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