The Throne of God and of the Lamb
The Lamb is the well-known title of Christ in the Apocalypse, the book of the future. It expresses the patience of His humiliation, even to the death of the cross; but it characterizes Him still in glory. Even when the apostle is told of the Lion of the tribe of Judah having prevailed to open the book, the vision assures him that it is a "Lamb, as it had been slain."
The connection between the humiliation and glory is familiar to us. Because of that wondrous humiliation "God has highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly, earthly, and infernal beings, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9-11).
This is His personal exaltation, and as Man. He has descended and is now ascended up, far above all heavens, and sits upon the Father's throne, waiting there until His foes are made His footstool. All things are to be put under His feet, though as yet we do not see this.
The Kingdom of the Son of Man, His millennial reign, is that in which this is accomplished. He has then a throne which He can share with others, as the Father's throne He cannot (Rev. 3:21); and the saints reign with Him a thousand years.
But while the Father thus glorifies His Son, for the Son His personal exaltation is not the object. He takes the Kingdom to bring all things into eternal order, and thus bring in the rest of God. Having done this, the Kingdom in this form is given up; its object is achieved; "and when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).
We can in this way understand both why the Kingdom lasts for comparatively so short a period, and yet why it occupies so large a place in the field of prophecy. In the Old Testament, save in Isaiah's promise of a new heavens and earth, we never get beyond it. And even in the New, while that promise is expanded for us in the sweet picture with which we are all familiar (Rev. 21:1-8), yet that which follows of the New Jerusalem goes back immediately, as to the time of view, to the millennium again. Only in this way could the leaves of the tree of life be for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).
Beyond the thousand years the city itself abides, for it is eternal; and here is for us the fullest view that the book of Revelation affords with regard to the eternal state. Yet it is both brief and enigmatic; and the eyes that have been upon it for many generations have ever yearned to see more clearly what is portrayed in it.
But upon this we do not mean to dwell at present. We are following, as we may, the Christ of God through all that changes into the changeless blessedness. What can we know of it? Little, perhaps, indeed; but we may at least distinguish some things that need to be, and where Scripture seems clear enough to save us from any presumptuous speculation in the matter.
For many — and some even of those who are theoretically clearer — the millennium has been practically too much identified with the eternal condition. It has given too much its character to eternity; while, on the other hand, I think it will be found that sometimes that which is eternal has been thought of as millennial.
The millennium, with that which immediately follows and connects with it, is a period of formation, — of labor, not of rest. First, things are set in order morally and spiritually; then physically also. It applies also to the earth solely; not (in the higher sense of the word) to heaven. The "new heavens" are firmamental, the heavens of the second creative day.
Now, as to the reign, when it is said of the saints that they reign with Christ a thousand years, we might naturally think that they would cease to reign, then, after this. Yet we find it said of those in the heavenly city, "they shall reign for ever and ever" (or "the ages of ages") the strongest expression used for eternity. And this may remind us that before the thrones are seen set up as to the earth (Rev. 20:4), and before even the Lamb has taken the book in heaven (Rev. 5:7), we have seen thrones around the throne of God (Rev. 4:4) and those occupying them who afterwards sing the song of redemption, and are therefore redeemed men (Rev. 5:9). Is there not here implied plainly a reign which, as it begins before the millennial reign, will not be limited by it?
As to the Lord Jesus, "all authority" is already His "in heaven and on earth" (Matt 28:18), and yet He has not taken His throne as Son of Man. He is on the Father's throne, which is not divided nor circumscribed by that "Kingdom of His dear Son," into which already He has "translated" us (Col. 1:13). Thus we cannot limit Christ's reign by the Kingdom of the Son of Man. And when He shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God, even the Father, "that God may be all in all," will that "Kingdom of the Father" more exclude His sovereignty? If all authority be His now, has it shut out the Father? Will the Kingdom of the Father any more shut out the Son?
If we need a more direct answer to such a question we shall find it in what is said of the heavenly city that "the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it." It is but one throne: two there could not be; and it is characterized in this way, as the "throne of God and of the Lamb." That which speaks of the lowest depths of humiliation gone into is joined with the incommunicable Name of glory: it is added to that to which no addition would seem possible. God accepts this addition; yet not as if it were the acceptance of anything extraneous to Himself: nay, in it He is become manifest in a glory before which the hosts of heaven prostrate themselves in adoring wonder. In the Lamb God has found the expression of Himself He has been ever seeking, — the means of pouring out unhindered the fulness which shall make His creatures full: and thus from the throne of God and of the Lamb issues the stream of the water of life.
That it is the "throne of God," declares at once that here we have before us what is eternal: not dispensational, not temporary. "That God may be all in all," the Lamb has brought Him down to the lower parts of the earth, and taken humanity up to the height of heaven. The Lamb is henceforth the "Lamp" of divine light; as "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple" of the city, the unveiled Presence in which worship shall be alike free and necessary. The mystery of the Person of Christ is the assurance that in no way whatever can God and the Lamb be separated ever.
But what an overwhelming thought it is, humanity united thus to Godhead, the Crucified upon the throne of God! And we, whom He has taken up from the depths in which He found us, to declare in us the fulness of divine self-sacrificing love, — we are following on to see Him where He is, with eyes at last able to behold His glory; changed ourselves into His likeness!