The Church in the Glory; and the Father's House

 •  37 min. read  •  grade level: 6
I have sought hitherto to present to you some of the great salient features of the church of God. What she is in His counsels and purposes; what she is as now maintained on earth by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit; what man has made of it all here below, and the aspect in which Christ is seen with reference to the great profession of Christianity on earth; and lastly, what the path of the Lord’s people is, amidst the havoc and ruin around them at the present hour.
God is recovering His saints by the truth, to walk in the truth of the church of God, as gathered together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, before He comes. There can be no ecclesiastical recovery of the whole church; to attempt it is only failure, and only makes confusion more confounded. But God never compels His children to sin. He never leaves them without a path in which they may walk worthy of Him, and where the heart and conscience may be at rest.
It is a cheer to one’s heart, too, to think that He will maintain to the end a faithful few, whose path and ways will answer to His mind and will. The last prophet of the Old Testament recognized and addressed a remnant in the midst of what was so evil at that day, and such a remnant was found when the Lord first came. (See Luke 1:22Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; (Luke 1:2).) The later epistles of the New Testament take account of a godly few, building themselves up in their most holy faith; and the heart looks that by grace there will be found those in that faithful condition, when He comes again.
On a previous occasion I spoke to you of our blessed hope as connected with our present condition — that of the coming of the Lord Jesus for His own. How far, shall we ask ourselves, have we been living in that hope during the past week — the past day? How far has it been the expectation of our souls from hour to hour? Has the person of the Lord Jesus Christ been livingly before our hearts? There are two reasons why we should wish for His return: first, because there is so much here below contrary to His glory; and secondly, because we love Him and long to be in His own immediate presence. And this will be enhanced as the heart seeks intimacy and deepening acquaintance with Christ, who has given Himself for us.
On this occasion I wish to speak to you a little about “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” as displayed in the millennial glory. God acts upon our souls by His truth thus: He brings the future glory before us as a present practical reality in its sanctifying power. He unfolds to us the glory prepared for us from everlasting, a boundless field of endless joy; points us to One who has gone on high, the center of it all, One who can absorb our heart’s, affections as the alone worthy object of them — Christ, whom we have known below in weakness and sorrow, the center of that scene of light and blessedness. He has given us the Spirit to dwell in us, and to make heavenly things known to us now; to unfold those things that “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:9-109But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9‑10)). He takes of the things of Christ’s glory, and puts them before us now, that we may live in them — live in the Father’s love, and in the love of Christ which passeth knowledge — that while here we may be the reflection of Christ. Thus He unfolds the glory, that our hearts may be carried into it, and that it may have its own sanctifying effect upon us.
It is interesting to trace how much, and in what different lines, the practical power of the glory of God is brought before us in the Epistles. The glory is the consummation of His grace to us.
Take up the Romans, where it enters into our hope (chapter 5:2), we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” We cannot be more meet for heaven, because our meetness depends on what Christ has done; but our capacity to enjoy that glory may, nay it ought to grow. As has been beautifully said, The present sanctification has all the elements of the future glory; and the future glory contains all the qualities of the present sanctification. So it is. We are formed by what we make our object. So Paul who gives us the result of his experience of Christ: what he had “learned.” “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” It was the spring of his devoted path of service and self-surrendering toil! “To me to live, is Christ”; his chief and only aim, “that Christ may be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death.” Yet the more he knew Him, he longed to know Him: “that I may know Him.”
Take 2 Corinthians 3:1818But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18), “We all beholding the glory of the Lord with open [unveiled] face, are changed [transformed] into the same image from glory to glory.” “We all, he says, it is the common joy of every Christian to gaze upon that glory shining in the face of Jesus, and thus be transformed. The first look was on a lifted-up Son of man dying on the cross for our sins But He is not now there: He has left the cross, passed down to death and the grave, risen, and gone on high, witness that the righteousness of God has been vindicated against sin, and is now displayed. Do I seek to be like Him? What heart that knows Him does not long to be transformed into the same image? How then shall it be? By studying a humbled Christ, and seeking to walk as He walked? Nay; the power is not found there. Shall I seek conformity and likeness to Him, by occupation with myself, looking into my own heart to produce what is of Him there? No: that will never do it! How then shall I become like Him? By occupation of heart with Christ in glory: by gazing and feeding upon, and engrossing my heart with Him in the sphere of God’s unsullied light, where He fills all things, and flesh and self can never come There I find that a thousand things grow dim, which are not suited to that scene, nor to the heart of Him who is there. Flesh and self wither down to their true place of death: the beauteous lines of Christ are written upon the fleshy tables of the heart, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the moral traits of His glory are reproduced in the deepening conformity of our ways to Him.
Stephen, gazing upon his Lord in glory, meets the stormy waves of a world that hated his Lord before it hated him; and the vessel, broken by the stones of the multitude, only emits the beauteous light of his glorified Lord as he tastes the fellowship of His sufferings. He is delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, and the life of Jesus is manifested in his mortal flesh. Here I cannot pass on without remarking one feature in which Christ excels — for in all things He must have the pre-eminence. Stephen first says, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”; and then kneels down and prays for Saul and those who were stoning him, thus setting his spirit free. Not so Jesus. First He says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:3434Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. (Luke 23:34)), and at the close of the cross He commits His spirit to His Father. The order is reversed; Stephen was but man — though blessed martyr indeed; Jesus was the manifestation of divine goodness: Man perfect in dependence before God, He was also God perfectly revealed to man.
In Colossians too, where we are seen passing through the deep, heart-searching circumstances of the wilderness way, the glory of God is again brought to bear on us. “Strengthened with all might,” for a scene where all is against us. What is the measure of the strength?
“According to the power of His glory” (not “glorious power”). What wonderful results will be produced with such strength, you say. But, to what are we strengthened? “To all patience! Is not that a new way of making me patient in this scene? Patient amidst its sorrows, trials, temptations and heart-rendings. And “ all long-suffering”; the long-suffering that bears without a murmur every evil work, as it can perform every good work through Christ that gives it strength. But this we have already had before us: only “with joyfulness” crowns the verse. It is not the heart assuming an attitude of submission with sorrow at the core, what is called resignation (a word unknown in scripture). But heart’s joy springing up to Him in glory, in answer to the resources of His glory that strengthen for the same path of peaceful rest in a Father’s love and will that characterized Him.
Turn to James, and again you find the glory and its principles presented as a motive and power for conduct here. “My brethren, have not the faith of.... glory, with respect of persons” (James 2:11My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. (James 2:1)). If you have faith — the faith of glory, to which your steps are wending, do not go on. with the spirit of the world, which puts the poor man in the low place, and a rich man in the seat of honor. Let the principles of the glory form your ways, so that the spirit of the world may be broken in you.
Again; look at 1 Peter 4:1414If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (1 Peter 4:14): “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified.” When I feel that I have been reproached for the name of the Lord, it is as if the skirts of the glory had touched me! The spirit of the glory where Christ is has, so to speak, touched him who has been slighted for His name. Take it where you will, beloved brethren, the — power of the glory of God is brought to bear for present sanctifying on our hearts and ways. So that whether for hope, or conformity to Christ; for patience by the way, or to deal with the spirit of the world; or with regard to the reproach of Christ, the glory of God as revealed in Christ is pressed upon the soul as the power for the production of what is of Him in the Christian. (See John 17:1919And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:19).)
But to turn to my subject. I just name at once in passing, that the verses we have read (Rev. 21:9-27; 22:1-59And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. 10And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; 12And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. 14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. 16And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. 17And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. 18And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. 19And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; 20The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. 21And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. 22And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. 23And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. 24And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it. 25And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. 26And they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. 27And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life. (Revelation 21:9‑27)
1And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: 4And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. 5And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:1‑5)
) give us the description of the millennial display of the bride to the world. The saints have been taken up, and from chapter 4 are seen in heaven during the judgments which follow, preparatory to the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Revelation 2:33And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. (Revelation 2:3) the church is in its present condition; in chapter 4 the saints are seen in the glory, where they remain until they appear as the armies of heaven with Christ in judgment, in Revelation 6:1414And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. (Revelation 6:14). Then Satan is bound, and in Revelation 20:4-64And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4‑6) the fact of the thousand years of the kingdom is stated; then you find the short season after the thousand years when Satan is loosed once more (vss. 7-10). The judgment of the great white throne ends the sad history of this earth, and the new heavens and new earth follow (Rev. 21:1-81And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 6And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 7He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:1‑8)), which closes all. One thing remained to be told, and we find it then follows, and forms my subject.
The bride, the Lamb’s wife, is seen in her personal and her relative glory. And what is of such real moment and blessing to our souls is, that all the sanctifying work which Christ is now accomplishing in His saints will come out, and the result will be seen in the glory as here displayed. We read that He “loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. That 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.” What a motive, then, to yield ourselves to Him that His grace may be not hindered! He sanctifies by the action of the word; He discloses all that hinders fellowship with Himself in that bright scene; He reveals and unfolds Himself to the hearts of His saints — to wean them away from this scene, and fill their hearts with Himself. Then, He will present His church to Himself glorious, without a spot of defilement or wrinkle of old age — not a trace of the scene through which she has passed; the heavenly Eve of the last Adam for the Paradise of God!
This wonderful scene is too often looked upon as something of the future; a description, no doubt with real points of interest, yet presenting but little, in present formative power to our souls. When the display of that day of glory comes, it will be too late to use the scripture in this manner.
I think it will be seen that in this display of glory, what Christ was personally, what the saint — the church was left here to be — relatively, by His grace, and what the glorified church will be absolutely, as displaying the glories of the Lamb — all these come out in this scene.
“Having the glory of God” (vs. 11). One thing must strike us forcibly; it is, how much the glory of God is interwoven with the description of the heavenly city. You have it both in literal words and in figures. You find it in the foundations of the city; in its walls; in its light within and appearance without; all is glory. It underlies, surrounds, enfolds and lights up the whole scene. The glory of God has enwrapped the saints, and they dwell in the glory of God. No doubt, it is her millennial display; still it gives character to the church, that even now is set in this world to display the moral traits of that glory to it. “The glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light [or ‘light bearer’] thereof.”
Here it is seen, in the perfection of the given glory of Christ, as answering to its full character. He, not to say we, could not be satisfied if it were not so. She is the display of the glory to the millennial earth. She does not come down to earth herself, but sheds the light of that glory upon Jerusalem below. As the heavenly Jerusalem the church still keeps her character as the display of grace; as Jerusalem below will be the center of earthly government in that day. How sad to see a Christian, who is heavenly even now (1 Cor. 15:4848As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. (1 Corinthians 15:48)), trying to mingle these two principles; as for instance, a Christian acting as a magistrate, or taking part in the politics of the world. What is he doing? Seeking to mingle the government of the earth with the grace revealed from heaven. It is impossible now, but both will have their place in the millennial display of the glory of Christ. If from the heavenly Jerusalem — the vessel of grace — the leaves of the Tree of life are ministered for the healing of the nations; in the earthly Jerusalem is seen judgment returned to righteousness: “The nation and kingdom that will not serve her shall perish” (Isa. 60:1212For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. (Isaiah 60:12)).
In this chapter one of the seven angels comes, which had the seven vials full of the last seven plagues, and carries John in the Spirit to a great and high mountain. It is not a wilderness from which he sees her. (Compare Rev. 17:33So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. (Revelation 17:3).) It is striking the different stand — points from which the seer views each vision as it passes before him in this book; each place suited to that which he beholds. Upon the “sand of the sea” (Rev. 18:11And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. (Revelation 18:1)), he stands to see the beast arise “out of the sea,” which typifies the renewed Latin Empire arising from the seething mass of the nations. The “wilderness” is a fitting place from whence to see the mystic Babylon, drunken with the blood of saints and martyrs of Jesus. A “mountain,” “great and high,” is the platform from which to behold this heavenly Jerusalem — the bride, “descending out of heaven from God”; she does not come to the earth, but is let down that the earth may see her glory, the glory of God displayed in her.
It is remarkable that what we know as members of Christ now, by the Spirit of God sent down, others will behold in that day. We read in John 14:2020At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:20), “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” Mark the order here; the Son is gone on high, having accomplished redemption, He is in the Father; the Holy Spirit has been sent down and gives the consciousness of being one in nature and life with Him who is there: we are in Him there, and if so, He is in us here. This is the consciousness which the Spirit of God gives us now.
Now if we turn to a verse in John 17 we find that the order of John 14:2020At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:20) is reversed. He says there, “The glory which thou hast given Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and thou in Me”; here it is not Christ in the Father and we in Him; but the order is exactly reversed. It is Christ in them as perfectly displayed, as the Father was in Him. The Lord Jesus turns to the day of glory that is before us. Thus He can speak of our being “made perfect in one,” and “that the world may know.” Now, we should have walked so that the world might have believed: but, alas, we have failed to display Christ to the world. In what infinite grace He carries us in to the day when there will be no more failure, but He will be perfectly displayed in us, “that the world may know that thou halt sent Me” when it sees you, my brethren, and all His saints, in the same glory as the Son of God — “and has loved them as thou hast loved Me.”
This city is that display. She has the glory of God –“Having the glory of God, and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.” This is a symbol used for the glory of God (Rev. 4:33And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. (Revelation 4:3)). She has the glory “of God,” and yet it is called “her light” (vs. 11). Why is this? Suppose God has produced the graces of Christ in the saints here. Well, pure grace has done so; yet He has counted it to them. So here; if the church has the glory of God, yet it is her light, by His grace. What was Christ Himself? God manifested upon earth in that lowly Man. You long to be like Him; you long that the graces and mind of Christ may be reproduced in you; well those that are, are counted as yours, though His grace has wrought them. As when in Revelation 19:88And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. (Revelation 19:8), to His wife “was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen white and clean,” and this linen said to be “the righteousnesses of the saints” though all absolutely the production of His own grace in her. What He was upon earth, what He produces in His people, and what He displays in glory, are all seen.
“And it had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels.” Here you find the human side, as well as the divine — twelve gates and twelve angels. If you look at Christ Himself on earth, you find the human side and also the divine. If He takes a little babe in His arms, it is a beautiful act of humanity; but when He pressed it to His heart. He pressed it to the heart of God — a human act, yet divine. To the widow of Nain, “Weep not,” came from the pitying human heart. “Young man, I say unto thee arise,” was the voice of God that quickeneth the dead. “And He delivered him to his mother,” again the tender heart of many. You do not know which moment it is man, and which it is God, in those scintillations of His moral glory. So in the heavenly city; if you find the “glory of God,” you find the “twelve gates” as well.
The thought of the “wall” is security, as that of the “foundations” is stability. The angels are willing doorkeepers; they have been the instruments of the carrying out of the providence of God. Here they are outside, unjealous angels, who desire to look into the tale of grace to man. The church now is “a spectacle to angels” and to men; so she will be then. The woman ought “to have power on her head, because of the angels.” Then the bride has glory as well, and the angels stand as porters at the gates, thus beholding “the manifold wisdom of God.”
Let me remark that the twelve apostles have a double place: in relation to the kingdom below, as in the church on high. The Lord promised them, “When the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (See Matt. 19:2828And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28).) They have the chief place in the administration of the kingdom, and are in the foundations of the city on high. The names of the tribes are written on the gates: the gate was the place of judicial authority and administration, of which the tribal order of Israel was the center. “Lot sat in the gate.” This is now transferred to the church; hence the names of Israel’s tribes are written on her gates — the symbol of such administrative order — so transferred. “On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”
“And he that talked with me; had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the walls thereof.” If you look at the earthly Jerusalem in Ezekiel, He measures it with a line, of flax (Ezek. 40:33And he brought me thither, and, behold, there was a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed; and he stood in the gate. (Ezekiel 40:3)) as His possession. But this will not suffice to measure that which is the fruit of the travail of Christ’s soul. You may remember that in Ephesians 2:77That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7), it is said that by the church God will display “in the ages to come, the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.” You cannot measure by human admeasurement that by which God unfolds and displays to eternity the full extent of His riches of grace, in His kindness towards us.
Gold is the symbol of divine righteousness. The estimate of the full result, now come in glory that can be displayed, of His counsels of eternity, can only be according to His own nature. God alone can, justly value the travail of the soul of Jesus, when He made His soul an offering for sin: when He presented to His Father a fresh motive for His Father’s love. “Herein doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again” (John 10:1717Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. (John 10:17)).
“The city lieth four square....the length, and the breadth, and the height of it are equal.” It was a cube, the symbol of divinely given perfection.
“The building of the wall was of jasper; “that is the symbol of the glory of God.” He that sat [upon the throne] was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone” (Rev. 4:33And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. (Revelation 4:3)). So was the “first foundation” of the wall. The glory of God is thus the foundation, the security, the stability, and the light of the heavenly city. Oh, how the heart worships as it contemplates such a scene! His glory enfolds His people on every side.
“And the city was of pure gold, like unto clear glass.” Gold is divine righteousness, and clear glass represents the fixed transparent purity of truth. Thus, the city itself presents in this wondrous symbol what Christ was Himself, and what the “new man” is, which after God is created in righteousness and holiness of truth.” It is not Adam in innocence, when he knew not good or evil; nor Adam fallen, and righteous, by the law, if that could have been to fallen man. But created in all the beauty of God’s righteousness by grace, and the transparent truthfulness of Christ — as transparent as the day. If we look at our own hearts, what poor, treacherous, double-minded things they are; but it is not so with God. Thus set in divine righteousness before God, in Christ, with truth in the inward parts; in the measure in which the new man is in action, it is like Him who could answer, when asked of the Jews “Who art thou?”“ I am absolutely what I speak unto you”; His words expressed Himself (John 8:2525Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning. (John 8:25)).
As to the foundations, they are garnished with all manner of precious stones. When God displays Himself He does it under the figure of those colored precious stones, as has often been remarked. Catch the ray of bright colorless light from the sun and separate it in a prism, and you find the colorless ray broken up, and resolved into the varied colors of the rainbow. “God is light” — and dwells in the inaccessible light unto which no one can approach, or can see. When He displays Himself in any way, these beautiful colors symbolize this display.
Take the rainbow; it is the pure light of the sun shining through the tears of the rain-cloud, but when broken up through those tears, exhibiting in those heavenly lights and shades of color the virtue of the colorless ray. When, the high priest of old, with the breastplate of many colored stones, entered the holiest, the pure light from the mercy-seat was reflected in each color on his heart. Thus Christ is now sustaining His people here in their weakness, and carrying them through this scene according to the light of the heavenly sanctuary. By-and-by, instead of sustaining them in their weakness as now, He will place them in power on high.
If you look at Christ on earth, you see the “Son of man, which is in heaven,” displaying God on earth before our eyes. “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily.” See Him weeping over Jerusalem: the Messiah’s heart wrenched in mourning over His people’s sin. It was the tender heart of man, but sprang from that deep and wondrous fountain — “The tears they fell from human eyes, but they came from the heart of God.” Thus was God displayed. The heart adores when one thinks we have to do with a God who has stooped down to human tears, in a world of tears.
Thus God takes up our trials, and sorrows and tears; and by them He displays in His people the heavenly lines of that nature which suits His heart, because it is His own.
“The twelve gates were twelve pearls.” Here a lovely thought finds its expression. In it is seen that moral beauty and comeliness which attracted the heart of Christ in the church, and for which He “sold all that He had.” Internally we find the city is “pure gold like unto clear glass”; externally the moral beauty of the pearl. Each gate showed out this. So with the Lord Himself personally; so with the Christian relatively, who has “put on the new man” “where” Christ is all; and outwardly, the effect is that the lowly traits of His grace are produced, and thus with the church collectively, if it needed the whole that Christ might be fully displayed according to God’s thought. Here we are carried on to the glory when it will be perfectly so. Thus we see how the thought flows through the wonderful description as to what Christ was personally, what His saints are relatively, in the measure in which what His grace has wrought is seen in them, and what will be seen in full display, when He “comes to be glorified in His saints and admired in all that believe.”
“The street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.” The figure was before used, verse 18. Here we find that not only the city, but the streets are so. It is the reverse of what we pass through now, in a defiled world. In that city of glory the feet will only come in contact with that which answers to the new man within. Oh! if the heart does not “watch and pray” now, how the soil is contracted, and the heart defiled! The heart rests in the thought of a scene where it may let itself go; when watching and praying will be things of the past — never to be relaxed for an instant now, because the flesh is in us and the world around us so suited to it.
There Christ alone will fill the soul. What joy without alloy! And it is sweet to think that all the dissatisfaction one feels with one’s own heart now, is but a note of sympathy with that scene on high where all things are of God. There the very streets we shall walk on suit the nature of God, already become ours in righteousness and holiness of truth. There we may ungird our loins, for all only reflects His glory, and the more the heart goes out freely the more worship is the effect produced.
So the description goes on, “I saw no temple therein.” In the earthly restored Jerusalem the marked. feature of the scene in the temple once more (Ezek. 40-48). Here there is none. Why is this? Because worship is all that is here: it characterizes the scene; “They shall be still praising thee.” A Jew could hardly understand how there could be no temple. The temple gave a character to his relationships with God. There God dwelt, shut up from every gaze, to be reverenced. But if He shut Himself up within the veil, He shut man out! He could not be there. How different this wonderful scene of glory. There is no concealment of it. The unveiled mystery of God is there, and the heart has naught to do but adore.
It is humbling to discover how little concentration of heart there is with us now for worship. How little there is of that “looking up steadfastly” — that fixedness of soul. Worship is the character of the place to which we are going; there it goes on forever. Even here the little tributes of praise our hearts can bring are sweet to Him; “the Father seeketh such to worship Him.”
“I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” The whole city is the sanctuary of His presence. “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it,” no need of borrowed light, ‘‘for the glory of God did lighten it.” We had the glory encircling and entering into the whole structure of the city. Here it is the light of it. Even now if there is light in our hearts it is the light of that glory shining on the face of Jesus. All the glory of God shines concentrated on that face, and we gaze on it without a veil and at peace; nay, the fact that it shines on the face of Him who gave Himself for me, engages me to be occupied with the glory thus revealed. So it will be forever.
He bears the glory. Would that, like the Queen of Sheba, we knew even now what it was to be so taken up with Him, in whom all the glory of God shines before the opened eye of faith, that self might be entirely displaced. There was no more spirit in her, and she pours out her treasures at His feet. Then it will be perfectly so. The heart that has learned to know His love, will be at home with Him in that scene of light and untold joy.
“And the nations shall walk in the light of it.” Here, there enters another thought. Worship if I look within, testimony if I look below. “I in them and thou in Me,” is fulfilled. “The glory which thou hast given Me I have given them.” There Christ is seen in the saints, who are the radiance of His glory to the nations below.
Worship and testimony are true now too in their measure in the saints. As a holy priesthood you go in to worship Him, as a royal priesthood you come out to chew forth the virtues of Jesus (1 Peter 2).
So if there is worship filling the scene, there is testimony, for the spared nations walk in the light of that heavenly city. The worship is feeble now; so is the testimony — a poor gleam of light in a dark world. Still the gleam is there, in Christianity, poor though it may be. And in that measure the nations of the earth walk; other light there is none.
“The kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor to (not ‘into’) it.” They own that the heavens do rule. “And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.” Perfect security — no need to shut those gates; and there is no darkness there. Darkness is ignorance of God, with John. Where does doubting come from — where uncertainty? From ignorance of God. All is gone now, and “there is no night there.”
“They shall bring the glory and honor of the nations to it, and there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth.” Let me ask, Did anything enter into your heart that defiled today? Were you living so with Christ, that defilement was kept outside? How one trembles at seeing a bright young soul filled with that early joy in Christ: one who has trodden the path longer knows well that that fresh joy will subside if Christ does not become all as its object, and that some wretched idolatry of the heart will enter in and defile, and turn it aside. How wisely did Barnabas exhort those babes in Christ, that with purpose of heart they should cleave to the Lord (Acts 11).
But here the heart can rest. Nothing that defiles can enter the heavenly city — neither the flesh of man nor the lie of Satan. All is excluded here. There is the other side too — “But they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” They only for whom He died, as the objects of His love may enter in.
In chapter 22 you find the city in her relative, if in the previous chapter you had her personal character. “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.” The river is the symbol of blessing flowing out. The Lord Himself is its source. “If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink.”
The one who drank would be the channel for the river to flow into others, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters.” He drinks, and slakes his thirst at the fountain source, and from the fullness of the satisfaction there are rivers to flow out to the desert world around. Even now the bride, conscious of her relationship to Christ (Rev. 22:1717And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)) before the day of her espousals in heavenly glory (Rev. 19), and having Him as the center of her heart, has the whole circle of His present interests before her, and can say, “Let him that is athirst, come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:1717And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)). Still we find the thought we have noticed all through; that what Christ was personally, and the Christian or the church is relatively, characterizes it in the glory, when the time for display has fully come.
It is the character of Christianity to go out with what you have. Preaching gives it its tone. Under Judaism it was, Keep to yourself; there was no preaching, as a rule. Christianity is thus characterized — rendering what you have received. The woman of Samaria could not help telling of what Jesus had made known to her soul. He loved her, He knew her, and He saved! “She went and told the men” in the boldness of grace.
See Saul of Tarsus. His eyes are opened. “And straightway he preached Jesus that He is the Son of God.” Do you, beloved, go out with what you know? Or is it with you, like the lepers of Samaria, “A day of glad tidings, and we hold our peace?” (2 Kings 7:99Then they said one to another, We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us: now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king's household. (2 Kings 7:9)). Has God satisfied the need of your heart? Well, there is a soul who wants it, will you not tell it to him?
Here, too, you find the “tree of life,” — not two trees but one. The old story of the two trees of Eden is over. In Paradise there was responsible, innocent Adam. He eats of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in disobedience, and is shut out from the tree of life, never to regain a lost Paradise of innocency. Outside the garden came the law to fallen man to raise the question, if life could be connected with responsibility; the two trees again in principle. But he needed life to fulfill responsibility, and he had none, and was lost. If I say, This do, and ye shall have a fortune; clearly it proves that you have not got one. It is quite another thing to bestow the fortune, and then to tell you how to use it. Thus have we found Christ to be the tree of life, when first He had met the whole question of responsibility under the judgment of God for us. There is no tree of responsibility. Is there no remaining responsibility, then, as children of Adam? None! Christ has taken it up, and forever closed the history of the responsible man for God and for faith. Now your responsibility is to be true to what you are: a child of God. Children first — then the duties of children follow.
The tree of life bears twelve manner of fruits for the heavenly redeemed. How the heart rejoices now to sit under His shadow with great delight, and to find His fruit sweet to our taste.
What will it be to hearts capable of enjoying Him in glory, to sit under His shadow there and eat those heavenly ever-changing fruits, while the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations in the earth below.
“And there shall he no more curse.” Adam’s transgression brought the curse in its train; Cain’s fratricide entailed another. Sin’s curse has lain everywhere in this scene, but there will be no trace of it there “but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him.” Oh what hindrances to this there are now. Service will be the joyous liberty of the heavenly glory. It is the happy rest of active joy; but richer still and more intimate in blessing “They shall see his face,” — not now as in a glass darkly but face to face — oh what divine and endless satisfaction! “And His name shall be in their foreheads.” They bear the proof before all, that they are His, the imprint of what He is manifestly on their brow.
“And there shall be no night there.” No darkness, nor ignorance of God. “They need no candle, neither light of the sun,” no borrowed or created light. “The Lord God giveth them light; and they shall reign forever and ever.” Serving and waiting occupy them now (1 Thess. 1:9-109For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9‑10)); then they serve and see His face, and reign forever.
God reveals to us this scene where the Lamb’s glories dwell, to cheer and fill our hearts with its present sanctifying power, and to give us a truer estimate of what the height of our calling is, as we see all that it now made good to faith, and in the power of the Holy Spirit carried out to its full result in glory then.
A little word more and I close. There is another aspect of what is before us which needs but few words to describe: few are the words of scripture concerning it. That which is here so elaborately portrayed is the glory in which we shall be displayed. The world will see and know the tale of grace, in Jerusalem on high. But there is a secret pavilion of the soul’s holiest joy — His Father’s house with its many mansions, and more than all, the Son Himself to take the servant’s place still in infinite grace and minister the richest joys of it to us forever! There is nothing of this here. In John 17 you have the secret but no description; it is enough to say He is there. He says (vs. 23), “Father, I will.” Heretofore in the chapter He had prayed; now He demands, “Father I will, that they also whom, thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory which thou hast given Me: for thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.” Shall we not be happy in seeing Him in His own peculiar glory — a glory we may never share. He speaks of it, too, as having been bestowed, as He takes everything that was His own in John. This is His grace. If He emptied Himself of all His glory He had with the Father before the world was, He receives it back as Man. He receives it from His Father’s hand, because He had become Man, to be a Man forever! He has taken manhood into the glory of God, never again to lay it down. Shall we not behold Him with rapture then? Then we shall know the heights from which His love had stooped, which the heart can but little know. Yet what little we do know makes the longing more deep to know Him fully, and to be with Him forever in that bright scene of glory, of which He is the center and sun. He who possesses it is ours, though that peculiar range of glory may never be: but He will bring us in to gaze upon it.
The Lord give us to live in the consciousness of heavenly things as fully revealed, and of our association with Him in them, to form our souls more and more as a people that belong there. Soon we shall be actually there. May He who is the center and brightness of all that scene of glory fill our hearts, conducting the light of it into them and displacing all that is unsuited to it more and more; till the moment fixed in the Father’s counsels when He can take us there, and present us before the Father, who gave us to Him, perfectly suitable to Him. Amen.