Last Updated on : Thursday, November 20, 2014
|Thirteen Lectures On The Apocalypse|
Revelations Chapter 20
(vs. 7 to end of book)
Prophetic character of the Apocalypse -- its fulfilment in European history -- the closing scenes -- the kingdom of the thousand years -- the revolt of the nations at the close -- the cause that leads to it symbolically expressed as the loosing of Satan -- deceiving the nations -- the catastrophe that ends the revolt -- the devil and the lake of fire -- the resurrection at the end of the Millennium -- death during the thousand years -- the post-millennial judgment -- abolition of death -- an immortal population for the earth -- new heavens and new earth -- the giving-up of the kingdom of God -- History of God's work on earth -- the consummation -- the world peopled by one race, all immortal -- "all things new" -- New Jerusalem -- gorgeous picture -- a contrast to the hideous symbols of the present dispensation -- not a literal city -- a symbol of the saints in their corporate constitution -- the twelve gates and twelve angels -- the wall of the city with twelve foundations -- the cube form and furlong measurement of the city -- the measurement of the wall, and of the man, and of the angel -- the garnishing of the twelve foundations with all manner of precious stones -- no temple in the city, and no need of the sun -- why called New Jerusalem -- The city at the beginning and end of the thousand years -- Queen of the endless ages -- the river of life and trees on the banks -- the healing of the nations -- no more curse.
TO-NIGHT we reach the last of the lectures which has kept us together in such goodly muster for the past twelve nights. We have been engaged in the contemplation of a variety of extraordinary scenes, witnessed in vision by the apostle John in the isle of Patmos, 1,800 years ago -- scenes that were not shown to him for his personal benefit only, but for a certain class, contemporary with himself, and who should come after him, described as "the servants of God." The benefit proposed was one of knowledge. The vision was communicated "to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass." This is the opening intimation of the whole book (verse 1). From this it follows that the book is prophetic in character, and that it is a duty and a privilege on the part of those who may conceive they are the servants of God, to make themselves acquainted with its contents. It is a difficulty in the way, that the information communicated in it is presented in symbolic form; but it is a difficulty surmountable when the key is obtained, in the understanding of the literal system of knowledge conveyed in the plainer writings of the prophets and apostles. This system of knowledge is entirely concealed from view by the established theology of the day, with the result that the Apocalypse is utterly unintelligible to the vast mass of professing Christians. To those we all belonged
once, and can speak from experience on the point. Recently -- in some cases not very recently -- we have had a happier experience. Our eyes have been opened to see the unscriptural character of current theology, and to apprehend the beautiful system of Bible truth expressed in the apostolic phrase, "the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ." As a collateral result, the agency that has put us in possession of this precious knowledge has also opened to us the significance of the last book of the Bible, which, in former days without meaning or use, has now become a consoling beacon light in the moral and political confusion at present prevailing on the earth.
Unlocking the hieroglyphs, in no empirical manner, but by the rational employment of the keys contained in the book itself, in conjunction with the keys procurable in the other departments of Scripture, we have been enabled to recognize in the successive scenes of the Apocalypse the prophetic foreshadowings of the leading features of European experience during the last eighteen centuries. We have been able to determine the position of our own particular day in the complicated but not entangled programme, nearly concluded. We have looked at the nearly-reached "end of the matter," which furnishes the reason of the whole -- the transformation of the system of the world from a variety and a contrariety of bad mortal governments, to a single universal theocracy in the hands of an order of immortal rulers -- Jesus and his brethren. To this point the vision conducted us last Thursday evening in chapter 20. To-night we look at the closing scenes, which are gorgeous scenes. But before the perfect gorgeousness there is a momentary cloud.
Chapter 20, verse 7: "When the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city; and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." It seems strange at first sight that a divine reign of a thousand years duration should end in this manner. Fancy would suggest that the power and purity and beneficence of the government of Christ and his brethren would have so affected mankind everywhere for good that it would be morally impossible for a rebellion to be conceived, still more, that it should enlist the sympathy and support of nations and multitudes. That such a result should
be foretold is one of a thousand evidences of the divine character of the Scriptures. Imagination would have drawn a very different picture. We should have had human nature, basking in the sunshine of divine government, represented as rising in the majesty of an unsullied and ever-soaring progress, towards the perfection of which the germ is supposed by every human philosophy to exist in every human breast, and which only requires the necessary conditions to ripen into a gorgeous flower. Instead of that, we have the whole world in arms against a government that will have blessed them with a thousand years of justice, righteousness, beneficence, plenty, and peace. How is it to be explained? The explanation is furnished in the opening sentences of the verses we have just read. "Satan shall be loosed out of his prison." You recollect who Satan is -- not the fiction of a Romanized and Paganized theology -- not the immortal devil of pulpit discourse, who has no existence, except in the light literature and lighter talk of the people. Satan (a Hebrew word, signifying adversary) is the name applied to the dragon, and the dragon we have indisputably identified as the heraldic symbol of human hostility to God, officially incorporate in the kings and governments in which it is headed up. The seizing and binding of this dragon is the subjugation and suppression of the governments that oppose Christ at his coming, and the establishment of an iron rule throughout the earth, which effectually prevents their resuscitation. What can the unloosing be but the removal of those repressions and restraints which keep rebellion down for a thousand years? It is a matter of no importance to know the particular way which these restraints will be removed. A suspension of acts of rigour on the part of the saints in their several stations throughout the world, such as letting disobedience go unpunished and unnoticed, and allowing assemblies for political discussion, would be enough to give the native wilfulness of human nature scope for revival, especially if, as is possible, the saints were everywhere withdrawn to the imperial centre at Jerusalem. The men of that generation will know nothing experimentally of the evils of human government. They will have known nothing but the order and prosperity and peace of the rule of the saints, accustomed to which, they will probably lose all perception of the connection between that rule and the blessedness of the age. They will suppose the blessedness a matter of course -- a something that would be enjoyed under any government strong enough to take the reins of power. They may get tired of these being in the hands of
one class all the time. They will know that a thousand years previously, self-government was a power exercised by mankind in various forms all the world over. They may begin to question the right of any power to set this "natural birthright" aside. Human longevity will be common in those days, and therefore the immortality of the rulers will be a matter of faith with the subject populations. Doubt may at last come to be cast upon it. There will be much specious sophistry employed, we may be sure, before the nations surrender themselves to the leadership of Satan let loose. Stirring orations, self-important conferences of delegates, the circulation of eloquent documents, will doubtless enter largely into the machinery of seduction. At last the poison takes effect. The people lend themselves to the Demagogues: they listen to the flattering doctrines to which they have been unaccustomed for centuries. They subscribe to the movement. They enroll themselves in the battalions: secret drillings go on everywhere. As government takes no notice, the drillings lose their secrecy. The people take courage. The movement becomes an open one. From certain centres it spreads, until it commands the adhesion of entire communities; and, lastly, of nations. It finally attains the proportions and power of an international armament. The armies take the field. An expedition against headquarters -- "the camp of the saints, the beloved city" -- is projected. Christ, who could nip the whole conspiracy in the bud with a single act of power, allows the rebels a clear field and no favour. They come up in their unchallenged hosts "on the breadth of the earth." They arrive on the confines of the Holy Land, with which their annual journeys have made them familiar. They carry all before them. Flushed with complete success, they come within sight of the Holy City itself. This is the "hitherto-and-no-farther" of their Korah-Dathan-and-Abiram enterprise. While they are contemplating measures of siege, the devouring fire and crashing artillery of heaven burst suddenly upon their affrighted eyes and ears. The scenes of the pre-millennial Armageddon are re-enacted on an enlarged scale. The earth opens her terrific jaws to receive the stunned and blaspheming multitudes, who are engulfed in a catastrophe that wipes the last trace of rebellion from the history of the earth. "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet (here there is an ellipsis in the original. It is supplied in the common version by the word "are;" but as the allusion is historic, -- pointing to what happened at the
beginning of the thousand years, it seems more rational to make the ellipsis historic, and to read, instead of "where the beast and false prophet are", " where the beast and false prophet were cast," intimating that the fate that consumed the leaders of the Armageddon pre-millennial war now befals those of the post-millennial insurrection) -- and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." This is the symbolic intimation of the fact that the divine affliction that overtakes the official heads and leaders of the post-millennial revolt against the camp of the saints will prevail over them without remedy. Sodom and Gomorrha are pointed to as examples of what we are to understand by a scriptural "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude, verse 7). The fire of God's judgment consumed them without remedy, (Lam. 4:6). The leaders of post-millennial diabolism will be secured, and made the subjects of a formal and awful consignment to their well-merited fate. It will be found a pleasant exercise to consider how appropriate a finish to the history of sin upon earth is this great appointed post-millennial revolt of nations. Sin is allowed the opportunity of coming to a great head, so to speak. It gathers up its power, comes into the presence of its destroyer, provokes mortal combat, and is finished at one terrible blow. There is a dramatic completeness about such an arrangement, which is in harmony with the beautiful wisdom that is manifest in all the works of God.
It involves certain details which will readily occur to us. While all the world is nationally implicated in this rebellion, there will, of course, be thousands, nay, millions, who take no part in it. We are not told in so many words, but it follows from certain things testified. For example, the saints accepted and glorified at the coming of Christ are styled "the firstfruits" (Rev. 14:4). This designation is. borrowed from the Mosaic shadow of these "good things to come." Israel were required to offer the first ripe fruits of the field in thanksgiving and joy before God: this was afterwards followed by the full harvest, when there was again a feast of gladness coinciding with the feast of tabernacles. These Mosaic arrangements were of divine appointment and foreshadowed the ultimate purpose of Jehovah in Christ. Now as the glorification of "the ecclesia of the firstborn" at the return of Christ, is the antitype of the "first fruits," there must be a counterpart to the feast of ingathering. There must be a great harvest of human life to glory, honour, and immortality at the close of a thousand years. What else could come of an age when "the glory of the
Lord" prevails on the earth like the spread of the mighty ocean in its bed? It is testified that the reign of Christ is to this end -- that he put all enemies under his feet (1 Cor. 15:25). And "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (verse 26). It consequently follows that at the close of his reign, there will be a vast multitude who have learnt to walk in Jehovah's ways (Isa. 2:3), from whom the veil and the darkness of these gloomy times will have been removed, with the effect of making them turn to Jehovah with a fervent and joyful faith and obedience (Isa. 25:7), in readiness for investiture with the glorious attribute of immortality. These will not be found in the rebellious ranks of the Satanic multitude. Their refusal to join them may bring upon them evil consequences permitted as a closing proof of their obedience. The unchecked success of the revolt up to a certain point, which may involve the preparation of years, will certainly be a sore trial to the mortal faithful. But the end will justify their refusal to be compromised. The sudden destruction of the presumptuous host will be followed by the recognition, praise and immortalization of the faithful multitude everywhere, who have stood aloof from the popular conspiracy against the Lord's anointed.
But will there be no dead waiting to stand in the same category of approbation? Will death have made no havoc in the populations under the reign of Christ and the saints? This question is answered (supposing there were no other answer), by the statement that "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." If death is the last enemy to be destroyed, it follows that death is not destroyed until after the destruction of the Gog and Magog multitude of the post-millennial revolt. Consequently death is at work up to that point, though greatly weakened in its power like every other evil at that time when the blessing of Israel's God sheds a healing beneficence on land and ocean. There is direct evidence of the soundness of this conclusion in the directions given to the mortal Levitical priests of that age, to "come at no dead person to defile themselves" (Ezek. 44:25), and in the permission to them to "take for their wives a widow ... that had a priest before" (verse 22); likewise in the statement of Isaiah that "the child shall die an hundred years old" (Isa. 65:20), that is, a man dying at a hundred years old will in those days be considered a child. Human life will be much prolonged. Still, death reigns till abolished at the crisis brought on at the end of the thousand years by the revolt of the nations.
Now the aggregate of those who
die during the reign of Christ must be very great, and as these will be times of great light, they will be times of great responsibility. Consequently when at the suppression of the post-millennial revolt, the time arrives for the great antitypical harvest into life eternal, something like a general resurrection must take place, differing very much in its extent from that which takes place at the pre-millennial coming of Christ, on account of the great difference in the dispensation preceding it. This seems to be the teaching of the scene next described by John: "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to his works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."
The import of the leading features of this scene must be evident enough. A great white throne -- the symbol of righteousness in judgment: the occupant of it, the Mighty One before whose face the whole fabric reared by the post-millennial politicians had crumbled into nothing; the dead, those who had died but were now raised; the opened books, symbols of the law by which they will be judged; the book of life, the divine record (preserved on something more enduring than parchment) of those who are chosen for life eternal because of obedience; the casting of death and hell into the lake of fire, the obliteration of death and the grave from the earth by the giving over to the destroying judgment of God of all who are divinely decreed worthy of death, leaving in the land of the living those only who by the same prerogative are adjudged worthy of the unspeakable gift of immortality.
When this mighty result has been reached, a new state of things upon the earth must result from the altered conditions. Till then sin and death will always more or less have prevailed, necessitating arrangements and institutions suitable thereto. But now, the population will be without exception immortal, and socially and racially fused into ONE, as the result of assimilation to a common perfection of nature and harmony with God. What must come out of such a change but the
alteration of constitution symbolically described in the next succeeding words of John (chap. 21:1-4): "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw 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 heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away".
This seems to be the consummation alluded to by Paul, when he speaks of Christ at the end "delivering-up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when he shall have put down all authority and power ... when all things (including the last enemy, death -- see verse 26) shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto Him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:24 - 28). It is manifest that the full accomplishment, at the end of the thousand years, of the work of Christ who came to "take away the sin of the world", and therefore death, the effect of it, will require a change in the constitution of things. There has been a gradual change since the beginning. The introduction of sin caused a breach between man and his Creator, whose benevolence and wisdom proposed a healing of the breach by gradual measures which should bring more glory and joy at the last than if no breach had taken place. These measures began with worship at a distance -- outside of Eden -- through the medium of sacrifice. The next stage brought a whole nation close to God as His chosen people, under an arrangement, however, which was but "a shadow" of the final form of the proposed goodness; for "the law (of Moses) was a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image thereof" (Heb. 10:1). The next stage introduces Jesus and offers him to the world as the medium of approach on the part of a few among mankind who should respond to the invitation to "come out from among them", and in the midst of the surrounding alienation, to become "sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty." The next stage shows this class glorified with Christ, at the restoration of the kingdom again to Israel at the return of Christ, and the subjection of all nations to the sceptre of the house of David in his most righteous hands. In this stage of the plan,
his accepted brethren rule all the world for a thousand years as "kings and priests" for the purpose of bringing the world to God. All nations are brought into a worshipping relation to God, but still it is worship at a distance, so to speak. They are a mixed multitude with godliness in the ascendant, but still with an element of the constitutional diabolism of human nature not altogether latent. They use sacrifice and they approach God through the millennial priesthood. A thousand years of this arrangement provides from amongst the nations a sufficient population of enlightened and obedient members of the human family to occupy the earth as its immortal, joyous, and God-glorifying inhabitants. These by resurrection and transformation are glorified, and the remnant destroyed. Sin and death have disappeared. What need then for priesthood? What need for the institution of a kingdom, designed, with iron rod, to keep the world in subjection, and the nations in the way of light and life? Manifestly, there must needs be a change. The nature of the change in its details we cannot know. We should need experience of the Spirit-nature to understand. Suffice it to note that the Father is no longer in the background: "the Son himself is subject." God himself is "with men" and "their God": and there is a cessation of every evil and every curse: "no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away", In this state of things, Jesus and his brethren will always occupy the highest rank of the firstborn; but they and earth's entire population are all one, and worship God without mediation. This is the promised "New heaven and new earth", not literal heavens and literal earth: for these have been from of old and shall be for ever (Psa. 78:69; Jer. 31:35-36; Psa. 89:36-37); but new heavens and new earth in the figurative sense of a new system of things -- a sense constantly exemplified in the writings of the prophets (Isa. 13:10-19; Jer. 4:23-28; Isa. 65:17-19). The making of these "new heavens and new earth" begins at the commencement of the thousand years in "planting the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth" (Isa. 51:16). But they are not seen in their finished form till the consummation depicted in the chapter we are considering. When they are finished, there is "no more sea" -- no more sea in the apocalyptic sense. This sense is defined in chap. 17:15: "The waters which thou sawest where the whore sitteth, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues." When the end of the thousand years
is reached, these will have ceased to be. The world will be one race and one family--and that, a new race, an immortal race--the last Adam in, multitude -- as the heir of the first Adam in multitude who will then have passed away. This last Adam multitude being in Christ are all the seed of Abraham, as Paul says, "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed." Being Abraham's seed, they are Israel. Consequently, in their sole occupation of the earth when "the former things shall have passed away," there will be a fulfilment of what God says by Jeremiah concerning the House of Israel: "Though I make a full end of all nations among whom I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee" (Jer. 30:11). Abraham will also see in its fullest sense the meaning of the promise made to him, "I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore" (Gen. 22:17).
"And he that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write; for these words are true and faithful." This is the glorious hope of the gospel. The old groaning earth is to be renewed and revivified by the removal of every curse in the day of Christ's completed triumph. This pledge of God is the true and only enlightened form of the musty tradition of all ages, that there is a good time coming. There is no hope of a good time except in the way God has planned and promised. Science and literature are all very well in their place: they can do nothing to remove the inherent abortiveness of the present constitution of things. God will do this in the way He has revealed; and He here invites to a participation in the coming feast of life and gladness (verses 6-7): "I will give unto him that is athirst of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." Another class is mentioned by way of warning (verse 8): "The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death"
And now we turn to a specially beautiful picture. You will recollect that having completed the exhibition of symbols illustrative of the dark and dreadful history of Europe under Paganism and the Papacy, one of the seven vial-angels invited John (chap. 17:1) to a special view of the queen-city of those times, in her ecclesiastical and political relations, saying to him, "Come hither, and I will shew thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many
waters;" upon which John was carried away into a wilderness, where he beheld a sort of nightmare vision: a gaudy, betrinketed, intoxicated prostitute on the back of a seven-headed monster, dominating and misleading and dementing the nations of the earth.
There is a companion picture to this in the chapter before us, but different in every particular.
Having completed the exhibition of symbols illustrative of the glorious emancipation of the earth under the reign of Christ and the saints, one of the same group of angels -- viz., "one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues" -- invites John to a special view of the queen-city of that age of light and glory. He is taken, not to a wilderness, but "to a great and high mountain," and what a glorious spectacle bursts upon his view! "The holy Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven, having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal, and it had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels ... and the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones." There are certain particulars given which we shall look at presently: but let us first look at the general character and purport of the vision.
In the first place, it is impossible not to be struck with the extreme contrast between the symbols chosen to represent the present benighted constitution of things in the world, and those here exhibited to illustrate the glory of the coming age of God's completed purpose. Everything that is odious, repulsive, hideous, horrible, and frightful is suggested by the spectacle of a complex monster, mounting on its back and bearing through the dark waters an inebriated, senseless, domineering, wicked woman. This is the spirit of God's illustration of the character of the present age. It embodies the present evil world as it appears from the divine standpoint -- the standpoint of true enlightenment. Its perfect appropriateness will be appreciated by all who have learnt to estimate things as they ought to be estimated. The civil government of the world, upheld by the sword, and administering law in the interests of a few, and applying it towards the many in a mechanical, indiscriminating, unfeeling manner, to their distress and impoverishment, -- are well summed up in one dreadful, devouring beast of prey; while the Church they maintain among them, which coquettes with the civil authorities for the sake of temporal advantage, and deceives the multitude
with forms and phrases, cheating the understanding and robbing the heart with dogmatic fables and benighted traditions, stupefying and degrading the population with corrupt and corrupting doctrines, -- could not be better represented than by the heartless and degraded rider of the monster. Together they furnish the "coat of arms" of the present evil world: the heraldry of "the kingdoms of this world."
With what relief we turn to the symbol of the age when these shall have become "the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ" -- a city of glory, perfect in symmetry, dazzling in transparent brightness, and sparkling with the colours of every gem, -- with streets of gold, foundations of precious stone, and its municipal names derived from the apostles of the Lamb. It is a fitting symbol of the government which will fill the earth with the glory of the Lord, and bless mankind with justice, love, peace, wealth, and wellbeing in all that pertains to God and man -- a government that will concern itself with the honour of Jehovah, and the welfare of the poor, and that with omnipotent hand will vindicate the rights of God and quell all the sons of pride. Some have imagined the city literal. This would be out of harmony with the whole character of the vision, which begins by showing seven churches as seven golden candlesticks, and ends by exhibiting eternal life as a river. It would also be inconsistent with the express intimation John received as to the purport of the New Jerusalem he was about to see. The angel said to him, "I will show thee the bride THE LAMB'S WIFE". You all know who she is. She is the aggregate of the Lord's glorified brethren. Hence the city is a symbol of the saints. It may be noticed as a peculiarity -- not as a difficulty -- that in this case we have a symbol duplicated somewhat in the way we found time drawn in twice, so to speak, in representing the duration of the war with the Lamb. We have first the saints represented by a bride and then the bride symbolized by a city. If it be asked, how is this, we probably find the answer in the fact that while the bride represents the saints in what we may call their domestic relation to the Lord Jesus, the city represents them (this same bride-community), in their public political relations. At all events, there can be no question that in dealing with the new Jerusalem, we are dealing with a symbol of "the bride, the Lamb's wife," and therefore with a symbol of the saints in the corporate completeness of the day of their manifested glory. What a boundless field of grateful contemplation is here opened up to the minds of weary saints, who have here no continuing city and who
groan within themselves at the many and sore evils of the present hour. They languish on the highway while they pursue their way Zion-wards. They are few, scattered, tired and faint. The road is rough, the air is cold, the night is dark. Their spirits ofttimes quail within them, and they are ready to give up. Is it not a great reviving of hope and courage to look forward and know that in a short time at the longest, they will find themselves at the end of the weary journey, within the walls of the glorious house of God, where there are myriads of rejoicing saints, clad in the garments of praise and mantled in the immortal strength of a glorified nature? Our hopes may droop, our hearts despond sometimes; "for a season if need be, we are in heaviness through manifold temptations." But it is only for a moment, though it seems long. New Jerusalem awaits: the family of God -- a large family -- an intelligent family -- a noble family -- a loving family -- a family with a thrilling history, bridging all the earth's dark ages -- is the coming institution of the age of gladness promised from the beginning. By the vision shown to John, though not by that alone, we look forward and see it enthroned in Zion, with all power in their hands, all wealth at their disposal, all strength and life and joy in their possession, for the glory of earth's Creator and the blessing of universal man.
The details of the city's architecture will be found to correspond with the leading features of the divine polity as subsisting in what is apostolically designated "the commonwealth of Israel." There are twelve gates (verse 12) bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, and at each of the gates an angel. The gates represent entrance: the angels, the divine invitation to enter, and the names, the Israelitish character of the institution in which those who accept the invitation find themselves when they "enter in through the gates into the city" (22:14). We have found frequent illustration of this feature in the course of the apocalyptic visions, viz., that salvation is of the Jews, and that the basis of the divine operation in the earth is that laid in the first instance in the choice of the seed of Abraham as historically and racially represented in the twelve tribes of Israel. The four living creatures, the four and twenty elders, the 144,000, the twelve tribes of Israel, the temple, the holy city, the altar, etc., etc., are all symbols of Israelitish affinity. They teach a lesson much needed but much derided in our day, that "to Abraham and his seed are the promises made" (Gal. 3:16), and that Gentiles in the flesh have no
hope and are without God in the world (Eph. 2:12).
"The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (verse 14). This is intelligible in view of the fact that the twelve apostles were the official agency for the development of the mystical body of Christ. The multitudinous body considered under the figure of a city, is built on the foundation of the apostles. Paul makes use of this very expression in his letter to the Ephesians (chap. 2:20), "Ye are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." This idea in a condensed and complete form is presented in the symbol of a twelve-foundationed city, bearing the names of the apostles. The name of Judas will not be found garnished there: by transgression, he fell from his place (Acts 1:25), and was substituted by Matthias, whose election is divinely endorsed in the narrative of the Acts, and was ratified by his inclusion in the apostolic band, on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14). His case illustrates that of many others whose names, originally inscribed in the book of life, will be found erased (Rev. 3:5).
"He that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city" -- not a rhabdos, like the reed given to John in chapter 11:1, to measure off the temple of God for affliction. The time of affliction is past in chapter 21. The Holy City is measured then for glory, honour, and immortality; and the measuring reed is golden. Faith, having been tried, has come out of the fire like pure gold; and receives its compensation in the divine use to which it is put. Faith under trial is pleasing to God, and He will show His pleasure in the measureless bounty of wellbeing He will bestow upon His saints in the day of their New-Jerusalem manifestation.
"The city lieth foursquare; and the length is as large as the breadth; and he measured the city with the reed -- twelve thousand furlongs. The length, and the breadth, and the height of it are equal" (verse 16). Here we have an immense cube as the form of the symbolical city. This is the perfection of geometrical symmetry, and indicates the finished completeness of the body of Christ when fully developed. God is the God of order. It is not more shown in His handiwork in the universe than it will be shown in the constitution of the body of Christ. There will be so many saints in it, and to each his perfect place. The measurement of the cube again brings out the Israelitish character of the hope. The arithmetical basis of all Israelitish arrangements is
twelve, as we have before seen. This cube measures TWELVE thousand furlongs on any side. Its contents give us the enormous number of 1,728,000,000 (one billion, seven hundred and twenty-eight thousand millions) of cubic furlongs. The elements of this cubical city represent the saints. Each cubic furlong represents an individual saint; and the whole in one cube is the symbol of the ultimate fulness and perfection of Israel's "everlasting salvation" (Isa. 45:17).
The wall has the same characteristic. "He measured the wait thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits -- the measure of a man: that is, of the angel" (verse 17). The wall is Jehovah's protection, as saith Jehovah, "I will be a wall of fire unto her round about" (Zech. 2:5). But what shape does this protection take? It takes the shape of Christ and the saints, the defenders of Israel in the age to come. Consequently, they are the wall as well as the city. The measurement shows it: 144 cubits. This is said to be "the measure of a man." This seems confusion to call the measure of a wall the measure of a man. The explanation is to be found in the fact that the wall is only the architectural form of the symbolic man, consisting of Christ and the saints as head and body -- the one new man of Paul's discourse (Eph. 4:24). But it adds, "that is, of the angel."s This apparently increases the confusion. But this appearance vanishes when we realize that the measurement in question is the measurement of the New Man in the angel state. The New Man exists now; that is, the small part of him that is not in the grave; but he is in the flesh, and not in the state contemplated as the finality of his development. That state is the state of equality with the angels. It is in this state of angel-equality that the New Man is symbolized by the New Jerusalem.
But it might be said, the reference to the angel is to the messenger that was showing John these things. True, but it is evident that the angel himself is made to constitute a part of the significations related to the vision. Dr. Thomas has pointed out what would escape the attention of a superficial reader, that when the temple of chapter 11:1, symbolizing the saints in the days of their mortal probation, had to be measured off for affliction with the reed like to a rhabdos, John himself, as a saint in the day of the mortality, was asked to perform the measurement; whereas, in the chapter we are considering, when a structure is introduced to represent the saints in their glorified state, the angel, as an immortal, performs the measurement. The angel, therefore, stood to represent the glorified
saints, and to represent all of them; and, therefore, the measure of the wall (144 cubits) was "the measure of the man, that is, of the angel."
"The building of the wall of it was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass." Gold in a transparent state is unknown to the metallurgy of present experience. The use of a finer gold than is known to man, to represent the nature of the city, illustrates the absolute perfection appertaining to the body of Christ in its glorified state. It speaks to us of the saints delivered from the alloy of present weakness, and clothed with the power and perfection of the divine nature. They are conscious of many deficiencies -- many disqualifications in their present state. When they reach the translucent gold state, none of them will have any more to say with David, "My soul cleaveth to the dust," or to groan with Paul, "O wretched man that I am!" A supernal calm -- a pure and continual vigour -- the delicious glow of a never-dimming love to God and man -- will fit them to rejoice in the Lord alway, and to pour their unstinted benefactions on a rejoicing earth.
"The foundations of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones." If the foundation stones are the apostles, the precious stones with which they are set and sparkle must stand for those who have been brought to Christ through their word and work. Peter speaks of such as lively stones (that is, living, sparkling, lustrous stones, as contrasted with dull, dead, common stones) -- "built up a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5). Paul also speaks of worthy saints as "gold, silver, and precious stones," incorporate in the building which has Christ for its chief foundation. What this means in the literal is very attractive to consider. Paul takes us a step towards the literal understanding in speaking of the Thessalonians as "his glory and his joy" in the day of the Lord. He does the same in remarking that if any man's work in Christ be destroyed -- that is, if those whom he has brought to the truth are rejected -- "he shall suffer loss" (1 Cor. 3:15). This hint suggests to the mind a beautiful organization of the body of Christ in the day of recompense. It will not simply be a multitude of saved men and women, but a multitude socially organized in a way that will reflect their history and secure for all the highest gratification that order is capable of yielding. We see it from the head to the foot. Christ is the author of all the salvation and the joy: in the kingdom he is the head, to whom every knee bows and every tongue confesses. The apostles were foremost in the mission and in the labours of the truth: they
are the highest in the second grade of the kingdom, for they are the heads of the tribes of the house of Jacob in the day of restoration (Matt. 19:28). The earner of ten pounds has assigned to him ten cities: the earner of five, five cities (Luke 19:17-19). All and sundry are declared amenable to the rule that "he that soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully", and vice versa (2 Cor. 9:6), that "Christ will reward every man according to his works" (Matt. 16:27). Consequently "they that turn many to righteousness" shall specially shine in the kingdom (Dan. 12:3). What this involves as regards the actual arrangements of the kingdom is hinted at in the clustered gems that bedeck the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem. Those who bring men and women to the truth and help to keep them there, may find that these will be given to them in the kingdom in a special way, while they themselves will belong to those above them, to whose instrumentality they may owe their own standing in the One Body. All will reign: all will exercise authority, but in various positions and relations and in different degrees of glory and honour. The lowest will not envy the highest, but will find themselves exactly suited to the places assigned to them; and the highest will not exercise their power with arrogance, but will exhibit the pure and loving condescension of the highest of them all, who humbled himself even unto death. There will be no schism in the body of Christ. It will be an absolute unity, like the human body to which it is compared, yet exhibiting the diversity of organization and function which is the highest glory of that wonderful work of God.
The twelve foundations had not only each a different name, but each was of a different material. "The first foundation was jasper (BRIGHT GREEN); the second, sapphire (BLUE); the third, a chalcedony (DEEP RED); the fourth, an emerald (GREEN); the fifth, sardonyx (LIGHT PINK); the sixth, sardius (FLESH COLOUR); the seventh, chrysolite (YELLOWISH DULL GREEN); the eighth, beryl (SEA GREEN); the ninth, a topaz (YELLOW); the tenth, a chrysoprasus (GOLDEN GREEN); the eleventh, jacinth (ORANGE); the twelfth, an amethyst (VIOLET)." Whether there will prove to be any exactness of correspondence between the nature of these precious stones and the apostles they represent, we cannot know beforehand; but it must be manifest that one thing is distinctly signified by this classification, and that is that diversity of excellence will characterize the spirit state. The saints will not be all to one pattern. They will be all of a sort in one way. They will all be precious stones: but each with a preciousness of his own which
gains by comparison with the preciousness of his neighbour. We see the principle faintly at work now. Brethren, resembling each other closely in their love of God and their affection for all spiritual things, and their fruitfulness in every good word and work, may yet differ entirely in their intellectual and moral characteristics. The difference, so far from being a defect, is an excellence, giving zest to their intercourse and their love one for another. We shall see this law in perfection in the supernal state to which the truth in its obedience will finally introduce men and women who please God through Christ. One other idea is suggested by the employment of precious stones to represent the saints. Precious stones owe their beauty to the light. In the absence of light they are dark; let the light come and they glow in all the dazzling and many-coloured refractions that give them their preciousness. The counterpart will be recognized in the relation of Christ as the sun to the precious stones, his brethren. Apart from him, they can do nothing and are nothing. "The head of every man (of them) is Christ, and the head of Christ is God." This is true both now and hereafter. At the same time, there must be fitness in themselves to reflect the light. The brightest sunshine falling on brick produces no beauty; it only reveals the deformity of fire-baked stuff. There must be a nature in the stones suitable to the light. There must be-good soil before the seed will germinate. There must be the honest and good heart before the fruit of the spirit will come forth. This is a matter of original bestowal to some extent, but the education of the truth, ministered by the word of God as contained in the holy oracles committed to Israel, has a wonderful power to change the old inferior man into a new man, created after the image of the firstborn -- the Lord Jesus.
"I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." A temple is that which contains the worshippers who come into the building for the seclusion and abstraction necessary for the act of worship. The New Jerusalem is a mystical city of worshippers. It exists as such. It is not like present cities in which the staple pre-occupations of the people are secular, and "religion" a thing they attend to now and then, and who therefore require buildings in which to attend to the matter occasionally. The city exists for the glory of God, and reflects it to the ends of the earth. Therefore a temple in its architecture would have been an anomaly. God Himself is the temple of the people who compose it. They are all in God and Christ in being in the Spirit,
that is, in being changed from flesh nature to spirit nature in that birth of the Spirit which makes them spirit. This change makes them one with the universe-filling Spirit of which the Father is the focal centre. They are, therefore, in Him, and with Him, and before Him all the time. They need not to retire from the city for seclusion and concentration of attention. Their whole existence is an act of divine communion and praise.
But we should make a mistake in supposing that because this symbolic city has no temple, therefore the temple exhibited to Ezekiel as the central pivot of the glorious government machinery of the future age will not have a literal existence. There is a place for every truth. What is true of the symbolic New Jerusalem is no guide to the truths concerning the literal arrangements of the kingdom of God. This we must seek at other sources, which are very abundant and very clear.
"The City had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." The sun and moon, as symbolical objects shown in connection with their objects, would imply that the second class of objects were indebted for light, power, and glory to sources exterior to themselves. With this in view it would have been eminently inappropriate to have shown a sun and moon over the New Jerusalem. It would have been to intimate that Jesus and the saints were dependent upon the favour of some other power in the earth for the exercise of their authority over the nations of the earth. The power and light of the New Jerusalem are inherent. They belong to the body of Christ "of right Divine." God is their power and glory, both by the favour and by the upholding presence of His powerful Spirit in glorious manifestation in Jesus His Name-bearer, and, through him, in all his brethren. Therefore it has no need of illumination from without.
"The nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it, and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it; And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of all nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." This will be easily understood by those who have followed what has gone before, and who comprehend the gospel of the kingdom. The New Jerusalem is the governing institution of the future age. It is the official
incorporation and manifestation of the power of God, following on the change which turns "the kingdoms of this world" into "the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." Christ and the saints, enthroned in the land of promise in glory, honour, and immortality, are the New Jerusalem, in the light of which the nations will walk, in which there will be no night, but everlasting day, whose attention to mankind will not be intermittent through weakness, and at whose feet will be poured the wealth and honour of all nations. Into their glorious community none will be admitted who do not conform to the standard of well-being exhibited in the revealed will of God.
Its being called New Jerusalem is due to the fact that Jerusalem has already once been the seat of divine government, based upon the law of Moses. Jerusalem under this arrangement of things is the old Jerusalem. Jerusalem, under the new constitution of things, will as, far exceed the old as the Prophet like unto Moses exceeds Moses himself, who was but a servant, "for a testimony (or type) of those things that were to be spoken after" (Heb. 3:5). She is said to "come down from God out of heaven," because in Christ coming from heaven, she comes from heaven. He comes as her glorious germ, in the same way as the kingdom of David was said to come with him when he rode into Jerusalem (Mark 11:10; Luke 19:38). On his arrival on the earth, he develops from the dust, by the resurrection-power God has given, the multitude of his saints of all ages, whom, after judgment, he organizes and manifests to the world as the New Jerusalem -- the new government of the kingdom of David, to whom all the world must be subject, and by whom all the world will be blessed.
There remains one point of apparent discrepancy to be considered. Rev. 21:2 represents the New Jerusalem coming down from God at the close of the thousand years, whereas the line of remark just indulged in points to her manifestation at the commencement of that period. The explanation is doubtless to be found in the fact illustrated in the case of the new heavens and new earth, which, while commencing with the thousand years, have their special and final manifestation in the state of things reached at the close of that period. The New Jerusalem is the metropolitan institution of the age to come; but its fullest glory will not be manifest till all enemies are put under her feet, death itself destroyed, and she established as the Queen of the endless ages, the permanent tabernacle of Jehovah's glory among the glorified and rejoicing" nations of them that are saved" (verse 24). We cannot
but believe that the inauguration of these, the endless ages of perfection on the earth, under the headship of Jesus and his New Jerusalem bride, will be accompanied by some signal revelation of her glory to the whole of earth's ransomed population, at the close of the thousand years. This would explain the fact of John seeing a post-millennial manifestation of the city which exercises authority over men for a thousand years before. The object of the thousand years ascendancy is to abolish all curse. But this object is not realized till the close of that period. It is therefore not inappropriate that her special manifestation should be represented at the time the great work is done.
We see a new wonder in connection with government in chap. 22:1. Here we read of "a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." Water is the constant symbol of life in the Bible's figurative discourse (John 4:14; Isa. 55:1; Rev. 21:6; 22:17). Here we have the fact that the fountain of life will be in the throne. We look to the throne of Victoria: is there any fountain of life there? Let a dead Prince Consort and a dying aristocracy answer. Never has the world before seen a king that had power to keep in life, and that life immortal life, all who are loyal to him. This power resides in Jesus, "the resurrection and the life." Hidden at present, as an object of faith, it will become manifest as a fact of experience in due time. The word will rejoice in a governor who can control the weather (vide the storm on the sea of Galilee), and affect all the physical conditions of existence at his will. This power flowing out from him is beautifully symbolized by a flowing river from the throne. On each side of the river are trees, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations (verse 2). Trees thus figuratively used represent persons. So we learn from Isaiah 61:3: "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning ... that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that he might be glorified." Who are the persons that grow like trees planted by the river of life? The saints. Their leaves are for the healing of the nations. That is, their work and mission, and the effect of all they do as kings with Christ will be to cure the world of all the woes that now afflict it. It is worthy of notice as a beautiful feature that this part of the symbolism of the age to come is derived from Ezekiel's prophecy. That is to say, the objects exhibited to Ezekiel with a literal significance are here employed as symbols of the glory
that will be reached through the employment of those literal objects. The ultimate result is (verses 3-5): "There shall be no more curse (on earth). 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. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun: for the Lord God giveth them light; and they shall reign for ever and ever."
The rest of the chapter we need not dwell on particularly. It can present no special difficulty and can have your attention at leisure. It does not enter into the structure of the vision, which concludes with the glorious picture contained in the words just read. Suffice it to note the angelic declaration (verse 6), "These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done". All here can bear witness to the truth of this declaration. The tortuous and complicated history of Europe for the past eighteen hundred years has run in the lines exhibited beforehand in the vision shown to the exile of Patmos. The situation of affairs in Europe at the present moment is exactly that which this vision requires; and the future it exhibits is precisely what the benevolent heart desires as the solution of the otherwise impenetrable enigma of human life. It is a message of truth, and beauty, and consolation. It has come down to us from Jesus, who says (chapter 22:16): "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the Churches". How sad so few are to be found who understand and believe it. Be it ours to do our duty, with whatever result. Be it ours to earn for ourselves, and as many others as we can influence to that end, the opening blessing of the book (chap. 1:3), "Blessed is he that readeth, and they who hear the words of the prophecy of this book". Be it ours to have in continual remembrance the fact stated in the last verse but one of the last chapter:
"He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly."
And be it ours to join always heartily in John's own response, which has been the response of all his brethren during the long night that has enshrouded the world in the absence of Christ --
AMEN! EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS
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