"And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." Revelation 21: 2.
WITH the appearance of the Great White Throne and the passing of the earth and the heaven, time was superseded by eternity. The new earth and the new heaven emerging out of the "fervent heat," of which Peter speaks, are subject to another system of time of which we know nothing. Perhaps it is this and other changes that have left one's impressions of the eternal glory so dim and undefined. Heaven had peculiar attractions for childhood, but having grown up, most conclude that the only teaching of Scripture on the glory which is to be is that which claimed the infant fancy and has long since been discarded.
Christendom generally concludes that since death is inevitable heaven will be a tolerable substitute for losing the joys of the present, but deep in the heart the anticipation creates little enthusiasm. That condition of mind was never intended by our Lord for His children. To the sorrowing disciples, crushed by the intimation that He was leaving them, He said, " Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may he also." To our Lord that seemed comfort and consolation sufficient for the most needy, broken spirit. He was undoubtedly right, and it is the duty of the Christian to cultivate the spirit that will draw out the comfort of such a promise.
But the Word of God lifts the cloud that obscures the view of the eternal glory, and in the measure of humble and simple faith, the Holy Spirit instructs and enlightens the mind of the seeker. He who meditates prayerfully and diligently will be rewarded with an understanding of the inspired page and a view of the final glory, which will endure through every time of distress. Many wounded hearts might be greatly cheered if they were assured of the glory that is to be. Where the Word of God is allowed to utter its deepest note there the conviction of the Apostle is shared, " For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us."
It is obvious at the outset that eternity has a place not only for heaven but also for earth; it is a new heaven and a new earth. In what way the new heaven will differ from the old we cannot tell. It is a fair assumption, however, that the present heaven is serving some purpose even as the present earth, and one may not be far wrong when one concludes that the present heaven is enjoyed by the children of God who have already passed from this sphere. Certainly we may think of our loved ones in Christ as in some condition of individual and conscious existence. The meeting of Moses and Elijah with our Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration suggests they had already entered into some condition of bliss and higher knowledge. They were able to enter in to the mind of our Lord as the disciples could not. They saw clearly the death of the Master and the glory that should follow.
It is no less certain, however, that greater experiences await those who are now at rest. The writer to the Hebrews makes it quite clear that, " they without us should not be made perfect." There are glories yet to be that they cannot know until the whole Church is gathered to its Lord. If therefore, we suppose them to be in the present heaven we may anticipate their perfect joy in the new heaven with the whole of God's children in Christ. There can of course be no dogmatism in the matter, but it would appear to be a solution, which is which has much to commend it.
Perhaps greater interest centres in the revelation that in the eternal glory the new earth has an integral part. This present earth is not to be blasted into space as a thing of temporary value only. It will be transformed, but not obliterated. There is to be a correspondence between the new and the old. As far as one can interpret it would appear that in the new earth there will be no sea. The assertion in Revelation 21:1 has to be taken literally. Everything else in the verse is literal: it would be peculiar if the last phrase should be symbolical.
The fact that in the eternal glory there is to be both a new heaven and a new earth requires that the reader of Scripture should be alert to anything suggestive of either. In Revelation 21:2, we read, " And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." Later in the chapter one of the angels talked with the apostle, saying, " Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife." For the purpose of this sight John declares, " And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God." It may be, of course, that this chapter contains two records of one event, but it is not essential to draw that conclusion. Indeed the differences are of such a character as to preclude that solution. In the first instance John saw the "new Jerusalem," in the second " Jerusalem." One is the Bride adorned for her husband, the other is the Bride, the Lamb's wife. Apparently the Seer looked up and saw the new Jerusalem coming down: but he was carried away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain so that he looked down upon the other Jerusalem beneath him. From his elevated position he could see the topographical features quite distinctly. No such view of the new Jerusalem was possible as that which he enjoyed of the second. It is possible the new Jerusalem never came down so low as to be visible from any height to which the apostle might have been taken.
It would appear to be an inevitable conclusion, therefore, that although each is " Jerusalem," there is a distinction between the first and the second. The first, the " new " Jerusalem, the Bride, is undoubtedly the Church in the heavenlies. The second, Jerusalem, the Lamb's wife, is restored Israel, all those entering the kingdom through the millennial age, and those " sheep" nations who were admitted into the kingdom by reason of their kindness to His brethren. There are many mansions in the eternal glory, and those who enter the kingdom through faith in the precious blood enjoy a state different from those who enter the kingdom by the authority, which our Lord has in virtue of His Sacrifice.
In the new Jerusalem the tabernacle of God is with men, in Jerusalem there is no temple. The writer to the Hebrews makes it very plain (9: 23 and 24) that the pattern of the furniture of the Tabernacle was a pattern of the realities in the heavenlies. The various ornaments were "figures of the true," and they pointed to the redeeming efficacy of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ as Priest and Sacrifice. The symbols now give place to the reality and a deeper experience of the presence and fellowship of God accompanies the new circumstance. The Lord's Supper, with its wonderful joys and inspirations, superseded at the moment of His Coming, will be replaced by the feast in the presence of the King and He will drink it new with His people in His Father's Kingdom.
May we no less conjecture that the presence of the tabernacle and not the temple is suggestive. The Tabernacle was for the period of Israel's progress and pilgrimage, for the days of adventure and enterprise. We must not suppose therefore that its presence in the new Jerusalem is incongruous, but that rather it indicates that in the eternal glory there will be fresh exploration, larger progress, greater pilgrimages.
The Jerusalem on earth presented a wonderful picture to the Seer. It is a glorious city with a "light like unto a stone most precious." Most people, including the writer, regard this description as symbolical of a magnificent glory, but not a literal description of the Jerusalem, theLamb's wife. Nevertheless there is some profound message in the symbols used. Precious stones are really useless. They adorn the person and add to one's pride and sense of self-importance. They flourish in wealth and luxury. Gold is man's curse and has been his undoing. Precious stones and gold are God's gifts to men, but in a world of disobedience they have never had their rightful place. In the Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, they enhance the beauty of the work of God's Hand, they take their rightful place in the Divine economy.
The outward glories of the cities are the flashing witnesses of the inner beauty and peace. There shall be no more death, no more tears, no sorrow, no hopeless misery, no more pain. These dark spectres belong to the former things of time and are passed away. The curse resting on man since the days of Eden is removed. It is almost impossible to imagine what life will be like without these awful burdens weighing upon the spirit.
Two priceless privileges are mentioned. " His servants shall serve Him." If God is to be served then we may suppose He has purposes, hidden as yet from our view, which will be revealed in the glory. It will not be occupation for its own sake, but tasks commensurate with greater enlightenment, larger capacity, and far reaching purpose and objective. We may be sure that art, science and literature have meanings beyond this time-bounded era, and that in the eternal glory they will find their consummation in Him. At long last it will be labour without anxiety, labour with joy. So few in this world have the opportunity of tasks, which exhilarate. Machinery in industry is crushing individualism and initiative. Work is the means of wages, and beyond that for large numbers it claims no interest. There His servants shall serve Him with intelligent delight. Work and worship will be one. "And they shall see His face." That is a promise to hold with great confidence. The believer will one day look into the glorious face of the One by Whose Sacrifice heaven has been opened.
"What by the gift of His infinite grace,
I am awarded in heaven a place,
Just to be there and look on His face
Will through the ages be glory for me."
Who that is human does not know what intense joy the presence of dear ones gives? To be with them stirs the depths of our heart. What will it be to be with Him, to look into His face, to enjoy in experience the promise He has given: " I will be His God, and he shall be my son." Let the reader meditate in the silence of his own soul, and already something of that pure seraphic joy will thrill his being as he anticipates the perfect complement of his deepest desires.
John Bunyan saw something of this in vision: " Now I saw in my dream that these two men went in at the gate : and lo, as they entered, they were transfigured, and they had raiment put on that shone like gold." And he adds: " Now, just as the gates were opened to let in the men, I looked in after them, and behold the City shone like the sun; the streets also were paved with gold, . . . There were also of them that had wings, and they answered one another without intermission, saying Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord." It was a sight and a sound to ravish eye and ear. We are not surprised when he concludes, "And after that they shut up the gates; which when I had seen, I wished myself amongst them."
In Thy mercy, 0 Lord, may it be Thy good pleasure shortly to accomplish the number of Thy Elect, and to grant, of Thy marvellous grace, to reader and writer an abundant entrance into the eternal glory, through the Eternal Son, Amen.
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