The Holy City

Notes on an Address given in Edinburgh in 1926, on Revelation 21:9-27; 22:1-7

The last time I addressed you my theme was the church as the wife of the Lamb — what the church is to Christ, how it will fill His heart with satisfaction and joy, satisfaction and joy which shall be eternal. Tonight I desire to speak on the church as the holy city — not so much what she will be TO Christ but what she will be FOR Christ. In the first aspect of the church the great thing is LOVE, the love of Christ known by the church and responded to, fully and without reserve. When I come to speak of the church as the new Jerusalem, the holy city, it is not so much love as LIGHT — light for the nations. For if you have followed the reading of these verses carefully, you have noticed that the nations are to walk in the light of that holy city. There is love Christward, there is light manward: love Christward from the church and light manward shines through the church.

The Bride, The Lamb's Wife

Notice how she is introduced. The angel said to John: "Come, and I will show thee the Bride, the Lamb's wife." When the church is all that she ought to be to Christ, which this description of her indicates, then she will be all that she ought to be as light to man, and the measure of her love to Christ will be the measure of her light to men. I want to give these things a present and practical application. It follows if what I say is true, that just in that measure in which we love Christ now, are we really a witness for Him here below. Our light in the midst of the prevailing darkness is measured by our love to Christ and our love to Christ is measured by our knowledge of His love to us. If we keep ourselves in His love, if we keep ourselves near to separate from those things that can mar us for His pleasure, we shall enjoy His love, and we cannot enjoy His love without responding to it, and just in that measure that we respond to His love, so shall we be witnesses for Him in the world. Our light manward is measured by our love Christward.

It is an inspiring thing to look onward and see the glorious destiny that lies before the church and to know ourselves as part of it. Every redeemed soul indwelt by the Holy Ghost is part of this which is to appear as this holy and glorious city. It will be, of course, consequent upon the catching out of this world of the saints when the Lord comes for them. He is to descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God and in an instant the saints of God, living and dead, will respond to his triumphal shout, and as one united and blessed company we shall be for ever with the Lord (1 Thess. 4).

Having the Glory of God

First we enter the glory, made meet for it by the Father's grace and the blood of Jesus, and then we come out of the glory, having the glory of God, to shed the light of that glory upon the earth during the millennial reign of Christ upon the earth. She comes out from God, and is the vessel of the glory of God. What is the glory of God? The glory of God is the display of His own blessed nature. He has been able to reveal what is in His heart. How has He done that? He has done that in the person of His beloved Son, and having done that the great fact has come into evidence that GOD IS LOVE. That is the glory of God. You would not know it by simply scanning the heavens. They declare His handiwork, His wisdom, His divinity, His power. Men did not learn this great fact at Sinai. This great and blessed revelation was made by the beloved Son when He came into this world, and the light that He brought into the world is to be contained in the holy city, and that light will radiate from it to the utmost bounds of creation, and all creation will rejoice in the fact that God is love.

Each heart its praise outpouring
To Him all praise above,
Each voice in strains adoring
Re-echoes — "GOD IS LOVE."

This should be our Christian testimony today, for this surely is the fact that has changed us, but how has it been manifested towards us? "In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4). The love of God has been made manifest in relieving us of our liabilities and removing the load of sins that oppressed us, and by bringing us into love and light and liberty; it should be, indeed, the joy of our hearts that God is love, and this is the witness that we should bear to the world. What a glad witness is this! What a wonderful word of life is this, that God is love, and that He has so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son. That is the gospel that we have to preach. That is the light we have to bear in the darkness. That is the glory that will shine from the new Jerusalem and in the light of which the nations shall walk. They will get an entirely new conception of God, even as we did when first we were enlightened and learned that God is love. They will learn what wisdom and righteousness in administration are, and every national and international question that can arise will be solved in the light in which they walk, but this will be the glory that excelleth — "God is love."

Four-Square and Ever-Open Gates

The city will be four-square, facing without fear or shame every point of the compass. It will be equal on every side, and on every side will be three gates. Gates that shall not be shut at all by day, and there is no night there. I must link together the four-square city and the 12 gates in the walls of it. It is the city that is equal in every part of it that can open its gates to every quarter of the wide earth. But what for? A great city like London keeps its gates open perpetually, for it is dependent upon every part of the earth for its very life. From North, South, East and West supplies are continually pouring into it, but the gates of the holy city will be opened, not for supplies to flow into it, but for blessings to flow out of it, blessings for the whole earth. This city of the glory of God will look out in every direction, and wherever it looks it will pour out its blessing. It is a great thing when a Christian is marked by that four-squareness now. And in view of what we are to be we ought to be this now. But, alas! how often it is otherwise with us. A man may be intelligent in the Scriptures, and even prominent in meetings and in service, and be different in his home or business. He is not four-square, and just in that measure in which he lacks in this he is enfeebled in his testimony, and as a channel of blessing to men.

Suppose I act in an unchristian, ungracious way in the home or business or in the presence of unconverted men. On that side at least the gate is closed and the blessing cannot flow out; I am ashamed, and my mouth is closed; but if I keep myself in the love of God and maintain a conscience void of offence before God and man then am I four-square, unashamed, and can face men and bless them. This our Lord was in all the holy perfection of His Person. He was all that He said, and none could convince Him of sin.

The names of the twelve tribes of Israel are upon the gates, because according to promise Israel is to have the honour of administration on earth, and whatever blessing flows to the nations from the heavenly city will flow through Israel as the channel of it to the nations.

And every gate is a pearl. The pearl is not an Old Testament figure, it does not belong to Israel. It is a New Testament figure, and is a similitude of the church taken out of the sea of the nations. The merchantman sought goodly pearls, and finding one of great price, sold all that he had to possess it. Christ is the merchantman and the pearl is His church. In His eyes it is pure, precious and one. The church is to have this character in all her outgoings in witness and blessing; the gates of pearl emphasize what I have already stated, that when the church is what Christ would have it to be then is it the centre of blessing for all.

The Street of Gold

And in the midst of the city was a street of gold, not streets of gold as some of our poets have sung, but street, a Street of gold like to transparent glass. Here is gold of a new sort. There is nothing so opaque, nothing so blinding to the eyes as the gold that men crave after, but this street will be transparent gold, there will be no defilement there. And who will walk on this street? It is laid for the feet of God, when He walks there must be a Street of gold, a righteousness which is of Himself and where He can display His character in all His ways. A man is known by the way he walks, and where he walks, and God will make known His character when He walks in this street, and there will be nothing hidden and dark in it, it will be like to transparent glass.

It has always been His desire to walk with men. He came down into the garden to walk with Adam in the cool of the day. But there was no street of gold there, and Adam hid away in his fear of God behind the trees of the garden. He was a sinner and God could not walk with him. And when God gathered Israel out of Egypt and brought them to Himself in the wilderness He desired to walk with them, but there was no golden street in the midst of them. His commandments were on the lips but not in their hearts, and He could only be with them in the angel of His presence behind the veil in the tabernacle, there was no liberty there either for Him or for them. But when we come to the New Testament we have some wonderful words at the end of 2 Corinthians 6. The saints of God are commanded to be separate from evil things, to come out from among them, for there could be no communion between Christ and Belial, between the believer and the unbeliever, between the temple of God and demons, and then come the wonderful words, "God has said, I will dwell in them, and WALK IN THEM." Not only dwell in them, we often stress that, but walk in them, "form and find within them a street of gold where I can walk and show my character through them."

We may know little of this now; alas, that we should know so little, but in the day of which this vision of glory speaks it will be known in its fullness, and we shall walk where God walks, for we shall be like Him in character and walk with Him. A street is for common use, and in holy communion with Him, delighting in the display of His own character, ourselves the vessels for the display of it, we shall abide for ever; for in the ages to come He will show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus.

God is the Light and the Lamb the Lamp

God gives light to the city, but all that light is in the Lamb, for He is the lamp, as the word should be. There is no light, no knowledge of God apart from the Lamb of God. No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father He has declared Him. So John tells us in the first chapter of his gospel. Yes, but when public witness was borne to Him it was "Behold the Lamb of God." He was the Light of the world, but to be this, and so that the light could reach us, He had to come as the Lamb.

What blind fools men are when they refuse the cross of Christ. They desire a gospel without a sacrifice, without the blood. God has no such gospel for men. He can give no light nor blessing apart from the Lamb, the Lamb is the lamp, all the light of God abides in Him and shines forth from Him, and that light is for the blessing of men.

p>The Pure River of the Water of Life

And from the throne of God and the Lamb the pure river of the water of life flows forth. This is blessing unrestrained in the power of the Holy Ghost, but it flows from the throne. The throne indicates God's supremacy, but the Lamb is there; hence what a sight for the world in which the Lamb was crucified when He appears in the throne of God! A cross of a malefactor on earth, the throne of God in heaven! But that cross and His place in that throne secure blessing for men. The pure river flows forth from the throne and its streams of grace carry refreshment, and life and healing wherever they flow, and God in the supremacy of His grace, enthroned in righteousness, will be acknowledged as the source of all good. And if any ask how God who is eternally and supremely just can bless from His throne a world that had sinned so foully against Him, the answer is — the Lamb is there.

The Tree of Life

The tree of life is Christ — the food of privileged dwellers in that city, and He is enough for them. None will hunger there, nor will they tire of that heavenly food, for there is no monotony in Jesus for the heart of one that walks in the Spirit. And He is enough now. He brings forth His fruit in His season now. He is able to meet every fresh need, every fresh longing of the soul now. He is enough the heart and mind to fill. We shall not tire of Him there. May we be satisfied with Him now, and sit under His shadow with great delight and find His fruit sweet to our taste. Fruit is God's food, it is for His delight.

We shall share for ever God's joy in His beloved Son, and that upon which He feeds, if I may say it reverently, on that we shall also feed. We shall share God's thoughts of Christ, and this will yield us joy and satisfaction for ever.

And, then, there is to be no more curse, — God and the Lamb shall be in it. The Lamb bore the curse. Thorns the earth was to bring forth, as the product of the curse, and thorns were placed upon His sacred brow. He bore the curse that He might remove it. And His servants shall serve Him — they shall see His face and His name shall be in their foreheads. What a prospect! Especially for those of us who feel how feeble our service here is! But there His servants shall serve Him. Love cannot be satisfied unless it is serving, and the Lord will give His servants the joy and opportunity of serving Him in all the power of the Holy Ghost — without any faltering or failure.

The Lord God Giveth Them Light

"There shall be no night there and they need no candle neither light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light and they shall reign for ever." We shall have no need of either natural light or artificial light in that holy city — God will be enough. The light we shall need — the light of our lives for ever will come from God Himself. It is what God is that will fill that scene with radiance and fill our hearts with joy. And He would be that now. He gives us natural blessings — so full of tenderness and mercy is He; and what He gives is ours richly to enjoy, for having spared not His own Son, will He not with Him freely give us all things? And these natural gifts in a certain way are light to us. But, friends, if those things were removed, what then? Suppose every natural joy, every comfort, every earthly ray of light were removed, could we say, "The Lord God gives us light — He is enough"?

I heard of a Christian who was in very affluent circumstances. Suddenly with one sweep, he was beggared, and in explaining his experience afterwards, he said, "When I was well-to-do, I saw God in everything, and now that I am beggared, I have got everything in God." I heard of a wealthy American who was very glad he had wealth, not for his own sake but for the sake of his wife whom he idolized. This lady was a Christian of a meek and gentle spirit.

Her husband did not understand the secret of that quiet, happy life, but he greatly admired it, and was glad he could give her the comforts of life, for she was a delicate person. As time went on, the wheel of fortune turned and left him with scarcely a penny. He was very distressed about it. He had to leave the mansion and go into the somewhat mean flat, and he wondered how it would go with his wife. But he found she was able to sing, "Oh! The peace my Saviour gives," just as sweetly without the grand piano. The Lord God was her light. Oh! is it so that He is able to do that for us? Were every earthly light removed and every prop gone and every comfort taken from us, would He be enough? Yes, we should find Him to be enough. The Lord God is our light. Beloved Christians, what a God we have got! And the day is coming when the vast number of those who inhabit that holy city will find everything in God, and when they find everything in God, there will be no night. The best things on earth change, they wax and wane, rise to their zenith and set. But when God is everything there is no night.

The Lord Himself speaking to His servant, says, "These sayings are true and faithful." Let us lay hold of them and cherish them. Let us hold to them as the very sayings of God, true and faithful — not the fallible words of men the fruit of a darkened imagination, but the true and faithful sayings of God. Blessed is he that keeps the sayings of the prophecy of this book In view of the Lord's. speedy return we ought to understand this book of Revelation. If we keep the sayings of this book, we shall be kept from the pollution of this world, and be those who are ready, watching, and saying in unison with the Holy Ghost, "Even so come, Lord Jesus."