Section 2 — "Things that shall be."

An Exposition of Revelation 4 — 22.

Part 7. (Rev. 19:5 — Rev. 22.)

The Consummation

The Marriage of the Lamb. (Rev. 19:5-10.)

The harlot is now judged. The judgment of the whole earth is at hand. Before it comes, we are permitted a brief vision of heavenly things, and to see the heirs of the kingdom now ready to be established in their place with Him who is about to be revealed. A voice sounds from the throne: "Give praise to our God, all ye His servants, — ye that fear Him, small and great." It is not, of course, a simple exhortation to what in heaven can need no prompting, but a preparation of hearts for that which shall furnish fresh material for it. The response of the multitude shows what it is: "Hallelujah! for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth." The power that was always His He is now going to put forth. Judgment is to return to righteousness. Man's day is at an end, with all the confusion that his will has wrought. The day of the Lord is come, to abase that which is high and exalt that which is low, and restore the foundations of truth and righteousness.

The false church that would have antedated the day of power, and reigned without her Lord, has been already dealt with; and now the way is clear to display the true Bride. "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready." But the Church has been some time since caught up to meet the Lord: how is it that only now she is "ready"? In the application of the blood of Christ, and the reception of the best robe, fit for the Father's house assuredly, if any could be, she was then quite ready. Likeness to her Lord was completed when the glorified bodies of the saints were assumed, and they were caught up to meet Him in the air. The eyes from which nothing could be hid have already looked upon her, and pronounced her faultless: "Thou art all fair, My love: there is no spot in thee." What, then, can be wanting to hinder the marriage? A matter of divine government, not of divine acceptance; and this is the book of divine government. Earth's story has to be rehearsed, the account given, the verdict rendered, as to all "deeds done in the body." Every question that could be raised must find its settlement: the light must penetrate through and through, and leave no part dark. We must enter eternity with lessons all learnt, and God fully glorified about the whole course of our history.

What follows explains fully this matter of readiness: "And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." We see by the language that it is grace that is manifest in this award. We learn by a verse in the last chapter how grace has manifested itself: "Blessed are they that have washed their robes (R.V.), that they might have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates into the city." But what could wash deeds already done? Plainly no reformation, no "water-washing by the Word." (Eph. 5:26.) The deed done cannot be undone; and no well-doing for the future can blot out the record of it. What, then, can wash such garments? Revelation itself, though speaking of another company, has already given us the knowledge of this: "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Rev. 7:14.) Thus the value of that precious blood is found with us to the end of time, and in how many ways of various blessing!

It is not, then, the best robe for the Father's house: that robe never needs washing. It is for the kingdom, for the world, in the governmental ways of God with men, that this fine linen is granted to the saints. Yet they take their place in it at the marriage supper of the Lamb; for Christ's love it is that satisfies itself with the recognition and reward of all that has been done for love of Him. This is what finds reward; and thus the hireling principle is set aside.

"And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" Blessed indeed are they that are bidden now! Alas! they may despise the invitation. But how blessed are they who, when that day comes, are found among the bidden ones! I leave for the present the question of who exactly make up the company of those that form the Bride; but the Bride assuredly sits at the marriage supper, and the plural here is what one could alone expect in such an exclamation as this. There seems, therefore, no ground in such an expression for distinguishing separate companies as the Bride and the "friends of the Bridegroom." The latter expression is used by the Baptist in a very different application, as assuredly he had no thought of any bride save Israel.

"And he saith unto me, 'These are the true words of God.'" Of such blessedness, it would seem, even the heart of the apostle needed confirmation. Then, as if overcome by the rapture of the vision, "I fell down at his feet," says John, "to worship him. And he saith unto me, 'See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.'"

All prophecy owns thus and honors Jesus as its subject. All that own Him, the highest only the most earnestly, refuse other honor than that of being servants together of His will and grace. How our hearts need to be enlarged to take in His supreme glory! and how ready are we in some way, if not in this, to share the glory which is His alone with some creature merely! Rome's coarse forms of worship to saints and angels is only a grosser form of what we are often doing, and for which rebuke will in some way come; for God is jealous of any impairment of His rights, and we of necessity put ourselves in opposition to the whole course of nature as we derogate from these. "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."

Judgment of the Living at the Appearing of Christ. (Rev. 19:11-21.)

The prophecy pauses not further now to dilate upon the blessing. There is needed work to be done before we can enter upon this; and the work is the "strange work" of judgment. The vision that follows is as simple as can be to understand, if there are no thoughts of our own previously in the mind to obscure and make it difficult. And this is the way in which constantly Scripture is obscured.

Revelation, as the closing book of the inspired Word, supposes indeed acquaintance with what has preceded it, and the links with other prophecy are here especially abundant. The kingdom of Christ is the final theme of the Old Testament, upon which all prophetic lines converge; and the judgment which introduces it is over and over again set before us. The appearing of the Lord, and His personal presence to execute this, are also so insisted on, that nothing but the infatuation of other hopes could prevail to hide it from men's eyes. In the New Testament, the same things face us continually. As we are not considering it for the first time here, it will be sufficient to examine what is in the passage before us, with whatever connection it may have with other scriptures, needful to bring out fully the meaning of it.

Heaven is seen opened, the prophet's stand-point being therefore now on earth, and a white horse appears, the familiar figure of war and victory. It is upon the Rider that our eyes are fixed. He is called "Faithful and True" — known manifestly to be that — and in righteousness He judges and wars: His warring is but itself a judgment. For this, His eyes penetrate as a flame of fire; nothing escapes them. Many diadems — the sign of absolute authority — are on His head. And worthily, for His name in its full reality — name expressing (as always in Scripture) nature — is an incommunicable one, beyond the knowledge of finite creatures. But His vesture is dipped in blood, for already many enemies have fallen before Him. And His name is called — has been and is, as the language implies, — "The Word of God." The gospel of John shows us that in creation already He was acting as that; and now in judgment He is no less so.

Is this revealed name any thing else than His incommunicable one? It would seem not. The thought would appear to be in direct refutation of the skeptical denial of the knowledge of the Infinite One as possible to man. We cannot know infinity, but we can know the One who is infinite, — yea, know Him to be infinite: know His name, and not know His name. The Infinite One, moreover, Christ is declared here to be, — no inferior God, but the Highest.

In the power of this, He now comes forth; the armies that are in heaven following their white-horsed Leader, themselves also upon white horses, sharers with Him in the conflict and the victory, clothed in fine linen, white and pure. It is this fine linen which we have just seen as granted to the Bride, and which needed the blood of the Lamb to make it white. It is therefore undoubtedly the same company here as there, only here seen in a new aspect, even as the Lord Himself is seen in a new one. It is communion with Himself that is implied in this change of character. What He is occupied with, they are occupied with; what is His mind is their mind: so, blessed be God, it will be entirely then. None then will be ignorant of His will; none indifferent or half-hearted as to it. Alas! now to how much of it are even the many willingly strangers! and it is this willing ignorance that is so invincible: for all else there is a perfect remedy in the Word of God; but what for a back turned upon that Word?

The Lord comes then, and all the saints with Him. How impossible to think of a providential coming merely here! "When Christ, who is our Life, shall appear," says the apostle, "then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col. 3:4.) "Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?" he asks elsewhere. Judgment is now impending: "out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He may smite the nations." So Isaiah: "He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked." (Isa. 11:4.) It needs but a word from Him to cause their destruction; while it is judgment no less according to His Word: it is that long and oft threatened, slow to come, but at last coming in the full measure of the denunciation. Patience is not repentance.

"And He shall rule them with an iron rod" — "shepherd" them, to use a scarcely English expression. This is, of course, the fulfillment of the prophecy of the second psalm, and decides against the still retained "break them" of the Revised Version. It is the shepherd's rod — this rod of iron, used in behalf of the flock: as He says in Isaiah again, "The day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed is come; and I looked, and there was none to help, and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore Mine own arm brought salvation unto Me, and My fury, it upheld Me." (Isa. 63:4-5.) This is distinctly in answer to the question, "Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-fat?" and to which He answers, "I have trodden the wine-press alone." Here also "He treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."

Would it be believed that commentators have referred this to the cross, and the Lord's own sufferings there? And yet it is so; though the iron rod, with which the treading of the wine-press is associated in this place, is something that is promised to the overcomer in Thyatira (Rev. 2:27) — "To him will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, even as I received of My Father." We have but with an honest mind to put a few texts together after this manner, and all difficulty disappears.

"And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written — 'King of kings and Lord of lords.'"

Now, in terrible contrast to the invitation lately given to the marriage supper of the Lamb, an angel standing in the sun bids the birds of the heaven to the "great supper of God," to feast upon earth's proudest and all their following. Immediately after which the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies are seen gathered together to make war against Him who sits upon the horse, and against His army. We are no doubt to interpret this according to the Lord's words to Saul of Tarsus, — "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" But we have seen the idol thrust into Jehovah's temple, and know well that Israel's persecutors rage openly against Israel's God. They are taken thus banded in rebellion, and judgment sweeps them down; the beast and the false prophet that wrought miracles before him (the antichristian second beast of the thirteenth chapter) being exempted from the common death, only to be cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone, where at the end of the thousand years of the saints' reign with Christ we find them still.

The vision is so clear in meaning, that it really has no need of an interpreter; and we should remember this as to a vision, that it is not necessarily even symbolic, though symbols may have their place in it, as here with the white horses of that before us, while the horses whose flesh the birds eat are not at all so. The "beast and the kings of the earth" furnish us with the same juxta-position of figure and fact, the figure not at all hindering the general literality of fact. In these prophecies of coming judgment, the mercy of God would not permit too thick a vail over the solemn truth. This is the end to which the world is hastening now, and God is proportionally taking off the vail from the eyes upon which it has been lying, that there may be a more urgent note of warning given as it draws nigh. "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear!"

The Restraint upon Satan. (Rev. 20:1-3.)

The judgment upon living men is followed by that upon Satan their prince, though not yet is it final judgment. This partial dealing with the great deceiver means that the end of man's trial is not even yet reached. He is shut up in the abyss, or bottomless pit, of which we have read before, nut not in hell (the lake of fire). As restraint, it is complete; and with the devil, the host of fallen angels following him share his sentence. This is not merely an inference, however legitimate. Isaiah has long before anticipated what is here (chap. 24:21-23) "And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days they shall be visited. Then the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed; for the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously."

Here the contemporaneous judgment of men and angels at the beginning of the millennium is clearly revealed, and just as clearly, that it is not yet final. The vision in Revelation is also clear. The descent of the angel with the key and chain certainly need not obscure the meaning. Nor could the shutting up of Satan mean any thing less than the stoppage of all temptation for the time indicated. The "dragon," too, is the symbol for the explanation of which we are (as in the twelfth chapter) referred to Eden, "the ancient serpent," and then are told plainly, "who is the devil and Satan." It is simply inexcusable to make the interpretation of the symbol still symbolic, and to make the greater stand for the less — Satan the symbol of an earthly empire or any thing of the sort. What plainer words could be used? which Isaiah's witness also abundantly confirms. God has been pleased to remove all vail from His words here, and it does look as if only willful perversity could misunderstand His speech.

That after all this he is to be let out to deceive the nations is no doubt at first sight hard to understand. It is all right to inquire reverently why it should be; and Scripture, if we have learnt Peter's way of putting it together, — no prophecy to be interpreted as apart from the general body of prophecy, — will give us satisfactory, if solemn, answer. The fact is revealed, if we could give no reason for it. Who are we to judge God's ways? and and with which of us must He take counsel? It should be plain that for a thousand years Satan's temptations cease upon the earth; and then they are renewed and successful, the nations are once more deceived.

What makes it so difficult to understand is that many have a false idea of the millennial age, as if it were "righteousness dwelling" on the earth instead of "righteousness reigning" over it. It is said indeed of Israel, after they are brought to God nationally, "My people shall be all righteous" (Isa. 60:21); but that is not the general condition. The eighteenth psalm, speaking prophetically of that time, declares, "The strangers shall submit themselves unto Me," which in the margin is given as "lie," or "yield feigned obedience." They submit to superior power, not in heart; and so it is added, "The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places." (Comp. Ps. 66:3; Ps. 81:15.) And Isaiah, speaking of the long length of years, says, "The child shall die a hundred years old," but adds, "and the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed." (Isa. 65:20.) So Zechariah pronounces the punishment of those who do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the glorious King (Zech. 14:17).

The millennium is not eternal blessedness; it is not the Sabbath, to which so many would compare it. It answers rather to the sixth day than the seventh, — to the day when the man and woman (types of Christ and the Church) are set over the other creatures. The seventh is the type of the rest of God, which is the only true rest of the people of God (Heb. 4:9). The millennium is the last period of man's trial, and that is not rest: trial in circumstances the best that could be imagined, righteousness reigning, the course of the world changed, heaven open overhead, the earth filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, the history of past judgment to admonish for the future; the question will then be fully answered, whether sin is the mere fruit of ignorance, bad government, or any of the accidents of life to which it is so constantly imputed. Alas! the issue, after a thousand years of blessing, when Satan is loosed out of his prison, will make all plain; the last lesson as to man will only then be fully learned.

The Resurrection and Reign of the Saints. (Rev. 20:4-6.)

And now we have what requires more knowledge of the Word to understand it rightly; and here, more distinctly than before, there are vision and the interpretation of the vision, so that we will be inexcusable if we confound them. The vision is of thrones. and people sitting on them, judgment (that is, rule) being put into their hands. "The souls of those beheaded for the witness of Jesus and the word of God" are another company separate from these, but now associated with them; and "those who have not worshiped the beast" seem to be still another. All these live and reign with Christ a thousand years, and the rest of the dead do not live till the thousand years are ended.

That is the vision. The interpretation follows: "This," we are told, is the first resurrection;" and that "blessed and holy is he who hath part in the first resurrection: upon these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years."

We must look carefully at all this, and in its order. First, the thrones, and those sitting on them: there should be no difficulty as to who these are, for we have already seen the elders crowned and seated in heaven, and before that have heard the Lord promise the overcomer in Laodicea that he should sit with Him upon His throne. That being now set up upon the earth, we find the saints throned with Him. In the interpretation, it is said they reign with Him a thousand years. The vision is thus far very simple.

Daniel has already spoken of these thrones: "I beheld," he says, "till the thrones were placed," (as the Revised Version rightly corrects the common one,) "and the Ancient of days did sit." (Dan. 7:9.) But there was then no word as to the occupants of the thrones. It is the part of Revelation to fill in the picture on its heavenly side, and to show us who these are. They are not angels, who, though there may be "principalities" among them, are never said to reign with Christ. They are redeemed men, — the saints caught up at the descent of the Lord into the air (1 Thess. 4), and who as the armies that were in heaven we have seen coming with the white-horsed King to the judgment of the earth.

This being so, it is evident that the "souls" next spoken of are a separate company from these, though joined to them as co-heirs of the kingdom. The folly that has been taught that they are "souls" simply, so that here we have a resurrection of souls, and not of bodies, — together with that which insists that it is a resurrection of truths or principles, or of a martyr-"spirit" — bursts like a bubble when we take into account the first company of living and throned saints. In the sense intended, Scripture never speaks of a resurrection of souls. "Soul" is here used for "person," as we use it still, and as Scripture often uses it; and the word "resurrection" is found, not in the vision, where its signification might be doubtful, but in the explanation, where we have no right to take it as other than literal. What is the use of explanation, except to explain?

The recognition of the first company here also removes another difficulty, which troubled those with whom the "blessed hope" revived at the end of the last century, that the first resurrection consisted wholly of martyrs. The second company does indeed consist of these, and for an evident reason. They are those who, converted after the Church is removed to heaven, would have their place naturally in earthly blessing with Israel and the saved nations. Slain for the Lord's sake, during the tribulation following, they necessarily are deprived of this: only to find themselves in the mercy of God made to fill a higher place, and to be added, by divine power raising them from the dead, to the heavenly saints. How sweet and comforting this assurance as to the sufferers in a time of unequaled sorrow!

When we look further at this last company, we find, as already intimated, that it also consists of two parts: first, of those martyred in the time of the seals, and spoken of under the fifth seal; and secondly, the objects of the beast's wrath, as in rev. 13:7, 15. This particularization is a perfect proof of who are embraced in this vision, and that we must look to those first seen as sitting on the thrones for the whole multitude of the saints of the present and the past. To all of which it is added that "the rest of the dead lived not again till the thousand years were finished," when we find in fact the resurrection of judgment taking place (vv. 11-15). All ought to be simple, then. The "first resurrection" is a literal resurrection of all the dead in Christ from the foundation of the world, a certain group which might seem not to belong to it being specialized, as alone needing this. The first resurrection is "first" simply in contrast with that of the wicked, having different stages indeed, but only one character: "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection! upon 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."

To suppose that this passage stands alone and unsupported in the New Testament is to be ignorant of much that is written. "Resurrection from the dead," as distinct from the general truth of "resurrection of the dead," is special New Testament truth. The Pharisees knew that there should be "a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." (Acts 24:15.) But when the Lord spake of the Son of Man rising from the dead, the disciples question among themselves what the rising from the dead could mean (Mark 9:9-10.) Christ's own resurrection is the pattern of the believer's. The "order" of the resurrection is distinctly given us "Christ the first-fruits; afterward, they that are Christ's at His coming" (1 Cor. 15:23): not a general, but a selective resurrection. Such was what the apostle would by any means gain: not, as in the common version, "the resurrection of," but "the resurrection from the dead." (Phil. 3:11.)

In his epistle to the Thessalonians, the same apostle instructs us more distinctly as to it, speaking in the way of special revelation, by "the word of the Lord:" "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent" — or, as the Revised Version, "precede" — "them that are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (1 Thess. 4:15-17.) Thus before He appears shall His saints be with Him; and, of course, long before the resurrection of the lost.

But the Lord Himself has given us, in His answer to the Sadducees, what most clearly unites with this vision in Revelation (Luke 20:34-36). They had asked Him of one who had married seven brethren: "Whose wife shall she be in the resurrection?" meaning, of course, to discredit it by the suggestion. "And Jesus said unto them, 'The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage; but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.'"

Clearly this asserts the fact and gives the character of the special resurrection which the vision here describes. It is one which we must be "accounted worthy" to obtain, not one which nobody can miss: it is grace that acts in giving any one his place in it. Those who have part in it are by that fact proclaimed to be the "children of God," thus again showing that it cannot be a general one. They die no more: that is, (as here) they are not hurt of the second death. They are equal to the angels: above the fleshly conditions of this present life. Finally, it is the resurrection from the dead, not of the dead merely. All this is so plain that there should be no possibility of mistaking it, one would say; and yet it is no plainer than this scene in Revelation.

How dangerous must be the spell of a false system, which can so blind the eyes of multitudes of truly godly and otherwise intelligent persons to the plain meaning of such scriptures as these! And how careful should we be to test every thing we receive by the Word, which alone is truth! Even the "wise" virgins slumbered with the rest. Which shows us also, however, that error is connected with a spiritual condition, even in saints themselves. May we be kept from all that would thus cloud our perception of what, as truth, alone has power to bless and sanctify the soul!

The Little Season. (vv. 7-10.)

Of the millennial earth, not even the slightest sketch is given us here. The book of Revelation is the closing book of prophecy, with the rest of which we are supposed to be familiar; and it is the Christian book, which supplements it with the addition of what is heavenly. Thus the reign of the heavenly saints has just been shown us: for details as to the earth, we must go to the Old Testament.

In the millennium, the heavenly is displayed in connection with the earthly. The glory of God is manifested so that the earth is filled with the knowledge of it as the waters cover the sea. Righteousness rules, and evil is afraid to lift its head. The curse is taken from the ground, which responds with wondrous fruitfulness. Amid all this, the spiritual condition is by no means in correspondence with the outward blessing. Even the manifest connection of righteousness and prosperity cannot avail to make men love righteousness, nor the goodness of God, though evidenced on every side, to bring men to repentance. At the "four corners of the earth," retreating as far as possible from the central glory, there are still those who represent Israel's old antagonists, and thus are called by their names — "Gog and Magog." Nor are they remnants, but masses of population, brought together by sympathetic hatred of God and His people, — crowding alike out of light into the darkness: a last and terrible answer to the question, "Lord, what is man?"

The Gog, of the land of Magog, whose invasion of Israel is prophetically described in the book of Ezekiel (38, 39), is the prototype of these last invaders. There need be no confusion, however, between them; for the invasion in Ezekiel is premillennial, not postmillennial, as that in Revelation is. It is then that Israel are just back in their land (Ezek. 38:14), and from that time God's name is known in Israel, and they pollute His holy name no more (Ezek. 39:7). The nations too learn to know Him (Ezek. 38:16, 23). There needs, therefore, no further inquiry to be sure that this is not after a thousand years of such knowledge.

But the Gog and Magog here follow in the track of men who have long before made God known in the judgment He executed, — follow them in awful, reckless disregard of the end before them. This is clearly due to the loosing once more of Satan. While he was restrained, the evil was there, but cowed and hidden. He gives it energy and daring. They go up now on the breadth of the earth — from which for the moment the divine shield seems to be removed, and compass the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city. The last is of course the earthly Jerusalem. The "camp of the saints" seems to be that of the heavenly saints, who are the Lord's host around it. The city is of course impregnable: the rebels are taken in the plain fact of hostility to God and His people; and judgment is swift and complete: "fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." The wicked are extinct out of the earth.

The arch-rebel now receives final judgment. "And the devil, that deceived them, was cast into a lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are; and they shall be tormented day and night for the ages of ages."

These words deserve most solemn consideration. They are plain enough indeed; but what is there from which man will not seek to escape, when his will is adverse? The deniers of eternal punishment, both on the side of restitution and that of annihilation, are here confronted with a plain example of it. Two human beings, cast in alive into the lake of fire a thousand years before, are found there at the close of this long period still in existence! How evident that this fire is not, therefore, like material fire, but something widely different! All the arguments as to the action of fire in consuming what is exposed to it are here at once shown to be vain. That which can remain a thousand years in the lake of fire unconsumed may remain, so far as one can see, forever; and it is forever that they here are plainly said to be tormented.

But it is objected that there is, in fact, no verb here: the sentence reads simply, "where the beast and the false prophet," and that to fill up the gap properly we must put "were cast," which would say nothing about continuance. But what, then, about the concluding statement, "and they" — for it is a plural, — "and they shall be tormented day and night for the ages of ages"?

Finding this argument vain, or from the opposite interest of restitution, it is urged that "day and night" do not exist in eternity. But we are certainly brought here to eternity, and "for the ages of ages" means nothing else. It is the measure of the life of God Himself (4:10). No passage that occurs, even to the smoke of Babylon ascending up, can be shown to have a less significance.

Growing desperate, some have ventured to say that we should translate "till the ages of ages." But the other passages stand against this with an iron front, and forbid it. We are, in this little season, right on the verge of eternity itself. The same expression is used as to the judgment of the great white throne itself, which is in eternity. It will not do to say of God that He lives to the ages of ages, and not through them. The truth is very plain, then, that the punishment here decreed to three transgressors is, in the strictest sense, eternal.

Whether the same thing is true of all the wicked dead, we now go on to see.

The Judgment of the Dead

The millennium is over; "And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled; and there was found no place for them. Arid I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things that were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hades delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every one according to their works. And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."

This is the judgment of the dead alone, and must be kept perfectly distinct in our minds from the long previous judgment of the living. The judgment in Matt. 25, for example, where the "sheep" are separated from the "goats," is a judgment of the living, — of the nations upon earth when the Lord comes. It is not, indeed, the warrior-judgment of those taken with arms in their hands, in open rebellion, which we have beheld in the premillennial vision. The nations are gathered before the Son of Man, who has just come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him; and that coming, as when elsewhere spoken of throughout the prophecy, is unquestionably premillennial. As mankind are divided into the three classes, "the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God," so the prophecy in relation to the Jew is to be found in Matt. 24:1-42; that in relation to the professing Church, to the thirtieth verse of the next chapter; and the rest of it gives us the sessional judgment of the Gentiles, so far as they have been reached by the everlasting gospel. The judgment is not of all the deeds done in the body: it is as to how they have treated the brethren of the Lord (v. 40) who have been among them, evidently as travelers, in rejection and peril. The Jewish point of view of the prophecy as a whole clearly points to Jewish messengers, who as such represent Israel's King (comp. Matt. 10:40). There is not a word about resurrection of the dead, which the time of this judgment excludes the possibility of as to the wicked. It is one partial as to its range, limited as to that of which it takes account, and in every way distinct from such a general judgment as the large part of Christendom even yet looks for.

Here in the vision before us there is simply the judgment of the dead; and although the word is not used, the account speaks plainly of resurrection. The sea gives up the dead which are in it, as well as by implication also, the dry land. Death, as well as hades, deliver up what they respectively hold; and as hades is unequivocally the receptacle of the soul (Acts 2:27), so must "death," on the other hand, which the soul survives (Matt. 10:28), stand here in connection with that over which it has supreme control — the body.

The dead, then, here rise; and we have that from which the "blessed and holy" of the first resurrection are delivered — the "resurrection of judgment." (John 5:29, R.V.) From personal judgment the Lord expressly assures us that the believer is exempt (v. 24, R.V.) Here, not only are the works judged, which will be true of the believer also, and for lasting blessing to him, but men are judged according to their works — a very different thing. Such a judgment would allow of no hope for the most upright and godly among mere men.

And this would seem to show that though a millennium has passed since the first resurrection, yet no righteous dead can stand among this throng. The suggestion of the "book of life" has seemed to many to imply that there are such; but it is not said that there are, and the words, "whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire," may be simply a solemn declaration (now affirmed by the result) that grace is man's only possible escape from the judgment. May it not even be intended to apply more widely than to the dead here, and take in the living saints of the millennium negatively, as showing how in fact they are not found before this judgment-seat?

At any rate, the principle of judgment — "according to their works" — seems to exclude absolutely any of those saved by grace. And there are intimations also, in the Old Testament prophecies, as to the extension of life in the millennium, which seem well to consist with the complete arrest of death for the righteous during the whole period. If "as the days of a tree shall be the days of" God's "people" (Isa. 65:22), and he who dies at a hundred years dies as a child yet, and for wickedness: because there shall be no more any one (apart from this) that shall not fill his days (v. 20), it would almost seem to follow that there is no death. And to this the announcement as to the "sheep" in the judgment-scene in Matthew — that "the righteous shall go away into life eternal," strikingly corresponds. For to go into life eternal is not to possess life in the way that at present we may; in fact, as" righteous," they already did this: it means apparently nothing less than the complete canceling of the claim of death in their case.

And now death and hades are cast into the lake of fire, — that is, those who dwelt in them are cast there. These exist as it were but in those who fill them; and thus we learn that there is no exemption or escape from the last final doom for any who come into this judgment. The lake of fire is the second death. The first terminated in judgment man's career on earth; the second closes the intermediate state in adjudged alienation from the Source of life. The first is but the type of the second. As we have seen, it is not extinction at all; and indeed a resurrection merely for the sake of suffering before another extinction would seem self-contradictory. In fact, death — what we ordinarily call that — is now destroyed. "It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment," which is thenceforth, therefore, undying (Heb. 9:27).

With the great white throne set up, the earth and the heavens pass away, and there come into being a "new heaven and a new earth in which dwelleth righteousness." (2 Peter 3:13.)

The Earth's Final State. (Rev. 21:1-8.)

Before the face of Him who sits upon the great white throne "the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them." (Rev. 20:11.) We have now a complementary statement: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth." It is clear, therefore, that an earthly condition abides for eternity. It is a point of interest as to which Scripture seems to give full satisfaction, whether this new earth is itself a "new creation," or the old earth remodeled and made new. At first sight, one would no doubt decide for the former; and this was the view that at one time almost held possession of the field, the new earth scarcely being regarded by the mass as "earth" at all. Practically, the earth was simply believed to exist no more, and in contrast with it all was to be heavenly: the double sphere of blessing, earth and heaven, was lost sight of, if not denied.

Lately, for many, reaction has set in, and the pendulum has swung past the point of rest to the other extreme. The prophecies of the Old Testament rightly understood as to be literally taken, and delivered from the glosses of a falsely called "spiritual" interpretation, seemed to agree with the apostle Peter and the book of Revelation in making the earth to be the inheritance of the saints, — the earth in a heavenly condition, brought back out of its state of exile, and into true relation with the rest of the family of heaven, not alienated from their original place. Contrast between earth and heaven as an eternal existence was again, but from the other side of it, denied.

The whole web and woof of Scripture is against either of these confusions: the point of rest can only be in accepting the distinction of earthly from heavenly as fundamental to all right understanding of the prophetic word. The Old Testament "promises," which have in view the earth as a sphere of blessing, are, as the apostle declares (Rom. 9:1-4), Jewish, not Christian. The New Testament emphasizes that the blessings of the Christian are in "heavenly places." (Eph. 1:3.) Nor can this last possibly apply to earth made heavenly. The Lord has left us with the assurance (John 14) that in His Father's house are many mansions, — permanent places of abode, — that He was going to prepare a place there for us, and that He will come again to receive us to Himself, that where He is, there we may be also. As well assure us that the Lord's permanent abode is to be on earth and not in heaven, as that our own is to be here, not there.

Each line of truth must have its place if we are to be "rightly dividing the word of truth." The heavenly "bride of the Lamb" is not the earthly; "Jerusalem which is above" is not the Palestinean city; the "church of firstborn ones, who are written in heaven" are not that "Israel," declared God's "first-born" as to the earth; the promise of the Morning Star is not the same as that of the "Sun of Righteousness," although Christ assuredly is both of these. Discernment of such differences is of necessity for all true filling of our place, and practical rendering of Christian life.

Let us look now, however, at the question of continuity between the earth that flees away and the earth that succeeds it. At first sight we should surely say, they cannot be identical. The well-known passage in the epistle of Peter would seem to confirm this (2 Peter 3:10, 12). There we learn that "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up." And it is repeated, and thus emphasized by repetition, that "the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat."

Yet, as we look more closely, we shall find reason to doubt whether more is meant than the destruction of the earth as the place of human habitation. In the deluge, to which it is compared (vv. 5-7), "the world that then was perished;" yet its continuity with the present no one doubts. Fire, though the instrument of a more penetrating judgment, yet does not annihilate the material upon which it fastens. The melting even of elements implies rather the reverse, and dissolution is not (in this sense) destruction.

Yet the heavens and the earth pass away, — that is, in the form in which now we know them; or, as the apostle speaks to the Corinthians, "the fashion of this world passes away" (1 Cor. 7:21): and that this is the sense in which we are to understand it, other scriptures come to assure us.

A "new" earth does not necessarily mean another earth, except as a "new" man means another man, — "new" in the sense of renewed. And even the words here, "there was no more sea," naturally suggest another state of the earth that now exists. This fact is a significant one: that which is the type of instability and barrenness, and condemns to it so large a portion of the globe, is gone utterly and forever. At the beginning of Genesis we find the whole earth buried under it; emerging on the third day, and the waters given their bounds, which but once afterward they pass. Now they are gone forever, as are the wicked, to whom Isaiah compares it: "The wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." This last is the effect of chafing against its bounds, as the "mind of the flesh" is "not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Rom. 8:7.)

These analogies cannot fail to illustrate another which the Lord Himself gives us, when He speaks of the millennial kingdom as the "regeneration," — "Ye who have followed Me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Matt. 19:28.) Here, let us note that it is the Lord's kingdom that is the regeneration of the earth. That reign of righteousness which is the effectual curb upon human wickedness, not the removal of it, answers thus to what "regeneration" is for him who is in this sense in the Lord's kingdom now. Sin is not removed; the flesh abides even in the regenerate; but it has its bound — it does not reign, has not dominion. In the perfect state, whether for the individual or the earth, righteousness dwells, as Peter says of the latter: sin exists no more. How striking does the analogy here become when we remember that the change, perhaps dissolution, of the body comes between the regenerate and the perfect state, just as the similar "dissolution" of the earth does between the millennium and the new earth! Surely this throws a bright light upon the point we are examining.

The new heavens are, of course, only the earth-heavens, the work of the second of the six days. They are of great importance to the earth which they surround, and to which they minister. More and more is science coming to recognize how (in natural law at least) the heavens rule. Yet who but an inspired writer, of the time of Peter or John, would have made so much of the new heavens? And these only, as Peter reminds us, develop a much earlier "promise." This we find in Isa. 65 and 66, a repeated announcement, the second time explicitly connected with the continuance of Israel's "seed" and "name:" For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall abide before Me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain." Thus even in the new earth there will be no merging of Israel in the general mass of the nations. The first-born people written on earth will show still how "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance," as will the "church of the firstborn who are written in heaven." These different circles of blessing, like the principalities and powers in heavenly-places, are quite accordant with what we see everywhere of God's manifold ways and ranks in creation. Why should eternity efface these differences, which of course do not touch the unity of the family of God as such, while they are abiding witnesses of divine mercy in relation to a past, of which the lessons are never to be lost?

Earth, then, itself remains, but a "new" earth; and as the seal upon its eternal blessedness, "I saw," says the prophet-evangelist, "the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of the throne, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall tabernacle with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, their God.'" Here is the promise in Immanuel's name made finally good to the redeemed race: and he who is privileged to show us the glory of the Only-begotten of the Father tabernacling among men when the Word was made flesh, is the one who shows us the full consummation. Of the new Jerusalem we have presently a detailed account; here, what is emphasized is, that it is the link between God and men; God Himself is with men, in all the fullness of blessing implied in that.

We must not, however, pass over any thing: the less even that is said, the more should we ponder that which is said. Let us see, then, what is here, putting it in connection with what seems most naturally to throw light upon it elsewhere. Standing where we are — at the end of time, we stand indeed whither the whole stream of time has been conducting us; and therefore with the countless voices of the past sounding prophetically to us. What will it be to be actually there, at the end of the ways which, though through the valley of Baca, lead up to the city of God!

First, here, we are shown that He has prepared for us a city — "the holy city." The new Jerusalem is surely, what its earthly type is, a "city of habitation:" it is not simply a figure for the saints themselves. The patriarchs of old, content to await in patient faith the end of their pilgrim-journey, "looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God," and He will not disappoint their expectations, — "He hath prepared for them a city." (Heb. 11:10, 16.) At the very beginning of the world's history we find, in one who manifested a totally opposite spirit, still the desire of the human heart which this promise meets. Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, fugitive and vagabond as he was, to build a city. Without faith or patience, he only shows the natural craving of the heart, but not in itself evil because natural. Ever since, the history of man has connected itself mainly with its cities. From Babel on to Rome, these have been the centres of power and progress ever, and (the world being what it is) they have exhibited in the most developed way its opposition to God. But God too has His city, and makes much of it, "beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth," and with it associates (Ps. 87) the One great name which eclipses that of all others.

The tendency of the day is toward cities, and in these, for good or for ill, we find the greatest development of man; only, man being fallen, the development is monstrous. When the day of the Lord has put down, however, all human thoughts, it is only to exalt Jerusalem upon the earth, and to make way for the display of that better Jerusalem that is here before us.

The city is the expression of human need, and the provision for it. In the midst of strife and insecurity, men gather together for protection; but that is only a small part of what is implied in it. There are other needs more universal than this, as that of cooperation, the division of labor, the result of that inequality of aptitudes by which God has made us mutually dependent. Our social nature is thus met, and there are formed and strengthened the ties by which the world is bound together; while the intercourse of mind with mind, of heart with heart, stimulates and develops every latent faculty. "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." (Prov. 27:17.)

The eternal city implies for us association, fellowship, intercourse, the fullness of what was intimated in the primal saying, "It is not good for man to be alone," but which in respect of the bride city, which this is, has still a deeper meaning. Here, the relationship of the saints to Christ, who as the Lamp of divine glory enlightens it, alone adequately explains all. "Alone" can we nevermore be. "With Him" our whole manhood shall find its complete answer, satisfaction, and rest.

This is necessarily, therefore, the "holy city." Cain's has but too much characterized every city hitherto. Where shall we find as in the city the reek of impurity and the hotbed of corruption? There poverty and riches pour out a common flood of iniquity, out of which comes ever increasing the defiant cry of despair. But here at last is a "HOLY CITY," the new Jerusalem, "foundation of peace;" not, like Babel of old, towering up to heaven, but coming down from heaven, the way of all good, of all blessing for men. The tabernacle of God is with men. God Himself tabernacles with them. His own hand removes every trace of former sorrow, every effect of sin. His own voice proclaims what his hand accomplishes: "Behold, I make all things new."

Here, that we may be fully assured, a confirmatory word is added. And along with this, and in view of it, in the name of Him who is Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, the sweet invitation of the gospel is once more published, the free gift of the water of life to every thirsty soul is certified; and the inheritance to the overcomer, for it is reached by the way of conflict and of triumph, — grace securing, not evading, this: "He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son."

Just here too, with no less earnestness, and in eternity, past all the change of time, the doom of the wicked is pronounced: "But the fearful" — too cowardly to take part with Christ in a world opposed to Him, — "and unbelieving, and 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."

The Holy City

The last vision of Revelation is now before us: it is that of the city of God itself. But here, where one would desire above all to see clearly, we become most conscious of how feeble and dull is our apprehension of eternal things. They are words of an apostle which remind us that "we see through a glass darkly" — en ainigmati, in a riddle. Such a riddle, then, it is no wonder if the vision presents to us: the dream that we have here a literal description, even to the measurements, of the saints' eternal home, is one too foolish to need much comment. All other visions throughout the book have been symbolic: how much more here! how little need we expect that the glimpse which is here given us into the unseen would reveal to us the shape of buildings, or the material used! Scripture is reticent all through upon such subjects; and the impress to be left upon our souls is plainly spiritual, not of lines and hues, as for the natural senses. "Things which eye hath not seen" are not put before the eye.

On the other hand, that the "city" revealed to us here is not simply a figure of the saints themselves, as, from the term used for it, "the Bride, the Lamb's Wife," some have taken it to be, there are other scriptures which seem definitely to assure us. "Jerusalem, which is above, which is our mother" (Gal. 4) could hardly be used in this way, though the Church is indeed so conceived of in patristic and mediaeval thought. But even thus it would not be spoken of naturally as "above."

In Heb. 12 we have a still more definite testimony. For there the "Church of the first-born ones which are written in heaven," as well as "the spirits of just men made perfect" — in other words, both Christians and the saints of the Old Testament — are mentioned as distinct from "the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem;" and this will not allow them to be the same thing, although, in another way, the identification of a city with its inhabitants is easy.

We are led in the same direction by the mention of the "tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God," — something to which the apostle thought he might have been caught even bodily (2 Cor. 12) — and here is the tree of life in the midst of the city beside the "river of the water of life" which flows from the throne of God. Figurative language all this surely; yet these passages combine to give us the thought of a heavenly abode, already existing, and which will be in due time revealed as the metropolis of the heavenly kingdom — what Jerusalem restored will be in the lower sphere. Indeed the earthly here so parallels and illustrates the heavenly as to be a most useful help in fixing, if not enlarging, our thoughts about it, — always while we realize, of course, the essential difference that Scripture itself makes clear to be between them. But this we shall have to look at as we proceed.

"The holy city, Jerusalem," is certainly intended to be a plain comparison with the earthly city. But that is the type only; this is the antitype, the true "foundation of peace," as the word means. What more comforting title, after all the scenes of strife, the fruit of the lusts that war in our members, which we have had to look upon! Here is "peace" at last, and on a foundation that shall not be removed, but that stands fast forever. For this is emphatically "the city that hath foundations," and "whose builder and maker is God." (Heb. 11:10.) How blessed it is, too, that it should be just one of the seven angels that had the seven last plagues that shows John the city! for no mere executioner of judgment we see is he: judgment (as with God, for it is God's) is also his "strange work." It had to come, and it has come: there was no help, no hope without it; thus the stroke of the "rod of iron" was that of the shepherd's rod; it was the destruction of the destroyers only. But it is past, and here is the scene wherein his own heart rests, to which it returns with loyalty and devotion: here, where the water of life flows from the throne of God, — eternal, from the Eternal; refreshment, gladness, fruitfulness, and power are found in obedience.

But the city is the "Bride, the Lamb's wife." In the Old Testament, the figure of marriage is used in a similar way. Israel was thus Jehovah's "married wife" (Isa. 54:1; Jer. 31:33), now divorced indeed for her unfaithfulness, but yet to return (Hosea 2), and be received and reinstated. Her Maker will be then once more her husband, and more than the old blessing be restored. In the forty-fifth psalm, Israel's King, Messiah, is the Bridegroom; the Song of Solomon is the mystic song of His espousals. Jerusalem thus bears His name: "This is the name whereby she shall be calledJehovah our Righteousness.'" (Jer. 33:16, comp. 23:6.) The land too shall be "married." (Isa. 62:4.)

In the New Testament, the same figure is still used in the same way. The Baptist speaks of his joy as the "friend of the Bridegroom," in hearing the Bridegroom's voice (John 3:29); and in the parable of the virgins (Matt. 25), where Christians are those who go forth to meet the Bridegroom, they are by that very fact not regarded as the Bride, which is still Israel, (according to the general character of the prophecy,) though not actually brought into the scene. Some may be able to see also in the marriage at Cana of Galilee (John 2:1) the vailing of the same thought.

All this, therefore, is in that earthly sphere in which Israel's blessings lie; our own are "in heavenly places" (Eph. 1:3), and here it is we find, not the Bride of Messiah simply, but distinctively the Bride of the Lamb." The "Lamb," as a title, always keeps before us His death, and that by violence, "a Lamb as it had been slain" (Rev. 5:6); and it is thus that He has title to that redemption empire in which we find Him throughout this book. But "the Bride of the Lamb" is thus one espoused to Him in His rejection, sharer (though it be but in slight measure) of His reproach and sorrow, trained and disciplined for glory in a place of humiliation. And so it is said that "if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him;" and again, "If so be we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." (2 Tim. 2:12; Rom. 8:17.)

The saints in the millennium have no heritage of suffering such as this; even those who pass through the trial which ushers it in, have not the same character of it, although we must not forget those associated with the Lamb upon Mount Zion, who illustrate the same truth, but upon a lower platform. Even these are not His Bride.

Ephesians, the epistle of the heavenly places, shows us the Church as Eve of the last Adam, whom Christ loves, and for whom He gave Himself. Formed out of Himself and for Himself, He now sanctifies and cleanses her with water-washing by the Word, that He may present her to Himself a holy Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. In another aspect, this Church is His body, formed by the baptism of the Spirit as at Pentecost, complete when those who are Christ's are caught up to meet Him in the air. The doctrine of this is, of course, not in Revelation: the difficulty is in seeing the conformity of Revelation with it.

Outside of Revelation even, there is a difficulty in the connection (if there be, as one would anticipate, a connection) between the Church as the body of Christ now, before our presentation to Him, and the "one flesh" which is the fruit of marriage. Israel was the married wife, and will be, though now for a time "desolate," as one divorced. The Church is "espoused" (2 Cor. 11:2), not married. Thus the "one body" and the "great mystery" of "one flesh," of which the apostle speaks (Eph. 5:29) must be distinct.

Looking back to Adam, to whom as a type he there refers us, we find that Eve is taken out of his side, — is thus really his "flesh" by her very making. Thus, as one with him in nature, she is united to him, — a union in which the prior unity finds its fit expression. The two things are therefore in this way very clearly and intimately connected. The being of Christ's body is that, then, which alone prepares and qualifies for the being of His bride hereafter; and body and bride must be strictly commensurate with each other.

The mystery here is great, as the apostle himself says; nor is it to be affirmed that the type in all its features answers to the reality. It is easily seen that this could not be; yet there is real correspondence and suitability thus far: according to it, the Church of Christ alone, from Pentecost to the rapture, is scripturally only (in a strict sense) the "Bride of the Lamb."

Yet can we confine the new Jerusalem to these? There would of course in this case be no difficulty as to the character of a city which it is given in this vision. A city is commonly enough identified with its inhabitants, so that the same term covers both place and persons. But are none to inhabit the new Jerusalem except the saints of Christian times? Are none of those so illustrious in the Old Testament to find their place there? Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are among those with whom the Lord assures us we are to sit down in the kingdom of God (Luke 13:28-29); — are they to be outside the heavenly city?

This is positively answered otherwise, as it would seem, in Revelation itself. For while the general account of those who enter there is that they are those "written in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev. 21:27), "without" the city are said to be only "dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolators, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" (Rev. 22:11).

In the eleventh of Hebrews, moreover, in a verse already quoted, "the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God," for which the patriarchs looked and waited, can surely be no other than that which we find here; and it is added that they desired "a better country, — that is, a heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city." It could not be the New Testament Church for which Abraham looked; for this was as yet entirely hidden in God. (Eph. 3:9.) Another and larger meaning for the new Jerusalem must surely, therefore, be admitted.

And why should there not be in it the inclusion of both thoughts? Why should it not be the bride-city, named from the bride-church, whose home it is, and yet containing other occupants? This alone would seem to cover the whole of the facts which Scripture gives us as to it; and the Jewish bride is in like manner sometimes a wider, sometimes a narrower conception; sometimes the city Jerusalem, sometimes the people Israel. Only that in the Old Testament the city is the narrower, the people the wider view; while in the New Testament this is reversed. And even this may be significant: the heavenly city, the dwelling-place of God, permitting none of the redeemed to be outside it, but opening its gates widely to all. A. Bride-City indeed, ever holding bridal festival, and having perpetual welcome for all that come: its freshness never fading, its joy never satiating; blessed are they whose names are written there!

As before, the city is seen "descending out of heaven from God." We shall find, however, here, that the present vision goes back of the new heavens and earth to the millennial age, — that is, that while itself eternal, the city is seen in connection with the earth at this time. Not yet has it been said, "The tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them." The descending city is not, therefore, in that settled and near intimacy with men outside of it in which it will be. A significant and perfect note of time it is that the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of nations (Rev. 22:2). Tender as this grace is, the condition it shows could not be eternal.

All the nearer does it bring this vision of glory and of love, no more to be banished or dimmed by human sin or sorrow. The city has the glory of God; and here is the goal of hope, complete fruition of that which but as hope outshines all that is known of brightness elsewhere. It cannot be painted with words. We cannot hope even to expand what the Holy Ghost has given us. But the blessedness itself we are soon to know.

The holy city descends from heaven, "having the glory of God." She is the chosen vessel of it, to display it to the universe, being the fruit of Christ's work, the fullest witness of abounding grace. Her shining is "like a most precious stone, as a crystal-like jasper-stone," or diamond, as we have already taken it to be.* The carbon crystallized into this lustrous brilliant, which still shines with a light not its own, is a fit representation of the "glory" that is to be "in the Church in Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of ages." (Eph. 3:21.) This glory which God manifests through His creatures, He manifests to His creatures, satisfying His own love in bringing them thus nigh unto Himself, How blessed to be a means of such display!

{*See on chap. 4:3.}

The wall of the city clearly speaks of its security: it has "a great and high wall;" for "salvation hath God appointed as walls and bulwarks." (Isa. 26:1.) And in the wall, which has four sides, there are twelve gates, — three gates on every side, for egress and ingress, home as this is of a life which is unceasing activity. The number 12 is upon all the city, 12 being an expanded 7, with the same factors (4 X 3 instead of 4 + 3), and the symbol of manifest divine government, God being here manifestly supreme. This is perfection in its deepest analysis; and the numbers are thus one in fact.* The 12 here is plainly the usual 4 X 3; the 3 still speaking of divine manifestation, while the 4 shows it to be universal, the sides facing also every way.

{*See "Spiritual Law in the Natural World," pp.73-5.}

At the gates are twelve angels; upon them the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. As the tabernacle of God, a reference to the tabernacle of old is surely in place here, though to that there was but one entrance, for a simple and beautiful reason, Christ being seen in it as the only way of approach to God. Now there are twelve gates, answering to the twelve tribes which in the wilderness also were grouped in similar threes around the tabernacle. Ezekiel, in his last vision of the future (chap. 48), shows us what more exactly answers to what is here, though speaking of the earthly city restored, and not the heavenly; and there the gates are appropriated, one to each particular tribe. Israel are here, as it would seem, their own representatives, as in the vision of the seventh chapter; and we are reminded of their being in nearest connection upon earth with the heavenly city. In the heavenly sphere, at the gates are angels. The heavenly and earthly relations of the city are thus declared.

There are twelve foundations of the wall of the city also; but on these are the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. They have laid the foundations, and their names are stamped upon their work. We are surely not to imagine any individualizing here, as if any one foundation could be appropriated to any one apostle, or indeed that the number 12 itself is any thing but characteristic. This connects itself also with the question of the presence or absence of Paul's name from the number. It is remarkable that almost the same difficulty connects with the twelve tribes of Israel, which often exclude and often include the tribe of Levi. Taking Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons of Joseph, as tribal heads, equal in this respect to Jacob's other sons, (and this is the place that they are given in the history,) yet they are none the less always counted twelve. Why may not the apostles, in spite of the addition of Paul to their number, be counted here as twelve?

The measurements of the city and the wall are next given. The city is a cube, twelve thousand furlongs every way; the wall, a hundred and forty-four cubits high. The number 12 still governs everywhere. The cube speaks of substance, reality. The sanctuary in the tabernacle and in the temple were both cubes. This is the eternal sanctuary, and the full fruition of every hope of the saint. The measurements further, though surely symbolic, await yet their interpretation.

The building of the wall is of jasper (or diamond). The divine glory is itself a safeguard of the eternal city. What can touch that which God has ordained for His own praise? The city itself is pure transparent gold, — pure, permanent, radiant, — not hindering, but welcoming the enraptured sight. The foundations of the wall are adorned with every precious stone, — all the attributes of God displayed in that upon which rests the salvation of the people of God. The stones, in their separate meanings, are again a mystery. The twelve gates are twelve pearls — the picture of such grace as has been shown in the Church (Matt. 13:45-46). These gates stand open all the unending day. The street of the city is, again, "pure gold, like transparent glass." The street — especially in the east — is the place of traffic, the meeting-place constantly of need and greed. But here, all circumstances, all intercourse, the whole environment, is absolute holiness and truth, fit for and permeated by the felt presence of God.

And this leads us directly to the next statement, that because the city is all sanctuary, there is no more any special one. The presence of God is the temple of the city: there is no other; and the Lamb is He who characterizes for us, and will always characterize, this otherwise ineffable Presence. There is no distance; there is nothing that can produce distance; there never can be more. It is that which the presence of Jesus among us — now nearly nineteen centuries since — implied and pledged to us: it is Immanu-El — "God with us" — in full reality, and in the highest and most intimate way.

It is true we have not the Father spoken of as such: it is "the Lord (or Jehovah) God Almighty" — the God of Old Testament revelation, — with "the Lamb," in whom we have the revelation of the New. Nothing less, surely, is meant than God in full display, so far as the creature can ever be made to apprehend Him. There is a glory of the Light always inaccessible, — not hid in darkness, but in light, which no human eye can ever penetrate. None can fully know God but God. This is only to say that the creature remains the creature; but the limitation of faculties does not mean distance, as if kept back. "The Lamb" shows, on the one hand, the desire of God to be known, while implying, in the very fact of manhood taken for this revelation, that God purely as God could not be known.

Thus it is immediately added that the glory of God lightens the city, and "the Lamb is the lamp thereof." The lamp sustains the light. It adds nothing to it, for to divine glory nothing can be added: if any thing could be, it would no longer be divine. But the light is "put upon a candlestick (or lamp) that they who enter in may see the light." (Luke 8:16.) So will Christ always be the One in whom the Father is made known: nay the sacrificial word ("Lamb") assures us that we shall always have need of the past also for this. But this does not at all mean that there will not be what the Lord has assured us the angels of the little children enjoy continually: "Their angels do always behold the face of My Father who is in heaven."

This, then, is the glory of the heavenly city, in the light of which the nations of the earth themselves walk; while the kings of the earth bring their glory unto it. As another has said, "They own the heavens and the heavenly kingdom to be the source of all, and bring there the homage of their power." And "they bring the glory and honor of the nations unto it." That is, "Heaven is seen as the source of all the glory and honor of this world." The nations are, as we shall see directly, undoubtedly the millennial nations; and it is no question of these entering themselves into the heavenly city: their glory and honor it is they bring, and though the words in the original admit the force of "into," they by no means compel it. The mention of the continually open gates speaks indeed of peaceful and constant intercourse, and we must remember that here is the abode of those who reign with Christ over the earth. Whether these are the "kings of the earth" meant is, however, a question: if it were so, the "into" might be still the true sense.

The next statement as to the city regards those who do enter therein, — that is, have part in the blessedness which is here depicted. In opposition to all defilement, one class alone has title here: it is "they who are written in the Lamb's book of life." This surely shows that the whole of the Old Testament saints enter into the city. No one is excluded whose name is there. While, on the other hand, the millennial saints have as clearly their portion on earth — the new earth — in connection, indeed, with the "tabernacle of God," but not in it. The heavenly city remains always heavenly, and when it descends from heaven, has then received its inhabitants. These distinctions, which indeed are gathered from elsewhere, are nevertheless to be kept in remembrance here, or all will be confusion.

We have next before us the "paradise of God," in which the city lies. Man's paradise of old could not yet have the city; and when the city came, it was outside of paradise altogether. Here at last the two things are united.

We are of necessity reminded also of one of the closing visions of Ezekiel, while a comparison easily shows also the difference between the earthly and the heavenly in these pictures, — the one being indeed the shadow, but no more than the shadow, of the other. John here sees "a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." And in Ezekiel, the life-giving waters issue forth from the house of the Lord, and thus is specially noted in connection with the fruit of the trees that are nourished by it "And by the river, upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to its months, because their waters, they issued out of the sanctuary; and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine." How like the account in Revelation is to this, no one can fail to understand: even the language might seem to be taken from it: "In the midst of the street of it, and on this side of the river and on that, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve [manner of] fruits, and yielded its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."

But in Ezekiel all is distinctly earthly, and the blessing is not yet full. The waters go down into the salt sea and heal it, so that a great multitude of fish are in its waters; but there are miry places and marshes that are not healed, but given over to salt. With both the Old Testament prophet and the New, we see that the earth is yet in the millennial, not the eternal condition; for the leaves of the tree are for medicine in both alike; there is, in both, need of healing yet.

The waters are in both cases from the sanctuary, for that is the character of the whole city of God. In Revelation, they are specifically from the throne of God; for here the one blessedness is, as we have seen, that God reigns, — God revealed in that perfect grace that is expressed in Christ, — the throne of God being also that of the Lamb. Thus the water is the type, as always in its highest meaning, of the fullness of the Spirit, the power of life and sanctification, indeed the power of God in all creation. The tree of life bears witness, as in the earthly paradise at first, of dependence upon Another, of life in dependence; but all the plenteous and varied fruits of this could not even be symbolized in the time of old; fresh fruits and abundant: who can tell the blessed meaning? or what Christ is to those that have their life in Him?

"And 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. And they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads." Thus He is openly theirs; they too are openly His. Service is taken up afresh in glory according to the fullness of that open-eyed and open-faced communion which is here so assured. It is indeed, when it has its proper character, communion itself. The love that serves us all is the love of God Himself, and of this Christ is the perfect expression. How is it possible to be in communion with Christ without the diligent endeavor to serve Him in the gospel of His grace, and in ministry to His people? In heaven, service will not for a moment cease; although some precious possibilities of the present will have passed away indeed. Would that this were more realized, with the Lord's estimate of greatness in the kingdom of which He is greatest of all!

But the light! and our inheritance is in the light. To this the vision returns, and ends with it: "And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, nor light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light, and they shall reign for the ages of the ages," Thus the reign of the saints is not for the millennium only, nor simply as partakers of the power of the rod of iron. If by one man's offense death reigned through one, much more shall they who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life by One, Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:17.) Reigning is, for the heavenly saints, inseparable from the life they enter into in the coming day. The new Jerusalem is a city of kings and priests, — the bridal city of the King of kings. Here the eternal reign seems associated necessarily with the glory in which all here live and move. For those who were once sinners, — slaves of Satan, and of the lusts by which he enthralled them, to be delivered and brought, by the priceless blood of Jesus, into such communion as is here shown with the Father and the Son, — how can their condition be expressed in language less glowing than this — needing no candle, nor light of the sun, because the Lord God giveth them light, — than that they reign forever and ever?

Closing Testimonies. (Rev. 22:6-21.)

The series of visions is thus completed. What remains is the emphasizing of its authority for the soul, with all that belongs to Him whose revelation it is, and who is Himself coming speedily. Thus the angel now affirms that "these words are faithful and true:" necessarily so, because of Him whose words they are. "The Lord God of the spirits of the prophets hath sent His angel to show unto His servants things which must soon come to pass." Here we return to the announcement of the first chapter. The book is, above all, a practical book. It is not for theorists or dreamers, but for servants, — words which are to be kept, and to have application to their service in the Church and in the world.

The things themselves were soon to come to pass. In fact, the history of the Church, as the opening epistles depict it, could be found imaged, as we see, in the condition of existing assemblies. The seeds of the future already existed, and were silently growing up, even with the growth (externally) of Christianity itself. As to the visions following the epistles also, from the sixth chapter, on, we have acknowledged the partial truth of what is known as the historical fulfillment of these. It is admitted that there has been an anticipative fulfillment in Christian times of that which has definite application to the time of the end, although it is the last only that has been, in general, dwelt upon in these pages.

Historicalists will not be satisfied with such an admission, and refusing on their side (as they mostly do) the general bearing of the introductory epistles upon the history of the Church at large, insist upon such affirmations as the present as entirely conclusive that the historical interpretation is the only true one. In fact, the view which has been here followed brings nearest to those in the apostles' days the things announced, as well as makes the whole book far more fruitful and important for the guidance of servants. For how many generations must they have waited before the seals and trumpets would speak to these? And when they did, how much of guidance would they furnish for practical walk? The application of Babylon the great to Romanism is fully accepted, and that of Jezebel in the same way insisted on, so that as to the errors of popery, we are as protestant as any, if in the "beasts" of the thirteenth chapter we find something beyond this. But nothing of this could have been intelligible to the saints of the early centuries, while the fulfillment of Ephesus, Smyrna, and even Pergamos, would soon be of the first importance.

"The Lord God of the spirits of the prophets" — the reading now generally admitted to be right — emphasizes for us the presence of the living God as what was for these the constant realization, in all the shifting scenes of human history. And so it is for those whose spirit is in harmony with them. God in past history, God in the events happening under our eyes, His judgment therefore of every thing, while controlling every thing, for His own glory and for the blessing of His people, — in this respect how blessed to be guided by those wondrous revelations! While the future, to be learnt from the same infallible teaching, is not only that which animates our hopes, but is necessary for the judgment of the present, no less. All lines lead on to the full end, there where the full light gives the manifestation of all.

"And behold, I come quickly." This is for the heart: future as long as we are down here; and yet to govern the present. "Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book."

Here we are warned of the mistakes that may be made by the holiest of men in the most fervent occupation with heavenly things. John falls at the angel's feet to worship him; but the angel refuses it, claiming no higher title than to be a fellow-servant with John himself, with his brethren the prophets, and with those also who keep the words of this book. And he adds, "Worship God:" — worship, that is, no creature.

Unlike Daniel's prophecies, the words of the prophecy of this book are not to be sealed up for the time is near. To the Christian, brought face to face with the coming of the Lord, the end is always near. What time might actually elapse was another question. In fact, some eighteen centuries have elapsed since this was written but while Daniel was taught to look on through a vista of many generations to the end before him, Christians, taught to be always in an attitude of expectation, have before them no such necessary , interval and are brought into the full light now though unbelief and wrong teaching may obscure it. But nothing in this way is under a vail, save the moment whose concealment is meant to encourage expectation. How good for us, and fruitful such concealment, may be measured by the goodness and fruitfulness of the expectation itself.

The solemn words are just ready to be uttered which proclaim the close of the day of grace to those who have refused grace. It is just ready to be said, "Let him that doeth unrighteously do unrighteously still; and let the filthy make himself filthy still; and let him that is righteous do righteousness still; and he that is holy, let him be sanctified still." And when this applies is shown clearly in the next words, "Behold, I come quickly, and My reward with Me, to render to every one as his work shall be: I, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last." The last affirmation here shows the irrevocable character of this judgment. He sums up in Himself all wisdom, all power: "none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou? "

The way of life and the way of death are now put in contrast: "Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." Here is the condition of blessing stated according to the character of Revelation, in terms that have been used before. Our robes must be washed in the blood of the Lamb, as those of the redeemed multitude in the vision under the seals, in order to be arrayed in the white garments that are granted to the Lamb's wife. A very old corruption in this text is that exhibited in the common version, "Blessed are they that do His commandments;" but which is the true reading ought to be apparent at once. It is not by keeping commandments that any one can acquire a right to the tree of life. On the other hand, condemnation is for committed evil: "without are dogs, and sorcerers, and fornicators, and murderers, and idolaters, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie."

Again it is repeated, "I, Jesus, have sent Mine angel to testify these things unto you in the assemblies;" and then He declares Himself in the two relations among men in which the book has spoken of Him: "I am the Root and the Offspring of David" — the Jewish relation, the divine incarnate King of Israel, — "the bright and Morning Star," — the object of expectation for the Christian. But immediately He is named — or rather names Himself in this way, the heart of the Bride, moved by the Spirit, awakes: "And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come! '" But because it is yet the day of grace, and the Bride is still open to receive accessions it is added, "And let him that heareth say, Come!'" And if one answer, "Ah, but my heart is yet unsatisfied," it is further said, "And let him that is athirst come; he that will, let him take the water of life freely."

Blessed is this testimony. The precious gifts of God are not restricted in proportion to their preciousness, but the reverse. In nature, sunlight, fresh air, the water-brooks, things the most necessary, are on that account bestowed freely upon all. And in the spiritual realm there is no barrier to reception of the best gifts, save that which the soul makes for itself. Not only so, but men are urged to come, — to take, — to look, — with no uncertainty of result for those who do so. The stream that makes glad the city of God is poured out for the satisfaction of all who thirst, and will but stoop to drink of it. This is the closing testimony of the gospel in this book, and that with which it is associated adds amazingly to its solemnity.

There is now another warning, neither to add to, nor to take from the words of the prophecy of this book. Scripture has many similar admonitions, but here the penalty is an unutterably solemn one. To him that adds, God shall add the plagues that are written in this book. From him who takes away, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city. Yet men are now not scrupulous at least to take away many of the words of Scripture, and of Revelation among the rest. Every word is claimed here by the Lord Himself for God; and if this is not a claim for verbal inspiration, what is it? As manifestly the closing book of New Testament scripture, what may we not infer as to the verbal inspiration of other parts? And what shall be the woe of those who dare presumptuously to meddle with that which is the authoritative communication of the mind of God to man? Is it not being done? and by those who own that somewhere at least — and they cannot pretend to know exactly the limit, — Scripture contains the Word of God?

This announcement of penalty is Christ's own word: "He who testifieth these things saith, 'Surely, I come quickly.'" Is it not when His Word is being thus dealt with that we may more than ever expect Himself? When the testimony of Scripture is being invalidated and denied, is it not then that we may most expect the Faithful and True Witness to testify in person? And especially when this arises in the most unlooked for places, and Church-teachers laboriously work out a theology of unbelief?

And the promise abides as the hope of the Church, although it be true that the Bridegroom has tarried, and the virgins have slept! That — true or false — a cry has been raised, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!" is notorious. That many have stirred and taken up the old attitude of expectancy is also true. All these things should surely be significant also. But whatever one's head may say, — whatever the doctrine we have received and hold as to the coming of our Lord and Master, — the heart of the truly faithful must surely say with the apostle here, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."

It is the only response that answers to the assurance of His love on His departure to the Father: "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, ye may be also."

The Lord's coming — the parousia — is just the "presence" of the Lord Himself. Nothing short of this could satisfy the hearts of those who looked up after Him, as He ascended with His hands spread in blessing over them; and were reassured by the angels' voices, that this same Jesus would come again. Just in proportion as we too have learnt by the Spirit the power of the love of Jesus, we too shall be satisfied with this, and with this alone. May we learn more deeply what is this cry of the Spirit and the Bride: "Amen, come, Lord Jesus."

F. W. Grant.

The Bible Truth Press, New York.