Peter, James, John, and Jude.
Our subject this evening is the last of these series of epistles — written by four disciples, Peter, James, John, and Jude. We have in the writings of these four, the epistles which follow after those of Paul; and they are called the general epistles in contrast to the special ones, which Paul wrote. Nearly everyone of those were written to special assemblies, and with special objects. These epistles were written to the people of God in general, and are therefore usually called the general or Catholic epistles, meaning the same thing.
There are four writers, and these epistles come in the fourth place. They take the place of the book of Numbers in the Pentateuch of Moses; and just as we found Paul's epistles have to do with the holy place — our standing before God, and our relationship with Him, so these epistles have to do with our position in the world.
It is very suggestive, that we should first be clear as to our relationship with God and our standing before Him, before we should have to pass on to the world and meet the obstacles, the opposition of the enemy. How good God is; we have seen again and again that He first brings us, as it were, into heaven itself, and then sends us down to earth to live for Him. That is exactly the reverse of the world's thought of pleasing God. It sets before men a long dreary way. It says, toil up that mountain, and at the end, if you are faithful, you will reach God, perhaps. God on the contrary meets the poor sinner down at the foot of the mountain, meets us at the very entrance of the wilderness, and before we take a single step in our journey through the world as His people, He introduces us into His presence and there puts us at rest. All questions as to the future are settled, all questions as to the past are equally settled. We look back upon the long course of our sins, and we can thank God that every one has been blotted out by the precious blood of Christ. We look forward into that eternity to which we are daily drawing nearer, and we see every question settled as to that. Then as we learn to grow at home in God's holy presence, He sends us forth as pilgrims in the world to live for Him. You will find that this is the marked character of these epistles. They have not so much to do with the presence of God as with the presence of the enemy; not so much with heavenly things as with earthly. The believer, we will find, is contemplated in them as the pilgrim passing through the world. It is for him a time of testing, through all the difficulties which bring out his weakness, and which, alas, bring out the failure that accompanies that weakness.
Now just as we have been finding that in the New Testament, we have a wondrous exuberance of precious truth, as for instance, in our Lord's life in the Gospels, or in Paul's epistles as the books of the sanctuary, we find it correspondingly so here. These pilgrim epistles give us beautiful and precious furnishing and a full provision for our way. Let us look a little at a few of the salient features of each of them, beginning with first Peter. He is evidently the first one to look at, for he sets before us the fact that we are strangers and pilgrims here.
You notice that in the very first verse of the first chapter, he addresses them as the strangers who were scattered throughout the various provinces of the Roman empire. He is speaking, of course, to Israel according to the flesh primarily; to the Jews, the strangers of the dispersion, but who were Christians as well, who though an earthly people by nature had become something else by grace. It is addressed, as I said, to strangers and pilgrims. If you look down at the second chapter, and the eleventh verse, "dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims"; and all through the epistle, you find that the believer is contemplated as journeying through the world.
Let us take a characteristic verse here; chapter 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." Now we have almost identically the same words in the epistle to the Ephesians, with this striking and characteristic difference, that in Ephesians we have what is our present possession in Christ in the heavenly places; the believer is already considered as in the heavenly places in Him. Here on the contrary it is a hope. We are on the earth, and have a hope which links us with the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Everything is future in Peter; everything is present in Ephesians — that is, spiritual blessings made good to us by the power of the Holy Ghost. Now that is characteristic of the book and its subject. It is the pilgrim book.
But look how beautifully, if we are pilgrims, we are provided for. First of all, the hope that we have is a living hope, and we are begotten again to it by the resurrection of Christ. Think of that, weary pilgrim, as you toil under the sun in a strange, hostile world. Think of it, that the hope that is dear to your heart is a resurrection hope; it links with a risen Christ. The hope is connected with an inheritance that is reserved in heaven for us, and we upon earth are "kept by the power of God through faith." You look with hope upon your inheritance, with which you are linked. It is reserved for you. God has kept it for you. Suppose you were to take a doubting Christian, one who is troubled with fears and uncertainties, and say to him, Do you think there is any danger of heaven passing away? do you think there is any danger of those glories fading away? Ah I no, he would say, I know that heaven is secure, I know that those glories are unfading, but it is myself that I am troubled about. Now you can turn him to this passage and say, The very power that has reserved our inheritance for us keeps us for our inheritance. God, I say it reverently, has two hands. In one hand He holds our inheritance; in the other He holds us, and the same almighty power which has given us that, keeps us. All He has to do is to bring His two hands together, and His people are in their inheritance. Dear brethren, what a joy to be a pilgrim with such a living hope as that, connecting us with what is before us. You find that is the key of Peter's epistle. We are surrounded by trials, as he tells us here; we are in heaviness through manifold temptations; surrounded by all kinds of difficulties, so great that as he says, the trial of your faith is as by fire. Yet that fiery trial is more precious than gold, and will be found unto glory and honor at the appearing of Jesus Christ. A little further on he says, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you."
It is understood that we are to have tribulation in a world like this. As we think of Gethsemane and Calvary, as we think of our blessed Lord's path of suffering and rejection here, can we expect as those who are to walk in His steps, to be exempt from suffering? Ah no! Christ's people on earth must be a suffering people, and let us beware of a path which avoids the rough and thorny places. But we can thank Him for the assurance that He has given us at the very beginning, that we are kept by God's power unto salvation, through faith.
Then in the same chapter, we have a similar thought which I dwell on just for a moment, most familiar to us. He has been speaking of our girding up the loins of our minds, and there is nothing more important for pilgrims than to be girded. Suppose you were to go to an encampment where soldiers were about to start on a long and arduous march, and saw them reclining at ease and luxury in their tents, making no effort to get ready. The order to march had been given, and yet they are at ease. You say they are very poor soldiers, very poor pilgrims. Now in the very first chapter, Peter tells us to gird up the loins of our minds. Just as the pilgrim, the racer, has to gird up the loins of his body, so we must gird up the loins of our minds, and I would like to say that the matter for a pilgrim to be clear about is not so much first of all his walk, as his heart. It is the pilgrim heart that makes the pilgrim walk. If my heart and mind are girded up, then my feet will be in the right path unquestionably. Let us gird up, by the word of God, the loins of our mind that we may press on with vigor. If there is anything that hinders, any relaxation, let us beware. I may be quite busily engaged in doing the Lord's work and yet be no true pilgrim.
Then when we have girded up the mind, he wants us to be sure of another thing, that in this walk we must be holy. He says "Be ye holy for I am holy." He wants us to understand there is nothing uncertain in the whole Christian experience. We look at heaven, we look at earth, and all through there is to be nothing uncertain. So our apostle tells us, "forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things such as silver and gold from your vain conversation received by tradition from the fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ." We know we are redeemed, therefore we are to pass the time of our sojourning here in fear. How characteristic these are of the earthly, of the pilgrim walk, — the living hope, the girded loins, the holy desire, the godly fear and the absolute certainty of our redemption, — all together as an incentive to live down here for Him who has gone on high for us.
So we might go on through the epistle with our eye falling on almost every verse to find that which is helpful for us as pilgrims. There are two or three things in the second chapter for you to notice. First, there is to be growth. There is a great mistake, in thinking that the believer in his path through the world is not to be growing. You remember that in the numbering of the children of Israel at the close of their journey, we find some of the tribes had greatly increased in number, and some had greatly decreased; some had barely held their own; some had made just a little progress, others had lost a little. Now we find, if we look for it, some of the causes of these things. Take, for instance, the tribe of Simeon. It had lost nearly one half its number, and the reason is not far to seek; for we find that it was in connection with the corruption at Baal-peor, that the judgment of God was inflicted upon them. They mixed themselves with the idolatrous Moabites and the result was that they lost in numbers.
On the other hand other tribes made wonderful advances. For instance, the tribe of Judah increased, and Manasseh also, — very strikingly. Manasseh, "forgetting the things that are behind, reaching forth unto those that are before." If I am a pilgrim in that character, I will grow in this world. Judah has Caleb as a leader, — the man who was whole-hearted for God, his heart set on his inheritance in the land, and therefore, of course, pressing on. That is what makes progress. In this chapter I might say we have the Manasseh character. It is forgetting the things that are behind; "laying aside the weights, and the sin which doth so easily beset us." He says, laying aside therefore all these evil things that are enumerated, "as newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the Word that ye may grow thereby."
The wilderness is a happy place, if we are only in the true pilgrim attitude. It is a place of growth. Heaven is a joy; it will be where we shall see Christ and be like Him; but earth is where we learn Christ. Earth is where we get an experience of Him, which we could not even get in heaven itself. And you know if we are not growing, if we are not using the talents which our Lord has given us, then, dear brethren, it is our fault. We may complain that the wilderness is so full of trial, that there are so many difficulties, that our circumstances are so peculiar, but they are the very things that should make us grow heavenward. If we were in a prison we ought to flourish and grow there. If we are in the most trying circumstances our growth should be manifest.
As pilgrims we are to grow, but there are two essentials for growth; one is laying aside, and the other is feeding. Do you notice the things which the apostle tells us we are to lay aside? He does not say lay aside stealing, and murder, and the various outward immoralities. Ah, it is the guile, the hypocrisy, the malice, it is that tongue, that evil speaking, which alas, is so common amongst God's people. If we are to grow, we are to lay aside these things. Not quite an honest heart? not quite an honest purpose? — ah, we are to be clear as the noonday. There cannot otherwise be true growth.
But Christianity is never a negative thing. We are never told to lay aside, and to stop there. There must be feeding upon the Word. Like new born babes feed upon milk, desire milk, so we in all the simplicity of new born babes are to desire, to crave, to feed upon the precious milk of God's word to grow by that. That is what marks the pilgrim. As thus growing up, we exhibit the true priestly character which is the power for the pilgrim walk. We have come to be built into a holy temple, and to offer up spiritual sacrifices, as priests — a nation of priests, to bear the holy vessels through the world — to show forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
In this connection we are told to abstain from fleshly lusts. The Christian as a pilgrim is not to be fighting sin all the time. No man who is growing is always fighting, and if I am turning around and assaulting Amalek I am not making very swift progress toward Canaan. Every time you have to fight the flesh, you are stopped in your pilgrim walk. I do not mean to say that you may not have to do it; but show me a man who is constantly contending with the flesh, in hand to hand conflict with temptation and I will see not much growth. If he says, Well God has delivered me from it again, I got the victory again; I say what business did you have to need a victory? what did it have to trouble you for? You must have been lagging behind or it never could have troubled you. For you remember that Amalek, — to which allusion is made here, — assaulted the hindmost ones in Israel's army. With one who is in vigor pressing on to the front, with his eye on his inheritance, Amalek is away behind, he is distanced. But let any one lag behind, let him forget the joy of first love, let Christ's things that are before him cease to attract him and he will fall back. Whether it be an individual or a whole assembly, the flesh will thus soon overtake him, and you find he has to engage in hand to hand conflict with it and the assembly too has to engage in the conflict when it ought to be pressing on in the Lord's work.
You take a gathering of a hundred saints, and there ought to be a hundred preachers of the gospel in it. We ought to be everyone of us so busily engaged in the Lord's service that we have no time to contend with fleshly lusts. We would not need to; there would be very little of strife or anything of that kind in an assembly of God's people, if we were pressing on as pilgrims in energy and devotedness in the Lord's service.
There is another feature that I want to speak of — our relationship to the world. We are pilgrims in it, just passing through. We have nothing to do with it as citizens, but we have everything to do as to our duty. We are to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake. Then he enumerates; he begins down at the collector of taxes, takes note of every ordinance of man, every rule. We are to submit to his rule so long as it does not conflict with God's authority. Is that not beautiful for a pilgrim?
Another thing is, the suffering that we are to expect here. In the nineteenth verse of the second chapter, "This is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." We find in a number of places through this epistle that the apostle speaks of suffering. In the fourth chapter, for instance, he says, "Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." Christ suffered for sin once, and that is all the suffering there ever ought to be for sin. Look at the cross. Could you add anything to it? could you add anything to the sufferings of our blessed Lord under the judgment of God for sin? No, it was a perfect work, and needs nothing to be added to it. But look at this child of God. He has to be chastened for his faults, to be buffeted; his Father has to smite him. He is not suffering for doing well, but for sin. No wonder if he takes it patiently. He has no business to suffer for sin. "Christ has once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God." Our God loves us too well to omit the suffering if we need it for our faults, but let us see to it that our sufferings are for righteousness, because we testify for Christ; because we walk in a path that He walked in, and not because we walk the forbidden path.
There are thus two kinds of suffering, — for sin and for righteousness. Now in suffering for righteousness the apostle tells us we are not to expect to escape; we are to arm ourselves with the same mind that Christ had. We may be sure that in the world where they gave the Lord the cross, there will be a cross for us. But he goes on to say in the fourth chapter, in the fifteenth and sixteenth verses, "But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil doer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf." Ah! brethren, there is the comfort: we are not to suffer as evil doers, but we are to suffer as Christians. Or, as he says in the third chapter and fourteenth verse, "But if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled."
That brings me to the last that I can speak of in this pilgrim epistle of Peter. We have seen the various characteristics of the pilgrim. Then we are introduced into the Lord's presence Himself. We are told at the close of the second chapter, in connection with this very subject of suffering, that Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps. This suffering for righteousness is the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. He has left us an example not merely to follow in His path, but to follow in His steps. John Bunyan makes one of his pilgrims at the close of his journey say that wherever he had seen the footprints of Christ he had coveted to put his feet in the same steps. What a precious thing it would be for us if we, in tracing our Lord's path through this world, who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, — if we would put our feet in the very same steps that He trod. There is Christ's example for our pilgrim journey.
Let me read one more verse before leaving this epistle. In the fifth chapter, and the fourth verse, "And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away." Christ is the path, Christ is the end. That is the pilgrim's course. We have His path here; our comfort and our stay, Himself with us. We have Himself at the end of it as the crown of reward for those who faithfully walk down here. What an incentive to be indeed pilgrims in the world.
The second epistle, which I will not enlarge upon, is like most second epistles. It speaks of the decay, of the evil, and departure from God which marks the last days. Read for instance, as characteristic of this, the second chapter. There the evil is so abounding, everywhere present, that the child of God is to walk in holy separation from everything that surrounds him to drag him down.
He puts before them there the contrast. Here is a world going off to apostasy, to all kinds of wickedness, but there are the new heavens, the new earth, and the coming of our Lord.
Everything here is to crumble to pieces; everything there endures. And if these things in which we are living now are to be dissolved, he says, what manner of men ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for the day of God, in which all these things shall be dissolved. Thanks to His grace we have received a Kingdom which cannot be shaken.
Second Peter carries us into that new heaven and earth, which is spoken of in the last part of Revelation.
But we must pass on to James. You are familiar with this epistle, yet I think we ought to read James more. And not only to read it, but to practice it still more. He is a most practical writer. This is called, you know, the book of. Proverbs of the New Testament. Everything in it seems to appeal to the conscience. There is plenty there to show us that grace is known. But then everything has that appeal to the conscience, so that saints are to be stirred up in their walk down here. There is to be the practical deliverance for righteousness. Finding this epistle in a second place, we are to expect a real deliverance.
You will remember in Galatians, which is a second epistle, you have deliverance from the law. The seventh chapter of Romans gives you the same thought. But now we want deliverance for the pilgrim. It is not deliverance as to principles, as to doctrines. We would have to go to Romans and Galatians for that, but it is a practical deliverance for our walk.
James calls things by their right names. It is a great deliverance when we can practically call things by their true names, and see how the word of God would cut off everything that is unholy and contrary to His will in our path. How pungent, how faithful James is! He does not spare the rich or the mighty, no matter how exalted they may be. He speaks most plainly. If there is any question of the saint's honesty, he says, "Cleanse your hearts ye double-minded." He tells us that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Let not that man think that he shall get anything of the Lord in prayer. Why is it that our prayers are not answered? James gives us two reasons. One is double-mindedness that is, the mind half on one thing and half on another. If my mind is half on the world and half on Christ, I may pray every day of my life and get no answer to my prayers. Oh! when I seek the Lord, let it be as it is beautifully put in the book of Chronicles, "They sought Him with all their heart and with all their desire." That kind of prayer will be answered.
James gives us the other reason too. We ask and receive not, because we ask amiss that we may consume it upon our own lusts; selfishness. Do you notice the secret of all prayer? Look at what the Lord has given us. Not a model to say like parrots, but to show us the true spirit of prayer, "Our Father, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done." It is all God's glory, all God's interests; self is left behind, put in a secondary place. Whenever we are thinking more of the glory of God than of our own selfish interests, we are in a true attitude of prayer. Would it were ever thus: Thy will, Thy kingdom, Thy glory. Whenever God is glorified we may rest assured that His beloved people will not fall short of their blessing.
Thus James speaks constantly to the conscience, and thus practically delivers the Lord's people. Many who can speak quite clearly as to the deliverance in Romans or in Galatians, need oftentimes a practical word that would smite like a sword right to the sore place in their life to mend that, like David got when Nathan spoke to him.
I add one word about the familiar passage upon faith and works. All is in keeping with the subject of James. Only the most ignorant could imagine a contradiction between Paul and James. With Paul it is justification before God, which is surely by faith, without works; with James it is justification before man, and here works alone are the proof. The world cannot see my faith except as it operates in works. A man may say he has faith, but James is not satisfied with saying, there must be doing.
We come next to the true sanctuary in this pilgrim series, John's epistles. Beautiful both in relation to, and contrast with, Paul's epistles. No one fails to see the difference between John's writings and Paul's. The thought of standing, in John's epistles, is alluded to, but it is not the theme of the writer at all. John has to do with three great themes, light, life, and love. 'That eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us, and of which we partake; and he declares all through the epistle, "That God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." So you have the life and the light. When you get life and light blended together, what is the result? life in the practical activities of love. We thus have three words setting before us the theme of the sanctuary, a little sanctuary as it were, "life, love, light," for the child of God in the world. We have life in Christ, we have light in the holy presence of God, and we know His love because He first loved us. The apostle rings the changes upon these subjects all through the epistle. If you try to analyze in a logical way you find great difficulty, though I have no question there are leading thoughts, and evident connections there; but you can trace these precious truths like silver and golden threads all through the epistle. If he is dwelling, for instance, upon light, upon holiness, and righteousness, he will pass from that to the subject of love and of grace. Or if he has been speaking of our love, that we ought to love one another, he explains it by saying that we love one another when we love God; then he explains that we love God when we keep His commandments; and lest we should get legal he says, These are His commandments that ye believe on His Son and love one another. Then should we be in doubt as to what that meant fully, he says God sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, and it is the blood of Jesus Christ His Son that cleanseth us from all sin. Then he passes again to our responsibility. But it is linked together, life, light, love, and the result is a beauteous blending, in communion with God, which is a true sanctuary for us in this world. Characteristically this is the sanctuary of these pilgrim epistles.
Of course, that is only touching on John. It is a book for the closet, — a prayer-book, as it were, rather than for cold intellectual analysis.
There is one other word and that is all I will say on this first epistle. "Now little children abide in Him." "Abide." Abide in the precious truth that those three words present; abide in Him who is the light, who has shown the love, and who is the life. We are to abide in Christ; that abiding is the power for walk down here.
The second epistle of John is in contrast with the first in many ways. The first had given us these holy themes of the sanctuary, and the second is a word of warning and of help, addressed very strikingly to a sister in the Lord — of whom we would naturally think as a private person, not prominent at all. Yet to her, a sister, he says that she should be on her guard against any who bring not the truth. If we have characteristic words in the first epistle as I have mentioned, you have in the second, the characteristic word of truth, truth, truth; we love in the truth, we are to walk in the truth, if any did not bring the truth he was not to be received nor greeted. Thus we find that the love which is to mark those who love Christ is not weak. Any associated with that which is disloyalty and dishonor to Christ, are to be treated as His and our enemies.
Then the third epistle beautifully gives the other side; and strikingly, it is written to a brother, as the other is to a sister. The sister has the instinct of hospitality and love; what she needed to be guarded about was disloyalty to the Lord in the matter of those who were His enemies. Here is a brother, strong enough perhaps on the side of firmness, but who is commended for showing that love and hospitality to the true servants of Christ gone forth taking nothing from the Gentiles. So you find while the false servant, the unfaithful servant, the enemy of Christ is to be rejected, even by the weakest of His people, those engaged in His service to tell the gospel to the heathen or wherever they went to tell of Christ, were on the other hand to be brought on their journey after a godly sort. Beautifully those three epistles together give us in that way the principles of holiness that are to guide us in our pilgrim journey.
Jude seems to close the whole section with a dark picture of apostasy. In second Peter, in the second chapter, you have that which is almost identical with Jude, except Peter gives us evil in the world abounding, and Jude gives us the evil in professing Christendom. Jude gives us the open apostasy of those who had been, and were, professors; who had crept in unawares among the saints. He points forward to the judgment that will be upon all apostates, from the angels who fell, down to the close of history. Then in blessed contrast, after unfolding all the solemn state of the apostate people amongst them, and after the exhortation that they must earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, he has a sweet word at the close which is very comforting.
We are living in apostate times; when those who take the name of Christ, alas, are using it in any way but for His glory, have any desire but for His glory. We are living in such dark times that we might easily be discouraged. But listen: "Ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." How beautiful! I am surrounded by apostasy; what am I to do? Keep myself in the love of God. I am surrounded by those who are trusting in their own pride and strength; what am I to do? Pray in the Holy Ghost. I am surrounded by those who deny the very foundations of Christianity; what am I to do? Build up myself on my most holy faith. That verse is often misquoted. People say, build up yourself in your most holy faith, as if the faith was something in us, to be strengthened and built up in. That is not the thought. We are to build up ourselves on that solid, holy foundation of the faith, the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. That is the faith. We cannot strengthen that, but we can strengthen ourselves upon that. We are to be established upon it in days of apostasy. That brings us again to the precious word of God, which is the only thing that will establish us upon that solid foundation.
Still further, if he has been telling us of the judgment that is going to come upon an apostate world, what about the child of God? Oh! he says, you are looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. We are not looking for the judgment which is going to overtake this wretched world. We are looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. So he adds a benediction, a most beautiful benediction. Jude means praise, and you think in reading Jude, that it is a very inappropriate name for a man who has to speak as he did. And yet when he has told out his tale of woe, when he has warned the saints, and guarded them, ever Jude is true to his name. He says, "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen." Praise because you are set free from all of that apostasy. You are set free in the assurance that He is able to keep our feet from falling. We are walking through a quagmire, through a vast morass, but He is able, and Jude says, as he thinks of the glory, not only is He able to keep our feet from falling, but He is able to present us faultless before the presence of His glory, that glory which will bring out in relief the things not according to God's holiness, — able to take us and bring us through the morass of sin that Jude describes, and present us up there before the presence of His glory, faultless, with exceeding joy. Whose joy? I think our joy is not excluded. Would you not rejoice when you are presented there faultless before the presence of His glory? But ah, beloved brethren, our joy is as nothing compared with the joy of that One who is even now looking upon us, and yearning for the time when we shall be presented faultless before Him, with exceeding joy on His part; as He says, "Here am I and the children which Thou hast given Me."
And that is Jude. No wonder he breaks out in praise at the close of the book, and says it will all end in faultless glory up there, to our joy and the Lord's joy. So we have the wilderness with all its trials, with all its sufferings, the contradiction and the enmity on man's part, ending in the presence of God with exceeding joy, being faultless. Or as Paul says so beautifully in Ephesians, Christ will present the Church to Himself without spot or wrinkle. After all her failure, after all her experience here, the Church will be a spotless, a beautiful bride to enter into eternal joy with our blessed Lord.
"There shall all clouds depart;
The wilderness shall cease;
And sweetly shall each gladdened heart
Enjoy eternal peace."