Revelation 12:6 Strangership And Pilgrimage
Revelation 12:10 The Heavenly Song of Victory
Revelation 12:11 The Blood Of The Covenant
Revelation 14:3,4 The Church Dwelling Alone
Revelation 14:4 The Model of a Holy Life
Revelation 14:6 The Everlasting Gospel
Revelation 16:15 The Swift And Sudden Advent
Revelation 19:10 The One Witness And The One Testimony
Revelation 19:10 The Great Prophetic Theme
Revelation 19:12 Messiah’s Many Crowns
“The woman fled into the wilderness!”—Revelation 12:6.
“Stranger and pilgrims.”—1 Peter 2:2.
“They took their journey from Elim.”—Exodus 16:1.
The woman fled into the wilderness! Well would it have been with her had she continued there. But she came forth into earth’s cities, and dwelt in its palaces, and put on its gay apparel, and said, ‘I am a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.’ In unbelief and forgetfulness of her true character, she sought to reign where she should have remained a stranger, and put on purple robes when she should have worn only sackcloth (1 Corinthians 4:8).
‘The earth helped the woman,’ no doubt; and in so doing saved her from unceasing persecution, giving her some respite. Christianity became fashionable; and the immense number of mere professors of that faith, while really a source of internal weakness, was yet a source of external strength and protection. It was earthly protection, no doubt, and on that account perilous; yet it was just the protection which God Himself had given to the Jewish Church in Babylon, in Shushan, and in Egypt. The flood of persecution was sweeping the Church away, when ‘the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.’ This cessation of persecution, this earthly help, became a snare. The woman said, ‘I am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing.’ She forgot her heavenly calling, her future kingdom, her incorruptible inheritance, her unearthly hope, and became part of the world which had helped her. Civilization, science, literature, intellectual enlightenment, became her gods. She set them between her and the cross, between her and the glory. Influence, power, wealth, knowledge apart from God and His Christ, were sought after and obtained. The Church wooed the world, and the world wooed the Church; compromises were agreed upon; the world ceased to persecute, and the Church ceased to ‘condemn the world.’
Yet God is ever calling His own out of this mingled mass, and bidding them walk alone. We are not simply to leave the world, but to ‘go forth outside the camp,’ bearing Christ’s reproach; and oftentimes that reproach comes sharper from the lips of so-called Christians, than from a pleasure-loving world.
Abel was a stranger upon earth—so are all God’s Abels still. Enoch was a stranger—yet he was partaker of the heavenly calling. Abraham was a stranger—yet he was one of the seekers of the better, even the heavenly country (Hebrews 11:16), looking for the New Jerusalem, the Church’s special home (Hebrews 11:10). David confesses himself a pilgrim—’We are strangers before You, and sojourners, as were all our fathers’ (1 Chronicles 29:15; Psalm 39:12).
‘Leave of your country,’ said God to Abraham (Genesis 12:1). ‘Arise and depart,’ were the prophet’s words to Israel (Micah 2:10). ‘Let us go forth,’ said Paul (Hebrews 13:13). ‘Stranger and pilgrim’ is descriptive of a believing man (1 Peter 2:2). ‘In journeyings often,’ said Paul of himself (2 Corinthians 11:26). Again and again is it said of Israel, ‘They took their journey’ from such and such places.
Strangers and pilgrims! Yes! For this world is not our rest or our home! We are wayfaring men, tarrying but a night. We are sojourners, as were all our fathers; and we pass the time of our sojourning here in fear; not looking back, but up and on; with girded loins and staff in hand hastening to the heavenly city. What have we to do with Egypt’s treasures, or Babylon’s glory; with Corinth’s lusts, or Rome’s magnificence; with Athenian philosophy, or Ephesian magic—with worldly wantonness or luxury?
We see what eye has not seen—we hear what ear has not heard—and we pass by these earthly beauties and pleasures! They perish with the using! The fashion of this world passes away!
These are memorable words of Paul—’In journeyings often.’ Such is a brief but true picture of a Christian man’s life. Rooted, yet unrooted; settled, yet unsettled; at rest, yet ever moving; anchored, yet hurried along with storms; unburdened, yet burdened; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
Such was the life of Abraham and the patriarchs; such the life of Moses; such the life of Israel in their desert-wanderings. Here have we no continuing city—not even a continuing tent. No certain dwelling-place; no rest—sure of a dwelling somewhere, yet not sure of it anywhere. Patriarchal life was made up of comings and departings, of greetings and farewells. Men were then ‘strangers and pilgrims on the earth.’ They were like seamen, the greater part of whose time was spent in pulling up and letting go the anchor, in spreading and taking in their sails. Their life was the remotest possible from that of the hermit on the one hand, or the bustling merchant on the other. They seemed hardly to touch the soil over which they passed, or to have any firm connection with the things seen and temporal.
Paul’s history was in many respects a repetition of Israel’s, and even more a repetition of the Master’s, who was, above all others, ‘in journeyings often;’ whose ministry was a continual moving to and fro, having no place to lay His head; to whom even Bethany was only a single night’s resting-place from which He must depart on the morrow. From the day that the Lord shone upon Paul on his way to Damascus, his life was that of Israel in the desert, only with more of conflict, and weariness, and sorrow, and labour. He had his Ethams, his Succoths, his Marahs, his Elims, his Rephidims, his Kadeshes—with many an intervening resting-place—certain of nothing but that the pillar-cloud was above him, that his bread would be given him, and his water would be sure—that there was no condemnation for him, and that all things would work together for his good!
Many and pleasant resting-places had Paul, like his Master at Jacob’s well, enjoying shade and provision of which the world knew nothing—but the intervals between were long and wearisome. At Corinth, at Antioch, at Troas, he rested once and again, enjoying sweet fellowship with the brethren; but he had scarcely begun to enjoy this, when he was called away. The pillar-cloud rose, and he was constrained to move. Each movement, each stage, was the encountering of a new storm of the desert, or the endurance of more scorching heat. Gladly would he have remained at such places, in the bosom of churches he had planted; but the Spirit allowed him not, leading him on from place to place—to bonds and imprisonment—to labours and stripes—to beating and stoning—to shipwreck and peril by sea and land—to weariness and painfulness—to hunger and thirst—to fastings and cold, and nakedness. He was a stranger and pilgrim on the earth—through much tribulation entering the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
Of Israel we read that ‘they came to Elim’ (Exodus 15:27), where were the wells and palms; and then that they ‘took their journey from Elim’ (Exodus 16:1), into the wilderness, where there was neither bread nor water.
They had left Egypt, the land of worldly plenty, where they walked by sight, not by faith—and they had come into a land where sight was nothing, and where faith must be all. The closing waters of the Red Sea, while they cut Israel off from their enemies—cut them off from the land of plenty—and shut them into one of dearth and desolation. They were now alone with God! For good or for evil, they had now to deal with Him alone—and that face to face, in a desert land, where earthly supplies were unknown. If He were against them—who could be for them? If He were for them—who could be against them?
Their arrival at MARAH tested them. Is their life to be by faith or by sight? Is earth or heaven to be their recognized storehouse of blessing—their fountainhead of abundance? This was their first real taste of the true wilderness life and walk. It began with the bitter—and it ended with the sweet. The first taste of the waters was distasteful—the second most pleasant. The bitterness was of earth—the sweetness was of heaven.
Yet at Marah the comfort was of a mingled kind. It was not their faith that had turned the bitterness into sweetness—and this was humbling and sad. God had met their murmurings with His own free love—their distrust of Him with overflowing bounty—and, if we may so say, had answered them according to their unbelief, not their faith. He had, in wondrous grace, reversed His own rule of action, and had done the miracle because of their unbelief—not their faith! Yet even the outward blessing at Marah was not a full one. It sufficed for the moment, but it was incomplete. There was water, but no shade; wells, but no palms. The water had issued from their unbelief, not their faith; and God marked His displeasure by making them drink it on the unshaded burning sands.
There was little then to bind them to this shadeless spot, saddened with the recollection of their own unbelief, though in a measure sweetened by the gracious dealings of Him whose love passes knowledge. Their journey from Marah would not be an unwilling one, and their arrival at ELIM would be most grateful—for Elim contained all that such sojourners required. Sweet spot! Close girdled with low hills; the higher peaks of the desert not far off; covered with desert shrubs, tall or stunted; wells bubbling over, and losing themselves in the desert sand; a tiny stream finding its way through the sandy hollow to the Red Sea; and clustering palms (now, in our day quite a forest) stretching their shades over the smiling valley in all directions!
Israel might say—Here let us abide. If we are to have a home in the desert, let it be here. They would say, ‘This is our rest;’ but God said, ‘This is not your rest.’ So they left the shade and the cool waters—’they journeyed from Elim.’ The journey to Elim was pleasant; the stay at Elim was still more so. The journey from Elim must have been sad and dreary—behind them the refreshing verdure; before and around the hot wind of the desert, and with no resting-place in view. But such was the will of Him who was leading them on—such was the silent beckoning of the pillar-cloud. They must not stay—though they would have gladly stayed. It is not to softness, and luxury, and ease that they are called, but to hardness and trial—and a life of faith on an unseen God and a yet distant ‘Canaan’!
So it is with us. We are ‘in journeyings often.’ Egypt is left behind forever—the blood has been sprinkled, and we have found protection and deliverance from the destroying angel—the march has been begun—the Red Sea is crossed—we have sung the song of Moses—we have entered on the desert—we are pressing toward ‘Jerusalem’! Our desert life is the life of discipline, and faith, and hope. We come to Elim, and rest for a few pleasant days beneath its palms. But Elim is not Jerusalem, and we must leave it. Oppressive words these, ‘They journeyed from Elim!’ And yet, since Elim is not ‘Jerusalem’, our hope still shines in front of us. It is not on Canaan that we turn our backs; it is not Jerusalem that we are called to leave; for that city once entered, is entered forever. From it we go out no more.
But here “in the wilderness,” we have our changes—our risings and our fallings—our rejoicings and our sorrowings—our movings and our restings—our sickenings and our healings—our partings and our meetings—often coming close together, like Marah and Elim in the same desert, and within a day of each other. We are ‘in journeyings often!’ Ours is a continual tent-life—this wilderness world is not our rest!
Often we wish it were our rest, we get so tired of these unceasing movements—but it must not be so. We could not be trusted with ease, and comfort, and painless, prosperous days. We would forget ourselves—and forget our inheritance. Every change or sorrow says to us—”Onward, upward! Elim is pleasant, with its wells and palms, but it is not Canaan—it is not Jerusalem. It is only a brief resting-place; a rest to recruit and fit you for your further journey. You must leave it on the morrow!”
Yet the pillar-cloud is here, for shade, for protection, or guidance. It will not mislead. You shall just have as long at Elim as is for your good—and not a minute longer!
Therefore gird up your loins; be ever in readiness either for resting or journeying—for the battle, or the march, or the triumph. Let patience have her perfect work; let faith keep her hold of the unseen; let hope burn brighter and fuller as the journeyings are drawing to their close—and as we near the gates of the glorious city—and the banks of the river of life—and the palms of the paradise of God!
Be holy. Be separate from the world. Abstain from fleshly lusts. Lay aside all filthiness. Walk soberly. Beware of earth’s folly and idle laughter. Set your affection on things above. Be prepared for suffering. Endure hardness. Take up your cross daily and bear it aloft—and be not ashamed of it. The footsteps of the old pilgrims are still visible on the sands of time. Follow them! Their voice is still heard, and their hand still waves, beckoning you to follow. Until you find a nobler faith than Abraham’s, a better book than the Bible, a truer creed than Paul’s—believe what they believed. For these things are not yet obsolete. Centuries do not alter truth. Time and science have not yet levelled the eternal hills. The cross still stands erect amid the ruins of ages—the blood of Jesus still purges the conscience—and the believing man is still a stranger here in this world!
“Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ—for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night.”—Revelation 12:10.
This is a song of heaven—of that heaven from which the dragon had been cast out. It was sung with a loud voice, that all in heaven and earth might hear. It is a song of triumph and gladness, like that which is sung over one sinner who repents. Yet it is not a song of consummation, as if the whole work was completed, and the last battle won. For the dragon is only cast down to earth, to do terrible things there in his last wrath. But it is a song of progress. Another victory won—another advance made—the glorious termination becoming nearer and nearer.
Often had such a song been sung. Even at the first promise—still more at each successive unfolding of it—at the covenant with Abraham, and again with David; at each prophetic announcement of Messiah; at His birth; at His death (He himself took it up, ‘Now is the judgment of this world’); at His resurrection; at His ascension; at subsequent events both in heaven and earth; last of all shall it be sung at His second coming, when the development shall reach its fullness, the consummation be realised, the kingdom set up, and the glory revealed. It is like the feeling of seamen, at rounding some new coast which brings them more within sight of home; like soldiers, after defeating one and another squadron of the enemy’s troops, and pressing on, flushed with victory; like climbers of some mountain-range, surmounting first one and then another of the intervening heights that lie between them and the object of their ambition.
Thus runs the heavenly song—’Now has come to pass the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ.’ Let us attend to each of the notes separately.
I. The salvation. It is ‘the salvation’ that is here sung of—the salvation of Him whose name is Jesus, the Saviour. It is salvation—not consisting of one blessing or one kind of blessing, but of many—made up of everything which can be indicated by the reversal of our lost condition. It is not done at once, but in parts and at sundry times, each age bringing with it more of ‘salvation’ in every sense; unfolding it; building it up; gathering in new objects; overcoming new enemies; occupying new ground; erecting new trophies. But little of it has yet taken effect; an ‘election,’ no more—yet something is doing, age after age. At each new development, or conquest, a new song in sung—’Now is come the salvation;’ and if these intermediate shouts of triumph be so loud and rapturous—what will be the last of all?
II. The power. This is the more common rendering of the word (not ‘strength’), as when Christ’s miracles are spoken of, or ‘the powers of the world to come.’ As yet God’s power has not been fully manifested; it has been hidden. Man’s power and Satan’s have been in the ascendant. The counteraction of and victory over these have not yet been conspicuously revealed. Many trophies, no doubt, it has won; many enemies it has defeated; many brands it has plucked from the burning; but the full revelation of its greatness is yet to come. When that day arrives, earth as well as heaven shall rejoice—’Now is come the salvation and the power.’ That shall be the day of power—’the Lord God omnipotent reigns.’
III. The kingdom of our God. It is the kingdom—the kingdom of kingdoms; not of Satan or man, as now, but of God, no, our God. Our God, says heaven; our God, re-echoes earth. God’s purpose is to have a kingdom and a king. The original grant or command to Adam involved this—’Have dominion’ (Genesis 1:28); He ‘put all things under his feet’ (Psalm 8:6). Man in the person of the first Adam was declared king, with this globe for his dominion. He fell, and forfeited his tenure. The second Adam has come in his stead; and the kingdom of our God is yet to be set up. As yet it is but the kingdom of man and of Satan. Earth has not acknowledge God; but in the day when God’s original purpose shall be fulfilled, shall be heard the loud voice in heaven and earth, ‘Now is come the kingdom of our God.’ Then shall the Church’s prayer be answered—’Your kingdom come.’
IV. The authority of His Christ. ‘The Christ of God’ is the full name for Jesus of Nazareth—God’s Messiah—He in whom all royal, priestly, judicial, prophetical power is invested. To this Messiah all power has been given, all authority entrusted, in heaven, and earth, and hell. But now we see not yet all things under Him. His authority is in abeyance until the fullness of the times shall come. Then it shall be put forth over all the earth. He shall destroy Antichrist; bind Satan; deliver creation; bring all the nations under His sway as King of kings and Lord of lords. His authority shall be supreme. His throne shall be above all thrones. His sceptre shall be acknowledged everywhere. All nations shall submit themselves. Earth shall be as heaven. Then shall the loud voice be heard—’Now is come the authority of His Christ.’
“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.”—Revelation 12:11.
“Behold, the blood of the covenant.”—Exodus 24:8.
All through Scripture we find traces of the blood. ‘You shall bruise His heel’ was the first reference to it. The bruised heel of the woman’s seed was to be the foundation stone of our deliverance. It was to be deliverance by blood. The bruised heel was to tread upon the serpent’s head. In connection with this announcement as to the bruised heel, sacrifice was ordained; and thus the truth began to be developed; victory for the sinner through the blood of One who was to be slain.
‘The blood is the life’ (Deuteronomy 12:23). Not that blood and life are actually the same thing—the one is material, the other immaterial. But the blood is the ‘life made visible’—the liquid link between body and soul, which, once broken, brings death. The blood poured out is the life drained away from the body—the departure of the soul from its material dwelling. Thus the blood and the life are identified. God identifies them; law identifies them. Blood ‘shed’ is the symbol or visible exhibition of ‘death’.
Death was the penalty of man’s guilt. The wages of sin is death. The soul that sins—it shall die. If, then, another life is to be taken for our life, and another death is to be substituted for ours, the true expression of this is the drawing the blood from the victim, and putting that blood on us. This is the symbolic declaration of the great substitution, the great transference—one life for another, one death for another. Death, with all its consequences, lies on the transgressor until another death comes (in the symbolic form of blood), and washes it away. When the sinner receives God’s testimony to ‘the blood of the Lamb’, then the transference is at once completed—death passes away.
Let us see the different aspects in which the blood is presented to us in Scripture; the manifold blessings with which it is connected; the various points at which we come into contact with it.
I. The blood of the Lamb contains the good news. (Hebrews 12:24) It ‘speaks better things than that of Abel.’ It speaks of grace, not of wrath; of mercy, not of vengeance; of peace returning, not of peace departing. As seen on the altar, it tells the good news of life given for life; as seen upon the mercy seat, it says, ‘Let us come boldly to the throne of grace.’ Glad tidings of great joy to the most sinful are contained in the blood—the precious blood of Christ. It offers to the sinner a reversal of the sentence of death, by presenting him with the death of another in his stead.
II. The blood of the Lamb is the purchase money for the Church. (Acts 20:28) As God’s eternal purpose deals both with the Church as a whole, and with each chosen soul, so does the blood. It is the price or ransom of the whole Church; it is the price and ransom of each should that is saved. Of the church it is true—’she is bought with a price;’ of each saint it is true—he is bought with a price. The ‘blood of the covenant’ is the payment demanded by the Father, and paid by the Son. Not without blood can the purpose of the Father be carried out. It is the legal payment of the price or penalty, because it was the death which the Church should have died—but which her Surety took upon Him.
III. The blood of the Lamb is the atonement. (Exodus 30:10) ‘Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of the altar with the blood of the sin-offering’ (Leviticus 17:11). ‘The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul.’ The Old Testament word “atonement” means ‘to cover;’ and the blood is that which ‘covers’ sin, so that it becomes hidden and indiscernible by God Himself—as if the only thing through which the eye of God could not penetrate was the altar blood. To him whose sin is thus ‘covered’ by the blood, God is propitious. The blood propitiates; and the blood, received by the sinner (in the belief of God’s testimony to it), propitiates God toward the sinner himself personally. Only the blood can cover!
Not mountains, nor seas, nor the thick forests of earth; only blood—the blood of the one Sacrifice. In this is atonement; and, as the result of atonement, reconciliation with God. Looking at the paschal blood, God says, ‘Pass over, slay not;’ looking at the sacrificial blood, God says, ‘Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more!’
IV. The blood of the Lamb is the redemption. (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 1 Peter 1:18,19; Revelation 5:9) Redemption is not the same as the atonement or the purchase money, already noticed. It is the carrying out of that for which the price was paid and the atonement made. The paying down the money is one thing; the redeeming the person so paid for, so ransomed, is something more. It is nearly synonymous with salvation, only it expresses the way by which the salvation has been obtained—by ransom or purchase. Hence the expression, ‘the redemption of the purchased possession’ (Ephesians 1:14). Redemption by blood is our gospel; redemption presented fully by the redeeming One to the ‘lawful captive,’ to the imprisoned and exiled sinner. He who believes enters into possession of all that it contains.
V. The blood of the Lamb is the bringing near. (Ephesians 2:13) The far off are made near by the blood. It is the blood which removes the distance; that brings God near to us, and us near to God. It annihilates all distance, and all variance. The blood brings about the meeting between us and God. Incarnation is not the bringing near, nor the thing which brings us near; it is merely the first step in a process, which, had it not ended in the blood shedding, would have been all in vain. It is the blood that emboldens us to draw near to God, and justifies God in drawing near to us. ‘Let us draw near’ is the voice of the blood, speaking both from the altar and the mercy seat. And how? ‘With at true heart and in the full assurance of faith.’ And the blood provides for both of these.
VI. The blood of the Lamb contains the cleansing. (1 John 1:7) This is spoken of also as ‘purging’ (Hebrews 9:14, 22), and as ‘washing’ (Revelation 1:5); and it is to this that Zechariah refers, when he speaks of the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1); and David, when he prays, ‘Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than the snow’ (Psalm 51:7). It is specially to the guilt that these passages refer—the judicial or legal defilement or condemnation, as the consequence of sin committed; so that, when that defilement or condemnation was removed by the application of the blood of the substitute, the man became clean in the sight of God and of His law. He was purged in conscience and in heart; in body, soul, and spirit. After this, the inward purification began, and was carried on in connection with the blood, through the power of the Spirit. We preach the purging and cleansing blood. It has lost none of its efficacy. The Lamb slain is the same as ever; and the High Priest is the same as ever; and the blood is the same as ever—as able to purge and purify.
VII. The blood of the Lamb contains the peace. (Colossians 1:20) ‘Peace through the blood of His cross;’ for ‘He is our peace’ (Ephesians 2:14); and because of the blood, God ‘is pacified towards us for all that we have done’ (Ezekiel 16:63). It is the blood that has made the peace, for it removes that which produced the controversy and contention. The blood pacifies. It removes that which drew on us the wrath of God, quenching that wrath; it removes that which made us dread God and flee from Him, like Adam. Peace through the blood is our message! To the guiltiest rebel upon earth it comes!
VIII. The blood of the Lamb contains the pardon. (Hebrews 9:22) ‘Without shedding of blood is no remission.’ By the shedding of blood then, there is remission of sins. The many blood sheddings have ceased (Hebrews 10:18); and the one blood shedding, which in its value, and efficacy, and suitableness is everlasting and infinite, remains. Taking it as the payment of the penalty, substituted by God for our non-payment of it, we are forgiven. He who receives the divine testimony to the blood is in so doing forgiven. That blood, by covering his sins, brings pardon—pardon to anyone who is willing to take pardon in this way from God.
IX. The blood of the Lamb contains justification. (Romans 5:9) ‘Justified by His blood.’ We get justification by His grace and by His righteousness. Here it is said to be by His blood. Justification seems here opposed to ‘condemnation’—the sweeping away of everything that brought us under condemnation. This the blood accomplishes; meeting every accusation, answering every plea, setting aside everything that is laid to our charge. Looking to the blood, we can say, ‘who is he who condemns?’ The blood sets us right in conscience and in law with God. It justifies the ungodly.
X. The blood of the Lamb contains that which makes white. (Revelation 8:14) ‘They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ Not only the man, but his garments are made white. This is more than cleansing. It is the word used regarding Christ’s transfiguration-garments (Matthew 17:2); the angel-robes (Matthew 28:3); the heavenly clothing (Revelation 4:4); the judgment throne (Revelation 20:2). Whiter than snow or wool, white as the garments of Christ—no, the ‘head and hair’ of Christ (Revelation 1:14). This is the result of the application of the blood to those who were ‘blacker than the coal,’ redder than crimson. What potency, what virtue, what excellency does this blood contain! How it beautifies and glorifies!
XI. The blood of the Lamb contains that which sanctifies. (Hebrews 13:12) ‘That He might sanctify the people with His own blood.’ This is consecrating them as His kings and priests, setting them apart for service, making them ‘saints,’ holy ones. The blood of the great Sin-offering (outside the gate) sanctifies. As soon as the blood touches us, by our believing, we are set apart—we become the royal priesthood, holy to the Lord.
XII. The blood of the Lamb contains the power to conquer. (Revelation 12:2) ‘They overcame by (on account of) the blood of the Lamb.’ No victory without the blood! No power to fight; no motive in fighting; no hope of overcoming. The blood takes the strength from the enemy. The blood supplies us with all these. We look to it, and out of weakness we are made strong. We look to it, and we are cheered as well as nerved for conflict with the enemy.
XIII. The blood of the Lamb contains our right of entrance into the holiest. (Hebrews 10:19) He entered ‘by His own blood’ (Hebrews 9:12). He gives us this blood as our right of entrance is sprinkled and consecrated by His blood. Let us draw near! The blood removes all cause of dread, all possibility of rejection, more—gives the certainty of reception. Let us go in! We are sure of a welcome. It gives boldness as well as right of entrance. It says, ‘Draw near boldly.’
XIV. The blood of the Lamb contains the seal of the covenant. (Luke 22:20) ‘This cup is the new testament in my blood.’ The blood seals the covenant—and the cup is the symbol of that seal. It is ‘the everlasting covenant’ (Hebrews 13:20); the ‘covenant of peace’ (Isaiah 54:10); ‘the new covenant’ (Jeremiah 31:31); the covenant which is absolute and unconditional; which not only gives to each sinner who believes a present standing before God of favour and love, but which secures his eternal future beyond the possibility of a second fall. The blood covenant makes us safe forever. O blood-sealed covenant, ordered in all things and sure, what a foundation are those for our faith to rest upon, and of our hope to rejoice in! Yes, and the ages to come are all contained within your ample compass.
XV. The blood of the Lamb contains the true drink for the soul. ‘My blood is the true drink’ (John 6:55). It quenches the thirst of the soul—the thirst of parching produced by an evil conscience and a sense of wrath, which dries up the frame like a potsherd (Psalm 22:15). It removes the wrath and the sense of wrath—by showing us that wrath transferred to the Substitute. It relieves the conscience when first we come into contact with it; and it keeps it relieved from day to day, as we drink it by faith. It is ‘drink indeed.’ It calms, it revives, it refreshes, it soothes; it is like cold water to the thirsty lips under a scorching sun. Nothing but the blood can allay this thirst; nothing else can be drink for the soul, for the intellect, the conscience, the heart.
XVI. The blood of the Lamb contains life. (John 6:53) ‘Unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, you have no life in you.’ The blood not only ‘removes death’ (judicial and spiritual), but it gives and ‘preserves life’ (judicial and spiritual). It quickens! Israel was forbidden to taste the literal blood, and would have been punished with death had they done so; we are commanded to drink the spiritual or symbolical blood, with the promise and assurance that it contains life for us. Without it we have no life. We are not only to be sprinkled with it outwardly, but we are to receive it inwardly—to drink it. As with the water, so with the blood. They are for inward as well as for outward application. We drink them and live; and are washed with them and made clean.
XVII. The blood of the Lamb contains protection. (Exodus 12:13; Hebrews 6:28) The blood of the paschal lamb was Israel’s protection. No sword could reach the man on the door of whose dwelling God saw the sprinkled blood. So the blood of Christ our Passover protects. In believing God’s testimony to the blood; it becomes sprinkled upon us; and from that moment we are safe. The blood is our security. God sees it, and bids the sword pass by.
XVIII. The blood of the Lamb contains separation from the world. (Hebrews 13:2) As the Sin-offering, Jesus suffered outside the gate; thereby not only fulfilling His sacrificial work, and completing the sacrificial symbol or type, but leaving us an example that we should follow His steps. ‘Let us go forth’ is the voice that comes to us from the blood. Come out and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing; for the blood of the sin offering is upon us, and Jesus is before us. Let us go forth not only from Babylon and Egypt, but from ‘Jerusalem’—Jerusalem, which had become the type of the false Church—the mere religious professor—which, while naming His name, rejects Him and His cross, more—crucifies Him afresh! Let us keep ourselves unspotted not only from the ungodly world as such, but from a worldly Church—worldly professors, who, instead of bearing Christ’s reproach, bring reproach upon Him!
XIX. The blood of the Lamb contains resurrection. (Hebrews 13:20) By the blood of the everlasting covenant, Christ was raised. Our sins had slain Him, shed His blood, and brought Him down to the grave! But that shed blood was the removal of the sins that had weighed Him down. God saw in that blood the finished substitution. He accepted it, and gave evidence to that completed work of propitiation, by raising the Substitute. As the great Shepherd, He gave His life for the sheep; His life was accepted instead of theirs; His death made their dying no longer necessary—no, unjust. The blood was the payment of that which had brought death on Him and us; and therefore He was raised. With Him we rise—by the efficacy of the same blood. That blood, which is the symbol of death, is the seal of resurrection.
XX. The blood of the Lamb contains condemnation. (Matthew 27:4, 25; Acts 5:28; Hebrews 10:29) It thus contains the condemnation of Judas, of Jerusalem and Israel—of all rejecters of Christ. The same blood that spoke of pardon speaks of condemnation. Under the weight of ‘rejected blood’ the unbelieving sinner perishes. This is the condemnation which the church in these last days is preparing for itself—
(1) slighting the blood;
(2) rejecting it;
(3) trampling on the Son of God, and counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing.
Under this aggravated guilt the world shall go down to wrath; for it is guilt of the deepest dye—the deliberate refusal of and contempt for all that God has provided for the sinner. If an Israelite had torn down the tabernacle, overthrown altar and laver, slain the priest, cast forth the blood and water, defiled the mercy-seat, he would be but a type of him who values at nothing the Son of God, and slights His blood. This is the millstone which the world is fastening to its own neck, which shall sink it in the abyss forever!
Yet still the value and the virtue of the blood of the Lamb remain the same. It has lost none of its efficacy. It can still cleanse, and redeem, and purify. It can still pacify the conscience and reconcile of God. Not even its most deliberate rejecters need despair, or fear that it may not avail for them. It cannot lose its power. Up to the very last it avails. Of its divine value the chief of sinners may avail himself without fear or distrust. In crediting the Holy Spirit’s testimony to its undiminished and unchangeable sufficiency, the guiltiest upon earth will draw out all its fullness to himself; the whole value of the blood passes over to him who believes, as soon as he has believed. Not upon feeling, but upon believing, does the obtaining of its benefits depend. As soon as we receive the divine testimony, all that the blood has secured for sinners passes over to us as our righteous and everlasting possession. The preciousness of the blood is transferred to us; the preciousness of Him whose blood it is becomes ours, and we are accepted in the Beloved! ‘Jehovah our righteousness’ is our joy and our song!
“Redeemed from the earth.”—Revelation 14:3.
“Redeemed from among men.”—Revelation 14:4.
“The people shall dwell alone.”—Numbers 23:9.
“Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”—2 Corinthians 6:17
Let me call attention to these four tests, as making up the different parts of one great truth concerning the Church’s true position in this present evil world, her ‘unearthly’ calling and ‘unearthly’ walk. She is the ‘redeemed one;’ redeemed from the earth; redeemed from among men, or literally ‘from men.’ She comes out and is separate; she dwells alone; ‘separate from sinners’ (Psalm 1:1; Hebrews 7:26).
She is ‘redeemed from the earth’ that she may dwell alone. She is ‘redeemed from men’ that she may dwell alone. She comes out and is ‘separate’ that she may dwell alone. For she is not of the world, even as He who redeemed her is not of the world. She is ‘sanctified in God the Father’ (Jude 1). She is a stranger in a strange land. Her calling is heavenly; and her affections are set on things above. Her ‘citizenship’ is in heaven and she sits loose from all below—riches, pleasures, honours, vanities! ‘Unspotted from the world’ is her designation. (James 1:27)
I wish to bring out all this specially in connection with the third of the above texts, concerning Israel’s dwelling alone. ‘Israel shall dwell in safety alone’ (Deuteronomy 33:28). ‘Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations’ (Numbers 23:9).
These were true sayings, though one of them comes from the lips of a false prophet. In them we seem to have a contradiction of the divine word, ‘It is not good for man to be alone,’ yet is so only in appearance. These two ‘alones’ are very different—the ‘alone’ of Adam and the ‘alone’ of Israel; the persons are different, the circumstances are different, the words are different; that which was not good for the one was good for the other.
It looks also like an exception to the proverb, ‘Two are better than one—for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow—but woe to him who is alone when he falls’ (Ecclesiastes 4:10). But it is not really so; for everything in such a case depends on the friendliness of one’s companion. Better to be alone when falling, than to be with an enemy.
Up until Abraham’s day the ‘godly seed’, the ‘saints of the Most High,’ had not been alone (except in heart and feeling); but were scattered everywhere; hidden and mixed. Hence before the flood the sons of God intermarried with the daughters of men. But when He called Abraham, He unfolded His purpose of separation from the rest of men. Then He carried out His condemnation of this present evil world, which in and by Noah He had already proclaimed. He appeared unto Abraham as the God of glory; and in that character He called him ‘out’ of Chaldea and its idolatry. He called him out to be ‘separate’ and to ‘dwell alone’—no, to dwell in ‘tents’—temporary dwellings. It was not the removal from one nation to another, or one land to another, that we see in Abraham, but the call to ‘dwell alone’—the manifestation of God’s purpose to this end.
Abraham dwelt alone. So did Isaac. So did Jacob. So also did Moses at last; though for a time he was drawn into the world, not out of it. Yet afterwards he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, counting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. First drawn out of the water, then out of Pharaohs house. Egypt soon cast him out, and he ‘dwelt alone’ and ‘separate’ In the land of Midian—as a stranger and a sojourner. All his later life was of the same separated kind. He was a true Nazarite, set apart from the world to God.
So was it with Israel. Even ‘in Egypt’ there was little affinity or sympathy between them and the Egyptians; and the more that their ‘hope’ came out and brightened—the fellowship became less—and the antagonism the more decided. In ‘the desert’ they were separate—they ‘dwelt alone’—with no society but that of God. When they entered Canaan, they did it to dwell alone. Even there they were not numbered among the nations. They were in the midst of all that was incongruous and hostile; and all things seemed meant to keep them separate, to make them feel their separation. Their place, their character, the calling, their testimony, all corresponded with each other.
First there was round them a wall or barricade of enemies—the Phoenicians on the north, the Philistines on the west, the Edomites on the south, the Moabites and Ammonites on the east. Then there was an outer belt of deserts, and mountains, and seas, accomplishing a double separation; and beyond these there was an interminable stretch of hostile territory—the vast nations of heathenism spreading wide over the world, all of them hostile to Israel.
Truly Israel was separate and dwelt alone. They were not numbered among the nations. The Gentiles never spoke of them but with contempt. To a Greek or Roman, a Jew was the name for all that was weak, morose, foolish, and ignorant. The great worldly streams swept by the tribes and around them, but the Israelites remained alone—unaffected by these mighty motions of earth’s kingdoms—until at last their sins drew them into the currents, and they no longer dwelt alone.
But for ages they did dwell alone. They had all things of their own—borrowing from none, dependent on none. With their own self-sustaining land, their own religion, their own city, their own temple, their own God, they dwelt alone. Their internal resources were enough. They needed not to go down to Egypt for help; and what could Babylon and its idols, or Greece and her gods, do for them? They needed nothing from the world. Jehovah was their God, their all; and with His fullness for their inheritance, they could afford to ‘dwell alone.’
What was Babylon, or Assyria, or Egypt, to Israel? An enemy, or it might be a tempter—but certainly not an ally or a friend. A distant peace might be between them; but as for fellowship, or brotherhood, or sympathy—that could not be!
What is the world to the Church, or to any single saint? Just what Babylon or Egypt was to Israel. No more. She dwells alone. We know that we are of God—and that the whole world lies in wickedness!
Israel was ‘separate’ and dwelt alone. This was her position, her portion—such as was appointed her by the purpose of God. The Church is to dwell alone, like Israel. Let us set both these together, illustrating the one by the other.
1. Israel did not need the world’s HELP. The nations were stronger than she, but she did not require their strength to lean upon. Their strength was their weakness; their weakness was her strength. They would have helped her, but she would not be helped; and when at last she did accept their aid—it was her ruin! Her help was in Jehovah. Her security was in His favour. With Him upon her side, what was the array of the whole world against her? Her pious kings, such as Asa and Hezekiah, felt this—they prayed and acted accordingly.
Neither does the Church need the help of the world. The less of the world there is in her projects, her enterprises, her hopes, the better. Never has she prospered when she departed to an ‘arm of flesh’, or to the strength of human greatness, or to the influence of the world’s smile. For the world cannot really help one who is not of this world, who has nothing in common with her joys, or cares, or ambitions. And never has the world helped the Church without exacting a favour in return—insisting on or tacitly giving it to be understood that she expects some compromise, some relaxation of her testimony, less of strictness and spirituality—more of congenial fellowship and participation in her pleasures, if not her lusts and sins!
The Church’s help is neither in the world—nor in the god of this world. Her help is in the Lord who made heaven and earth. With this divine help she is able to undertake any enterprise, to encounter any foe. Let her lean on His arm alone. It is on this arm that faith leans; it is this arm that unbelief flings from it—to take hold of one more visible, more sensible, more congenial to flesh and blood.
II. Israel did not need the world’s RICHES. The world was rich—rich in its own way, and according to its own standard. Israel might have had a share in that wealth. But God had said, It is not for you. You need it not. I have given you a land flowing with milk and honey, abundance of corn and wine. What more do you need? Be content. Be strangers with Me and sojourners—as all your fathers were. When you need the gold of earth, you shall have it. You needed it once when you were leaving Egypt, and you got it without toil. You needed it when you were building a temple for me in my city, and you got it. But seek it not. When required, it will come to you.
Israel! the world’s gold is not for you! Church of the living God, your riches are not of earth—your treasure is in heaven. Labour not to be rich! Covet not luxury, and ease, and splendour! Grudge not to be poor. The cross of ‘poverty’, which your Master bore—you be satisfied to bear also. In the early Church it was so. ‘Not many rich, not many noble,’ were called. God chose the poor to confound the riches and greatness of earth. Poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing all things. Your riches are God’s; they are the unsearchable riches of Christ; they are divine and everlasting. They take not to themselves wings and flee away. You shall have enough before long—when the Lord comes. Meanwhile, be rich in faith, rich in love, rich in all good works!
III. Israel did not need the world’s WISDOM. Egypt had learning, Babylon had wisdom, Greece had philosophy. It is easy to see how Israel might covet these; for these have always been—even more than gold—objects of highest ambition of man. But with these Israel was not to meddle. When she tried to do so, she failed. Earth’s wisdom would not suit her. The cup of Chaldean magic was not for her. The cloak of Athenian philosophy did not fit a Jew.
Beside, she had wisdom of her own; wisdom of heavenly origin; not the wisdom of ‘conjecture or speculation’—but of certainty, of absolute truth—wisdom which could alone fill and satisfy—wisdom which could gladden and illuminate. In a small volume, no doubt, was that wisdom contained. To the secrets of science it did not extend; of man’s goodness or greatness it spoke little; to earthly glory or fame it did not point the way. But it was full of God and the things of God; full of infinite and perfect truth; full of all that could fill, and purify, and ennoble the human soul. One page of it was worth all that Gentile sages could boast of. Israel surely did not need to go to Chaldea or Egypt for wisdom and learning. She had all she needed within herself. She might dwell alone and enjoy it all. Happy Israel! Saved from a thousand doubts, and uncertainties, and vain reasonings, which vex, and fret, and shrivel up the soul! Happy Israel! Led at once by God into the green pastures of eternal wisdom, and made to lie down beside its quiet waters!
Church of God, all Israel’s wisdom—more than all Israel’s wisdom—is yours! You have now the fullness of Him in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell; Him in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Rest there. If other wisdom crosses your path, take it, if you are sure that it is truth. But let it be subordinate to the wisdom of Scripture. Place nothing side by side with the wisdom of Christ. Above all, beware of entangling yourself in the perplexities and sophistries of the day, thus rushing into the very thickets from which God, by giving you such a certain revelation, has sought to keep you back.
What! Do you covet ‘doubt’, when ‘faith’ is before you? Do you covet ‘speculation’, when revealed ‘certainty’ is presented to you? Do you prefer the ‘vexed and boiling whirlpool’ to the quiet haven or more quiet lake? Be on your guard against the wiles of the devil in these last days. Should not a people seek unto their God? Is His wisdom not the surest, safest, best? Oh, dwell alone! Enter your chamber—shut your door behind you! Learn of God. Fear not the taunt of the world—that you are not abreast of the age—nor imbued with its spirit. Retire to God. Let the world’s Babel-sounds of boasted wisdom pass around you, or over you—unheeded. In patience possess your souls. Get your wisdom in communion with God—and in the study of His book.
IV. Israel did not need the world’s PLEASURES. And why? Was she a Stoic? No! She was happy without the world’s pleasures. She had her God to make her happy! Her Sabbaths were happiness. Her feasts were happiness. Her ways were ways of pleasantness—and all her paths were peace. Happy were you, O Israel! Who was like unto you—a people saved by the Lord? How goodly were your tents, O Jacob, and your tabernacles, O Israel! She was the specimen of a happy nation, a prosperous nation—yet dwelling alone—indebted to no nation round for her gladness; indebted to God alone. All other joy was poor and transient when compared to hers. What could Phoenicia, or Philistia, or Syria, or Egypt, give her of true happiness?
So and even more with the Church. The joy unspeakable is hers; the peace that passes all understanding is hers. She does not need to borrow from the world. She is not so poor as to be indebted to any man. She has all and abounds. O child of God, is not the joy of God enough for you? Do you require the pleasures of sin, the gaieties of the ballroom, the excitement of the theater, the music of the opera, the frivolities of the world’s card-table, the stolen pleasures of the dance, to make up for deficiencies in what God has given you? If He has not given enough, go tell Him, and He will give you more. But do not go to His enemies to borrow! Do not go to Endor, or Ekron, or Egypt—to the world’s haunts of vanity, where the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life are cherished! Dwell alone with God, and His Christ, and His Israel. Let these joys suffice. They have proved enough for prophets and apostles; enough for angel and archangel—they may well be enough for you.
V. Israel did not need the world’s SOCIETY. Israel knew what this meant—’It is not solitude to be alone.’ The society of Gentile idolaters she was commanded not to seek. It would profit her nothing. It would bring neither joy nor strength. It would only weaken and corrupt. ‘Evil communications corrupt good manners.’ The twelve tribes were society to themselves; and, within the circle of Palestine, Israel found all that was congenial, and elevated, and blessed. For companionship she did not need to go beyond her own narrow bounds. Within these her fellowships lay.
Christian, be separate—dwell alone! Do not seek the society of the world. Don’t you know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? If you have any sympathies with that world—if it contains attractions for you—if God and the things of God are not enough for you—there is something wrong! Do not love the world! Do not seek its friendship. Seek the things above. Beware of the fascinations of worldly company, the spells which gaiety throws over the young. Stand your ground. Be not whirled away into the tossing current of gay society on any pretext whatever!
Church of the living God, be separate—dwell alone! That is your security, your strength, your influence. Let the world see that you are not of it; that you do not need it. It needs you—but you do not need it. And you will serve it best by dwelling alone. Not by coldness, sourness, distance; but by love, congeniality, gentleness, patience, by all acts of benevolence and words of peace. These are things which are only to be found by ‘dwelling alone.’
“These are those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”—Revelation 14:4.
“Follow me!”—John 11:22.
“Leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps.”—2 Peter 2:21.
“I Paul myself beseech you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.”—2 Corinthians 10:1.
These four passages point more or less to our responsibility for a holy life—and to Christ as the true model of that life. We are redeemed—that we may be holy. We are freely pardoned—that we may be holy. We look to Jesus—that we may be holy. We are filled with the Spirit—that we may be holy. The true religious life rises out of redemption—and is a copy of Christ’s walk on earth. Beholding Him—we are changed into His image, from glory to glory.
The first of these passages refers specially to the future honour of the saints. Their peculiar privilege is to be attendance on the Lamb—’forever with the Lord;’ forever beholding His face; forever waiting on Him, sharing His fellowship, doing His will, enjoying His blessedness, when day has broken, and the shadows fled away. They are to be to the Lamb in His exaltation, what the twelve disciples were in His humiliation—’followers’—though in a far higher sense than was known in the days of His flesh. Yet we may use this verse to point out Christ—as our present leader and example. We follow Him here in suffering and service—as we shall follow Him hereafter in glory and in joy!
Christ was our substitute when He was here on earth—we are His representatives now that He is absent. We are to be ‘lights in the world,’ as He was. For this end we are to ‘follow His steps,’ live as He lived, love as He loved, speak as He spoke. He is our pattern and model. Shine as He shone! He was the ‘Israelite indeed,’ the true Nathanael, in whom was no deceit. He was the true Nazarite. Let us be Nazarites as He was—consecrated to God, and separate from the world. Look up, Christian, look up! Not Babylon; but Jerusalem, is your hope and your home. Thus Peter points to Christ as our ‘example,’ remembering perhaps His last words to himself, ‘Follow me.’
The third of these passages connects together the suffering and the example. In it Peter places both before us at once, that we may have our eye on both, not separating the blood from the holiness, yet keeping both distinct, the former as the fountainhead of the latter. Jesus by His blood ‘washes,’ ‘sanctifies’, ‘justifies’ (Romans 5:9; 1 Corinthians 6:11). And while doing so, presents Himself as our model—the true doer of the Father’s will.
Let us note Peter’s words more at length.
Christ for us, or Christ our substitute—that is the first thing.
Christ in us, or Christ our life—that is the next.
Christ before us, or Christ our model—that is the next.
These three great truths make up a large portion of Christianity.
We look to Christ for salvation, and we obtain it as surely and simply as Israel obtained healing by looking at the brazen serpent. We look to Christ for conformity to His likeness—and we are changed into His likeness as we gaze upon Him!
The model or pattern is a COMPLETE one. Others models have only one feature of beauty, and are imperfect. Christ is perfect. Every feature is there; every line is there. We are to grow like it; to be imitators of Christ. We are to copy Him. In copying a man, there is danger of producing a stiff, second-hand, second-rate resemblance. Not so in copying Christ. He is the divine model. It is God’s purpose and desire that we copy Him. He is gone to heaven, but has left this pattern as a legacy.
A Christian, then, is a copy of Christ. His inner and outer man are to be copies of Christ. It is Christ’s footsteps he is to walk in. It is Christ’s image that he is to reflect. It is not Paul, nor Peter, nor Luther, nor Calvin, nor Rutherford that he is to copy—but Christ Himself. Other models may illustrate this, and so help in the imitation of Christ; but only as doing this are they useful; otherwise they are dangerous.
What then is a Christian man?
I. He is a man of FAITH. It was by giving credit to God’s word that he became a Christian man; for it is by faith that we become sons of God. And his whole life is to be a life of faith. As Christ lived by faith in the Father, so does he. Christ is his model as a believing man. The more that he understands of Christ’s life, the more will he see the faith that marks it, and will learn to copy it, to live, act, speak, and walk by faith.
II. He is a man of PRAYER. In this too he follows Christ. Christ’s life was a life of prayer. In the morning we find Him praying a great while before day. All night we find Him praying more. No one, we would say, needed prayer less—yet no one prayed more. And the disciple herein imitates the Master. He prays without ceasing. He is instant in supplication. His life is a life of prayer—constant communion with God.
III. He is a man of HOPE. Christ looked to the joy set before Him—and so endured the cross. He anticipated the glory, and so was a man of hope. There is the hope, the same glory, the same joy for us. The things hoped for are the things we live upon and rejoice in. Our prospects are bright—and we keep them ever in view. The kingdom, the crown, the city, the inheritance—these are before our eyes. They cheer, and sustain, and purify us! Were it not for the hope, what would become of us? What would this world be to us? Learn to hope as well as to believe.
IV. He is man of HOLINESS. He is the follower of a holy Master. He hears the voice—Be holy, for I am holy. He knows that he is redeemed to be holy—to do good works—to follow righteousness—to be one of a peculiar people. He is not content with merely being saved—he seeks to put off sin, lust, evil, vanity—and to put on righteousness, holiness, and every heavenly characteristic. He seeks to rise higher and higher—to grow more unlike this world—more like the world to come. He marks Christ’s footsteps, and walks in them. He studies the Master’s mind, and seeks to possess it; mortifying his members and crucifying the flesh. He aims at shining as He shone, and testifying as He testified.
V. He is a man of LOVE. He has known Christ’s love, and drunk it in, and found his joy in it. So he seeks to be like Him in love—to love the Father, to love the brethren, to love sinners—to show love at all times, in word and deed. His life is to be a life of love, his words the words of love, his daily doings the outflow of a heart of love. He is to be a living witness of the gospel of love. Love—not hatred, nor coldness, nor malice, nor revenge, nor selfishness, nor indifference—love such as was in Christ—that he endeavours to embody and exhibit.
VI. He is to be a man of ZEAL. ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten me up,’ said Christ. His life was one of zeal for God—zeal for His Father’s honour and His Father’s business. So is the disciple to be ‘zealous of good works.’ Zeal steady and fervent—not by fits and starts; not according to convenience, but in season and out of season; prudent, yet warm and loving; willing to suffer and to sacrifice; not sparing self or the flesh, but ever burning; zeal for Jehovah’s glory, for Christ’s name, for the Church’s edification, for the salvation of lost men—this is to give complexion and character to his life.
These things are to mark a Christian man. He is not to be content with less. He is to grow in all these things—not to be barren, not to stagnate, not to be lukewarm—but to increase in resemblance to his Lord—to be transformed daily into His likeness, that there may be no mistake about him—as to who or what he is.
The last of the passages set down at the head of this mediation takes up something special in Christ which we are to imitate—His ‘meekness and gentleness.’ In the book of the Revelation He is chiefly known by the name of ‘the Lamb.’ That is His chief name in heaven. He has other titles, but this is given as peculiarly His in the place of His glory.
As Peter thus points to Christ as our model, so also does Paul in the above passage. One feature in His character he specially notes, which shone out very brightly in this coarse, crude world—a world where, all along, man has trodden down man, the stronger the weaker; where strong deeds, as well as strong language, have been accounted heroism and manliness—the proper expression of dignity and superiority—this feature is the Lord’s submissive and non-resistance, even with the full consciousness of superior power—His ‘meekness and gentleness.’
This meekness of Christ Paul takes up and points to. On this he bases his entreaties to the Corinthians. This is one of the strongest and most earnest of Paul’s ‘beseechings.’
He has many of these; for he ‘entreats’ when he might ‘command;’ he uses love when he might wield the rod. ‘I beseech you by the mercies of God’ (Romans 12:1). ‘I beseech you by the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit’ (Romans 15:30). ‘We beseech you by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Thessalonians 2:1). Here, it is by the meekness and gentleness of Christ that he beseeches.
And why does he beseech them by this? For two reasons—
(1) He reminds them of this meekness and gentleness, as if to say, ‘Imitate Him who you call Lord and Master and do not proudly withstand the authority of me His servant;’
(2) he reminds them of it, as if to say, ‘Do not constrain me, the servant, to make use of anything but the meekness and gentleness of the Master.’
It is the apostle’s last argument in dealing with the rebellious members of the Church. Is it not weighty? Is it not irresistible?
But it is chiefly the ‘character of Christ’ itself that we would dwell upon here, yet noticing also the bearing of that character upon the obedience of saints, and the submission of sinners to His rule.
I. The PERSON. It is ‘the Christ of God.’ He has many names, each revealing His person—the Word; the Son; the Only-begotten of the Father; the Light; Immanuel. These express the marvellous constitution of His person as the Christ; Son of God, and Son of man; very God and very man; the Word made flesh; having all divine and all human perfections, all created and all uncreated excellencies exhibited in Him, all fullness deposited in Him; full of grace and truth; the glory of Godhead; the glory of the King of kings.
II. The CHARACTER. It is that of meekness and gentleness—meekness in bearing and forbearing; gentleness in His tender loving treatment of us—both in word and deed. He is ‘meek and lowly;’ He did not strive nor cry, neither did any man hear His voice in the street; the bruised reed He broke not, the smoking flax He quenched not; He entered Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, as the prophet had written, ‘Behold, your King comes’ (Zechariah 9:9). No doubt there are other declarations which speak of wrath, and judgment, and vengeance; but these are His ‘strange acts’ as the great Judge.
His character, as exhibited on earth in all His words and works—was that of lowliness and love. Fury was not in Him. He bore the insults of sinners against Himself; when He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not. He loved, He pitied, He wept, He invited, He entreated, He blessed. He frowned on none except the Pharisee. He spoke no harsh words—He displayed no repulsive looks or tones—He was ever courteous, polite, and affable. All in Him was grace—grace to the uttermost. He was the embodiment of that love which the Apostle Paul has described. He was patient , kind, not easily provoked, thinking no evil, rejoicing not in iniquity, bearing all things, believing all things, enduring all things, never failing! Meeker than Moses, gentler than John, more patient than Job, tenderer by far than His own tender earthly mother—He is in the embodiment of all that is winning and attractive.
All this He was on earth—all this He is still—unchanged and unchangeable—with nothing in Him or about Him to repel us—but everything to attract us—everything to win our confidence. At once the highest of the high, and the lowliest of the lowly. His is the almightiness of divine royalty, for all power is given here—yet the disposition to use that almightiness only to save, and comfort, and bless. Almighty meekness, and meek almightiness! Almighty gentleness, and gentle almightiness! How admirable!
How glorious! How blessed! So holy, yet so meek and gentle to the unholy! So abhorrent of sin, yet so pitiful and patience toward the sinner! So capable of executing vengeance and utterly destroying His enemies, yet so patient, so gracious; not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance! So terrible as the Judge, yet so tender as the Saviour! His is the iron rod, and the sword of vengeance, and the purging fan, and the devouring fire—yet He says—Come unto me. He weeps over Jerusalem. He prays for His murderers. Ah, what meekness and gentleness are His! Nothing like it on earth, or in heaven—the meekness and gentleness of the Godman. ‘Christ did not please Himself!’
III. The bearing of all this on us. It is not in vain that He is thus presented to us. This meekness and gentleness ought to show both on the believer and the unbeliever.
(1.) On the BELIEVER. The meekness and gentleness of Jesus is the strongest motive to our obedience and submission. It is the most impressive rebuke to all pride, or murmuring, or self-will. Having daily to do with one so meek and gentle, shall we not become like Him? Shall we not love Him, and shall we not honour His laws? Shall we not fear to offend Him, and shrink from wounding Him? O believer! Look at this meekness and gentleness, and put away all stubbornness, and self-will, and self-pleasing. And having to do with one so meek and gentle, shall we not put away from us all doubting, all despondency? Shall we allow one hard, one suspicious thought to linger within us? Shall we not put ourselves implicitly into His hands and trust Him forever?
(2.) On the UNBELIEVER. ‘Come unto me’ are the His first words to you. And His second are like unto them, ‘Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.’ Yes, He bids you come; He asks you to learn. He is the most accessible of all beings. His door is ever open; His heart is ever open; His arms are ever open. There is nothing in Him or about Him to repel you, though you are the chief of sinners, and the worst of men. His words to the sinner are pre-eminently the words of meekness and gentleness. They are infinitely attractive and encouraging. ‘Him who comes to me I will never cast out.’ Look at Him; listen to Him; draw near to Him; speak to Him; doubt not, despair not, depart not. Go up to Him—He will receive you. Tell Him your case—He will bid you welcome. He will not cast you away. He has patience to bear with all your foolishness, and ignorance, and stupidity, and unteachableness! He will not get angry with you, as proud men lose their temper with the unteachable or obstinate. He will bear with you. The greatness of your sins shall be no hindrance. The desperateness of your diseases will not make Him repel you. He will receive you graciously, and love you freely. Yes, He comes to you and says—’Behold, I stand at the door and knock!’
“Having the everlasting gospel to preach unto those who dwell on the earth.”—Revelation 14:6.
This worldwide proclamation of the glad message has been going on for ages. It is to be wider, and louder, and more urgent as the end draws near. The gospel is to be preached to all nations for a witness before the end comes.
The proclamation is made by an angel—an angel flying in mid-heaven, the position of the sun at noon—that all may see and hear. Angels in the book of Revelation, are representatives of the invisible agencies at work on earth.
They are living and personal agencies, though invisible—superhuman powers, setting in motion the whole machinery of the world; and in the case of the present angel, the special machinery for the promulgation of the everlasting gospel. This book of the Revelation (like Daniel and Zechariah) takes us ‘within the veil that hides the material from the spiritual’, the human from the superhuman. It gives us the hidden, or supernatural side of Church history; the secret springs and invisible agencies which produce events and facts—changes for good or evil; it gives us a glimpse of the true laws of nature, or at least of those living powers and processes by which these laws are regulated and made to subserve the Creator’s purpose. It shows us that angels have far more to do with our world and its history than we suppose; it keeps before us, what is so much needed in our day, the supernatural world of intelligence, and life, and strength, outside of ours—yet quite as real and true—closely though invisibly connected with us, and operating at all points, animate and inanimate, spiritual and physical, upon the course of things in this lower sphere of ours. These ‘ministering angels’ (Hebrews 1:14) have far more numerous and various ministries in connection with earth and its history than we usually ascribe to them.
This angel is seen ‘preaching’ (he has the ‘evangel to evangelize,’ as the words are literally), making the good news known. Not that he actually preaches as men do; both by stirring up human agencies and in other more secret ways communicating it to men. Satan and his angels work for evil, in the dissemination of error, the sowing of tares, the inventing of strong delusions; and why should it be thought incredible that good angels might, in their sphere of good, do the like service for truth and righteousness? How Satan tempted Christ—how he made Ananias lie to God—how he sowed the tares—how he leavens the world with error—how he beguiles us with his subtlety—we know not; but he does so. Just as the law was given by angels, as the ‘word was spoken by angels’ (Hebrews 2:2), as ‘the angel testified these things in the Churches’ (Revelation 22:16), so this angel in mid-heaven may be understood as proclaiming the everlasting gospel. Angelic lips may not be heard; but human lips, set in motion by agencies which eye has not seen, may proclaim it. There is here a new proclamation of an old thing; a re-promulgation on a wider circle of the everlasting gospel in the last days, just before the great act of judgment is consummated.
I. The GOSPEL. It is a ‘glad message’ from God to man; good news from heaven to earth. In it we have not man speaking to God, but God to man; not earth crying to heaven, but heaven to earth; it is love descending, not love ascending. It is the gladdest of all glad tidings that ever came to earth. It is the true good news—
(1) It is the true good news of God’s free love. To be good news, it must be the news of love. And for that love to be available or accessible to the sinner, it must be absolutely and unconditionally free. God’s free love is the very essence and marrow of the gospel. And it is as large as it is free.
(2) It is the true good news of God’s great gift. God gave His Son—and the Son gave Himself. Here is a gift beyond all measure and price—an ‘unspeakable gift.’ Of this the gospel is the glad message.
(3) It is the true good news of God’s propitiation for sin. It was not a mere gift, but a gift which was to be a propitiation—an atonement—a sacrificial gift—the gift of a substitute and surety. One special part of the value and suitableness of this gift—that which made it so pre-eminently a gift of sinners—was its sacrificial character. It was an offering for sin. It contained cleansing and reconciling blood. Yes, Christ is the propitiation for our sins! God has set Him forth as a propitiation. This is the very gladness of the glad message.
(4) It is the true good news of God’s righteousness. He is the righteousness of God—and He was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. We bring glad tidings of a divine righteousness in preaching the gospel of the grace of God—righteousness for the unrighteous, yes, for the most unrighteous of the sons of men!
(5) It is the true good news of God’s kingdom. The ‘gospel of the kingdom’ is its special designation. It is good news of a kingdom, and of the new and living way, and of the open gate into that kingdom for sinners. There is a glorious kingdom—there is free access to it; its gates are open; God bids us welcome. This is our gospel. Enter in, O man, O sinner, into the kingdom of God!
II. The EVERLASTING gospel. We read of eternal or everlasting salvation, eternal or everlasting redemption; and here is the same word applied to the good news concerning these.
(1) Its past is everlasting—It came forth from the bosom of Him from who the only-begotten Son came; it is the embodiment of His eternal purpose. It was hidden in the eternal ages; and from these it has come out to us. It is no new thing to God; no unexpected thing devised to meet a sudden emergency. It is from everlasting—like the love and grace out of which it sprang.
(2) Its future is everlasting—It is forever and ever. Its gladness is forever; its provisions last forever; and what it does for those who believe it, it does forever. The eternal future is filled with the trophies and bright with the splendours of this glorious gospel.
(3) It is illimitable—It extends on all sides, through all space as well as through all time. Its centre is the cross; its circumference is nowhere, or rather everywhere, round the whole universe of God.
(4) It is unchangeable—Like Him of whom it brings good news, it is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is without variableness or shadow of turning. One gospel, only one—yet that one sufficient for worlds of sinners—the same forever. It does not know progress or progressive development, for it is perfect.
(5) It is the gospel of every age and nation—It is not for one century more than another, but for all; not for one nation more than another, but for all. It suits the nineteenth century as truly as the first; civilized Europe as truly as barbarian Madagascar. It is the gospel for the ages—in every age the same, supplying the same needs, addressing itself to the same kinds of sinners pardoning the same sins, removing the same fears and sorrows. It is the everlasting gospel; more truly such than the everlasting hills or the everlasting stars. It is a gospel for fallen men—human, and yet divine—of earth, and yet of heaven.
And this gospel is to be enforced in the last days by a special argument—’Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come.’ The gospel changes not, yet each age furnishes its own potent reasons for receiving it—the last age the most potent and irresistible of all. Now or never! For the last trumpet is about to sound. Now or never! For the Son of man is just at hand!
“Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.”—Revelation 16:15.
These are words specially for the last days. They suite all times, no doubt—for Christ is ever coming; the last trumpet is ever about to sound; the fire is ever ready to be kindled; the Judge is ever at the door! But they suit the last days best, and are meant for these. With eighteen hundred years behind us now, we may take them home most solemnly to ourselves—
(1) They warn.
(2) They quicken.
(3) They rouse.
(4) They comfort.
I. The COMING. It is the long-promised advent. Christ comes! He comes—
(1) as Avenger
(2) as Judge
(3) as King
(4) as Bridegroom.
The same Jesus who left the earth is about to return to it. ‘Behold!’ He says to a blind, heedless world. ‘Behold!’ He says to a cold and slumbering Church. ‘I come!’ He is herald to Himself. ‘As a thief’—at midnight; when men are asleep; when darkness lies on earth; when men are least expecting Him; when they have lain down, saying, “Peace and safety.’ ‘Behold, I come like a thief!’ Without warning, though with vengeance for the world in His hand—when all past warnings of judgment have been unheeded. Without further message—for all past messages have been vain. Like lightening—like a thief—like a snare. Like lightning to the world—but the Sun of morning to His Church. Like a thief to the world—but like a bridegroom to the Church. Like a snare to the world—but like the cloud of glory to His own.
II. The WATCHING. Not believing, nor hoping, nor waiting merely; but watching—as men do for some special event—whether terrible or joyful, of which they know not the time. Waiting was the posture of the Jewish Church for the first advent; watching is ours for the second. Watch, said the Master. Watch, said the servants in primitive times. Watch, we say still, for you know neither the day nor the hour of His arrival. Watch, for that day is great and glorious. Watch, for you are naturally disposed to sit down and take your ease. Watch, for Satan tries to lull you asleep. Watch, for the world, with it riches, and vanities, and pleasures, is trying to throw you off your guard. Watch upon your knees. Watch with your Bibles before you. Watch with wide open eye. Watch for Him whom not having seen, you love.
III. The keeping of the GARMENTS. Be like Nehemiah, who, when watching against the Ammonites, did not put off his clothes night nor day. Keep your garments all about you, that when the Lord comes He may find you not naked, but robed and ready. Do not cast off your clothing either for sleep or for work. Do not let the world strip you of it. Keep it and hold it fast. It is heavenly clothing, and without it you cannot go in with your Lord when He comes.
IV. The BLESSEDNESS. Blessed is the watcher; blessed is the keeper of his garments. Many are the blessed ones; here is one class specially for the last days. How much we lose by not watching and not keeping our garments!
(1) Watching is blessed, for it cherishes our love.
(2) Watching is blessed, for it is one of the ways of maintaining our communion.
(3) Watching is blessed, for it is the posture through which He has appointed blessing to come, in His absence, to His waiting Church.
V. The WARNING. Lest you walk naked, and men see your shame. ‘Shame’ has three meanings—(1) the shameful thing or object; (2) the feeling of shame produced by the consciousness of the shameful thing; and (3) the exposure to shame and scorn from others. The first of these is specially referred to here. But all the three are connected.
Adam was ashamed at being found naked when the Lord came down to meet him; how much more of shame and terror shall be to unready souls at meeting with a returning Lord! It will be the beginning of shame and everlasting contempt. They shall be put to shame before men and angels; they shall be overwhelmed with confusion before the great white throne. The universe shall see their shame. O false disciple, come out of your delusion and hypocrisy, lest you be exposed in that day of revelation! O sinner, make yourself ready, for the day of vengeance is at hand!
“The testimony of Jesus.”—Revelation 19:10
“He who testifies these things says—Surely I come quickly.”—Revelation 22:20.
John was overpowered with glory. It was but the glory of an angel, and the words were the words of an angel; but the glory and the words were those of one who had come from the presence of God. Perhaps he was like Peter on the mount, who knew not what he did and said. He forgets for a moment that it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God,’ and he falls down at his feet to worship him. ‘Stop!’ cries the angel, ‘don’t worship me!’ And if the holy men and women, to whom the idolatry of the Church of Rome is paid, could speak, they would say the same, shrinking back horrified at the robbery of being made equal with God. But it is to the answer of the angel, and his declaration concerning himself, that I ask your attention.
Who am I, that you should worship me? Am I God? No, I am your fellow servant—and shall the servants worship each other, and forget the Master? No, I am the fellow servant of your brethren who keep the sayings of this book (Revelation 22:9). No, I am the fellow servant of the prophets of old (that is, the same angel who ministered to them). No, I am the fellow servant of all who ‘hold the testimony of Jesus;’ for ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’
Thus then we have a proclamation made to us as to the oneness of the whole Bible.
I. The oneness of the TESTIFIER. He is the one God. The sender of the testimony is the one Jehovah; the subject of the testimony is the one Jesus; the inspirer is the one Spirit. Through many lips He has spoken, by many pens he has written; but it is the mind, the will, the purpose, the revelation of the one God that is here.
II. The oneness of the MESSENGER. It is intimated here that it was the one angel alone that was employed to communicate the testimony. He was sent to patriarchs and prophets of old, to apostles and brethren in later times. The instrument or medium of communication was a created being, an angel; but it was the same throughout.
III. The oneness of the TESTIMONY. It is not many testimonies, but one; it is the word (not words) of God. It was given at sundry times and diverse manners; in fragments and portions, great and small; by many lips and pens; spread out over more than four thousand years, for it began in paradise and ended in Patmos; yet there is unity throughout, not discord or contradiction—marvellous unity, which can only be accounted for on the fact that there was in reality but one writer—He to whom one day is as a thousand years; and that therefore the truths enunciated are the offspring of one mind, the thoughts of one heart. This testimony bore all upon one point, one person, one work, one kingdom. It was the “testimony of Jesus;” that is, it testified of Him from first to last; for Christ is the all and in all of prophecy, the all and in all of the Bible.
But let us consider the oneness of this testimony in more detail.
(1) Its oneness as to the character of GOD. His is one name throughout, Jehovah. He is the Holy One; righteous, good, true; hating the sin, loving the sinner. He is King eternal, immortal, and invisible; infinite in all things; without variableness or shadow of turning. It is the same good and gracious God that you meet with at man’s creation, that you meet at the close of time; it is the same holy God that you find driving Adam out of Paradise, and bringing His deluge over the world, that you find pouring out His vials upon earth, and preparing His judgments for the sons of men.
(2) Its oneness as to the character of MAN. He was made upright, but he sought out many evil inventions. And since sin came in, we see him perpetually evil—a dark understanding, a rebellious will, a heart full of sin; thinking evil, speaking evil, acting evil. His “progress” is always downward, not upward. God’s testimony to man throughout the Bible is the same. Patriarch, and prophet, and apostle tell us the same thing about the evil of man—and the exceeding sinfulness of sin. It nowhere hides the sins of the good; nor does it exaggerate the crimes of the evil. It bears one unvarying and undeviating testimony to man and man’s heart—’deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.’
(3) Its oneness as to the way of SALVATION. That salvation is described in many aspects, under many figures and types—yet it is but one salvation—one way to life for the sinner, through a death and a righteousness not his own. God’s free love—the great sacrifice—the sinner’s faith. ‘The just shall live by faith.’ Salvation free, complete, present, everlasting—this is the announcement of Scripture from first to last.
(4) Its oneness as to the Saviour. He is the Seed of the woman; the Son of Abraham; the seed of David; the Child of Mary. He is the Man with the bruised heel—finite, yet infinite; created, yet uncreated; dead, yet living forever! Through His death life comes to us—through His blood cleansing comes. He is Jesus the Saviour—able to save to the uttermost—Messiah, the Sin-bearer, the Lamb of God. Every book of the bible bears on this with marvellous concord.
(5) Its oneness as to the CHURCH’S HOPE. It is resurrection; glory; a kingdom—and all connected with Messiah. ‘Behold!’ was Enoch’s utterance at the beginning. ‘Behold! He comes with the clouds!’ is John’s at the close. One unvarying testimony to our eternal future.
(6) Its oneness as to the SINNER’S DOOM. Death, wrath, woe—a fearful judgment, and an endless darkness! Throughout it is the same. It began with, ‘You shall die!’ It ends with, ‘They were cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.’ They shall have death without hope, who have refused the death of the one Substitute.
“The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”—Revelation 19:10.
The meaning of this passage may be given in the two following propositions—
(1) The theme of prophecy is Jesus.
(2) The Holy Spirit who inspired the prophets bears testimony in them throughout to Jesus—His great object in the prophecies is to bear testimony to Jesus.
‘For’ connects the two clauses thus—’I am the angel that ministered to the Old Testament prophets; I now minister to you, communicating the same testimony to you as to them—the one testimony of Scripture concerning Jesus. I am nothing but a creature, a fellow servant with yourself in the same work and mission, testifying to Jesus—do not worship me, but that God from whom I come, to testify of His Son.’ Let us take these words in their widest sense—
I. The theme of the Bible is Jesus. Not philosophy, nor science, nor theology, nor metaphysics, nor morality—but Jesus. He is the alpha and omega, the first and the last. We acknowledge Him as the theme of the Gospels; let us no less acknowledge Him as the theme of all Scripture, all inspiration.
II. The theme of Bible-annals is Jesus. Not mere history—but history as containing Jesus. Not the mere rise and fall of nations and kingdoms, but these as connected with the promised seed of the woman.
III. The theme of the Psalms is Jesus. It is not mere poetry, Hebrew poetry, that we find in them—but Jesus. It is poetry embodying Jesus; it is praise, of which every note is Immanuel.
IV. The theme of prophecy is Jesus. It is not certain future events, dark or bright, presented to the view of the curious and speculative—it is Jesus; earthly events and hopes and fears only as linked with Him.
What man needs, then, is Jesus; not mere knowledge or wisdom. What humanity—unconsciously and ignorantly, it may be—sighs for, is Jesus. What earth, ruined and accursed because of sin, groans for, is Jesus—nothing less than this. No other prophet or priest or king can meet the exigencies of the race and its dwelling, the earth, but Jesus only.
Yes, ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ I might take up these words and show how they are fulfilled in the things written concerning His first and second comings. But I prefer taking them up under the two great heads.(1) Himself; (2) His work. This will embrace the whole Christology of the Bible.
I. Himself. It is He, His own self, that shines out to us in the prophetic word. There we have His Person announced to us—the God-man; Son of God, and Son of man; the Wisdom of God; the Word made flesh; the Seed of the woman; the Bruiser of the serpent’s head; the man with the bruised heel; Seed of Abraham; Seed of Judah; Seed of David; Star of Jacob; Root of Jesse; the Lamb slain; the Lion of the tribe of Judah; Prophet, Priest, and King, Judge and Lawgiver. As the Creator of all things, He has relationship to the universe; as Redeemer of His chosen, He has special relationship to earth. As the Light of the world, he is connected with the present state of the world’s darkness; as the Morning Star, He is connected with dawn; as the Sun of Righteousness, He is connected with the promised day—the day of the Son of man.
II. His work. This, of course, is in correspondence with His character and person. It is prophetical work; it is priestly (or sacrificial) work; it is royal work. He is both teacher and lesson, the prophet and the prophecy; He is both priest and sacrifice, the altar and the victim; He is King—King of kings; and all things are His, though not yet put under Him. This work is (1) past (2) present, (3) future.
But let us mark the bearings of this work upon—
(1) HEAVEN, and the things of heaven. It has revealed God, in His love, wisdom, power, and righteousness; the three-one God, Father, Son and Spirit. It has formed the great lesson for angels; for from it, and the Church redeemed by it, principalities and powers learn the wisdom of God. ‘Angels desire to look into it;’ and angels in Him have received their head; for He is the head of principalities and powers, and shall yet be manifested as such. He is King of heaven, seated on the throne of the universe!
(2) EARTH, and the things of earth. Here it is that His cross once stood, and His blood was shed, and His grave was made. Truly He is connected with earth; for He was of the substance of the Virgin, and therefore linked with the dust of earth. Here it is that He has been saving sinners; redeeming to Himself a Church, a bride; preparing His kings and priests for the universe, as well as for this earth itself. It is from this earth (by virtue of His blood) that He removes the curse; it is of this earth that He says, ‘Behold, I make all things new;’ it is here that He is to reign as King.
(3) The GRAVE, and its inhabitants. He did not enter the tomb merely to show that He could come out again. He entered that He might acquire power over it, in virtue of His death. He is now Lord of the grave, and Conqueror of death. ‘O death, I will be your plague; O grave, I will be your destruction.’ He is ‘the resurrection’ as well as the risen One; from Him comes the first resurrection, with all its glory—the better resurrection—the resurrection unto life.
(4) HELL, and its possessors. He came to pluck brands from the burning; to deliver from the wrath to come; to take the prey from the mighty; to spoil the spoiler; to destroy the works of the devil—him who has the power of death, the prince of darkness. He comes to bind Satan, and shut him up; to smite Antichrist, ‘prince of the blood-royal of hell.’ He comes to fight the last battle with Satan, when the cup of his iniquity is full; for Satan’s enmity to Christ and His Church during these six thousand years is filling that cup; and though Satan has not the guilt of rejecting Him as the Saviour, he has the guilt of deliberately warring with Him and His saints.
Thus, then, Jesus is the great Bible-theme. For Him let us search the Scriptures—for Jesus—nothing less than Him! What do you think of prophecy? What do you think of Jesus? What do you think of the testimony to Him given by the Father and the Spirit?
Shall earth be ashamed of her coming King? Shall His Church be ashamed to bear testimony to His royal prerogatives in this dark day of His absence?
“On His head were many crowns.”—Revelation 19:12.
God’s great eternal purpose was to rule this world by a man—not directly by Himself, but mediately by a man, such as he whose creation is recorded in Genesis; not by an angel or mere spiritual creature, but by a being of flesh and blood. Earth’s government was to be in and by humanity. ‘To the angels has he not put in subjection the world to come’ (Hebrews 2:5).
The first intimation of this is in Genesis, in the history of man’s creation—’God blessed him and said, Have dominion.’ This is a man’s investiture with regal power; this is earth’s magna carta; this is God’s constitution for our world; a monarchy, not a republic, nor an oligarchy; the crown is put upon man’s head and the sceptre into his hand by God Himself.
Man sinned away his dominion—the crown fell from his head, the sceptre from his hand. Yet still, ages after, God speaks of dominion as his. The question is asked, ‘What is man, that You are mindful of him?’ This puts into our lips a new acknowledgment of the original title, ‘you have put all things under his feet’ (Psalm 8:6). Therefore it is that the redeemed sing, ‘We shall reign on the earth’ (Revelation 5:10).
But the sceptre was not to pass from the hands of humanity. God’s purpose must stand. In its first unfolding it seemed to break down; but it cannot fail. One in our very flesh, a true son of Adam, has the crown secured to Him. Messiah, the Word made flesh, is earth’s King—the last Adam, the Lord from heaven. Man and man’s earth are not to be disjoined.
But before Messiah reigns, there are to be ages of misrule and evil, rebellion and treason against the righteous King; for now ‘we see not yet all things put under Him.’
God puts man on trial to see if he can rule the earth—to see if he will rule it according to the holy principles of its original constitution. In every region of earth this has been tried; and man’s total incapacity for righteous government has been proved, as well as earth’s persistent refusal to submit to righteous rule. Earth is at this day no nearer order, and peace, and holiness, than at first.
Yet God has enunciated the true principles of government to man. He did it briefly at first; He did it more fully afterwards, when He chose a land for the special scene of His dominion, and a people in whom the divine principles of government might be exhibited. He has done it most fully of all in His revelations of the future of man and man’s earth. All prophecy, more or less directly, points to this. Isaiah’s predictions of latter-day glory contain in them not only the germs of such principles of government, but their full and frequent exposition. God has told us how He wishes His world to be ruled. ‘He who rules over men must be just;’ judges and rulers should be fearers of God, seeking to do His will and glorify His name. The crown and sceptre are to represent holiness and righteousness, as well as power. The throne is to be established in judgment and justice. The legislation is to be religious; interwoven in all its acts with God and His laws. The king rules for God, and in the name of God; all that he says and does, are to remind his subjects of Him by whom kings reign.
Thus all God’s history of the past, and His revelation of the future, declare the principles on which He desires His earth to be governed; the true theory of earthly rule and legislation. He who dissevers God from government, or would exercise dominion without religion, is setting aside what God has taken such pains to affirm. Divine politics are heavenly in their nature; and it is by these politics that our world is to be swayed.
All that is good, and holy, and just, is concentrated in the person of Messiah. He is the Just One. His sceptre is a sceptre of righteousness; the centre of His dominion is the new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.
Messiah then is the representative of Adam—yet also of God. To Messiah, when all else have failed, is committed the government of earth. He, the true Adam, with His true Eve, the Church is set by God on the throne, when the four great monarchies that have tyrannized over earth and trodden down the saints shall have been broken in pieces, and made like the chaff of the summer thrashing-floor. God casts down the thrones of earth; sets up the true throne, and places His Son upon it, King of kings and Lord of Lords. ‘On His head are many crowns.’
I. The crown of HEAVEN is on His head. ‘We see Jesus crowned with glory and honour’ at the Father’s right hand. Heaven is His dominion. He sits upon its throne.
II. The crown of EARTH is on His head. Not yet, not yet—but soon! All the present crowns of earth shall pass away, He shall take to Himself His great power and reign. He shall yet wear the crown, and exercise dominion here, when all things are made new; ‘come forth, O you daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon with the crown with which his mother crowned him’.
III. The crown of PRINCIPALITIES and POWERS is on His head. He is the Head of these. I do not mean merely that the powers of hell are put under His feet—but the powers of heaven. He is the King of angels.
IV. The crown of the CHURCH is on His head. He is King of saints. He is at once the Husband and the King of the Church. ‘He is your Lord, worship Him.’ The saints sit with Him on His throne; yet they fall down before Him.
Thus Christ is all and in all. Earth was made for Him as well as heaven. Men were made for Him as well as angels. Might and dominion are His here below; and he shall yet take the sceptre and show what holy government is; what holy legislation is; what holy judgment is; what holy politics are; what a holy king is. Earth waits for His arrival. Men rebel against His government. They would cast out the heir. They would not have Him to rule over them. Yet God shall set His Son upon His holy hill of Zion!