The Earth's Final State

(Chap. xxi. 1 - 8.)


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

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

The whole web and woof of Scripture is against either of these confusions: the point of rest can only be in accepting the distinction of earthly from heavenly as fundamental to all right understanding of the prophetic word. The Old Testament "promises," which have in view the earth as a sphere of blessing, are, as the apostle declares (Rom. ix. i - 5), Jewish, not Christian. The New Testament emphasizes that the blessings of the Christian are in "heavenly places." (Eph. i. 3.) Nor can this last possibly apply to earth made heavenly. The Lord has left us with the assurance (Jno. xiv.) that in His Father’s house are many mansions, - permanent places of abode, - that He was going to prepare a place there for us, and that He will come again to receive us to Himself, that where He is, there we may be also. As well assure us that the Lord’s permanent abode is to be on earth and not in heaven, as that our own is to be here, not there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, here, we are shown that He has prepared for us a city - " the holy city." The new Jerusalem is surely, what its earthly type is, a "city of habitation:" it is not simply a figure for the saints themselves. The patriarchs of old, content to await in patient faith the end of their pilgrim journey, "looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God;" and He will not disappoint their expectations, - " He hath prepared for them a city." (Heb. Xl. 10, i6.) At the very beginning of the world’s history we find, in one who manifested a totally opposite spirit, still the desire of the human heart which this promise meets. Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, fugitive and vagabond as he was, to build a city. Without faith or patience, he only shows the natural craving of the heart, but not in itself evil because natural. Ever since, the history of man has connected itself mainly with its cities. From Babel on to Rome, these have been the centres of power and progress ever, and (the world being what it is) they have exhibited in the most developed way its opposition to God. But God too has His city, and makes much of it, "beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth," and with it associates (Ps. lxxxvii.) the One great name which eclipses that of all others.

The tendency of the day is toward cities, and in these, for good or for ill, we find the greatest development of man; only, man being fallen, the development is monstrous. When the day of the Lord has put down however, all human thoughts, it is only to exalt Jerusalem upon the earth, and to make way for the display of that better Jerusalem that is here before us. The city is the expression of human need, and the provision for it. In the midst of strife and insecurity, men gather together for protection; but that is only a small part of what is implied in it. There are other needs more universal than this, as that of cooperation, the division of labor, the result of that inequality of aptitudes by which God has made us mutually dependent. Our social nature is thus met, and there are formed and strengthened the ties by which the world is bound together; while the intercourse of mind with mind, of heart with heart, stimulates and develops every latent faculty. "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." (Prov. xxvii. 17.)

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

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

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

Just here too, with no less earnestness, and in eternity, past all the change of time, the doom of the wicked is pronounced: "But the fearful"- too cowardly to take part with Christ in a world opposed to Him, - " and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

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

On the other hand, that the "city" revealed to us here is not simply a figure of the saints themselves, as, from the term used for it, "the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife," some have taken it to be, there are other scriptures which seem definitely to assure us. "Jerusalem, which is above, which is our mother" (Gal. iv.) could hardly be used in this way, though the Church is indeed so conceived of in patristic and mediceval thought. But even thus it would not be spoken of naturally as "above." In Heb. xii. we have a still more definite testimony. For there the "Church of the firstborn ones which are written in heaven," as well as "the spirits of just men made perfect " - in other words, both Christians and the saints of the Old Testament - are mentioned as distinct from "the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem;" and this will not allow them to be the same thing, although, in another way, the identification of a city with its inhabitants is easy. We are led in the same direction by the mention of the "tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God," - something to which the apostle thought he might have been caught even bodily (2 Cor. xii.) - and here is the tree of life in the midst of the city beside the "river of the water of life" which flows from the throne of God. Figurative language all this surely; yet these passages combine to give us the thought of a heavenly abode, already existing, and which will be in due time revealed as the metropolis of the heavenly kingdom - what Jerusalem restored will be in the lower sphere. Indeed the earthly here so parallels and illustrates the heavenly as to be a most useful help in fixing, if not enlarging, our thoughts about it, - always while we realize, of course, the essential difference that Scripture itself makes clear to be between them. But this we shall have to look at as we proceed.

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

But the city is the "Bride, the Lamb’s wife." In the Old Testament, the figure of marriage is used in a similar way. Israel was thus Jehovah’s "married wife" (Is. liv. x, Jer. xxxi. 33), now divorced indeed for her unfaithfulness, but yet to return (Hos. ii.), and be received and reinstated. Her Maker will be then once more her husband, and more than the old blessing be restored. In the forty-fifth psalm, Israel’s King, Messiah, is the Bride­groom; the Song of Solomon is the mystic song of His espousals. Jerusalem thus bears His name: "This is the name whereby she shall be called: 'Jehovah our Righteousness.’" (Jer. xxxiii. i6, comp. xxiii. 6.) The land too shall be "married." (Is. lxii. 4.)

In the New Testament, the same figure is still used in the same way. The Baptist speaks of his joy as the "friend of the Bridegroom," in hearing the Bridegroom’s voice (Jno. iii. 29); and in the parable of the virgins (Malt xxv.), where Christians are those who go forth to meet the Bridegroom, they are by that very fact not regarded as the Bride, which is still Israel, (according to the general character of the prophecy,) though not actually brought into the scene. Some may be able to see also in the marriage at Cana of Galilee (Jno. ii. i) the vailing of the same thought. All this, therefore, is in that earthly sphere in which Israel’s blessings lie; our own are "in heavenly places" (Eph. i. 3), and here it is we find, not the Bride of Messiah simply, but distinctively "the Bride of the Lamb." The "Lamb," as a title, always keeps before us His death, and that by violence, "a Lamb as it had been slain" (Rev. v. 6); and it is thus that He has title to that redemption empire in which we find Him throughout this book. But "the Bride of the Lamb" is thus one espoused to Him in His rejection, sharer (though it be but in slight measure) of His reproach and sorrow, trained and disciplined for glory in a place of humiliation. And so it is said that "if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him;" and again, "If so be we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." (2 Tim. ii. r2; Rom. viii. ii.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is positively answered otherwise, as it would seem, in Revelation itself. For while the general account of those who enter there is that they are those "written in the Lamb’s book of life" (xxi. 27), "without" the city are said to be only "dogs, and sorcerers, and whore-mongers, and murderers, and idolators, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" (xxii. 20).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The measurements of the city and the wall are next given. The city is a cube, twelve thousand furlongs every way; the wall, a hundred and forty-four cubits high. The number 12 still governs everywhere. The cube speaks of substance, reality. The sanctuary in the tabernacle and in the temple were both cubes. This is the eternal sanctuary, and the full fruition of every hope of the saint. The measurements further, though surely symbolic, await yet their interpretation. The building of the wall is of jasper (or diamond). The divine glory is itself a safeguard of the eternal city. What can touch that which God has ordained for His own praise? The city itself is pure transparent gold, - pure, permanent, radiant, - not hindering, but welcoming the enraptured sight. The foundations of the wall are adorned with every precious stone, - all the attributes of God displayed in that upon which rests the salvation of the people of God. The stones, in their separate meanings, are again a mystery. The twelve gates are twelve pearls - the picture of such grace as has been shown in the Church (Matt. xiii. 45, 46). These gates stand open all the unending day. The street of the city is, again, "pure gold, like transparent glass." The street - especially in the east - is the place of traffic, the meetIng­place constantly of need and greed. But here, all circumstances, all intercourse, the whole environment, is absolute holiness and truth, fit for and permeated by the felt presence of God.

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

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

Thus it is immediately added that the glory of God lightens the city, and "the Lamb is the lamp thereof." The lamp sustains the light. It adds nothing to it, for to divine glory nothing can be added: if any thing could be, it would no longer be divine. But the light is "put upon a candlestick (or lamp) that they who enter in may see the light." (Luke viii. i6.) So Will Christ always be the One in whom the Father is made known: nay the sacrificial word (" Lamb") assures us that we shall always have need of the past also for this. But this does not at all mean that there will not be what the Lord has assured us the angels of the little children enjoy continually: "Their angels do always behold the face of My Father who is in heaven."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him. And they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads." Thus He is openly theirs; they too are openly His. Service is taken up afresh in glory according to the fullness of that open-eyed and open-faced communion which is here so assured. It is indeed, when it has its proper character, communion itself. The love that serves us all is the love of God Himself, and of this Christ is the perfect expression. How is it possible to be in communion with Christ without the diligent endeavour to serve Him in the gospel of His grace, and in ministry to His people? In heaven, service will not for a moment cease; although some precious possibilities of the present will have passed away indeed. Would that this were more realized, with the Lord’s estimate of greatness in the kingdom of which He is greatest of all!

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


(Chap. xxii. 6 - 2 i.)
The series of visions is thus completed. What remains is the emphasizing of its authority for the soul, with all that belongs to Him whose revelation it is, and who is Himself coming speedily. Thus the angel now affirms that "these words are faithful and true:" necessarily so, because of Him whose words they are. "The Lord God of the spirits of the prophets hath sent His angel to show unto His servants things which must soon come to pass." Here we return to the announcement of the first chapter. The book is, above all, a practical book. It is not for theorists or dreamers, but for servants, - words which are to be kept, and to have application to their service in the Church and in the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessed is this testimony. The precious gifts of God are not restricted in proportion to their preciousness, but the reverse. In nature, sunlight, fresh air, the water-brooks, things the most necessary, are on that account bestowed freely upon all. And in the spiritual realm there is no barrier to reception of the best gifts, save that which the soul makes for itself. Not only so, but men are urged to come - to take - to look - with no uncertainty of result for those who do so. The stream that makes glad the city of God is poured out for the satisfaction of all who thirst, and will but stoop to drink of it. This is the closing testimony of the gospel in this book, and that with which it is associated adds amazingly to its solemnity. There is now another warning, neither to add to, nor to take from the words of the prophecy of this book. Scripture has many similar admonitions, but here the penalty is an unutterably solemn one. To him that adds, God shall add the plagues that are written in this book. From him who takes away, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city. Yet men are now not scrupulous at least to take away many of the words of Scripture, and of Revelation among the rest. Every word is claimed here by the Lord Himself for God; and if this is not a claim for verbal inspiration, what is it? As manifestly the closing book of New Testament scripture, what may we not infer as to the verbal inspiration of other parts? And what shall be the woe of those who dare presumptuously to meddle with that which is the authoritative communication of the mind of God to man? Is it not being done? and by those who own that somewhere at least - and they cannot pretend to know exactly the limit, - Scripture contains the Word of God?

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

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

It is the only response that answers to the assuranc of His love on His departure to the Father: "In M Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you.And if I go, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, ye may be also." The Lord’s coming - the parousia - is just the "presence" of the Lord Himself. Nothing short of this could satisfy the hearts of those who looked up after Him, as He ascended with His hands spread in blessing over them; and were reassured by the angels’ voices, that this same Jesus would come again. Just in proportion as we too have learnt by the Spirit the power of the love of Jesus, we too shall be satisfied with this, and with this alone. May we learn more deeply what is this cry of the Spirit and the Bride: "Amen, come, Lord Jesus."