The final scenes both in blessing and judgment.
final chapter continues rapid changes from threat to comfort, and back
again to threat, as either the impenitent or penitent of Israel come
into view, till at the close we see a company of the latter going out
of the city to look on the evidences of divine judgment on the former
in Gehenna (the Valley of Hinnom), beyond its walls. That scene the
Lord Himself uses as a symbol of the Lake of Fire of the New Testament;
things seen ever providing pictures of the unseen. We must note that
the threat and the comfort are quite in the same line; that is, the
threat to the one company is the comfort to the other.
divisions of the chapter are not as clearly marked as others, but the
"three" has been so strongly imprinted on what we have seen that I keep
to it here:
1: Verses 1-4: The Majesty of Jehovah; whom He chooses, and whom He reprobates.
2: Verses 5-16: Israel's blessing in judgment on her foes.
3: Verses 17-24: Final destiny of both.
The first part reads thus:
1: Thus saith Jehovah:
The heavens above alone are My throne,
And earth's but a stool for My feet:
What kind of a dwelling then will ye build Me?
And what kind of place for My rest?
2: All that exists, 'tis My hand hath made,
And thus they all came into being,
So saith Jehovah!
But this is the one on whom I will look:
On him who is poor,
In spirit contrite,
And trembleth for fear at My word!
3: Who slayeth an ox, killeth a man!
Who offers a lamb, breaks the neck of a dog!
Who brings an oblation, 'tis the blood of a swine!
Who burneth the incense, 'tis the blessing an idol!
Yea, they have chosen their ways,
Have delighted in what is abhorrent;
4: So will I choose their delusions,
And bring their terrors upon them.
Because when I called none did answer,
Because when I spoke none did listen,
But evil they've done in My eyes,
And chosen what gave Me no pleasure.
chapter begins with the passage quoted by Stephen as he summed up his
charge against the representatives of impenitent religion of his day.
Jehovah has the infinite heavens above, tier above tier with no
limitation, for His throne, and this expresses that there is no bound
to His government. His glory must be announced through all that
limitless realm, as we are told later. The earth is but as a footstool
for His Feet: will any think that He needs a house built upon that?
Will any think that He is wandering restlessly looking for some settled
dwelling? There is not any physical thing existing that does not owe
that existence to His word. "All these things"—and as He speaks, He
points, as it were, with His finger to the visible universe—"are but
the work of My hand."
But notwithstanding the infinity of His
inscrutable being, His limitless majesty, His glorious splendor, His
resistless power, there is one dwelling that He will not despise, one
object that will arrest His Eye; well may we ask with deepest interest
what that can be.
First we note that that object of delight is
not here found amid the principalities and powers of heaven. Neither
Michael nor Gabriel, nor any of heaven's glories, stay the search of
that Eye. To earth must it come, and when there, it is not on some
mighty host or large company. His Eye passes over all, all crowds, all
congregations, all assemblies, to rest on one individual!
look at that one very carefully. We shall perhaps be surprised to note
that he is not distinguished by anything that men esteem of value. He
is not remarkable for wealth, for power, or social position. No marvel
of invention, no feat of daring, no eloquence that thrills, no power in
debate, no activity in church-work marks him. Orthodoxy, energy,
ability, eloquence—all suffice not to arrest His Eye. It passes over
all such, and continues its search till it rests on one. Shall we not,
I again say, look at him carefully, and learn what is so attractive
that the Eye of the Omniscient stays its search and rests there?
are three marks that are approved, and the first is, he is "poor." We
may be quite sure that any thought of mere financial poverty must be
dismissed, although in Israel's day it might cover that; but the very
word used goes deeper. It speaks of such consciousness of deep need as
brings to the ground every high thought of self. It goes far beyond
mere lip confession, which may be the language that utter indifference
may use. No, it is the one who is, actually is, poor, and is afflicted
by the sense of that poverty, for the word here used for "poor" carries
in it the closely related thoughts of affliction. That man who stood in
the temple with bowed head, and eyes cast down, saying simply: "God be
merciful to me the sinner," was poor indeed; and God looked upon him!
Myriads may utter almost the same words: "Lord, have mercy upon us,
miserable sinners," but that Eye of God may find little resting-place
there—the proudest spirit may utter the lowliest words. Saul of Tarsus
is quite wealthy in his own estimate as he journeys to Damascus; but in
a moment all his wealth shrivels in the glory of the light that shines,
and he too becomes instantly "poor"; yet then that Eye marked him, and
sent Ananias for his comfort. To this very day, 'tis with such, and
only with such, that the mighty God has His dwelling. There was one
spot on earth where He, who was the brightness of God's glory and the
exact expression of His substance, ever found His dwelling-place. Again
and again we find Him going to Bethany, "The house of the poor."1 Is not that in perfect accord with the word of our prophet?
next mark is the outcome of this poverty: he is "of a contrite spirit,"
precisely the reverse of what is so highly esteemed among men, "a man
of spirit," that is, self-assertive and insistent on what he esteems
his right. It does not mean one who is abject, but one whose conviction
of his own real poverty, need and sin has stopped his mouth not only
from all self-justification, but from all accusation of others. Perhaps
one of the best illustrations that we have of such contrition is in
that poor thief who hung by the side of our Lord when he said to his
fellow: "Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same
condemnation? And we indeed justly." That only is true contrition which
stops all accusation of others.
Thus contrite, all self-esteem
broken down, all pride abased, the spirit is awake to the voice of
Jehovah in His Word, and he listens to it, or reads it, with trembling
reverence. This becomes the third mark. It is one of the grave dangers
of the form of government under which we live—and in so speaking, I
have no thought of denying that, although the very antithesis of the
divine ideal, it may yet be the best that is practicable under present
conditions—it has at least one very grave danger for the child of God,
in its tendency to destroy all reverence. To fear anything or anyone is
assumed to be a weakness to be condemned, and the irreverence with
which our highest magistrates are spoken of is only the thin edge of a
wedge that will at last drive asunder all the ties that maintain order
among men, and overthrow, temporarily at least, all human authority and
order (Rev. 8:8-12). That spirit, alas, has invaded the Church, and we
need to ponder that path of our Lord which led Him from "Godhead's
highest glory down to Calvary's depth of woe," for that is the "mind"
that is to govern all our conduct here. But today as reverence for any
political authority—be it king or president—is esteemed by many to be a
remnant from feudalism, so any reverence for spiritual authority is a
remnant of the superstition of the Middle Ages. Alas, who of us now
really "trembles at His Word"? Forgive me for asking, but do you, dear
reader? We are told that this sacred Word is entitled to anything but
reverence, that it is filled with errors and outgrown superstitions.
Who then trembles at that Word now? But he who sees anything or its
marvels, the eternal issues that it unfolds, the stupendous drama that
it reveals, involving another creation than this, its divine marks of
majesty, profundity, simplicity, unity, the infinite tender
loving-kindness and unfathomable wisdom in the plan of eternal
salvation it brings to us poor guilty men, and at such a cost to our
God—His very Bosom lying open before us—who can but reverently fear? It
is not from slavish terror, but from the sense of responsibility such a
possession puts upon us, and our utter inability to measure up to that
responsibility. Not then with abject terror do we tremble, but with
filial reverence; not because of threats, but even because of the love
of which it tells, and our testimony to which our lives may either
adorn or mar. Not as Moses quaked before the mount, with its fire,
tempest and gloom; but as Paul at Corinth (1 Cor. 2:3), lest he should
not speak as he ought to speak.
Note then again, we have that
number "three" that has followed us all through the book; first, what
he is personally, "poor"; then the next word brings man in; and the
third shuts up to God altogether.
In strong contrast with this
appreciative "look," we have next the most startling expressions of
disgust that Jehovah directs, not against murder or adultery, but
against what people naturally look upon as being irreproachable. It is
precisely in line with the preceding chapter, in which we have seen the
divine estimate of men's "gardens," etc. There is, He says, no
difference, so far as My acceptance of your formalism, between your
offering an ox as a burnt-offering and committing murder! I take as
much, but no more, pleasure in your sacrifice of a lamb than I would in
the death of a dog! That offering, so filled with profound truth as to
the Person of Christ, if that be not discerned, but the assumed
worshipper is occupied with himself and not with My Son, then you might
just as well approach Me with swine's blood! While as to the sweet
incense, when severed from delight in the perfections of Christ of
which it speaks, I no more regard it with pleasure than I should the
adoration of an idol!
Startling enough! Could any words be more
calculated to awaken attention? It virtually returns to the burden of
the first chapter, and thus unifies the book, as the whole sacred
volume is unified by Revelation returning to Genesis, with its allusion
to Paradise, and the tree and river found in both.
Has our Lord
nothing to say to us, even us, in all this? Think of telling one who
has just soothed his conscience by "going to church," and perhaps
"taking the sacrament," that he might just as well have killed a man!
But we can recognize the identity of this Speaker with Him who spoke in
precisely the same way to the most religious men of His day, telling
them that it was the very deeds upon which they rested to give them
acceptance with God as being their good deeds, that were their "evil
deeds" (John 7:7). Can you wonder that they hated Him? You may possibly
obtain popularity if you thunder against the flagrancies that the
natural conscience revolts at, but few will love you greatly if you
witness that the heartless church-membership, the cold taking of the
sacrament, the formal religious observance, the indifferent breaking of
bread, the lukewarm prayer-meeting, are themselves unspeakably
abominable to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not
against the murderer or adulterer that the threat of being spewed out
of His mouth is directed; but that falls on the Church—the literal
Church—of which you and I are a part. Is not that worth some reflection?
never must we permit ourselves to speak thus without genuine sorrow,
and knowing something of the deceitfulness of our own hearts, for only
so shall we have that "look" of divine approval that rests solely on
the poor, the contrite and the trembler at His Word.
address next turns to the penitent remnant of Israel, and since that
remnant will be composed of our brethren in the one family of God, we
can scarcely help having an interest in their welfare, even if it did
not afford a prophecy of our own.
5: Hear ye the word of Jehovah,
Ye tremblers at His word;
Your brethren who, filled with their hate,
For the sake of My name cast you out,
Have said, Give the glory to Jah:
But 'tis for your joy He'll appear,2
'Tis they who will then be ashamed.
In the very terse, crisp, energetic sentences used, we can almost hear what is described:
6: A sound of a tumult—
It comes from the city!
A sound from the temple—
'Tis the sound of Jehovah
Requiting His foes!
Then the prophecy goes back to speak both of the Child and children, as it did in chapters 7 and 8.
7: Before she travailed
She was delivered!
Before her pangs came
A man-child was born!
8: Who ever heard such a marvel as this?
Who ever saw such marvels as these?
Can the earth e'er be made to bring forth in a day?
Has ever a nation been born in a moment?
For as soon as she travailed,
Zion brought forth her sons!
9: Shall I bring to the birth and not cause to bring forth?
Shall I who've begotten restrain from the birth?
Saith thy God!
10: Oh, joy with Jerusalem,
Dance with delight,3
All ye who do love her.
Rejoice with great joy,
All ye who mourn o'er her.
11: That ye may suck and be sated
From the breasts of her comforts,
That ye may suck and delight
From the wealth of her glory.
12: For thus saith Jehovah,
I'll cause to flow to her
Peace like a river,
And the glory of nations
As a torrent o'erflowing.
At her breasts shall ye suckle,
On her hip shall be carried,
On her lap shall be fondled.
13: E'en as a man whom his mother doth comfort,
So will I bring My comfort to you;
And in Jerusalem ye shall be comforted.
14: This shall ye see, and your heart shall rejoice,
And your bones, as the green herb, shall freshen;
His servants shall learn of the hand of the Lord,
Whilst His wrath 'gainst His foes shall burn fiercely.
15: For, behold, see Jehovah! In fire doth He come!
His chariots are as a whirlwind,
To breathe forth His anger in burning,
His rebukes in the flamings of fire!
16: For in flamings of fire doth Jehovah rebuke,
By the sword doth He judge all the peoples,
And the slain of Jehovah are many!
intermissions of time, however long, nor the intervenings of space,
however great, can affect the heart of man. As it was in the day of
Cain, as it was in the day of Isaiah, so is it to this day. All forms
of persecution are ever done under the cloak of the most pious
expressions. "Let the Lord be glorified," cry the religious persecutors
in our chapter, even as they cast out their brethren. "Give God the
praise" is the echo of this as the most religious men of their day cast
out the poor object of His love and grace in John 9:24. So, through the
centuries of our era, never a turn of the rack in the inquisition, but
it was done "to the glory of God!" Never was a martyr's fire lighted,
never a holocaust of saints, but it was called an auto-da-fé, an act of
Was truer word ever spoken than, "The time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service" (John 16:2)?
verse 6 we have the same time, and the same double evidence of the
Lord's intervention as in the pouring out of the last vial (Rev.
16:17). There, a "great voice comes out of the temple from the throne,"
announcing that the trial of man, both in the spiritual and political
spheres, has come to its end, in his rejection as a complete failure.
we attempted to see the order of events at that critical hour, putting
the various scriptures together, we might say that first the Lord's
Feet stand upon the Mount of Olives, and that results in the complete
scattering of all the military forces that, under "Beast" and "false
prophet," have been besieging and at last have captured Jerusalem that
has been held by Israel's pious remnant. Then, after pursuing to Bozrah
(chap. 63), the Lord returns, and again as in the day of the small
cords, cleanses the temple and the whole city, which is here noted by
the tumult that comes from them, for it is the Lord rendering
recompenses to Israel's enemies whom He counts His own.
brings us to one of those beauties of Scripture that itself compels
conviction of its divine Authorship. Let us note the strange difference
between verses 7 and 8. In the former it is before Zion travailed she
brought forth a Man-Child, while in the latter it is "as soon as Zion
travailed she brought forth her children," those "children" then are
the fruit of suffering.
It is quite true that the system of
prophetic interpretation so long adopted by Christian expositors has
compelled them to see no distinction in these two verses: the Man-Child
is the nation born at once, and then that "nation" has to become the
Christian Church. But this is surely indefensible, both because it
evacuates the plain word as it is written, in both members, and also
because Israel is never called "the Man-Child"; that is a term applied
to Christ when thus used, as in Rev. 12:5, where the word is "a son, a
Consider how entirely it is in accord with what occurred
seven centuries later. All was at peace when the shepherds listened to
the chant of that angel-choir on Bethlehem's hill. No travail-pangs
disturbed the nation then; and so "before she travailed," Israel, "of
whom as concerning the flesh Christ came" (Rom. 9:5), has brought forth
the Man-Child, and there He lies in the manger at Bethlehem!
a long year must pass before the next verse—quite contiguous though it
be on the sacred page—is fulfilled; and then Zion must go into those
travail-pangs of which the Lord spoke as her "sorrows" (Matt. 24:8),
the very word for the pangs of child-birth. But, as soon as she does—at
once—lo, there are her children, in that true God-fearing remnant that
are then evidenced, produced to sight, by their refusal to worship the
Beast or receive the mark of his number in hand or head.
forward to that day, hitherto there has been no discrimination among
the Jews who have returned to Palestine, between the many and the
few—all have gone to the renewed morning and evening sacrifice as one
company. Zion's true children are not distinguished. But now that
sacrifice has been stopped suddenly in the midst of that last "week" of
seven years, and in its place "the abomination that maketh desolate"
has been set up. It is that which exposes the false and manifests the
true; and lo, there in that anguish of birth-pangs, are Zion's children
in those refusing to worship. That test reveals the "children" at once.
siege of Jerusalem, and its capture by the Romans under Titus, will not
lend itself as a final fulfilment of this prophecy, although it has
been almost a universal interpretation of it. For it is written:
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be
darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall
fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken, and then
shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all
the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming
in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matt. 24:29, 30).
Did anything of that kind take place "immediately" after the capture of
Jerusalem? The tribulation of those days still lies as much in the
future as does the coming of the Son of Man.
As the "tribulation"
that begins and centers at Jerusalem spreads over the whole earth and
becomes that "hour of trial" from which the true Church of God will be
kept (Rev. 3:16), so does the joy that follows that time of
unparalleled distress. No longer does the exclusive spirit of the
Pharisee govern that exclusive people, but they long for every nation
and tongue to share their exultant joy. If Jerusalem is nourished by
the Gentiles, she, in her turn, nourishes them. If she is enriched by
their temporal wealth, they are over-paid by the spiritual joys that
she has to give; for her Messiah, our Lord Christ, is in, and with her!
doubt the address in verses 10 to 16 is primarily to that pious people,
the Jewish remnant; but it is not to be strictly confined to them, for
all who love her, and all who have mourned over her sorrows, are
invited to join the festal singing. Peace unhindered, like an unchecked
stream, flows through that beloved city; and every expression of
nursing care is used, to show her people's nourishment, security and
rest in her.
But that must not be taken as if, in every sense,
her people were but unreasoning or thoughtless infants, for in the next
verse (13) we have a different figure. Here is a full-grown man whom we
see being comforted. That is much more affecting. Who is greatly
distressed at an infant's cry? It is its only power of speech. It has
"no language but a cry." But a grown man's tears mean far more; and
here we see a mother clasping the hand of her full-grown son, as she
speaks words of comfort to him.
The figure again changes in verse
14, and the nation is likened to an aged man, no longer in his prime,
for his bones are dried, like the branches of a tree that are seared. A
new life is made to surge through those branches, and so the "bones" of
the nation shall again become life-filled and vigorous. pictures from
infancy to age are thus brought together to tell of Jehovah's relation
and love to Israel.
This very earth is by God's unbroken purpose
to be the stage on which His righteous government shall be displayed;
and in that display may be seen the same righteous government in the
sphere above the earth, in which the conflict is with principalities
and powers in the heavenlies. But here it is with "flesh" that He
strives—the shadow of the more awful drama going on in the unseen.
The time for the revelation of that righteous government has not even yet come. Even to this day,
Wrong forever on the throne."
it must be, as long as the earth's true King has filled earth's
scaffold, and is not yet on earth's throne. From this point of view how
far from the truth is Browning's popular line:
God's in His heaven; all's right with the world.
Far truer would it be to say:
Its King is rejected; all's wrong with the world.
injustice and reversal of right that have perplexed the excellent of
the earth all through its sad history, still goes on, and God
intervenes not. It is the "mystery of God" which shall only have its
full and satisfactory solution at the sounding of that seventh trumpet
that introduces this earth's true King to His rightful Throne,
come to the last division of the last chapter of our prophet, and ever
filled with solemnity is the last, for although it is only the earth
that is directly in view here, yet as already said, the events that
take place upon it afford pictures of eternity. We are standing as it
were upon the shores of the boundless sea of eternity—a solemn place!
the most striking feature in that final judgment is in the objects
against whom it is directed. We all approve of penalties against the
breakers of the moral law, or on everything that militates against the
security, comfort, and well-being of society; but that the wrath of God
should be directed against what seems to us in itself admirable, the
very religion that commends itself to us because of its respectability
and careful moderation, that tends to arouse resentment. We are
inclined to attach no little merit to those observances by which we
still preserve much more than a shred of our native self-complacency.
And people say, although perhaps not audibly, "It is a comfort to think
that God could hardly turn to everlasting perdition those who have
'joined the church,' gone through all the forms of religion; have lived
(with those little exceptions that still cling to every human being) at
least decently in conduct. No, it is unthinkable that God could finally
Alas, it is the voice of Cain that thus speaks, and
speaks precisely as of old. A stupendous error, although it is the
broad road, and many still travel it! Not one word is there in it of
sincere confession of truth, not one breath of penitence, not one
thought of the need of forgiveness, not one whisper of gratitude for
the love that does forgive, not one emotion of adoration for the wisdom
that permits that forgiveness to be granted without unrighteousness
through the precious Blood of Christ. Most certain it is that there is
no peril, even to this day, equal to that of such a religion.
17: They who do set them apart,
Make themselves clean in the gardens,
Following one in the midst,4
Eating the flesh of the swine,
Abomination and mouse,
These all together shall perish,
18: And I their works and their thoughts. . . !
The time has come for all nations
And tongues to be gathered together,
To come and behold My glory.
19: A sign will I set in their midst,
And send forth those who've escaped,
To Tarshish, to Pul and to Lud,
Benders are they of the bow,
To Tubal and Javan: th' islands afar,
That never have heard My report,
That never have seen My glory,
Among those nations afar.
20: And these shall bring all of your brethren
Out of all of the nations,
For an offering unto Jehovah,
On horses, in coaches, in litters,
On mules, and in carriages ever swift-rolling.5
To My holy mountain of Salem,
As the children of Israel bring
An offering in a clean vessel,
Unto the house of the Lord.
21: Also of these will I take,
To be for priests and for Levites,
22: For as the heavens anew,
As the new earth which I make,
Shall forever stand fast 'fore My face,
So shall your seed and your name
Forever stand fast.
23: And it shall then come to pass,
That from new moon to new moon,
From sabbath even to sabbath,
All flesh shall come and bow down,
Before My face, saith Jehovah!
24: Then shall they go forth and look
At the corpses of men, the rebellious,
For their worm never shall die,
Their fire shall never be quenched;
Abhorred shall they be of all flesh.
17 tells us who are the objects of the judgments of fire and sword of
which we have just heard; they are primarily directed against the very
people that we might assume would escape them if anyone could, for they
sanctify themselves, and make themselves clean. If these are to
"perish," must we not ask with the Lord's first disciples, "Who then
can be saved?" But what is the motive of their sanctifying themselves?
It is that they may have that external appearance of piety that has
great honor from their fellows; and is in harmony with their external
environment, the places that they have chosen for their worship. God
must meet them in the place of their own choice, "in their gardens,"
where, as we have seen, everything speaks of their own good works. As
all through the book, Jehovah here sweeps away the outward veneer of a
popular religion, and looking underneath the fair garden-show, the
external sanctification, the formal purifying, says, "Your real
appetite is for those forbidden unclean creatures, swine and mouse
(Lev. 11:29), with which your unrenewed nature accords; and since that
reveals your moral identity with them, you must take your place with
all the impenitent, for ye all shall perish together!" Then, in verse
18, the emotion under which Jehovah Himself now speaks is told in the
broken ejaculation, as the Apostle Paul, under the power of the same
Spirit, makes us hear his sighs by the fragmentary character of his
writings, as in Gal. 5:7-9. The only way the line can be interpreted is
in view of the deep emotion under which it was spoken, for there is no
verb. As if the subject were too shocking to be continued, the Speaker
breaks off abruptly. It is very much as in Gen. 3:22, which reads, "And
now lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and
eat and live for ever," and there He stops, as if it would be
unspeakably dreadful that poor man must necessarily live away from God
in his sins forever!
In verse 19 we see, if I err not, that same
"sign" of which the Lord spoke in Matt. 24:30: "Then shall appear the
sign of the Son of Man in heaven," but here, consistently with the
spirit of the Old Testament, that Sign has reached the earth, and the
Son of Man is "in the midst of His people." But although that excellent
glory is only in one single spot, it cannot be confined there, and so
from that saved remnant, missionaries are sent with this gospel of the
kingdom to the furthest bounds of earth, to those to whom the present
gospel of the grace of God has not been preached—that "report," the
rejection of which our prophet mourned over in Chapter 53, these have
never heard at all.
In the New Testament the angels are seen as
being sent forth to "gather the elect from the four winds." Here the
angels are not seen, but many a warm-hearted Jewish missionary, who has
been through that time of great tribulation, goes to make those
outlying lands aware of what has taken place in and around Jerusalem
and how the Lord has there revealed Himself in His essential glory of
absolute Love and Light.
We must carefully note that this
excludes those who have wilfully rejected that "report" when they did
hear it. 2 Thess. 2:10-12 must throw its light on this solemn theme,
and in that light we fail to find any hope for those who have, in this
day of grace, wilfully rejected "the love of the truth"; for such there
would appear to be nothing but perishing.
In what way is the
success of these missionaries evidenced? Thus: the converted nations
hasten to take back to their homeland all the Jews whom they can find.
And what a contrast do we here note to the complete ignoring of the
present journeyings of those Jews who are returning in this day. The
Scriptures are quite silent about it, for at the present time the
Gentiles are not carrying them back in honor and affection at all; but
rather pushing them out as unwelcome guests, and often treating those
who will not go to bloody persecutions. We are told of the very means
of transport to be used, for so interested is Jehovah in what is then
occurring, that every vehicle that carries one of His elect is noted by
These missionaries are now preaching "the gospel of the
kingdom" as foretold in Matt. 24:14, and as commanded in Matt. 28:19;
and that, not the kingdom merely as at hand, nor in its present form of
"mystery," with the King rejected and away; but with the King revealed
and reigning in all the splendor of His manifested glory, and His
presumptuous rival chained in the bottomless pit (Rev. 20). We can
almost hear that saved remnant singing those psalms that have been
composed especially for that very time, as for example:
O sing to Jehovah, sing a new song!
Sing to Jehovah! Sing all the earth!
Sing to Jehovah, bless ever His name;
Shew forth His salvation day after day;
His glory declare among all the Gentiles,
His wonders among all the peoples (Ps. 96:1-3).
then shall be the joyous call of Israel to the Gentiles; and, in
response, the Gentiles bring the scattered Israel to Jehovah, as the
priests of the Sanctuary bring a "gift-offering";6 and
Jehovah accepts those Gentiles in that way. He even takes some of them
for priests and Levites, so that in that millennial day, even in the
very temple in Jerusalem, will be found Gentiles serving as priests.
That certainly forbids any continuance of the enmity between Jew and
Gentile, since they are together in that holy service (verse 21). To
restored Israel, eternal conditions are introduced at the very
beginning of the reign of her Messiah; and yet, as with all prophetic
scripture, this promise must find its place and be in harmony with all
others. There shall be in one spot a "new earth," and above it a "new
heaven," but that condition will only widen out to embrace the whole
earth and the whole heaven at the end of the reign of a "thousand
years," after the Devil has been loosed from his prison for a little
season, and finds the smouldering hostility of many an unregenerate
heart only waiting for his incitement to burst out into that last flame
of rebellion that is finally met by "fire from heaven" (Rev. 20:9).
Then comes the final judgment of The Great White Throne. The old earth
and its attendant heaven flee away, and no place is found for them; the
"second death," the "Lake of Fire," receives those impenitent and
proud, appointed alone by their own rejection of grace to that
everlasting doom, and then, and not till then, do we hear the grand
words: "Behold, I make all things new."
It would follow that this new
creation is no more universal throughout the millennial reign, than
"all things" are literally new even now for those who are in Christ. In
the land of Israel, and in the heavens that canopy it, all is literally
new and eternal; nor shall there ever be change there. Thus these
prophetic Scriptures are seen to be in perfect harmony.
It is a
beautiful and restful theme, even to us who are not the literal Israel,
and we linger over its messages. For that people, have, as we again
must say, ever afforded "types" for the heavenly or spiritual. Their
Egypt is our state of nature, away from God and slaves to sin. Their
Red Sea and the wild east-wind and the dark night, are our Calvary and
the "storm that bowed that blessed Head." Their wilderness journey
finds its clear counterpart in our spiritual journey to our Home above,
which was their "land." But do the types end there? Israel, in her
conflicts, failures, and periodic but short-lived revivals under the
Judges, still affords just as clear types as those referred to. Then
where shall that service that Israel renders to the heavenly people
come to its end? Each age or dispensation is a prophecy of the one that
succeeds it. Before our chapter closes we have in the last two verses
an earthly scene that our Lord Himself specifically uses as a picture
of an eternal one; the literal fire and worm of the one telling of
spiritual counterparts in eternity.
Then we ask, Why should not
the service of Israel be also a type of the service of the heavenly
redeemed for eternity? Then, as the eternal doom of the impenitent is
told in the literal fire and worm of lost Israel, so the ministry of
the saved is prophetically told in the ministry of saved Israel!
earthly people are sent to outlying lands to whom the "report" had not
come, to proclaim the glory of which they had not heard. That would
then be a type of the ministry of us, His servants, who shall even in
eternity serve Him (Rev. 22:3) by proclaiming His glory, in the atoning
work that He has accomplished. But where could that be, save to those
star-worlds that have, as far as we know, no limitation in number, and
each one having its spirit-ruler: the literal material host of Heaven
thus having its counterpart in the heavenly host of
spirit-principalities and powers, both being termed in Scripture the
Host of Heaven, and in their infinity providing a field for unending
This is but a deduction, but it is a deduction based,
and, it seems to me, firmly based on the Scriptures; for once admit
that Israel's history is recorded, whether historically of events past,
or prophetically of events future, to be "types for us on whom the ends
of the ages are come" (1 Cor. 10), and the suggestion becomes almost,
if not altogether, divine certainty. How different the stirring picture
this gives of eternal occupation, from the imaginations that endeavor
to fill eternity with nothing at all but singing! "At Thy right hand
are pleasures for evermore." Note the plural, for there is not one kind
of pleasure only, but such changes of unselfish occupations that forbid
our thinking of heaven as a scene of unvarying repetition, precisely as
made Solomon utter his groan of "Vanity of vanities!" as he saw
generations and constellations, winds and waters, all going in endless
unvarying circles; is that to be our heaven? Are we, as ages pass, at
last even there to cry, "Vanity of vanities"? No. A thousand times, no.
Solomon found no new thing under the sun; we are to find all things
new, and forever and constantly new, "above the sun!" New
scintillations of divine beauty, new visions of divine Love in Jesus
our Saviour, new worlds to which to announce that glory! The active
service of Israel on the earth is but a picture of similar, although
far more widespread, active service of God's redeemed in the
heavenlies; and we are plainly told of the one that we may, by an
inevitable deduction, know of the other. Surely every little ray of
light on our eternal home and its occupations is to be welcomed with
So our book closes, as does the whole volume of
revelation, with another scene. Zion is the joy of the whole earth;
thither all the nations go to worship, month by month and week by week,
for moons are still there to wax and wane, and sabbaths are again to be
kept. It is the marriage-time of Israel, and the waterpots of Cana,
those Jewish ordinances that have been so empty of life because empty
of Christ, now yield wine of the very best, for Christ is seen in
everything. The memories that the new moon brings, awaken worship; not
from Israel only, but from all mankind, for Israel's new moon has been
"as life from the dead for the whole world" (Rom. 11:5). The sabbath is
a delight, for it is full of memories of that One on whom all now truly
rests, and in whom everything is "very good."
But there is
another side to the picture. Greatly do they err who conceive that
either Israel in the Millennium or the universe in eternity will show
one side of God's nature only. He is not only Love but Light; and not
only His "goodness," but His "severity"—solemn truth—will be expressed
for ever (Rom. 11:22). Thus none can live in vain. All are made to
serve! We may see the visitors to the splendid city, Jerusalem, walking
out of it to the valley of Hinnom, and as they look on the scene there
is no sympathy for those whose corpses are in that awful pyre. "All
flesh" is then and there in full accord with that divine penalty, as it
shall be in a wider sphere in the day of Rev. 20. Not a whisper shall
be raised in all the universe challenging the perfect justice of God.
All have at last reached their "own place," and even those who have
maintained final impenitence, will at least be more in harmony with
their environment than they would in the pure light of God's glory in
heaven. The whole universe shall proclaim His glories, Love and Light.
can I close without one word of thanksgiving to God for permitting a
continuance of life sufficient to complete the task. I trust that it
will not be without some blessing to its readers, as it certainly has
not to the writer. To our God be humble praise from us both, and from
all, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to all ages. Amen.
1 The "any" in Bethany is the very word here used for "poor."
Notwithstanding the many excellent authorities who render the Hebrew of
this line, "Let Jehovah be glorified that we may see your joy," which
is assumed to be ironical, I find it impossible to abandon the far
simpler construction above, as more harmonious with the context, and
indeed with Scripture at large; nor does it lack the support of many
Hebraists, as Lowth, Kelly, the A.V., etc.
3 This is strictly the sense of the word; its first meaning is,"to go in a circle"; then, "to leap for joy."
most obscure line. The translation above is fairly literal, and
probably refers to one "who leads the people in religious worship."
beasts" in A.V., or "dromedaries," but being used nowhere else, the
word is uncertain. It is from a root meaning, "to go round in a
circle," and has been assumed to refer to the rolling motion of a
dromedary, but I am inclined to believe that it is one of those
prophetic words, that, without definitely specifying modern inventions,
leave room for, and apply to them when invented. Thus in this word,
railway-trains, automobiles, and even airplanes might be covered by the
Hebrew karkaroth, which Richardson renders, "Machines turning round
with the swiftness of the clouds." That was written long before
airplanes, those successful racers with the swiftest clouds, were
thought of. The word karkaroth permits this inclusion.
There are some who teach that a dispensation shall intervene between
the reign of the Lord that we term The Millennium and Eternity. They
think that the imperfect conditions that are evidenced during that
thousand years, and so sadly and clearly are expressed at its end (Rev.
20), are quite inconsistent with such scriptures as Eph. 1:10 and Phil.
2:10, 11. I have not been able, with my present light, to share this
conviction. There is so evidently a divinely intended correspondence
between the experiences of man and those of his earth, that it would
seem as if such a dispensation thus introduced would need a
corresponding condition between our present state of regeneration —
imperfect enough, alas, as we know iit to be—and that eternal condition
of perfection into which Scripture assures us that we shall be
introduced at once at the coming of the Lord. The personal history of
every redeemed child of man may be told in the three conditions:
chaotic disorder, regeneration, and being made perfect. So with the
earth, it is now in the first, chaotic enough; with Israel, all
righteous, it will be regenerated; and then follows the perfection of
eternity, with no intermission.