city comes down front God out of heaven. It is of, and from God, where all is good. God is the infinite and eternal source of good, and in the per-son of Christ we get the form and fullness of it. If it is righteousness it is from God; if holiness it is from God; if love, it is God's nature. We being made partakers of grace all that is thus displayed in us comes directly from God. So that in a secondary sense, the Church even down here, is the manifestation of the glory of God; though here there will spring up that which is of man and is corrupt. But there, all that is of us disappears, and all that is displayed in us comes from God. And I would, here add, that there is not a single grace that, in the power of the Spirit of God, ought not to be manifested by us now, poor failing ones as we are. There was not one which Jesus did not manifest, for He was the Son of Man in heaven -when walking here on earth; and we as the epistle of Christ ought to be known and read of all men.
The glory of this city is presented to us in detail; and although. it is divine, " the Glory of God," it is also human, as the number twelve shows. We see this in the Lord. If He took up a babe in His arms it was a gracious act of humanity; but the love that prompted it was divine. A Rabbi might despise a child, but Jesus did not, though " God over all, blessed forever." The city had " the glory of God." The Church is that in which
God will display Himself in glory. But this glory is not the essential glory of God, but the communicated glory; as it is written " the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them." While this is wonderful, yet it is what ought to be. For ought there to be any other glory beside the glory of God? Certainly not. And, surely, that which is nearest to God, next to Christ, ought to have His glory. For there is no glory that is not God's glory. And how can we understand the showing out of the riches of God's glory if He does not display them? The creation does in one sense show the glory of His power, " the heavens declare the glory of God." But when it comes to be the fruit of redemption, the fruit of the travail of Christ's soul, it is for the display of the glory of God in. a yet higher way. It was done at His own cost, and could it be less than His glory at such a cost? There is not an attribute or part of the character of God that has not been perfectly glorified in the work of redemption. It is wonderful if we think of ourselves that it should be so, but if the Church is to be for the glory of God, it must be displayed in what is worthy of God. If Christ is to be "glorified in His saints, and admired in all them. that believe," the glory must be God's; it cannot be unworthy of Himself. And the way I measure it is-it is the fruit of the travail of Christ's soul. God commended His love toward me, in that while I was a sinner, and such a sinner as I was, Christ died for me. The very things about which Christ glorified God are the very things which I find to be in myself, and thus I find that God has been fully glorified about every one of my sins. So in apprehending myself to be a sinner, I just see the very thing that shows me all the glory to be of and from God. There is nothing in us, all is of grace. If anything of ours is mixed up with our hopes of glory it is utter folly. It would be madness to talk of what is of us and the glory of God at the same time. The vessel is nothing, save as it is owned and filled of God; and thus it comes simply and happily to the soul. The moment I see the whole of it to be the display of God's glory, my soul can rest in peace. He has taken me up a poor sinner that it might be fully known that nothing but His grace had done it: and I know His love passeth knowledge. And what is more still, I know I shall never get out of it, for the love of God is infinite; and if I am in that which is infinite, I can not, indeed, measure it, but I know I can never get out of it.
" Her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal." When speaking of the displayed glory of God, as man can see it, it is said to be like "a jasper and a sardine stone," 4:3. So the light of this city is "like a jasper stone clear as crystal." It is a divine glory which clothes it. Scripture give us an understanding of what these figures mean, if, taught of God's Spirit, we are at the pains to compare its statements. These precious stones give us not the simple brightness of colorless light, God is this; for if I look at God, at what He is essentially, He is light. " God is light." But if He shows Himself through the tears and sorrows of this life, then I get the rainbow. The light is broken into divers rays, as shining through a prism. So in these precious stones we get, not the essential glory of God as light, but the light broken up as it were, in various mediate beauties; we get the unfoldings of the various ways and dealings of God with His creatures. We see these stones in creation, then in grace, and then in glory.
In creation, Ezek. 28; in grace on the breast- plate of the High-priest; in glory here as. the foundation of the city. Whatever God has displayed of His moral glory in righteousness as well as in judgment is concentrated in the Church. Into this I will enter more fully when taking up the meaning of the stones, connected as they are with grace and with judgment.
"And the city had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates," showing perfect security. When men seek to protect a place, it is by building high walls of immense thickness. go this city, which is the royal seat has a wall great and high displaying the majesty of God as builder. It is perfectly secure, in a dignity which isolated it, so to speak, so that it could not possibly be entered but by those who belong to it.
"At the gates were twelve angels." The angels wait at the gates as door-keepers; elevated above us in creation here, they are but keepers of the gates; they are porters to this city of God, showing that all providential power but ministers to this glory.
On the gates were written " the names of the twelve tribes of Israel," showing government in perfection. as God's. All His patient dealings in government and goodness with man are here displayed.
" And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." The perfect immutable foundations of truth are all here. The character in which the truth is displayed is the unchangeable truth of the gospel; " the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth." What we get as the church as such is a special glory; but that which is the foundation on which she rests is truth from eternity, everlasting truth, a full and perfect revelation. As to light, we are "in the light as God is in the light;" and then as to love, " God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him." But when we come to the foundation of the Church, it is the truth, the everlasting truth of God-redemption according to His work and power.
What we have in Christ, moreover, as to His person, cannot be less than the fullness of God, eternal truth being at the bottom. It is God revealed in Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever." Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives, says the Lord; but from the beginning it was not so. We cannot say so, for Christ is " the same yesterday, to-day, and forever;" and again, " that which was from the beginning declare we unto you." So Paul, though stating the deep counsels of God, takes up the most elementary truths, which no counsels ever change, because our relationship is with God, who never can; for if we are brought into the relationship of children, it is with a God of eternal holiness and eternal love. And it is joy to our souls to know that we are not only brought into connection with certain dealings of God, as the Jews were, but with God Himself, as known in Jesus.
The city is a divine thing, but in human manifestation and perfection. The names here spew human administration, and the number twelve repeated that it is exceedingly perfect. The number seven in Scripture always denotes the perfection of spiritual agency whether for good or evil; but when the dealings of God are in or through man, the number twelve is used, to signify perfection in government in human administration.
" And the city lieth four-square, and the length is as large as the breadth." It is a square, not a circle. It has not the perfection of a circle-a figure used for eternity-but the perfection of that which is formed. It is the most perfect of created things.
" And the building of the wall of it was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass." The measure and character of this city is not after the thoughts of man. Man said, " Let us build a city and a tower, and make us a name. And they had brick for stone, and slime for mortar." Bat God is the builder of this city, and it carries the divine glory. There is no slime or bitumen here: "the building of the wall of it was of jasper." " And the city was of pure gold, like unto clear glass," transparent in purity. Gold is an emblem of divine righteousness; and the " clear glass" reminds us of the brazen sea in Solomon's temple, set for the priests to wash their hands and feet in when they went in to serve. But there is no need for that here. There is nothing to defile here. Here it is solid purity, standing out in all its clearness. In the fifteenth chapter we get the sea of glass " mingled with fire," because connected with tribulation.
In the fourth of Ephesians Paul speaks, without symbol, of " the new man, created after God in righteousness and true holiness." So, likewise, this city is the display of this work of God in man; just what it was fitting it should be. It is not man's righteousness, nor man's innocence; neither will do: but it is divine righteousness and divine holiness. Holiness is separation from evil; innocence, ignorance of evil. We do not say that God is innocent, but that God is holy; because He hates all the evil He knows, and delights in the good. And God's new creation, perfected after His image, delights in what is good, and hates all that is evil. God has produced this by His own power. The city is pure as gold, transparent as glass. Well may we exclaim, O the depth and the wealth of the divine righteousness and holiness!
But let us now turn to the stones. In Ezek. 28 in the lamentation over the king of Tyrus, we find them denoting the perfection of created beauty. " Thou sealest the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty." The sum of beauty was the creature display of this perfection; the light bringing out these bright colors in the creature. Every precious stone was his covering. He was the brightest in creation; but when he looked at it as his own, and not as created perfection put upon him, then his heart was lifted up because of his beauty, and his wisdom corrupted by reason of his brightness, and he fell. In Ex. 28 we see these stones brought out as the sum of beauty in the way of grace. They were in the breastplate of the High Priest, and joined to the ephod, so that when he went into the holy place he bore the names of the children of Israel. It was for a memorial before the Lord continually. So Christ bears our names in his heart, ever living to make intercession. Then in the 30th verse the Urim and the Thummim are placed in this breastplate of judgment-light and perfection. Aaron bore the names of the children of Israel on his heart as an accepted people before the Lord. " And Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually:" that is, he maintains them in communion in spite of failure. He first bore the names on his heart in the stones on the breastplate, so that when God looked out to bless He saw their names continually. And then there was the intercession to maintain the communion of a failing people with the unfailing light. Thus Israel is seen in perfectness in the presence of God in grace. So now when God looks out in divine favor, it is on Christ Himself. The children's names are all engraven on His heart, their judgment borne in the details of their ways, as regards the government of God, and displayed in their beauty, to get the answers of light and perfection; for such was the Urim and Thummim. Here again we see these precious stones in glory, all centered in this glorious city, the brightness not maintained by effort or exercise of power, but settled, not a part of the glory merely, but " the foundations of the wall of the city garnished with all manner of precious stones," every grace shining out in unchanging beauty. The wall of jasper showing how divine, the gold how righteous, its transparence how holy and pure, and these stones the varied perfection of all communicated grace and beauty, and all is centered in " the Bride, the Lamb's wife."
"And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, every several gate was of one pearl." It was in Christ's heart to seek a goodly pearl. It was upon that His heart was set; and " when He had found one pearl of great price, He sold all that He had and bought it." He was not merely seeking a, treasure, but He was seeking a goodly pearl; and He knew what was tasteful and comely. All the grace of the church was what the heart of Christ was set upon, as that which was perfectly fair and beautiful. Now every gate was this, " every several gate was of one pearl." On the very outside the comeliness and beauty of this city was to be seen. The character of Christ stood at the very entrance. Not only was there righteousness and true holiness within, but on the outside there was all that was lovely and comely; so that the very angels who entered not in, could stand at the gate, and even there see the loveliness which God had put upon it. So even here below the character of Christ ought to be manifested to every beholder. Even the stranger should be able to discern it, the saints being " the epistle of Christ, known and read of all men."
" And the street of the city was of pure gold, as it were transparent glass." This confirms us as to the import of the Lord's words to His disciples in John When speaking of His finished work for them, He says, " He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, 'but is clean every whit;" that is, he has been cleansed once for all. But his feet become defiled in walking through the world, and therefore need. washing again and again for service. This is not an excuse for failure, although the Lord takes occasion from it to display, His rich provision for meeting our daily need. We have the same figure in the case of the priests who served in the tabernacle. Their bodies were washed once for all at their consecration, and this was never repeated; but every time they went into the tabernacle they washed their hands arid their feet. " He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet." Mark His love. Not content with serving down here even unto death " to wash us from our sins in His own blood," He girds Himself to serve even in heaven, that we may continue in communion. " Christ also loved the church, and gave Him-self for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the -washing of water through the word." Thus we have the written word in its application to the daily details of life. So to Peter the Lord said, " If I wash. thee not thou hast no part with me." if we are to have part with Him, we are to be as clean as He can make us. And as we are to have part with Him, His grace now as then leads Him to gird Himself, and remove the defilement.
But in this golden city the very streets are righteousness and true holiness. There I shall walk without being defiled; I shall walk upon holiness there. Walking in purity is with labor here. Even if we do keep our-selves from defilement here, we are wearied with the effort, and if we do not we are weary of ourselves. But oh! what a thought! I shall walk on streets of pure gold there! What rest it gives to the heart and con-science, to think of walking and not needing to toil to keep myself from defilement, not needing to watch lest my garments become spotted with the world! Whilst here, because of the world, the flesh, and the devil, we have always to watch and pray. What! always? Yes, always. Whilst in this defiled place, we must have our loins well girded and our affections tightly tucked up, for if we let them flow, they will certainly get into the mire. But when He comes, He will ungird us, and make us sit down at ease, and He will gird Himself and come forth and serve us. What a relief to the heart to think that I may let out all my affections and meet nothing but God! that the more I let them flow, the more I shall be enlarged to take in my fill of blessedness! This ought to be our aim now.
" And I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." Here the difference of worship is marked. How strange to a Jew, there is no temple needed here! God had said He would dwell in the thick darkness, and when the glory filled the house the priests could not minister. And, moreover, that which shut the glory in, shut man out. For in Jerusalem God had shut Himself up to be reverenced; therefore He must shut man out. The natural consequence of even a partial display of the glory is to add that which should keep aloof from familiarity. In the temple He surrounded Himself with majesty which made men feel how great He was, but this hid Himself. But there is no temple here, for "the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb are the temple of it." Here, it is not that which hides God, whilst surrounding Him with majesty, nor that which shuts us out, but God surrounds us with Himself, while He perfectly reveals Himself His own glory, and that revealed is His temple, and there " man speaks of His honor." Blessed thought it is, God and the Lamb are the temple, and there we worship.
The Lord give us, only to enter more fully into His wondrous Grace, and then it will be easy for us to under-stand how this wondrous glory can all be ours. When we know ourselves to be nothing, and yet are able to say He has loved me, we shall not wonder that God should do all this for us, seeing He has loved us so. The Holy Ghost always reasons downwards from what God is, to what He cannot but do, because He is God. Man, on the contrary, reasons from what man is, to what God may possibly do for him, according to what he is himself; and so argues all wrong. The Holy Ghost reasons thus, " He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him. up freely to the death for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things." I learn from this to expect great things, and I cannot expect too highly if God is to be glorified in it. For if Christ is to be glorified in His Saints, and admired in all them that believe, what will not God do to display the glory of His Son?
Shall I be thinking about the worshipper, although thus glorified and adorned, when I see Him who is worshipped? No, I shall be occupied with Him who has brought me there. The present practical result ought to be that our hearts should be adoring the riches and the wonders of His grace, as David (1 Chron. 17) when he sat before the Lord. " Who am I, O Lord God, and what is mine house that thou hest brought me hitherto!" Oh! to get our souls more filled with what He is, as David rested even in his knowledge of it, and argued from it (vers. 26 and 27). We have often spoken of the prodigal son who disappears, as it were, when he reached His Father's house. It is the Father then who fills the whole scene. And the Father's bosom will be the place of our worship in that scene of glory. Well, let Him have our hearts for His temple now, while yet our bodies are down here, until he takes us to be with Him forever. Amen.
Chap. 21.
EV 21{In the former part of this chapter we saw the glory' of the heavenly Jerusalem, and her own intrinsic blessing; now we have before us her relative position, and the blessing of which she is the vessel also for others.
In vers. 22-24 we have two thoughts presented to us, worship and testimony. In the Golden City we get both, and the worship is direct and immediate, for there was "no temple therein." Before Christianity came in, there was no testimony to the world; but when grace had come in, and God had shown out what He was to sinners, then there was a testimony to carry the know-ledge of it to the world. It was not so in the Jewish. system. God had then a temple, but there was no testimony in the temple to call the Gentiles in. There was a temple for worship, a testimony among the people in whose midst he dwelt; hut there was no testimony sent out to the Gentiles. God never manifested Himself, He was hid among the people He had formed around Him; even the. High Priest went in with a cloud of incense " lest he die." But now that the Gospel has come in, it is the reverse of this. God, being known in love to those within, sends forth a testimony of His love to sinners without; whilst those within can worship in perfect peace. The moment Christ came, God was revealed to men; and the moment the veil was rent by the death of Christ, there was immediate and perfect access into the presence of God, and perfect love flowing out to the world. And, therefore, we find these two things here; no veil, and perfect access into the presence of God, and necessarily the testimony of the love that brought us there. There is no temple there, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And if those within would speak of the temple, it is of God Himself that they must speak.
" And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine on it; for the glory of God did lighten it and the Lamb is the light thereof." There was no need of light from another medium, no need of sun or moon; for the glory of God did lighten it. There was the full display of His glory. It was not a mere testimony about God, but God Himself was there, filling it with light. " The glory of God did lighten it," but it is added, " the Lamb is the light thereof." The Lamb is the one in whom the glory is manifested, and by whom it is displayed. The glory is too brilliant, too absolute to lay hold of an affection, wonderful as it is, an object is still wanting for the heart, therefore I get an object which fixes me in the midst of it; just as I cannot fix my eye on the light which pervades a room, though I can on the candle from which it flows. If a blaze o glory fills a place, I shall be lost, as it were, in the midst of it; but here I get a known person who carries all the glory. Here, I find the Lamb, whom I had known down here in suffering love; and in the midst of all the brightness my heart is fixed and at rest.
The glory is divine that is needed for perfection, and that God may be everything; but God, in his nature, cannot be made an instrument of service-the Lamb is the light thereof. " And the nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of it." Saved from terrible judgments, they no longer " sacrifice to their net, nor burn incense to their drag," nor yet " walk in the sparks that they kindled." They will see the light in us, and walk by it. We ought to shine in spirit practically now, the nations ought to see the light of God and of the Lamb in us now; but in that day it will be perfectly accomplished. If there be any light now from God in this dark world, it is in the Church, though the candlestick burns but dimly; but in that day, when there will be nothing in us to dim the light, what a bright light it will be for the world! We shall be the light; the perfect manifestation of the light in which we shall walk; for we shall see God and the Lamb, and be the perfect manifestation of it to others. Even now, to the extent that I am enjoying God in my own soul, I shall have power to manifest Him to another; for my only desire will be that God and the Lamb may be glorified in me. But though, now I find so many hindrances to this, in that day, without anything between me and God, I shall worship God without a temple and without a cloud. We shall see the glory in Him, and the world shall see it in us. Thus we have the double joy of first knowing Him for ourselves, and then of communicating this to others. If I could be more faithful to give out Christ's light, what a joy it would be! Seeing Him first for myself, and then giving out the light that others might see Him in me as the epistle of Christ, for such we are declared to be. We should not be satisfied with our own individual joy in Him, but, as we learn to estimate Him, desire that He might be glorified in us, and by others through us. In that day of glory, everything in which God has dealt with man, or in which he has displayed His ways and thoughts, will be brought out to manifest the stability of God. All that has been put into man's hand to exercise him, and in man's band has failed, will then be brought out in perfection; thus proving the failure to have been in man and not in the thing committed to him. Take man himself. How has he failed! In the second Adam God will be, and forever, fully glorified. Creation itself is witness to the same truth. The law was given to man, and he failed to keep it; but in that day it will be written on their hearts. Then take power, which God had given to man, to use for his glory, and how did he use it. To rise up in pride against God-enforced duty, and at last crucify His Son. We find all combining against Christ, both the Chief Priests, and Herod and Pontius Pilate. " The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against His Christ." But in that day, " the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it." Then again, after His rejection, the only thing God had for a testimony, was the Church, failing though it be; as the only thing He can now own as witness, is that which owns His rejected Son. But in that day we shall be all that we ought to be now. In that day, " the nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of the city," and the " Lamb is the light thereof." He will then attract every eye, and fill the heart of every worshipper within, and be admired in them by those without.
" And the gates shall not at all be shut by day." There is no fear there, no war or dread; all is perfect security. And night there is none! All that is ended, and there is no more darkness.
" And they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it." There is not only the absence of evil, but the universal acknowledgment that " the heavens do rule." Both kings and people bring their glory and honor into it. Unto whom? To the poor despised Carpenter's Son, and to those who walked with Him. When He was in the world they could not see His glory; but they shall see it, and bow down to it, when He comes in glory. Those who saw it when it was hidden from the world, and were hidden too with Him, shall be with Him and share His glory when He shall be manifested. Love brought Him down in humiliation, but He could not clothe Himself in vanity; and so if God's glory is to be manifested, His person is to be the display of it. It is not the effort of man that makes much of a thing, but it is Christ alone that attracts; and those who will there be vessels of His glory, will be those who simply follow Christ in lowliness; making everything of Christ, and nothing of themselves.
" And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth." There is great relief in this. For if we speak now of our poor hearts, surely defilement gets in. And if we look at the Church while under responsibility-although God graciously keeps His saints-defilement creeps in, although it ought not. But there, blessed be God, nothing that defileth can enter! There holiness can rest. It has no rest here. Down here, in this sin-stricken world, these two things, holiness and rest, must, as regards what is without, be apart; because sin is down here, and Christ is not down here. Watching is not rest. It is faithfulness, and brings its joy, but it is toil and not rest, although, through grace, it is a blessing! But there holiness will rest, and that will be the highest happiness. Of course, God Himself will be the highest; but of that which flows from God, holiness will be the highest. It is that which characterizes our state; for God Himself is love.
" Neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie." Here we have something more than the new nature. That we have now; but there nothing can come in to disturb it, nothing can come in to soil the golden streets of that city, nothing can enter to distract the soul as to God and His truth. There will be no abomination nor anything that maketh a lie; in the idolatry of an ordinance coming in between the soul and God, turning it aside from the simple truth, that God is love. For whatever is not entirely and wholly of God, is an abomination and maketh a lie. Then there will be no ornament worn which tells of the idolatry of the heart, taking something apart from God. O, if any one is really interested in the welfare of the Church of God, his heart Must be ready to break when he sees the many thousand things that come in to distract the affections of the saints; the many thousand forms of idolatry, " the abomination and that which maketh a lie," coming in to separate between us and the One God and Father, and the One Risen Head. It may be worldliness, ordinances, circumcision; in short, whatever makes a lie. Paul's heart was in an agony when he saw these things coming in. Look at his epistle to the Galatians, when they were turning away from Christ to circumcision; or at that to the Colossians, who were slipping away from the Risen Head and turning to ordinances, which is idolatry and worldliness; thus departing from Christ as the only object before the soul, which is an abomination against the truth, and therefore " a lie." But, blessed be God, into this glorious city there shall in no wise enter anything that defileth. No abomination shall enter there, no idolatry, not one principle to turn aside from God, or to make a lie, disturbing and distracting the affections from their one object, Christ. Not only what is good is there, but what secures it from the introduction of evil and all that brings in corruption.
All this, however, is negative; but we get what is positive as well. And what is positive? Who shall enter into this heavenly Jerusalem? " They who are written in the Lamb's book of life." It is not said "they who are clean," it is not by the cold fact that they are dean. that they are characterized; but the affections are linked up with the Lamb's heart, while we know that clean they are. They who are written in His book are according to His heart. And they are all there. All that the Lamb had in His heart from eternity; all for whom He had girded His loins and made Himself a servant forever, saying, " I will not go out free"; all are there; for they were associated with Him, and they shall be associated with Him, and with His heart and thoughts forever.
There are, also, the relationships of the place; and if our minds are ever so vague as to the understanding of the things, though they may be as obscure as the symbols used, yet we shall get positive thoughts by the Spirit of God from them, when we take what Christ is, and has taught us as the key to it all. The moment you get your heart and spirits into the tone of Christ's mind, and have your thoughts occupied with what He is, and with what has occupied His thoughts and His heart- with His house and His glory-then everything takes its proper place, and your heart and understanding become enlarged, to comprehend this blessed book. If I am living in a house, everything in it is natural to me, and there are every day details which fill up the mind; and if I have got the house, I know what I shall find there and what I shall not; and that is really spiritual under-standing. If I know, in any little measure, what exercise of heart is, I know that Christ is the answer to every desire that He Himself has awakened in my soul; and it is only those who are spiritual who can understand.
EV 22{In chap. 22 we get what is relative, because the aspect of the city towards what is down here on the earth-in connection with Christ, of course-but its blessings are towards the earth. The tree of life grows in heaven, and belongs to heaven, yet its virtues flow out towards the earth. And though the Church is in glory, as long as there is a need to be met, love is to be exercised; and the Lord uses the Church for this. It is in this sense that is said, "His servants shall serve Him," which implies that there are those who need serving. The nations get healing, but there will be no need of healing in heaven. This service brings in new joy, for the members of the Church will not there have lost this honor of being the instrument to others; we shall have the privilege of being the channels through which the blessings will flow to the earth. And so now we ought to be the channels of love and grace to the world, as also more especially to the saints, while needing it here below.
" And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." And there was also " the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits," etc. The tree of life was there, but there is no mention of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The tree of life was the blessing; the tree of knowledge of good and evil the test of responsibility, of which Adam ate and was lost.
These two principles, Life and Responsibility, have run on from that moment up to this very hour, and will continue to run on until God has made all things anew. Some, having eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, while in the nature consequent on this, cannot eat of the fruit of the tree of life. But God, in the aboundings of His grace, has given us more than ever we lost; for the spring of grace has flowed out to us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who undertook all our responsibilities, took upon Himself all the wrath due to our sins, died under it, and rose again in the power of an endless life; in which new life, being first in Him and afterward communicated to me, I can eat of the fruits of that tree of life, once barred from me by reason of sin. Now that sin is forever put away, and in that new nature which is incapable of sinning, I can freely eat the fruits of the tree of life; as Jesus says, in addressing the Church of Ephesus, " To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God," thus bringing us into the enjoyment of the full result of all-of the full ripe fruits that everlasting life in Jesus can produce; the outward manifestation of it shall heal the nations, as, indeed, it has healed us. But I would again remark, that all this blessing is the fruit of free and sovereign grace. For if there had been no responsibility on man's part, there would have been no need of a Savior. It is because we were totally lost that grace has its place. It was because I had totally failed, having followed my own will instead of doing God's will, that God has come in in grace and brought me nearer to Himself in redemption, than I had been set at the first in creation and innocence; for now I am created anew in Christ Jesus.
" The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." The nations cannot eat of the ripe fruit of tree, because they need healing; but the Church, thus possessing the grace of life herself, will go forth in healing grace to those who need it. If you turn to Isa. 60, you will see the contrast between the earthly and the heavenly Jerusalem shown in a remark-able manner, although in some respects the heavenly one is drawn from the earthly. In Isaiah, we find nothing about healing in the earthly Jerusalem, but the reverse. We read there-" The nation and kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish yea these nations shall be utterly wasted." But in the heavenly Jerusalem -" the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." Thus we see that Israel will be a test of legal responsibility, as it ever was; but it will be the vessel of power and dominion. Israel of old had no ministry, because it had no love to carry forth to other people; but it had a priesthood within, because the veil not being rent by Christ's death, they could not get direct to God, and therefore needed a priest. But now with us we have no priest on earth, because by the death of Christ we are brought into the immediate presence of God, and therefore a ministry is committed to us; that is, we are called upon to testify of the grace that brought us there. And, therefore, when in the glory we shall be going forth to the healing of the nations, for whilst ourselves feeding on the ripe fruit of the Tree of Life up there, the outgoings of love will reach down here.
" And there shall be no more curse but the throne of God, and the Lamb shall be in it, and' His servants shall serve Him." God was saying to Israel under the Law, "If you defile yourselves you will bring the curse." But in the heavenly city, which will be a source of blessing, there will be "no more curse." It is not here, however, children with the Father, but the throne of God in majesty; not as Sinai, which brought a curse, but the throne of God and the Lamb-ministry and grace. That is, the throne of God and the Lamb is the spring and source of the blessing, whilst the channel through which this grace will flow will be the Church, and so it is said, " His servants shall serve Him," ministering to those who need it. It is not intrinsic joy, but service that is the characteristic here. And as there will be no flaw in the blessing within, so there will be no failure in the service without. If the light is perfect, so will the service be. I shall not have to canvass my conduct then as I now have to do, saying, " O if I had been faithful enough I should have said this or done that; or if there had been love enough in my heart I should have gone here or gone there;" but there it will be a perfect service flowing from a perfect source! What rest such service will be! For " they shall see His face, and His name shall be in their foreheads." Not only will they serve rightly, but men will see that they do so, the perfect witness to the name they bear, the full confession of it. " His name shall be in their foreheads." And here I would remark, that it is not that we should be doing so much service that should be before us, but that Christ should be glorified in what we do, and we not seen in it; God's mark being in our foreheads, that all may see whose we are and whom we serve.
" And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light," etc. The Lord God giveth them light, therefore they need no candle, no borrowed light, for they get immediate light from God Himself. He Himself giveth them light, so now, if at any time you have walked by the light of another's candle less spiritual than yourselves, you must have been led wrong, that other not having reached the same measure as yourselves; but when God Himself giveth us light, there is no uncertainty then as to what we have to do. If in any given case I have to say I do not know what to do, then immediately I say my eye is not single; for if it were, my whole body would be full of light, and my obedience would be as perfect as the light. What, then, am I to do? I am to bring my difficulty to God, even my Father, who will guide me, for He is perfect grace.
" And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to spew unto His servants the things that must shortly be done." Here the scene closes.
Then in verses 7, 12, and 20, the Lord, three times over, speaks of His coming quickly. In the seventh verse it is connected with the prophecy, and addressed to those who are connected with the warnings given. In the twelfth verse it is universal. And in the twentieth verse it is connected with another subject; it is in answer to the desire of the Bride for His coming, that He says surely I come quickly."
The position of all the parties is given. In the seventh verse it is those " who keep the sayings of the prophecy," after " the things that are." The Church, as a witness for God on the earth, having failed, the many antichrists having come in, God in His great mercy gives directions down to the very points where all is destroyed, and then all is closed. The mystery of iniquity Both already work, and will to the end, so that the last time is come. He is ready to judge, though longsuffering in mercy. That has been the position of the Church ever since. Corrupt men have crept in unawares; they were in already in the apostles' days, whereby we know it is the last time. Paul, Peter, John and Jude, all testify to the germ of iniquity as already existing; so that in the prophetic part, He says, " he that is unjust, let him be unjust still," etc. Yet mercy delays the execution of the judgment; and it is blessing to those who keep the sayings of this book. And the sayings of this book is a prophecy given to the servants, when Laodicea is judged and spued out of Christ's mouth.
In the twelfth verse it is universal: " to give to every man," etc. Here he has done with the prophetic part of the book, and goes far beyond it, " to give to every man." Not to those under the beast, but to the general condition of man on the earth. It may be questionable how far it refers to Gog and Magog, because it is not told us; but His coming here has a reference to all, " according to their works."
In the sixteenth verse we get a kind of exordium to the whole book; those to whom the prophecy was given and• the Church: we get Christ here in His double character, in respect of the divine government, as the Root of David, the source from which David sprung; and as the Offspring of David, David's heir to sit on David's throne. And then, besides that, He is " the Bright and Morning Star;" which is the character in which He presents Himself to the Church, before He arises as the Sun, to usher in the day of judgment to the world. He is connected with the Church before the day appears, so that we have our portion with Him before the day appears. And so, in the knowledge of this relationship, as soon as He says " I am the Bright and Morning Star ", " the Spirit and the Bride say come." He does not say to the Church " behold I come quickly." But, the Holy Ghost in the Church having given her the consciousness of this relationship to Him, the moment He presents Himself as the " Bright and Morning Star," she immediately replies " come!" There being nothing to be settled between Him and the Church, her whole thought is taken up with the revelation of Jesus Himself in this character. She has one simple thought, " He is coming," and she says " come 1" She knows very well that He is coming quickly to judge the world, but she is the Bride and not the world.
Then we get a lovely picture of the Church while waiting for Him. " The Spirit and the Bride say Come; and let him that heareth say Come." She calls on all who have heard the voice of the Good Shepherd to say " Come." She is not content that there should be any Christians who should not know this relationship in their own souls. " Let him that heareth say Come!" Is that all? No; " Let him that is athirst come." Her own affections are fixed on the Bridegroom, she is longing for His return; but meanwhile she would draw all to the fountain. She is thirsting for the Bridegroom; but she turns to the world and says " I have something for you to hear." For while down here, she has the Holy Ghost in her, and therefore can say to others, " I have something for you to hear; I have water of life for you who are thirsting." Her desire is for the Glorious One, and that all should be gathered in through grace to that water of life. The river being free and the Church knowing the power of grace, she says, " Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely." The Church does not say " Come to me." Christ said " Come unto me." But the water of life flows there, and she can invite souls to come and drink, invite them to drink where she has drunk in Christ. And if any one is saying " Come to me," it is evident they have never had the water of life themselves; for if they had they would have such a sense of their emptiness that they would never say to any one, " Come to me." Then mark the three " Comes." He says, " Surely I come quickly." The Church does not say Come quickly, but " Come!" He is the One she wants, and He answers her desires, and says, " I come, surely I come quickly!" It is the Lord's own heart's answer to the desires He has kindled. And the book closes with " Amen, Even so come Lord Jesus."
How blessedly, when He has closed the testimony, does He thus bring the heart of the Church back from everything to Himself. So when you have done with your duties get back to Christ, or else your duties will get between you and Christ. It is no matter what occupies us. The judgments of God will surely come; but you cannot have your affections formed and fashioned by judgments. Conscience may be solemnized by them, but the heart can never be won. Therefore, whatever the duties, the service, or the trials, let the heart get back to Christ Himself, the one object for our affections. In the glory, though we have a part, it is put on, as it were, we are clothed in it, the one object Christ Himself. Let it be so here. The Lord give us, whatever we are occupied with, to get back, by the power of the Holy Ghost, in all our service to this sanctuary, even to Christ Himself, the once lowly but now exalted One, and to fix our hearts on Him! Amen.