The Two Books

The Book of Grace

That the Revelation is largely a book of symbols will be understood by all our readers. Some of these symbols are difficult to interpret, others are exceedingly plain. Christ is the great centre of Revelation 5, and the chapter is easy to understand.

THE LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDA, THE ROOT OF DAVID takes the Book. It is plain that whatever the results of the opening of this seven-sealed scroll may be they have Israel specially in view, for the titles of the Lord here given are distinctly Jewish titles. His labours of Love for His Assembly are completed (Eph. 5:25-32). He has presented her to Himself a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, and He turns His attention now to earth and to those judgments that shall prepare the way for His kingdom in it, but He does so as the One who is to bear David's sceptre, and the one who made a sure covenant with David.

We gain little from our study of the Word if we do not gain some fuller knowledge of Himself, consequently we will consider Him. In other days and in other circumstances He opened a book.

We read the story in the fourth chapter of Luke's Gospel: He stood up, the meek and lowly Jesus, in the synagogue of Nazareth in which He had often sat as a boy, and the book of the Prophet Esaias was given to Him. He turned to the 61st chapter of Isaiah and read those beautiful words concerning Himself, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, to open the eyes of the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." He ceased to read in the middle of a sentence and put a full stop where in our Old Testament we have only a comma, and He closed the book. Why did He do that? The completion of the sentence is this "And the day of vengeance of our God." He was then and there to open the acceptable year of the Lord, the year of grace, the year of blessing, and to postpone the day of vengeance until that year had run its course. That year has extended until now. In order to open and tell the tale of grace He had to be the man of sorrows in His life and the sacrifice for sin in His death. He was both, blessed by His name, and the grace of God is now in full revelation. But the Jews did not want the grace of God nor Him who brought it to them. It is true they marvelled at His words. They sounded in their ears like sweetest music, but when He showed them how that grace worked, that it reached out to the poor hopeless Gentile, and passed the smug, self-satisfied, self-righteous religionist by, they were filled with rage and took Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built to cast Him down headlong. They rejected Him and the grace of God, and that is why they wander strangers upon the earth today, and they will never know peace and rest until they receive it on the ground of the grace that He whom they rejected brought into the world. When He takes the book of the Revelation the year of grace will have run to its close and the first hour of the day of vengeance will have struck.

Notice the character of our God. If it is a question of grace it is the year; if it is a question of judgment it is the day; if it is a question of grace our God is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9); if it is a question of judgment He says "A short work will the Lord make in the earth" (Rom. 9:28).

The day of vengeance has the final blessing of Israel in view. This is plain from Isaiah 61:2, for following the words "the day of vengeance of our God we read "to comfort those that mourn." Who will the mourners be when that day of vengeance comes? They will be the godly remnant of the Jews in Jerusalem and the land of Canaan, as the following verses show:

"To appoint to them that mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations" (Is. 61:3)

The Book of judgment

Think of the majesty of the One who takes the book from the hand of God. He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Judah is the royal tribe, the lion symbolizes strength and royalty. All royalty belongs to Christ, as the Son of David according to the flesh. He will be invested with all that royalty means in God's thoughts, and men will see in Him what a true King is. He presented Himself once for their acceptance when He entered Jerusalem "meek and riding on an ass." And the world rejected Him — Jew and Gentile alike — but when He appears as the Lion of the tribe of Judah He will break the nations in pieces like a potter's vessel.

But He is also the Root of David, the One from whom every promise made to David proceeded and the One in whom is the life and force to fulfil the promises He has made. He is the One who made "an everlasting covenant with David, ordered in all things and sure" (2 Sam. 23:5). He is the One of whom David said "Thou are great, O Lord God, for there is none like Thee … and now, O Lord God, the word thou hast spoken concerning Thy servant and concerning His house establish it for ever, and do as Thou hast said, and let Thy name be magnified for ever" (2 Sam. 7).

John looked to see the Lion of whom the elder spoke, but instead it was the Lamb that was slain that appeared in the midst of the throne. John knew Him well. It was he who heard the Baptist say, "Behold the Lamb of God," and followed Him; he had leaned on His breast at the last Supper, and had stood beside His cross when He was slain for our sins. He sees Him now exalted from the degradation of the cross and the darkness of the grave to the Throne; sees Him, no longer in the place of sacrifice, where He was bruised for our iniquities, but enthroned amidst the splendours of the glory of God. He sees Him there as the centre of heaven's admiration and the object of its worship, for when He takes the book all heaven breaks forth into the rapture of the new song, "Thou art worthy to take the book." The One who bore the judgment of God in order to redeem men by His blood, is the only One who can judge the world in righteousness, and all judgment has been put into His hands, that all men should honour the Son as they honour the Father (John 5).

The Lamb that was slain is the Lion that shall reign. And John tells us more about Him; He has seven horns and seven eyes. Horns in Scripture symbolize power and eyes discrimination and wisdom. Seven is the number that stands for perfection. The Lamb will be perfect in His power and wisdom. He is this in the day of grace for the salvation of men, for "Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24). But He will also be the power and wisdom of God in the day of vengeance. He will slay the rebellious with the rod of His mouth with such power that no weapon lifted against Him shall prosper, but He will do it with such absolute righteousness and discrimination that not one stroke will fall where it ought riot, and not one voice in the universe will be able to charge Him with folly or injustice.