Revelation 21 and 22

Conversational Bible Readings

Plumstead Conference

Plumstead Conference 2002

Plumstead Conference web site

Reading 1

Revelation 21:15-21

"And he that spoke with me had a golden reed as a measure, that he might measure the city, and its gates, and its wall. And the city lies four-square, and its length is as much as the breadth. And he measured the city with the reed--twelve thousand stadia: the length and the breadth and height of it are equal. And he measured its wall, a hundred and forty-four cubits, a man's measure, that is, the angel's. And the building of its wall was jasper; and the city pure gold, like pure glass: the foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every precious stone: the first foundation, jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprasus; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates, twelve pearls; each one of the gates, respectively, was of one pearl; and the street of the city pure gold, as transparent glass."  

We trust beloved brethren that by this time we all feel the relevance of Revelation in regard to the book of God. This precious section gives us the expected answer to the history of God's earthly people as well as His heavenly people. It is the satisfactory conclusion to the whole book. Often in conversation today as people take account of the world situation, they say, 'What will happen next?' and again, 'Where will it all end?' Well, the Christian can supply answers to this based upon the truth of the book of Revelation. A point that is sometimes overlooked is that this book is written to servants (1:1). As such it is meant to encourage service to the Lord in spite of difficulty. We are to be "steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Cor.15:58).

It is recognised that this year there are many who have never been in the Plumstead readings since the beginning and so a brief summary of the book may not be out of place. In chapter 4 we have the throne of God and One who sits upon it, with the assurance therewith that God at all times has the situation well in hand. Chapter 5 deals with the book and we are reminded that God has plans for this earth, not only in the judgment of what is contrary to His name but also blessing centred in the Lord Jesus Christ. In chapter 6 we have the opening of the seals of the book and the judgments described as "the beginning of sorrows" (Matt.24:8, Mark 13:8). In chapter 7 there is reference to the twelve tribes of Israel, a remnant taken up for testimony after the church is taken home to glory. These witnesses of the Lord have remarkable success and chapter 7 tells us of the great blessing that results. In chapters 8 and 9 we come to the first set of judgments, the so-called 'trumpet judgments' and we must ask you to notice that these come from the throne. God would emphasise that His judgments are according to righteousness. In chapter 10 we have a picture of the Lord Jesus as the Angel King who puts His foot upon the sea and on the land, the One who has both the nation of Israel in mind and also the sea of the nations. In chapter 11 we come to the two witnesses and the events that lead to the introduction of the millennium.

Chapter 12 introduces us to the second section in Revelation where we come to the chief actors in the closing days. First there is the woman with the twelve stars. We often see twelve stars today in connection with the European Union but we can rest assured that the woman with the twelve stars here is Israel, far more important than the twelve nations of the European Union. Then we come to the arch-enemy, described in his fullest character twice, the serpent, the dragon, the devil and Satan. It is in his full description that he is waiting to devour the man child when he is born, but the man child is caught up into heaven. In chapter 13 we have the two chief actors on the earthly side, the political head, the Beast, and the religious head the Antichrist. In chapter 14 there are seven brief visions especially noticing the testifying remnant is seen in the time of Jacob's trouble. This is a remarkable picture of those who are sustained in the face of the fiercest persecution that any nation with ever suffer but God preserves a testimony in Israel in the midst of it. In chapters 15 and 16 we come to the second set of judgments in Revelation, the so-called 'bowl (or 'vial') judgments', which emanate from the sanctuary. The standard now is not God's righteousness but God's holiness. These judgments are much more severe and more extensive than the trumpet judgments. Chapters 17 and 18 are occupied with Babylon, first in its religious aspect and then in its commercial aspect. Here we have an expression twice referred to in Scripture, "the fury of God's wrath" (Rev.16:19, 19:15). We live in a day when the emphasis is on the love of God but let us never forget that there is such a thing as the wrath of the Lamb, and this expression, twice repeated, "the fury of His wrath". God will be angry in relation to that which is contrary to His nature.

In chapter 19 we enter a brighter side of Revelation, if we might so speak, in the judgment of Babylon. Chapter 18 verse 20 says, "God has judged your judgment upon her". We are expected to come to a judgment about that which is false in a religious sense. God will judge it and when fully dealt with, in chapter 19 we have the great hallelujah chorus. These are the only four occasions where hallelujah occurs in Revelation, the celebration of the consequence of the judgments. This leads, and the tempo increases now, to the marriage supper of the Lamb, the public appearance of our great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, the battle of Armageddon, the feast of the birds, and the Beast and the false prophet cast into the lake of fire. This is followed in the next chapter by Satan being bound in the bottomless pit and then the magnificent closing passages speaking of the world to come, and the final uprising when fire comes down from heaven upon those who surround the city and Satan himself is cast into the lake of fire with death and hades. This leads to the great white throne. This is where we were last year when we had to consider finally the portion of the wicked dead. There are two sessional judgments in the New Testament, one of the living (Matthew 25) and here of the wicked dead, and we were solemnised in the fact that this judgment will be a final judgment without court of appeal. This led to six readings, no less, on the eternal state; though Scripture says so little about it.

This magnificent section upon which we shall now explore should lift up all our hearts in deepest thanksgiving and praise. This city is referred to as a holy city. The Lord Jesus is holy and in this picture we find the saints also presented as holy. Secondly it comes down from heaven. When the Lord Jesus first came down from heaven, He was the Son of Man which is in heaven (John 3:13). His every act spoke of the fact that He came from heaven, and our Christian witness today is a heavenly witness. The third point is that, although the Lord Jesus was and is God. He came from God and He went to God, and what is displayed in this section is the work of God in our souls. This city comes "from God". The fourth point is "having the glory of God". At the present time, beloved brethren, we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor.4:6), but this city will have the glory of God, and in verse 11 it shines. This is what our testimony is to be, a shining witness. The word only occurs once else, in Philippians 2:15, "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world". God is presenting the assembly in a public way here, not what we are to Christ, but what we are for Christ, and if this is going to be our portion in a coming day what a powerful voice it is to us that these features should mark us now! In that day there will be a testimony to the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills of who this Person is, the centre and the glory of God, and His testimony will sound not only from the assembly, but also from Israel to the nations of the earth. The whole vast scene of glory will sound with His praise. Let us now see how this chapter is split up.

The millennium is presented to us in the middle of chapter 20. In fact it is the only Scripture which gives us the length of time of the earthly Kingdom of the Lord Jesus (a thousand years, 4 times v.2-5). Afterwards there is the great white throne which is the final judgment of the dead (v.11-15). Then all things created by the Creator are dissolved, it is the end of the day of the Lord and the introduction of the day of God. Afterwards is the eternal state, the new heaven and new earth chapter 21 verses 1 to 8. We should be very careful to understand that in verse 9 of chapter 21 there is a retrospect, a returning to time, whereas the eternal state is beyond time. The call of the apostle here is to come and look from the high mountain, the heavenly Jerusalem (v.10). There are two Jerusalems, the earthly and the heavenly. God's blessing to the earth will proceed from the heavenly Jerusalem down to earth to the earthly Jerusalem and she will be the centre of the world. The subject treated from chapter 21 verse 9 to chapter 22 verse 5 is the heavenly city, and then we have the end of the book a conclusion or epilogue. From verse 10 to verse 17 we have a general view of the city and the dimensions thereof, with a description of the walls, the gates and the foundations, verses 12 to 14, and overall dimensions in verses 15 to 17. We can then consider in more detail several beautiful features of that city, the jasper wall, the city in gold, the foundations with its precious stones, the gates of pearl and the street, no temple and no light, God is the light. Between verse 24 and the end of the chapter there is the relationship of the city with the outside, essentially with the nations. The heavenly city will be the centre of blessing, and the blessing will be distributed throughout the world to the nations. This relationship between the city, the heavenly Jerusalem, and the nations is quite different from what obtains in the eternal state. Then the habitation of God is with men. The inner life of the city, the internal blessings are presented in chapter 22, verses 1 to 5.

I cannot remember last year if any comments were made on the missing dimension in verse 16. There is no mention of depth, such as we have in Ephesians 3. The closing verses lead us to the eternal state, especially verses 18 and 21, here, it is the millennium where the measurements are short of what they are in the eternal state.

This is important. There is that which will be displayed in the world to come, but there is that which will never be displayed in the world to come. This is seen in verses 22 to 24 of John 17. Verse 22 says, "the glory which thou hast given me I have given them, that they may be one, as we are one", then the expression, "I in them and thou in me that they may be perfected into one and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and that thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me." This is the aspect of the glory of the Lord which will be seen by everybody. The glory given to Christ as man, given to the assembly and they will manifest that glory to the universe, but in verse 24 we come to something which is beyond display. There is in Christianity always that which is hidden which the world will never know. "Father, as to those whom thou hast given me, I desire that where I am they also may be with me, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me, for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." This is the glory of pre-eminence seen by the saints but not displayed to the world. The secret joys which are known in the Father's house will never be the subject of display.

In Ephesians we read that the love of Christ is beyond our knowledge, precious truth, but here we have what is before men and can be measured. Why was the measurement necessary? This is not the first time we have measurement in Revelation. In chapter 11 John is asked to measure the temple in Jerusalem. There he was to measure what was on earth during the time of the tribulation, but the court was not to be measured because it was given to the nations. Here everything is being measured, not by John but by an angel. An angel is also a creature which is probably an explanation for verse 17 where it says that the measure is man's measure and an angel's measure. The thing which connects men with angels, although there are vast differences, is that they are both creatures and there the "measure" is obedience. This is a deep lesson for us if we are really to know the things which we possess. We could compare this measuring with what we are doing here in the conference, being occupied with what God has presented to us. Many believers have only a very vague idea about the future, but God wants us to have exact ideas based on His word which give us security and certainty. That is why I think God makes the angel measure the city. We as creatures have to measure it. I would appeal, especially to the younger ones, to study the word, "measure the city".

Here we have to get a heavenly view, a spiritual measure of these things, and not just a human assumption about God's unfoldings. God wants us to understand it. The measuring has to be done in accord with Scripture.

We could apply the analogy with what we have in psalm 48 verse 12-13a, "Walk about Zion, and go round about her; tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks". We need to do that in a spiritual way in connection with the truth that we have here, to enter into it in a practical way, to "walk about it".

We read in a certain place "That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed" (Luke 1:4). I believe this is the practical matter for us. There is a verse in 1 John 2 verse 3, "We know that we know him". That is an extraordinary expression, 'We know what we know' but this may involve a good deal of searching on our side as to what we do know. It is not something that comes automatically. What is revealed is to be the subject of search and only then shall we know that we know. The Scriptures are the only basis for real testimony. If we are going to suffer for it we had better know thoroughly what we are suffering for.

It is to be noted that, one, the city is four-square, and two, that it is very large "twelve thousand furlongs", and three, that it is measured with a golden reed. Could the first remind us of divine symmetry and the second of the immensity of divine operation and the third of the important fact that it is God who is doing the measuring. Sometimes, perhaps too often, we have a small idea of what God is doing, a very real danger for us in the present day. There is a great deal going on today that is of God, and what is of God will certainly come into display in God's day of display.

Three things are mentioned here, the city, the gates and the wall. A measure is given for the city and for the wall but not for the gates. Why is that? It is because each gate consists of one pearl, and this pearl is priceless and cannot be measured. That is what the assembly of the living God is to the heart of God. How precious this thought that we are of priceless worth to the heart of the Lord Jesus.

The wall that surrounds the city is very small, a hundred and forty four cubits, which I suppose is something over two hundred feet, a wall around a city that is three miles high. I wonder if some brother would make some comment on this, and, indeed, what is the purpose of the wall? We usually think of a wall as that which separates, keeps apart, or which protects. Does this city need protection or is it just to show it is separate? If it is the latter I notice that the gates are never closed, so it seems to me that persons can go in and come out.

Could I add to your question? I notice that the city is marked in stadia, which seems to be New Testament measurement, and the wall in cubits, which we are more familiar with in the Old Testament. Is there a significance in that?

As to the dimensions mentioned the point is made sometimes that it is not the height of the wall, but the thickness of the wall that is measured. That may be acceptable. As to the purpose of the wall we must not forget that this is a millennial scene, not the eternal state. There is still evil extant with an uprising at the end, so the wall is necessary from that point of view. But the other point which may be mentioned in connection with the open gates is that there is so much good inside that that which is bad cannot get in. If our hearts are happy in the salvation and communion which is ours in Christ, "setting your affections on things above" (Col.3:2), we will not be bothered too much by the things the devil is all the time throwing at us. The moral principle is clear, let us go on with what is positive and have such a walk that there will be no room for anything otherwise to get in.

Perhaps another measuring activity of the prophet Ezekiel will help us in the matter. In Ezekiel 42, when Ezekiel is asked to measure the earthly temple in the millennium, it is said in verse 20, "He measured it on the four sides; it had a wall round about, five hundred long, and five hundred broad, to make a separation between that which was holy and that which was common". When the Lord gave the law to Moses the priests were to instruct the people in the difference between the holy and the unholy, between the common and the things which belonged to the Lord. In the millennium God will have a separation between that which belongs to Him and that which is unholy. In our time we have to apply the same measure. God wants a clear separation between that which is holy and that which is unholy. There will be sin in the millennium, but not inside the celestial city which is why there is a wall. Nothing impure will enter into this city.

I cannot say anything about the difference between the stadia and cubit, but the numbers are instructive; both contain the number twelve, twelve thousand stadia and one hundred and forty four cubits. The number twelve is, as we know from many other scriptures, the number of divine administration in the world, a perfect administration and mentioned many times here. The twelve apostles are mentioned here in connection with the twelve gates and the twelve foundations of the city. The city itself and its wall is characterised by this number, twelve and twelve times twelve, one hundred and forty four. Administration in the hands of man deteriorates whether in Israel or in the church but here we have something which will not deteriorate because it is God's heavenly city with perfect administration.

Briefly it can be mentioned that the stadium is a Greek measurement, it was not a man's measurement, it was devised in some other way, whereas the cubit is the length of the forearm.

The stadium is one hundred fathoms, and a fathom the distance between the outstretched arms.

We can be sure that God has the measure from the outset, He does not reveal everything at once (Hebrews 1:1-2 reminds us of that), revelation is progressive. The promise to Abraham was two dimensional, length and breadth, as we read in Hebrews 11:10 (see also Zechariah 2:2), but when we are given the details of this city here it is more than Abraham knew at the time. It is three dimensional, and we are not surprised that when in Ephesians 3 we get an account of the counsel of God. It is beyond man's measure all together, it is four dimensional. But even in the three dimensional stage here, in the world to come, there is more glory for God, more variety, more intensity about the glory than what was revealed before. While we cannot understand, and perhaps may go too far even to suggest, the variety in the gems, the colour, the style, the position, there is sufficient here to show us that the more God reveals about Himself the greater the glory that rebounds to Him.

 

Reading 2

Revelation 21:15-22

"And he that spoke with me had a golden reed as a measure, that he might measure the city, and its gates, and its wall. And the city lies four-square, and its length is as much as the breadth. And he measured the city with the reed--twelve thousand stadia: the length and the breadth and height of it are equal. And he measured its wall, a hundred and forty-four cubits, a man's measure, that is, the angel's. And the building of its wall was jasper; and the city pure gold, like pure glass: the foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every precious stone: the first foundation, jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprasus; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates, twelve pearls; each one of the gates, respectively, was of one pearl; and the street of the city pure gold, as transparent glass."   (21:15-21)

I would like to comment upon the individual measurements. The assembly is not infinite; God is infinite and has His own intrinsic glory but the glory of the assembly here is conferred glory.

We have seen that the primary thought of the wall is separation from evil outside (Ezekiel 42), but there may be another thought, and that thought is ownership. In the book of Joshua, the walls of Jericho may suggest that what was inside belonged to the people but the country was really God's and those walls had to fall. The thought of ownership is also seen in Isaiah 49:16 "Lo, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me". God's people are the Lord's, He owns what is His and it is stressed in saying that "thy walls are continually before me". This seems to be the thought which is emphasised here. This city is God's, it bears His glory.

In Isaiah 60, speaking of the earthly Jerusalem, it says, "thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise" (v.18). The glory of the city will shine out through the walls as verse 18 of our chapter, 21, indicates. The building of the wall was of jasper, and the glory of the city, the glory of God Himself, will shine out through the walls into the world outside at that particular time.

If we do not see the difference between the heavenly city and the earthly city we shall get into difficulty. Here the matter of transparency is important, the glory of the city will be seen.

The measure of the wall is a comprehensible dimension, and another aspect of the wall seems to be to commend the existence of the city to the beholder. This hundred and forty four cubits (about 250 feet) is something we can grasp, it will be comprehensible. The gates would speak of divine grace, and once a beneficiary of God's favour then we are able to contemplate the immensity of that which is within. No architect has yet, I think, devised a city twelve thousand stadia high (although they have ambitions). It is really something immense, but not infinite. Grace allows us to contemplate something which is vast, and that is what God would constantly bring before us, the immensity of the blessing, the fulness of God's grace and the glory of His grace.

It is clear that the measurements of this city are symbolic because in the first place the length and breadth and height of this city, (1380 miles), as a cube is unimaginable, even if it consists only of those who form the assembly. It shows us the perfection of the revelation of God in the assembly. In the Old Testament we find a cube there also, and that is the holy of holies in the tabernacle and the temple. It is very interesting and heart-warming to see that there it was the innermost sanctuary after coming through the court and the holy place into the holiest of holies. That was only entered once a year, by the high priest. Here we see that the dwelling place of God has the same form, though the dimensions are much bigger. It is the complete, perfect administration of God in the assembly, displayed during the millennium. This cubic city of these enormous dimensions will be the place where God dwells.

Let us never forget we also are the house of God where God dwells and should represent God in this world today. People should see in the assembly something of that which is of God but how unbalanced this revelation is nowadays, how sadly the assembly has failed. But in the millennium there will only be full and complete perfection.

Should we notice how careful God is to preserve His own glory? God is light, and if there is light to be seen in the city God Himself will be the source. It is the glory of God that lightens it, the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. All the features that come to light here are reflected light. There will be no glory whatsoever apart from the source. We do well at all times to see that God is careful to preserve His own glory.

"And I saw no temple in it; for the Lord God Almighty is its temple, and the Lamb."   (21:22)

In verse 22 it is the Lord God Almighty, clearly what is revealed of God in the Old Testament and then the glory of the Lamb which is not only an Old Testament truth but found in the New Testament also. To repeat, God is the only source of the light.

Could we focus for a moment upon the matter of the temple. There are five or six temples, Solomon's, Zerubbabel's when they came back from Babylon, Herod's, and there is a temple at the present time (our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost - 1 Cor.6:19; and the assembly is the habitation of God through the Spirit - Eph.2:22). There is also the temple built in unbelief after the rapture. Sadly we can see failure in every one of these, and we have to hold our heads in shame as to how poorly we have set forth the light of God in our own day. But beyond all this failure we come now a temple where God will be perfectly displayed. One might say that then there is no temple in the city because it is all temple. God is made known perfectly. What an encouragement in the midst of all the breakdown and sorrow of which we are so conscious today.

What is the connection of this city with the Father's house that we have in John's Gospel?

The city itself is the assembly, it is made up of believers. On the other hand there is a within and a without, there are gates to enter and a wall to protect from outside evil, so the last blessing in the book of Revelation, the last of the seven blessings is "Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have right to the tree of life, and that they should go in by the gates into the city" (22:14). The Father's house is the dwelling place of the heavenly city. God has prepared His own dwelling for the resting place. That is beyond display, but the assembly, as the heavenly city, will be a testimony throughout the millennium.

"I saw no temple in it" Why? "for the Lord God Almighty is its temple, and the Lamb". The significance of both those names has already been explained, but would it be right to say that the Lamb is particularly mentioned because, presumably, there would be no city if it were not for the Lamb?

Certainly. In these two titles we have God fully revealed but we have constantly to remember we can only draw near to God on the ground of sacrifice. We used to be taught by the older brethren, that the leading thought in connection with the tabernacle was approach, the leading thought in connection with the temple was display. The Father's house is something for the Father's heart, and as such it not a question of display but affection. This is the place where we can be before Him in the precious awareness of our new relationship with the sin question fully and completely dealt with, perfectly at ease in His presence and able to rejoice in all the glories that shine from His well beloved Son.

Why is God called the Almighty here? In the millennium it is a question of the ways of God with the first creation. Due to the entrance of sin it was marred but God reaches His objective in the millennium and the name God Almighty refers to Him in His ways with the first creation. What is interesting in our passage is that God does this by revealing Himself in the assembly which is already part of the new creation. God, in the new creation, reaches His aim and objectives with the first creation. This is one of the key thoughts in our passage.

We have been reminded that God will not destroy the first creation before He has claimed in that very creation His rights and His power. The last verse of psalm 22, which speaks to us of the work of Christ on the cross, ends up with this "They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done it".

In the tabernacle and in the temple the revelation of God and the glory of God are seen typically, but when we come to this final expression it is no longer typical or partial, it is substantial and complete. We cannot consider anything more austere, more majestic than the Lord God Almighty, nor can we consider anything more tender, more touching, than the Lamb. The Lamb here, like the Lamb elsewhere in the book of Revelation, is not so much the sacrificial lamb as the little lamb, the diminutive lamb in all the tenderness that conveys. Perhaps the extremes of the display of the glory and love of God are encompassed in the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb.

Could we spend a little time on "the temple". The temple implies a religious aspect, a throne implies power. There are seven successive dwelling places of God throughout the history of man in the first creation to the eternal state. The first one is the tabernacle in the wilderness, the second is Solomon's temple, the third one is Zerubbabel's temple, the fourth one Christ, "in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col.2:9), then the assembly, the habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph.2:22), then the millennial temple and finally the eternal state.

It was said that the measurements are only symbolical. However in chapter 22 verse 6 it says, "These words are faithful and true". If what God has written is the truth, why then do we take the measures as being only symbolical?

Simply because symbols can bring out truth. Reverting to the seven dwelling places of God the footnote of Mr.Darby's translation on Hebrews 9 and verse 1 makes it clear that the tabernacle was really the pattern of the holy, universal order. So right from the beginning God had in mind what is going on into eternity, the seventh and final dwelling place of God, and this truth is conveyed in symbol.

It should be clear, although all do not accept it, that the state of innocence was not a place where God could dwell with man. But yet, after the fall God's counsels of eternity make it possible for God to dwell with man, in man. This should emphasise to all the infinite value of Christ's work upon the cross.

How do you understand the temple of Ezekiel as the dwelling place of God due to the fact that at the same time the Lord God is dwelling here in the holy city?

The cloud left the temple at the beginning of Ezekiel, went out of the city to the Mount of Olives and went up into heaven, and does not return until the end of the book and in the same way as it came, but God is present in all places. He is in the heavenly temple, the assembly, the holy city. He is at the same time on earth because we see the cloud coming down from heaven and dwelling on the physical Ezekiel's temple in the millennial time. I see no problem, God can be in all places at once, He is omnipresent.

It is clear that certain negative things that are said about the city, "no need of the sun" - there is no natural light needed - "nor of the moon" - there is no reflected light needed; in chapter 22:5, "no need of a lamp (or 'candle')" - no artificial light, and "for the Lord God shall shine upon them", they have spiritual light. Have we not noticed before there is no symbolic light.

I was interested in your reference to the temple in Ezekiel. Is it not true that there is no high priest going in with incense there? That aspect of things is not applicable for the Jewish nation in the coming day. It is something that typically we enjoy today. The Lord has gone in with the incense, He has gone on high representatively for us in Hebrews 9:24 and in 10:19-22 we can also enter with Him.

I wonder whether the ark has any place in Ezekiel's temple? In the beginning of Jeremiah it says, "And it shall come to pass, when ye are multiplied in the land and become fruitful, in those days, saith Jehovah, they shall say no more, Ark of the covenant of Jehovah! neither shall it come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it; neither shall it be done any more." (3:16). It would seem to be replaced by Christ Himself as Man. When God dwelt in the midst of Israel He dwelt in the cloud in the holy of holies and the ark was the centre of that place. When the high priest went in on the day of atonement he would carry a cloud of incense and put the blood on the mercy seat, but now this appears to be replaced by Christ Himself. God will dwell on earth in millennial time represented by the prince, and the very last word of Ezekiel is "Jehovah shammah", "the Lord is here".

In the earthly city therefore there is a temple which has a central place, and in the heavenly city there is no temple. We understand easily that no night is a blessing, but why is it a blessing when it says "no temple"?

When God dwells in the temple (as opposed to God being the temple) it implies distance, and this is seen in Luke 1 where this distance becomes very clear. In verses 9 and 10 it says, "it fell to [Zacharias] by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter into the temple of the Lord to burn incense. And all the multitude of the people were praying without at the hour of incense." As long as God dwells in the temple the people are at a distance, whereas now we read that the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple and this means the immediate presence of God. It seems clear that this is already our place, based on Ephesians 1:4, where it says, "we should be holy and blameless before him in love".

The temple will be God's dwelling place among His earthly people, but here in the holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem, is God and the Lamb's dwelling place as J.N.D.'s hymn says (hymn 79 especially verse 14):

          "God and the Lamb shall there

              The light and temple be."

We can also add the thought that in the New Testament Paul (Eph.2:21) and also Peter (1 Pet.2:5) describe the assembly, as a temple. It is not said here, but the thought is not given up even in the present ruin of the church. The city is the temple. That is one reason why there is no need of the temple because it is all temple, but it is also clear that the word temple here has an entirely different meaning from all the other passages in the New Testament. It is said here that God is its temple and the Lamb. How can this be explained? It can only be explained in this way that there is absolutely no need of any building to approach God, that there is no separation any more. The setting forth of the glory of God will be in the assembly, in the city. So for her there is no separation, no entering in any more because the city has God in the midst of her and therefore this extraordinary expression is used, that God is its temple. We are one with Him and need no other means of approach. We are His temple, and He is our temple.

 

Reading 3

Revelation 21:19-21

"the foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every precious stone: the first foundation, jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprasus; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates, twelve pearls; each one of the gates, respectively, was of one pearl; and the street of the city pure gold, as transparent glass."   (21:19-21)

It says in the second part of verse 21, "and the street of the city pure gold, as transparent glass". It is remarkable that there is only one street in this city. A street is the place where we move about, the path upon which we walk. We have spoken of transparency already. David went in and out before the people (1 Sam.18:13), he was utterly transparent, there were no hidden motives. Our walk should be transparent also in holiness, the gold, clearly the pathway of God's pleasure. Perhaps that is the force of the one street and its bearing for us today.

In Scripture we only find one way. It is the same for all Christians, there is only one truth for all Christians, but what have we done with it? In the world to come God will show that in His eyes there has always and will only ever be one street. Gold, God's glory; glass, transparency. We need encouragement to stick to the truth and not be deviated from it because there is only one pathway. We have in this passage, from verse 9 to verse 5 of chapter 22 two different pictures. There is the assembly in eternal completeness, for in a moment the Lord will come and take us home, we will be glorified and there will be nothing added afterwards, except that we will appear before the judgment seat of Christ. The earth of which this passage speaks, verse 9 to chapter 22 verse 5 is still the old creation, only in the purified conditions of the millennium, so we have two different views, mingled with each other. There is the eternal glorified state of the assembly, the city of God and the old creation in the millennium with an earthly Jerusalem, the capital city of the nations. This is important to understand this verse which has been a puzzle to Scripture researchers because they could not understand a glorified assembly seen in the heavenly Jerusalem, and the earth which has been purified but where sin will still be present.

The street and city are pure gold. The street certainly reminds us of the walk of believers, the very thing that we often are sad about today because it does not correspond with our position now. Here, the street is exactly what the city is. A time will come when there will be no difference between our walk and what we really are in the Lord.

In the original language the word 'street' comes from a word which means 'broad'. In other words, although there is only the one path indicated for the saints, let none of us imagine that we are the only ones upon the path. I only mention this lest we should lose the evangelical touch while appreciating 'church truth'.

Maybe that is why there are twelve gates but only one street? Does this not show us that whichever way you enter into this city we are all set on the same path?

I cannot remember what was said last year as to the precious stones. I think some work has been done on it, could we get the benefit of it.

For the benefit of those who were not with us last year, I have drawn up two sheets. To summarise the very interesting subject of the precious stones, we said last year that physically they consist of materials found in abundance in nature and which have value. In the world the value of precious stones is based on their capacity perfectly to reflect light, and, when cut, exhibit the sumptuous colours of the entire spectrum of the rainbow. Spiritually the precious stones show the entire spectrum of God's nature, and God is light as well as love. On the breastplate of Aaron were the twelve stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel, on his shoulders and upon his heart. On the twelve stones the names of the tribes of the children of Israel were engraved. They were distributed in four successive rows of three stones each. Hebrew is read from right to left, so you start on the upper right corner and the first three stones speak of Christ's glory as the Messiah exemplified in Matthew's Gospel, the second row Christ as the Servant in Mark, the third row Christ as the Son of Man in Luke, and the last row, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, the glories of the Son of God as in John. The ornaments of the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28 consist of nine stones out of the twelve mentioned in Aaron's breastplate, the three missing stones are the third level, in other words those which relate to the glory of the Lord Jesus as Son of Man. The reason, I think, is this, the nine other stones exhibit the glories of Christ as Son of God, but there is one more glory that the Lord Jesus acquired through the work of redemption, which brings in the second creation, the new creation, that is why they are missing in the garden of Eden as the ornament of the king of Tyre. Finally the foundation stones of the holy city are distributed on the twelve gates, three on each of the compass points, north, east, west, and south. If we want to enter into more detail it would take us to the end of the conference. We should humbly confess that we have to be extremely cautious as to the interpretation of the stones as we are not exactly sure even of the names of the stones. There are even one or two differences in the Authorised Version and J.N.Darby's translation.

So far as I understand it, precious stones are the result of two things, one is heat and the other is pressure, and it seems to show that if we are to exhibit in any way the glories of Christ we will have to pass through heat and pressure. What is both precious in God's sight and precious in testimony is the result of the various exercises through which we pass.

That produces the stone, but to put them in a presentable way to God they have to be cut and polished, so this is yet more exercise. This equates very nicely with the work of Bezaleel and Oholiab in regard to the tabernacle.

We can extend this to the vessels of precious metals. "Take away the dross from the silver, and there cometh forth a vessel for the refiner" (Prov.25:4). In Malachi the silver has to be heated to be pure and fit for the master's use (3:3).

Could a further thought be added? In the breastplate of Exodus 28 the four rows seem to correspond with the order of the camp in the wilderness. In the testimony in the wilderness the priestly service of the Lord is very important. What we find here in Revelation 21 is that there will be a perfect testimony rendered. For this we are completely dependent on the priestly service of the Lord to reflect something of this glory which is to be seen in these stones. How thankful we can be for this service of the Lord to help us, even now, to be a testimony for Him.

The value of the precious stones is the capacity of reflecting light to obtain something beautiful. We seem to have the same thought in 2 Corinthians 3. When we look upon Jesus, we contemplate His glory and without knowing it we will be transformed into the same glory by the Holy Spirit. It is when we look on the moral glories of the Lord that we will be able to reflect light for this world in true testimony.

The fact that many of these precious stones here are not found anywhere else in the Scripture makes it difficult to say what they are. This may be an indication that there are many glories that we are not even aware of that will be displayed. 1 Corinthians 13:9 reminds us, "we know in part".

Do we not also have in these stones the aspect of individuality preserved in eternity. We have seen that the assembly has the glory of God and here we see the glory of God in its varied aspects, each stone showing forth one particular aspect. It seems the individuality of believers is to be preserved so that we all together will show forth the various glories of the Lord Jesus.

I was at the Observatory recently and I saw pieces of glass and the more they had been cut and shaped the more beautiful the spectrum. It was a wonderful spectrum with not just the seven colours or shadings from ultraviolet right through to infrared, all the various between shades the more they were cut. That would be a lesson to us, the more we are subject to the Lord dealing with us the more there will be glory to His name.

Does this not also remind us that there is something for God in each dispensation. In Ephesians 1:10 we have the dispensation of the fulness of time, and God has had His witnesses in every dispensation. He has been known as Elohim, the Most High God, El-Shaddai, Jehovah and to us He is known as the Father, but to each revelation there has been a response and that response, individually, as well as collectively is what comes out in these verses. The Lord needs every one of us, and the pressures and sufferings of every one are taken account of. Pre-eminently God has to explain himself relative to the sufferings of the cross and of His suffering people. The Lord who entered fully into all that His people ever passed through will then shine in a radiance that was never seen before, all the light emanating from the blessed One who has died.

It seems to me that the wall in the twenty-first chapter has more of a Jewish character. In verse 12 the gates are the twelve tribes of the children of Israel and then in verse 14 the twelve apostles of the Lamb. I would judge that to be the apostles to the circumcision. Perhaps in Isaiah 54 we have a pointer to the meaning of the stones. Verse 11 says, "Thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, not comforted! Behold, I will set thy stones in antimony, and lay thy foundations with sapphires; and I will make thy battlements of rubies, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of precious stones. And all thy children shall be taught of Jehovah, and great shall be the peace of thy children." (vv.11-13). So the millennial Israel is going to be characterised by this kind of beauty so the wall seems to have more distinctly a Jewish character than a representation of what the church is.

The names of the twelve tribes at the twelve gates has led to the thought that the believers of Israel would actually be part of this new Jerusalem, but I do not think this is correct. At the twelve gates the twelve tribes of Israel show the direction of administration that God has in the assembly towards the world. The new Jerusalem will reflect light towards the earthly Jerusalem and then the blessing will flow from the earthly Jerusalem to all nations. I think this is the significance of the twelve names being at the twelve gates. Another thought about verse 21. As we have seen this street shows the perfect walk in the new Jerusalem, the pure gold speaking of divine righteousness and the term "transparent as glass", holiness or piety. Righteousness means a walk in harmony with God, holiness and piety speak of the absence of all evil. These two aspects have been compared with Ephesians 4:24 (in truthful righteousness and holiness (JND) where we are exhorted to walk in this way now. That there will be no change for us at the end of the millennium becomes very clear from our passage as has been pointed out already from chapter 22 verse 5 and it is good to see this thought in the light of Hebrews 12. In Hebrews 12:22 we find the heavenly Jerusalem (this expression is more comprehensive that the new Jerusalem), and in it the assembly of the firstborn and this assembly is identical with the new Jerusalem. It is confirmed to them that they receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken. He speaks in verse 26 about the shaking of the earth at the beginning of the millennium and this, at the beginning of the millennium, signifies another shaking, indicated in verse 27 which takes place at the end of the millennium where we find the transition from the millennium to the eternal state. There are still shakings in store for this earth, but once the Lord Jesus has come at the rapture we shall have moved to the heavenly Jerusalem where will be no trembling, no shaking, no change for us anymore. Chapter 22 verse 5 says, "and they shall reign to the ages of ages".

It is important to look at the passages in the New Testament where the heavenly Jerusalem is mentioned. We referred to Hebrews 12, there is also Galatians 4 where we find "Jerusalem above" which is not exactly the same as in Revelation 21. In Galatians 4 there are the two mountains, Zion and Sinai, and Jerusalem above indicates a new order of things characterised by grace in contrast to the order of things characterised by the law. In Hebrews 12 the heavenly Jerusalem indicates the place where we will be, while here in Revelation 21 what we will be, the new Jerusalem, the assembly. In Hebrews 12 it is not exactly the same as what we have before us here in Revelation 21, the heavenly Jerusalem, the place which is on the one hand the assembly of the firstborn, which is the church, and also the spirits of just men made perfect, the Old Testament saints. They will be found in the heavenly Jerusalem. In Revelation 21 this new Jerusalem, this new holy city is the assembly. The question arises, of course, about the Old Testament saints, where do we find them in our chapter? We have seen Old and New Testament saints together in chapter 4 in the twenty-four elders, then distinction is made between the bride and those who are at the marriage supper, but here in chapter 21 we find again the bride, the new Jerusalem, the church. What about the Old Testament saints? Can we see them in the last verse of the chapter, inhabitants of the city? Perhaps the brethren can comment upon this further.

While the brethren are thinking about this question, there was a dear brother known to many of us here, now with the Lord, who used to summarise the three Jerusalems thus, 'Galatians 4 - origin; Hebrews 12 - administration; Revelation 21 - display'. I was interested in your helpful description of the twelve gates in the heavenly city and the administration of the earthly city. Do you think there is a type of that in the feeding of the five thousand in that there were twelve baskets full gathered up?

Yes. The feeding of the five thousand is usually placed with the present church period but the twelve baskets are left over and seem perfectly to apply to divine administration which will be established in the world to come.

But what of the remnant, those who will be brought to know Christ during the tribulation period, what is going to happen to them, what will their place be? Could it be the gates are open in order that others, such as those we have been speaking about might enter.

I think this is in verse 14 of chapter 22 where it says what qualifications they must have who can enter by the gates into the city.

Regarding the Old Testament saints we must not forget that it is clearly said that the new Jerusalem is the bride, the church. If we see the Old Testament saints in the twenty-four elders then they will be in heaven. As to the gates, it appears that it is the kings of the earth who are bringing their glory to it. It is contact point with the earth, so I have difficulty in seeing these gates as the connect point with Old Testament saints. In Zechariah 14 we see the various nations worshipping in the earthly Jerusalem and here we see that they may also bring something to the heavenly Jerusalem annually at the feast of tabernacles.

As to those who enter the city there are two different views held by brethren. There are some of our teachers who say that those who enter the city are the same as those who are the city. The city which shows the corporate view, and those who enter in verse 14 are the individuals who compose the city. But there is another view held by other brothers, well known, who say that during the millennium there will be three different groups of saints ruling with Christ. There will be the assembly, there will be the Old Testament saints who will not be on earth during the millennium, and the third group in chapter 20, those who have died during the tribulation who will be raised when the Lord comes, and of whom it is said they will live and reign with Christ during the thousand years; so that there are the three groups. It is not said, 'those who dwell in the city', but it says, 'those who enter', which shows only a certain tie between the city and those who enter. It is very difficult to decide which view is the right one.

Should it not be said that there is only one company that will be indwelt of the Holy Spirit as we are today? The Old Testament saints, and those referred to in chapter 20:4, whatever maybe their privileges, they still do not have the distinctive place of the assembly. I think that must be carefully guarded. Remember how the Lord said, "Notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matt.11:11) positionally. Even John the Baptist, greatest man that he was in the Old Testament did not have the indwelling Spirit that you and I have. The distinctive place of the assembly must to be maintained.

But we have agreed that the twenty-four elders, the Old Testament saints and the church, being altogether in the heavenly scene of chapters 4 and 5 are worshipping the Lord Jesus on the throne. It seems to me that the Old Testament saints are mentioned indirectly in chapter 19 at the marriage supper of the Lamb as the guests at the marriage supper, as the friends of the Bridegroom, but nothing more is said in the Scriptures strictly speaking as to any place of the Old Testament saints in relation to the heavenly Jerusalem in chapters 21 and 22. There are definitely those who will be resurrected as the fourth, last stage of the first resurrection after the judgment of the world and before the introduction of the millennium kingdom of Christ, those will be with Christ judging the world, but to my knowledge they are not associated with the church as such. In 1 Corinthians 6 it is we who judge the angels and judge the world as the assembly linked with Christ, "the Judge of all the earth" (Gen.18:25).

 

Reading 4

Revelation 21:22-26

"And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon, that they should shine for it; for the glory of God has enlightened it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk by its light; and the kings of the earth bring their glory to it. And the nations shall walk by its light; and the kings of the earth bring their glory to it. And its gates shall not be shut at all by day, for night shall not be there. And they shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations to it."   (21:22-26)

Could we have a further word as to the light of the city? The glory of God enlightens it, but the source of the light is the Lamb, He is the lamp. The nations walk in the light of the city which in turn derives its light from the Lamb.

Could we find a parallel in John 1 and 1 John 1? In both the Gospel and the First Epistle light has come into this world, and that light was the Son of God. In Philippians 2 believers are in view, "that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (v.15). That is the present imperfect testimony but there will be no crooked and perverse generation in the millennium. The assembly will then be the light bearer for the whole world. This links with what we heard about the earthly Jerusalem. There will be a very close connection between the new Jerusalem and the earthly Jerusalem in rule, in blessing, and in the shedding of light. That light will come from God and the Lamb and through the city to the earth.

There is another consideration in 2 Peter 1:19 Peter says, "And we have the prophetic word made surer, to which ye do well taking heed (as to a lamp shining in an obscure place)". Here it says, "the lamp thereof is the Lamb", so all prophetic testimony which has been likened to a lamp. All that to which the prophetic word was pointing is now reality and it is in the Lamb.

This verse is the conclusion of that part of the Scripture which introduces the city as the link with the outside world, the nations, the people. When the Lord Jesus was on earth He was "the light of the world" (John 9:5). Now in the night of His absence we are lights in the world, we are light in the Lord. What we have here is one stage further, all blessing from heaven to the earth, and the nations will come through the heavenly Jerusalem down to the earthly Jerusalem and then to the whole world.

There is a verse in Hosea 2:21 which has helped some of us a great deal in understanding what we are talking about, "And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith Jehovah" - this is the One at the top, Jehovah - "I will hear the heavens" - that would refer to the heavenly company - "and they shall hear the earth" - that is the earthly company - "and the earth shall hear the corn, and the new wine, and the oil" - the blessings will reach even creation - "and they shall hear Jizreel" (Hosea 1:11). I think this is a helpful picture of what will be in the world to come, the Lord at the top, the heavenly city, the earthly city and then reaching to the nations. The other thing to notice is that the precious stones are found in the foundations of the heavenly city. In other words, the light is transmitted to the earth as reflected light through these precious stones. In Isaiah 60:1, "Arise, shine! for thy light is come", the earthly Jerusalem is lit up with the light of the heavenly city.

Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road saw a light above the brightness of the sun. The Son of God outshines all the planets of his sky. In Isaiah 24:23 we read that "the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed". As just mentioned, the light is going to affect the whole earth and everything in it. Just as the sun today affects everything on earth. The Lord Jesus Christ in a coming day in a far greater way will do this.

God dwells "in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen, nor is able to see" (1 Tim.6:16). In John 1 when "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" there were those who saw His glory. In verse 18 the Father's name was declared, but when the message goes out to the world it is not until verse 29 that we come to the Lamb. I suggest that there is that which is the foundation of our testimony, to give a deeper understanding of the position of favour into which we are brought. This is to precede any faithful presentation to the world of the Saviour. It is good to bear testimony immediately as Paul did in Acts 9, but then he was sent off to Arabia to learn more about the God who had taken him up in blessing.

In verse 23 we read "And the city had no need of sun nor of the moon". That had been necessary for this earth, but in the coming day we shall be represented in this city which has been enlightened by the glory of God and the Lamb. Could we link this with the verse in 2 Corinthians 4:6, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ". The light of God has shone into our hearts so that we can view His glory in the Son and now it is our privilege to shine as reflecting light from His presence on this earth.

We feel increasingly how very different the Christian company is from this world through which we are passing. The early brethren used to speak of godly refinement. We should conduct ourselves as those who walk with God. This is very important relative to the light which we show to the world. The testimony should have something of the colour of heaven about it, something of the beauty of Christ shining in every department of our lives. How relevant this is in a world that is getting increasingly wicked and ugly and will very shortly come under the judgmental hand of God.

God dwells in light unapproachable, God is invisible, but He has made Himself visible, by approaching us in the Person of His Son. As we have seen in 2 Corinthians 4 we have a good illustration of this fact, the glory of God shining for us in the face of Christ. In Revelation 21 the same principle will be true when the light of God will be shed by the Lamb through the city reflected by the precious stones that adorn the foundation. It is not said, 'Christ will be the lamp', nor the Son of God but it is the Lamb. He was the Lamb without spot or blemish who offered Himself up to make atonement. This is the only true light to be shed. As we were just reminded of the deterioration and the ugliness of everything in this world, there is the only one true light, the Son of God become man, glorifying God during His life, glorifying God by His death and in so doing accomplishing atonement for lost sinners to come to God. That is the light which God has shined into our hearts, which will be the light which will shine in the city in the millennium and for all eternity. There is however one difference. The name of the Lamb will not occur in eternity. In the eternal state mention is not made of the Lamb because God will be all in all, although the Lord Jesus is, of course, there. In the tabernacle there was darkness, except for one light, the light of the candlestick with seven lights. There will be divine light in the city and that should be divine light in our lives right now.

Verse 24 states that the nations (which includes Israel) shall walk by its light, and all men on earth will admire the city and will bring glory to it. There are many passages in the Old Testament that show this but I would refer to Isaiah 60:3, "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising", and verse 5, "Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee", and verse 9, "Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee". {NOTE: it should be said that the O.T. Scriptures refer to the earthly Jerusalem}

When we consider verses like some in John 15 there is a happy phrase which some of us used to hear in the meetings "that which is the source becomes also the standard". For example in John 15:9, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you", the Son's enjoyment of the Father's love sets the standard for the love which He displays to His own. But it does not stay there. The Lord goes on to say, "love one another, as I have loved you" (v.12). We understand perfectly that the Son's enjoyment of the Father's love sets the standard for His love to us, but it is extended to us. But notice carefully that in that extension our enjoyment of His love does not set the standard for our love one to another. That may be and often is very faulty. It is His love for us which sets the standard. It seems to me that when we get this transmission from stage to stage as to the light then the same concept is applicable, whether or not it is God through Christ to the assembly, whether Christ through the assembly to Israel, whether it is the assembly through Israel to the nations that which is the source becomes the standard.

I have a question about the remark that, when God is all in all, the thought of the Lamb will not be there in the eternal state. For my heart the thought of the Lamb is very precious and if I think of 1 Peter 1 there we have the Lamb "foreordained before the foundation of the world" (v.20), from eternity, we have the remembrance of the death of the Lord now while in heaven we will see Him as the Lamb that has been slain. When we think that the Lamb is the lamp of the new Jerusalem, then I find it difficult to grasp that in the eternal state the same presentation of the Lord Jesus as the Lamb will not be there.

If I understand the significance of the Lamb in Revelation correctly then I have the impression that the Lamb is not presented primarily as the basis of our salvation but the Lamb shows the Lord Jesus as the One who was despised and rejected on the earth. In my youth I heard from brother Heijkoop that this expression used here in the original for 'lamb' is a diminutive and expresses some form of disdain and rejection, that is, despised. If this is so then it is easier to understand why the Lamb is the lamp. This is the thought of the writer of Revelation that the very One who was accounted for nothing He is placed at the centre of power in chapter 5 and here is the One who is the source of the light, the Lamb. This will be displayed in the first creation for a thousand years. But display is not the leading thought in eternity, rather satisfied love in rest.

Perhaps the use of the term Lamb in Revelation is parallel with the presentation to us of Jesus in Hebrews. I think we can be confident that the character of Christ as the Lamb of God will not be lost sight of in the eternal state, but simply the word of God does not mention it in connection to the eternal state. The three divine Persons are distinct, yet one. In the eternal state God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are presented as the one. The fact that the Lamb of God was foreordained before the foundation of the world shows that according to God's counsel Christ had to come to earth to accomplish the work of redemption. The consequence of this being that the Lamb of God in chapter 4 and 5 will be the Person administrating the judgments and blessing on the earth.

When the Lord Jesus came the first time He said, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12), and He told His disciples that they were going to be the light of the world (Phil.2:15). Could this be compared to the sun? The Lord Jesus is the light of the world and having His own energy. The light was Himself, and the assembly now is the light of the world as the moon reflects the glory and light of the sun. Why have we failed in this? Is it because we have not been in His light enough? This is a very personal matter referring back to 2 Corinthians 4:6. Have we not failed to stand personally in the presence of the Lord Jesus so that we fail to reflect His light. Is not this the problem?

This is confirmed by the order of the verses here. There is the light (v.23) and then there is the response (v.24 and 26). The same order is found in other Scriptures also. We need the light first in order to walk pleasing to God. This is true also for the nations, they need the light, and then there is a response according to God. "The kings of the earth bring their glory to it", and again we read in verse 26, "they shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations to it". In verses 24 and 26 it is glory and their glory but is it exactly the same? Could it be that in verse 24 "their glory" is the glory of the city? Is it not the same as we have in 2 Thessalonians 1:10, when the Lord will be admired in the saints? Here there is this display of glory through the assembly and this is brought back to it. In 1 Chronicles 29:14 there is a similar thought, "for all is of thee and of that which is from thy hand have we given thee". So what is received, what is seen, is brought back and this is all for the glory of the Lord. In verse 26 "they shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations to it", we see that there is also something from the nations, as we have read also in Isaiah 60.

With the Christian there is more than just reflection of the light, there is inner power, the power of the Holy Spirit to display the light, "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38) and here it will be the lamp which is important. There is not only witness now but also failure and we have always to the need for the power of the Holy Spirit for the reproduction of Christ.

It is an interesting thought at the end of verse 24, I can only think that the kings bring their glory to it. The city is not plural, it is singular, it is the bride, the Lamb's wife, and "the kings of the earth bring their glory to it", if you interpret it in the way you are doing. We have to bear in mind that in no way does their glory enhance the city. The city cannot be enhanced by anything that these kings of the earth or nations bring to it. They only bring their very best as a tribute, a just due.

One could compare the queen of Sheba with what is said here, she brought her glory, the glory of her kingdom, to Solomon without adding anything to this glory but only as giving tribute (see for example 2 Chronicles 9:12). But these kings of the earth where are they? They are on earth. Where do they bring their glory? To the heavenly city? How can they reach there? They can only bring it to the Jerusalem on earth which, as is said in Isaiah and in Zechariah, will be the centre of the world government on earth, but as we have more than once underlined during our readings today, the earthly Jerusalem will be enlightened by and be in direct contact with the heavenly Jerusalem. Can it be understood any other way? Everything is brought to the earthly Jerusalem as the centre on earth. It underlines again that there is a very close connection between the heavenly and the earthly Jerusalems.

It seems that verses 24 and 26 mean that they (the nations) will one, recognise the blessed position of the new Jerusalem and two, the blessed effect of the new Jerusalem on the whole earth. The kings of the earth will lead the way, so to speak, for the nations on earth in their recognition of the blessed position of the new Jerusalem.

As 2 Thessalonians 1 where we read that the Lord Jesus will be "glorified in his saints" (v.10). This is not the introduction of the millennium, the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus with His saints. The saints are associated with Christ in His glory and this will be seen during the course of the millennium.

The Scripture referred to here is the nations that are saved. It may be some will wonder which nations are these. Matthew 25 seems clearly to teach that when the Lord Jesus comes at His appearing as the Son of Man He will separate the sheep from the goats and the sheep. The nations that are saved will be those that go in to inherit the kingdom prepared for them by their Father from the foundation of the world.

No doubt that is true at the beginning of the millennium but it is no longer true at the end. There will be plenty of unsaved persons at that time. We have considered the judgment which will fall upon them then (ch.20 v.9).

On this note could we refer to John 17 again as far as the world learning from the believer. We find two expressions there in verses 21 and 23, "that the world may believe" and "that the world may know". At present when we endeavour to give the light of testimony here, if we do it rightly the world will believe. But another point of time will come when it says, "that they may be made perfect in one". Then there will be a perfect display, the city will be enlightened by the glory of God and then it is that the world will know. It may be an encouragement for some of us here, even if it be a searching one. At times perhaps we feel our testimony is very deficient, but the time will come when the city will be enlightened, the world will learn and as it says here, verse 23, the world will know. Perhaps we should read the rest of the sentence as well, "that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me". The world will recognise the blessed position of the heavenly city in that day, and so what may be weak now will be perfect then.

 

Reading 5

Revelation 22:1-2

Before continuing our study of Revelation 22 we could perhaps draw a profitable lesson from the instructions given to Moses in Hebrews 8:5 as to the building of the tabernacle, "See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern...... shown thee in the mountain". He was to build according to the pattern. The same principle may be applied here. Thus, for example, if mention is made of a wall (which, as elsewhere, speaks of separation) we are reminded that this wall has a solid foundation. Likewise in our day we have to be careful, be it in our individual lives or assembly wise, to ensure at all times we build on Biblical foundations and not on the ideas of man. A good start in assembly exercises today is shown in Judges chapter 2 - the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. Bochim is the place of weeping.

Should we now take a brief look at the book of life? 1 The book of life contains the names of all the believers in all dispensations who have life, both the heavenly company and the earthly company. In Revelation 13:8 the names are written from the foundation of the world, (v.8), but the heavenly company our names are inscribed in the book of life before the foundation of the world (Eph.1:4 and Luke 10:20). The book of life is maintained in heaven. On earth there are books containing names of professing Christians with many mistakes in their books, but in heaven there are no mistakes.

Would you make a difference between life and eternal life?

God's life is eternal life, life in the Son. There is no difference basically. Believers in millennial times having God's life will be translated into the new heaven and the new earth. Their names are in the book of life. They will never perish. Clearly, in the millennium earth sin will be restrained when Satan is bound for a thousand years, but in the eternal state he will be contained in the lake of fire. We can notice in passing that the way these believers will be translated into the new heaven and the earth has not been revealed. The church is beyond time. It is already in eternal conditions.

Is this the book of which Moses said, "The book which thou hast written" (Ex.32:32)?

It suggests to me that Moses knew his name was recorded there. It is touching to see that one in the Old Testament was aware of this precious record, and that it was God who had put his name there.

"And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, going out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of its street, and of the river, on this side and on that side, the tree of life, producing twelve fruits, in each month yielding its fruit; and the leaves of the tree for healing of the nations."   (22:1-2)

Moving on from this point, we find in chapter 22 there is sustenance for this life. It is one thing to have the name written in the Lamb's book of life, but now we come to the inner life of the city, the city centre, so to speak. We find the provision for the maintenance of this life in the figure of a river, "bright as crystal" and in verse 2 to the tree of life. This will be the provision for the maintenance of our life in the quickly coming day.

In verse 10 of chapter 21 the angel had showed John the holy city. Now it says, "He showed me", presumably the same angel.

The fact that it is a new occasion shows its importance. It is one thing to have life but it is another thing to sustain it and grow in it. This certainly calls for separate communication.

The centre is the throne of God. From this proceeds the river, and on either side of the river a tree, which sustains the life. There is similarity and contrast between the two things. In the Garden of Eden there were the same two features, but the one river divided into four heads. The one river became four streams, two going essentially south-east, Hiddekel (which is the Tigris) and Euphrates both flowing into the Persian Gulf. The next one flows into the Caspian Sea? and the fourth to the Black Sea? In the heavenly city there is only one stream. In Ezekiel 47 the source of blessing is again the throne of God. There the river is of increasing depth from the ankles to sufficient depth to swim in. In the Garden of Eden there were two trees, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, man's responsibility, and the tree of life. Man ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and this invoked God's wrath and the curse. In the heavenly city there is only one tree, the tree of life, God in His mercy towards man had prevented men from touching the tree of life (Gen.3:23-24). Can you imagine what the situation would be if man had eaten the tree of life and lived in misery in life without end? God did not allow this to happen! In the heavenly city there is the tree of life and no place for the tree of the responsibility of man because this was met by Christ at the cross (Ps.85:10 and Rom.3:26). On both sides of the river in this Scripture the tree has leaves and fruit, leaves are for the healing of the nations and the fruit is the last of the seven types of food that the Scripture tells us about for the Christians. It is promised to the overcomer in Ephesus.

In Isaiah 53:2 there is a reference to "a tender plant, a root out of a dry ground", clearly referring to the Person of our Lord. My question is, does that reference have a reference to the tree of life?

Yes. Life is in the Son the source and its transmission of it, and it is nowhere else. There are seven expressions in the Old Testament of Christ as the source of life. We have already had various mentions of the Lord Jesus as the true Branch. Then we have the Corn of wheat which goes into the ground and dies to bring forth much fruit in John 12:24. The Lord Jesus is also the True Vine in John 15, the Vine in Psalm 80:8, and the Vineyard in Psalm 80:15. He is the Tender Plant in Isaiah 53:2 and also the Seed in Isaiah 53:10, which I think are the seven emblems of the Lord Jesus being the source of life. Then we mentioned also there are seven mentions of food provided for the believer, spiritually speaking. Firstly there is the Passover (the feast of unleavened bread), secondly the manna, third the old corn of the land, fourthly the food for the priests, in particular the peace offering where food which was shared, the fat of the offering for God, the heave shoulder for the priest, the rest of the offering for the worshipper and for the people. Then there was the table of showbread with the twelve loaves which are the specific food for the priestly family, and for us the one loaf of the Lord's table and the Lord's supper. In John 6:49 Christ is the bread of life (a very precious study) and finally the fruit of the tree of life is promised to the overcomer in Ephesus. This is the last food for the Christian, spiritually speaking, the food of heaven if we stand firm and occupy the place of the overcomer in Ephesus

As to the Branch, it is mentioned in six Scriptures in the Old Testament, Isaiah 4:2 and 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5 and 33:5, Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12. Matthew is the Gospel of the "Branch of David", Mark is the Gospel of "Jehovah's servant the Branch", Luke is the Gospel of "the man whose name is the Branch" and John is the Gospel of "the Branch of Jehovah".

In the thousand year reign of the Lord Jesus there will be no monotony. There will be twelve fruits, each month yielding new fruit, so there will be wonderful variety, infinite variety. There will be a great deal going on and we will have a part in it as we shall see as we proceed down our chapter.

It is important to take note of the fact of the sanctifying and purifying effect that the throne of God and of the Lamb is going to have upon the whole earth in millennial days. This chapter opens with a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and the Lamb. At the setting up of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ there are not going to be diseases plaguing the people. The power of the world to come will deal with that (Heb.6:5). The river in Ezekiel 47:8 and 11 will also have a purifying effect on the land. All this will come to pass when God and the Lamb bring glory and blessing to this sad earth. The cause of man's sin with all the consequences of that sin will be dealt with when the Lord Jesus comes to take up His rights and reign to the widest extent of the universe.

Let us mention briefly the question of the Lord Jesus as a Nazarite. In Numbers 6 we get the description of the man taking the vow of the Nazarite. In Matthew 2 the Lord Jesus has been called the Nazarite because He came out of Nazareth, and there is a footnote in the French Bible in Darby's translation referring to 'netser', and also the English JND translation against Numbers 6:2 and Matthew 2:23. The question is much debated hence JND's caution.

There are some questions which need further comment. First of all the root out of the dry ground (Isa.53:2). The branch in Isaiah 11:1 is connected in most cases with royalty of Israel, as seen in Jesse and David. The tree in Scripture is often a symbol of something very powerful. David's kingdom was installed by God Himself, but after the declension of the kingdom in Israel this tree was practically, like Nebuchadnezzar, cut down. The tree cut down reminds us of the Lord Jesus, the One who is and has eternal life. He could be the shoot and the branch which came of this apparently dead trunk. Concerning the quotation in Matthew 2 (netser) this has puzzled many students because it is given as a quotation, but it is not a quotation. You do not find it in Scripture, as such. "His name will be called Nazarene (or, Nazaraean)". But there is a passage of which I think the evangelist Matthew has had in his mind. It is not Isaiah 11 in the first place, which is given in the Darby translation, but Zechariah 6:12. It is one of the passages already mentioned. Of all the passages treating of the branch is the one which comes the closest to Matthew 2:23, "He shall be called a Nazarene (KJV) or Nazaraean (JND)". Zechariah 6:12 reads, "Thus speaketh Jehovah of hosts, saying, Behold a man whose name is the Branch". In Hebrew there are different names for the branch. There is 'netser', which is the basis of the name of the city Nazareth, and Nazareth is in all dictionaries is connected with the Hebrew word 'netser'. There is thus a link between Nazareth and 'netser'. But in Zechariah 6:12 we do not find in Hebrew the word 'netser' but another word, 'tsemach' (see Strong's reference 6780), which is more frequent that 'netser'. Sometimes the evangelist, and also Paul by the Holy Spirit, mentions one thing of the Old Testament and connects it with another, giving, as it were, one quotation, made up out of two. I think that is the explanation here that he is thinking of Isaiah 11:1 where we have the 'netser', which is the connection with Nazareth, the town, and also of the Nazarene, but he quotes Zechariah 6:12, also a very well known sentence speaking of the Lord Jesus, and combining or filling in the word 'netser' in this passage in Zechariah 6:12. This seems to be the only explanation. There are other examples of this, for example, it says, "As the prophet Jeremiah says" (see Matthew 27:9 and Zechariah 11:12-13) and it is a quotation of Zechariah, and other passages also. So I do not think that the word Nazarene has anything to do with the Nazarite of Numbers 6, although the Lord was of course the true Nazarite.2

Some further general remarks about the first five verses of this chapter could be helpful. The great starting point is the throne of God and the Lamb. This is the first point to note. Then there are three things proceeding, firstly the water of life, this is refreshment, and whilst often a picture of purification it is also a picture of refreshment and I suggest that here it takes precedence. It is refreshment proceeding from the Lamb. Secondly we have the tree of life. This speaks of food that proceeds from the Lamb. So here are two fundamental things, refreshment and food. This applies today, when we are occupied with the Lord Jesus. We experienced this on the past evening when we were occupied with the Lord Jesus. We were refreshed and nourished. But the third aspect before us here is grace reaching out to others, the leaves are for the healing of the nations. Now a comment on the things we do not find here. It has been mentioned the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: has been dealt with at the cross. There is no responsibility here. In this glorious Jerusalem there will be only grace, no curse. As long as there is responsibility there is failure, and the result is curse. Then thirdly, there is no night any more, verse 5. There is no presence of evil. This is the moral thought behind the night. The night speaks of the presence of evil and this will no longer be the case; no responsibility, no failure, no curse and no night.

We come now to three things about ourselves as they are shown in verse 4. Firstly, "His servants shall serve him". This is when we will serve God and the Lamb in perfection. The second is, "and we shall see his face", we will enjoy permanently the privilege of His presence. There will be nothing that exists then which will come between us. The third point is His name shall be on our foreheads. This will express that we are His possession. These are wonderful thoughts for our meditation as we are sitting here, still in a condition of weakness and failure. But we can look into the future and see that then we will serve Him perfectly. We will enjoy the privilege and the joy of His immediate presence, and it will be expressed perfectly that we belong to Him.

In this passage in Revelation 22 we come to the third subject in the writings of John. In the writings of John we have three subjects, "the three L's". We have them in the Gospel (Life {ch.1-7}, Light {ch.8-12} and Love {ch.13-17}), the Epistles and also in Revelation 21 and 22. In Revelation 22 especially the enjoyment of life. If we go back to John 6 we can readily distinguish between the reception of life on the one hand and the enjoyment of life on the other hand. In John 6:53-58 we have both aspects, "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Unless ye shall have eaten the flesh of the Son of man and drunk his blood, ye have no life in you". Thus to eat and to drink (clearly seen in the JND Bible) is something that happens once in our life when we become Christians. Then it was a matter of reception of life by accepting Christ as Saviour and Lord. By believing in His name we have eternal life and have become children of God. But in verses 54 to 58 we have the matter of communion, "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." To eat and to drink in these verses is an ongoing matter. It is daily our food. In verse 56 we read, "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." In John 6 it is the matter of daily fellowship with the Lord Jesus. He who has the Son has eternal life, but the enjoyment of this life is not to be separated from Him. The Lord carefully distinguishes between "dwelling in Him" and "Himself dwelling in us". The first of these is our communion with Him, the second of these is our witness for Him. These two features are coextensive and also contemporaneous, a matter often overlooked. When we come to Revelation 22 there is one difference. In John 6 we have the subject of eternal life which is peculiar to the Christian company, the life of God, the life of the Son Himself. In Psalm 113:3 there is a reference to "life for evermore". This refers to the saints in Old Testament saints, and no doubt will be of especial encouragement to martyrs to the suffering saints in the sorrows which will come upon them. This is to be distinguished from what we have in John 6 where we have the Person of Christ clearly before us, and the especial privilege of the Christian company now. The verses we are considering here in Revelation 22 refer to the coming day.

Could we come back to the character of grace which is so evident in the passage before us. If we read here of the throne of God in verse 1 it is the throne of God and of the Lamb. We notice that the character and what is coming forth from the throne is in contrast to what we have in chapter 4, where we have the character of judgment. In chapter 4 verse 5, "And out of the throne go forth lightnings, and voices, and thunders", setting forth very clearly the character of judgment. What we have here can be connected with Psalm 46:4, "There is a river the streams whereof make glad the city of God, the sanctuary of the habitations of the Most High". Also, in relation to the tree of life, we might link it to a verse in the Song of Solomon, 2:3, "As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, So is my beloved among the sons: In his shadow have I rapture and sit down; And his fruit is sweet to my taste". This thought of enjoyment and refreshment will be Israel's portion in the day of the nation's recovery.

As to the matter of grace we notice that in Luke 12:37 the Lord is serving the saints. Here it is the saints who are serving the Lord?

We were reminded yesterday that the revelation of God has as its first objective approach to God. What we have at the end of chapter 21 is the dissemination of the blessing which has as its source God through Christ, then the assembly, and then the nation of Israel, and finally to the saved among the nations. We also saw that there is a response, that the glory, the honour, the appreciation of the nations comes back from the nations to earthly Jerusalem to heavenly Jerusalem, to Christ to God. We have the same here in chapter 22, that grace bestowed, life imparted, is with a view to there being a return to God who gave them, and so in verse 3 we get this wonderful statement, that His servants, His bondslaves, who deserve nothing in themselves other than judgment, have this wonderful privilege of sharing in the response that is commensurate with the revelation that has been given, "His servants shall serve him".

1   See also notes on Revelation 13:8 in 1996 reading, p.117

 

2   These two different groups should not be connected. In the European language the 'z' in the middle is represented by an entirely different letter in Hebrew so it is not the same root at all.

 

Reading 6

Revelation 22:1-5

"And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, going out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of its street, and of the river, on this side and on that side, the tree of life, producing twelve fruits, in each month yielding its fruit; and the leaves of the tree for healing of the nations."   (22:1-2)

The Tigris is where Ninevah was built, and Euphrates is where Babylon was built, the two empires being centred on these places. Both were used by God in chastisement on the nation of Israel. Babylon has special mention in Revelation, in chapters 14, 17 and 18 of Revelation. But there is no possibility that the Lord will ever allow empires to be built on this river which comes from the throne of God and of the Lamb. There is another river in Zechariah 14:8 and of that river it says, "And it shall come to pass in that day that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the eastern sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea" but this river is on this earth flowing from the earthly Jerusalem.

The river of Zechariah is the same as in Ezekiel?

It is the same river, but the one in Zechariah splits into two, not so here.

Although the river in Ezekiel is the same river as Zechariah 14, it is again in contrast to what we find here. That river is in the earthly Jerusalem, springing forth from the earthly sanctuary of the earthly temple rebuilt according to the pattern given in Ezekiel 40 etc. This shows again the parallelism between the earthly Jerusalem and the heavenly Jerusalem. It helps to see the many parallels but also many distinctions between these two, but here it is clearly the heavenly Jerusalem, the assembly. Blessings will go forth via the earthly Jerusalem to all the nations on earth. The waters that go out from Jerusalem on earth will have beneficent influence on the land of Israel because those waters, which flow down to the east, will make the waters of the Dead Sea sweet. At present that water is so salty that not the slightest life is possible, not even bacteria are able to live in that salt water. But in the coming day, "fishers shall stand upon it; from En-gedi even unto En-eglaim a place to spread forth nets" (Ezek.47:10). But there will always be a memorial of the sinful state of this earth because the pools and the marshes of the Dead Sea will not be healed (v.11). Even as the serpent will creep upon its belly and not be restored to its original state (Isa.65:25). But if, even in the millennium, there will remain on this earth remembrances of its sinful state in the heavenly Jerusalem there will be nothing of this sort, only blessing and life, no night, no darkness, no sin, no distance from God.

When the Lord Jesus will come personally down in the day of His appearing, Zechariah 14:4 tells us that His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives and there will be an enormous earthquake. Half of the mountain will remove to the north and half to the south. From that time water will flow east to the Jordan river and west to the Mediterranean Sea from Jerusalem.

Mention has been made of Engedi. In the Song of Solomon 1:14 where it says, "My beloved is unto me a cluster of henna-flowers in the vineyards of Engedi". Is that referring to a future condition or are there actually vineyards in Engedi now.

Engedi has always been a kind of oasis near the Dead Sea. Even now there are springs of water, waterfalls, coming from the mountains and it has always been like that. Thus planting and farming are possible not far from the Dead Sea.

Morally what you are really saying is that in the barrenness around it there can be an appreciation of Christ, an oasis, a green spot in the wilderness.

In the vineyard of Engedi there is the henna. There are at least twelve different elements of fragrance in Scripture, and henna is understood by some to be an emblem of the resurrection of Christ.

For those interested in word studies it may be noticed that the word for tree in 2 is wood, the same word which is used for the cross in five places (Acts 5:30, 10:39 and 13:29. Also in Gal.3:13 and 1 Pet.2:24). J.N.D. has a footnote on Acts 5:30. This therefore confirms to us that the source of life here - the tree of life - is connected directly with the Lord's death upon the cross - further confirmation that all depends upon our blessed Lord and His wondrous work on the cross.

The water of life "bright as crystal". Both the water is the water of life and that the tree speak of Christ. "Bright as crystal" may suggest the difference between the Gospel of John and the First Epistle of John. In John's Gospel we have the manifestation of life in the Lord Jesus, perfectly, He is the Word of Life. There is nothing to hinder the manifestation of life in Him. But in the Epistle we have that which is "true of Him and in you" (1 John 2:8). We know that the manifestation of life in us is often weak and imperfect, but when we come to Revelation 22:1 this water of life is "bright as crystal", nothing to dim it. This will be life in its full manifestation. The tree of life is in the centre, in the midst of the street and of the river. This may be difficult to imagine but we can say simply that the tree is absolutely central. In paradise, in Genesis, the tree of life was also in the centre (2:9), but when Eve talked to the serpent she spoke as if the tree of responsibility was in the centre (3:3). It seems that what attracted her was the tree of responsibility, but here we have the real centre, the divine centre, and that must be the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Being in the centre He is accessible to everyone. The same is true now, He is accessible to the youngest of saints. The tree produces twelve fruits so there will be fruit in every month of the year. With the Lord Jesus there will always be satisfaction for the heart at all times.

In Ezekiel 47 there were trees on either side of the river, many trees which gave their fruit. Here at first sight there are difficulties, but a possible solution may be that the street and the river run parallel to each other so the tree is in the midst of the two. As to the words "on this side and on that side" in the Greek may suggest from the side, so one could translate "from this side and from that side". If we then introduce the word "looking" or "seeing" then it seems that if one looks from the river side or from the street side there is always the tree of life in view.

It has also been suggested that the Greek here means that the tree spanned the river, its roots were going into each bank of the river and the tree spanned it.

Let us be clear we have here a verbal representation of spiritual realities even if it is difficult for us to comprehend fully the description. It also furnishes us with another illustration of what we read in Ecclesiastes 7:8, "Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof". When we look at the tree, in Eden, the way to the tree of life was soon barred because of sin. Here no cherubim guarding the way. The judgment has been dealt with by the Lamb. He has endured the flaming sword of God's wrath in judgment. The tree of life now stands alone and is accessible to all.

"And no curse shall be any more; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him"   (22:3)

 

It is important to be reminded that the description here is not physical or geographical, but moral and spiritual. The same principle applies with the tabernacle and the temple. However hard we try, there is not quite enough detailed information given to enable us to make the drawing or the blueprint or the model. You might say, 'It is perfectly plain to me', I agree, it may be perfectly plain to the one who is next door, but we will never get agreement altogether as to the fine detail. There is, however, always sufficient detail given for the moral and spiritual lesson which is what we really seek. Here then is that source and which is central, the tree of life. There are things that are absent, but the positive things are stressed. We have already looked briefly at "his servants shall serve him,and they shall see his face; and his name is on their foreheads". There will not only be activity but the saint's thoughts will be entirely in line with God's thoughts. This is after the judgment seat of Christ where we are given our personal appraisal in the presence of the Lord. All doubts, all misgivings, all misunderstandings will be put to one side and our thoughts will be brought entirely into line with His own. We shall then understand, all that He is, that which has motivated Him in all that He has done. We will then see clearly, not as through a glass darkly.

"and they shall see his face; and his name is on their foreheads."   (22:4)

 

We have arrived in verse 4 and that which has been sought for by the servants of God in many generations. Moses desired to see His face, "Let me, I pray thee, see thy glory" (Ex33:18). We know that having come back from the mountain the skin of his face shone. But that was temporary. We have a permanent condition here it seems, His name is stamped upon their foreheads. The Lord Jesus in John 17:24 says, "I desire that where I am they also may be with me, that they may behold my glory". I think we have arrived at that point here in Revelation, "and they shall see his face". His glory will be upon us and that will be permanent - for ever.

"They shall see his face"; this is a present privilege for His servants in a spiritual sense. Has it not a special bearing for us now when we seek to serve the Lord? Esther 1:14 we have, "next to him were...... the seven princes of Persia and Media, who saw the king's face". Then in 1 Kings 10:8 the Queen of Sheba exclaims to king Solomon, "Happy are thy men! happy are these thy servants, who stand continually before thee, who hear thy wisdom!". It was a privilege for these servants to serve the king because they were able to look upon the face of the king. One other practical verse for us is Psalm 123:2, "Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes are directed to Jehovah our God, until he be gracious unto us". We notice here the readiness to serve, to obey immediately.

It is difficult sometimes to see that which is exclusively for the holy city and that which extends to the earth. The "healing of the nations" clearly refers to the earth, and "no curse shall be any more" that obviously is the earth, because there never will be any curse in the holy city. As to "the throne of God and the Lamb" is that on earth or is it in the city, because we already have the throne of God and the Lamb in this city and are we are talking about the earth? "And his servants shall serve him" is that exclusively in the holy city or does it refer to what they do upon the earth? Verse 5 clearly refers back to the holy city. So I would like to know what applies to the earth and what is exclusively for the holy city.

It appears that only the end of verse 2 refers to the earth where leaves are mentioned for the healing of the nations, whereas in verse 3 it is clearly the heavenly scene that is before us. Again it is introduced by the statement that there will be no more curse. This is not entirely true of the earth during the millennium. For example in Isaiah 65:20, "the youth shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed". It will only be true in the eternal state that there will be no more curse upon the earth.

So only within the city do we find the true paradise of God. On earth we normally have only one harvest per year but here we have new fruit every month. In the Song of Solomon chapter 2 verse 3 it says, "In his shadow have I rapture and sit down; And his fruit is sweet to my taste". So the heavenly saints will partake of what He is Himself but the nations on the earth will have only the leaves. When it says in verse 3 "and his servants shall serve him" the word used is the one for priestly service, not the service of the bondslave.

Before proceeding we may notice that in verses 1 and 3 we have, "the throne of God and of the Lamb". This is the only place in the Revelation where it is called "the throne of the Lamb". In the verse in chapter 7:17, the Lamb is in the midst of the throne, in chapter 3:21 it says, "even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne", but here it is "the throne of God and of the Lamb". This is not without significance.

"And night shall not be any more, and no need of a lamp, and light of the sun; for the Lord God shall shine upon them, and they shall reign to the ages of ages."   (22:5)

We have just heard that there will be twelve harvests in the year, how do we have months without a moon? This is obviously the ordering of God, there is no moon to provide months so God is obviously setting aside the things of nature and bringing in months and harvests in that way. Is that right?

Time is not passed yet. On the earth there will be days and months and years, even one thousand years. The assembly is taken out of this scene, but even when we are in heaven time will still go on in the earth. We read of the three and a half years of the tribulation and the thousand years will go on but it will be the first creation. The heavenly city does not need the sun and the moon, but they are there, not for us, but for the earth. So we have mixed conditions. We are already glorified and fit for the eternal state although the eternal state has not yet begun until after the millennium. So I do not see any difficulty in months being applied to the heavenly city which has been taken out of this scene but not yet out of the universe. We are not seen here in the Father's house, and yet we will be there. We will be in the presence of the Lord Jesus and the Father and still at the same time, be the means of glorifying Him in this creation, and used for the blessing of the earth. Things which our little minds cannot reconcile are nevertheless still true. The assembly, that is all believers, will already be in the eternal position but not yet in the eternal state. This is clear from the last verse where it says, "and they shall reign to the ages of ages". Thus it is said after the thousand years reign the reign will not end. The thousand years reign by the heavenly city over this earth in its partly renewed state will be the dispensation of blessing and the suppression of evil, a very important characteristic of the thousand years reign. In the eternal state there will still be rule, but it will be in a scene where there will be no evil to suppress. Thus in Romans 5:17, "For if by the offence of the one [Adam] death reigned by the one [over all humanity], much rather shall those who receive the abundance of grace [in Christ], and of the free gift of righteousness, reign in life by the one Jesus Christ". That is, as far as I can see, the eternal reign of Christ in which we are by grace to take part.

 

Reading 7

Revelation 22:1-5

"And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, going out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of its street, and of the river, on this side and on that side, the tree of life, producing twelve fruits, in each month yielding its fruit; and the leaves of the tree for healing of the nations. And no curse shall be any more; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him. And they shall see his face; and his name is on their foreheads. And night shall not be any more, and no need of a lamp, and light of the sun; for the Lord God shall shine upon them, and they shall reign to the ages of ages."   (22:1-5)

We should mention that the tree of life is in the paradise of God according to Revelation 2:7, "To him that overcomes, I will give to him to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God". Paradise is only mentioned three times in Scripture, once here, the place where the tree of life is, secondly, the place promised to the dying thief upon the cross (Luke 23:43). The third mention of paradise is important to us. In 2 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul was caught up to paradise, whether in the body or out of the body he did not know

In Revelation 22 the holy city is in paradise, where we are now reading. Is it heavenly or earthly? And what is the connection between the two? In Revelation 22 "his servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face; and his name is on their foreheads".

It is in contrast with those who have the mark of the beast, who have surrendered their will to the will of the devil. In Philadelphia it says, in Revelation 3:10-12, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation...... Behold, I come quickly...... Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out". This is the privilege of those in the heavenly city, "and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name." Definitely this is a heavenly position, but concerning the earth we find exactly the same expression. In Revelation 14:1, we have the believers of the remnant of Israel, "having his Father's name written in their foreheads".

How do you read in the Song of Solomon chapter 4? Is that not a reference to paradise there? It says in chapter 4:13, "Thy shoots are a paradise of pomegranates, with precious fruits; Henna with spikenard plants"? Is this a fourth reference to paradise?

Basically paradise is a place of delight. It is a Persian garden full of delights. Probably in the Song of Solomon it is something like this, but definitely paradise in the three scriptures of the New Testament refer to a spiritual place.

The word 'paradise' in the Old Testament, in the Hebrew, is probably a Persian word which normally does not mean paradise, but paradise is derived from it. In the Old Testament, in the German of Darby even, it is not translated 'paradise'. One place is Nehemiah 2:8, and there it says, "keeper of the king's forest", and the forest there is this Hebrew word 'paradise'. In the footnote of the English Darby translation, it is given as paradise. It is the same in the Song of Solomon in the German J.N.D. version. It is also the same word in Ecclesiastes 2:5 and Song of Solomon 4:13, but we should not apply any of these to the paradise of which we are speaking here. The word in the New Testament Greek is also derived from the same Persian group, but clearly in the New Testament paradise is the "third heaven".

It is interesting that the name of the Lord is on the forehead of the servants and is seen in the faithful of Philadelphia in spite of the weakness and the surrounding ruin. They also are as pillars in the temple of God and also preserved from the great tribulation. This should be a constant encouragement in present assembly conditions.

The name on the forehead shows identification with the Lord by His name, "the Lord knows them that are his" (2 Tim.2:19), and we are not to forget the coming day..... We will be manifested, being conformed to His image, and we shall then all show perfectly all that that name means. We do not always do that very well today. It should nevertheless be our aim now to show our identification with the Lord whom we are serving.

In verse 2 the leaves are for the nations, but the fruit is for God. The leaves are necessary for the simple reason that, whilst the millennial future will be a time of wonderful blessing it is not going to be absolutely perfect. It is implicit that healing will be necessary. In some cases there is going to be judgment, but it appears as always that God desires to work in grace. In Hebrews 6 we read of the "powers of the world to come". Clearly there will be miracles in that day as when the Lord was here in lowly manhood.

In Zechariah 14, even if there is negligence to go up to worship at Jerusalem at the feast of Tabernacles there was no rain upon that country.

But in Psalm 147 verse 3, "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds". This seems to be a timeless principle with our God.

In chapter 7 where we have the great multitude, verse 16-17, "They shall not hunger any more" etc. This applies especially to those preserved whilst in the midst of tribulation, not the world to come of which we are now speaking.

There has also been the suggestion that this is for the health of the nations. It is not so much that they are ill and need to be healed but it keeps them healthy!

We are having a lot of suggestions but could we have an answer to clear our minds on that important issue?

It helps to compare the verse we are now considering with Ezekiel 47:12, when concerning the tree of life we read, "the fruit thereof shall be for food, and the leaf thereof for medicine". Definitely in Ezekiel 47 it is for a people are on earth. In Revelation we are in the world to come, that is, the earth inhabited by people with the flesh in them. The only thing that is different from the world today is that Satan will be in the "bottomless pit", man's lust will not be initiated by the action of Satan, but because evil remains in man there will be need for medicine and a need for healing. Sickness and all the difficulties in relation to it are the result of sin in the world. Sin is still there, whereas for the heavenly people, for the heavenly company, for the church, for the new Jerusalem, we will be beyond it. We are glorified, conformed to the very image of Christ, but still we are in relation with the earth. That is the reason why there is still the place for medicine, for healing.

The word for healing is 'therapeia', the word from which we get therapy and therapeutics. It occurs three or four times in the New Testament (Matt.24:45, Lk.9:11, 12:42 and here - Matt.24:45 only in a minority of manuscripts). In the first and third of these references it carries the additional thought of serving.

Evidence of life in a tree is that it has leaves. If there are no leaves it is a dead tree! This tree is being nourished by water in the river and this is this really what the nations in the millennial period will need. It flows out from the throne of God and is going to bring healing to the nations.

This may be connected with the Melchizedek priesthood of the Lord Jesus in millennial times and also with the heavenly company. In Revelation 20:6, "they shall be priests of God". Initially the priesthood was the representation of the people to God, the priest entering into the holy place, but here in millennial times this service of priesthood will be in heaven and bring healing to the earth.

It is to be remembered that this blessing will reach to the nations through Israel. The nations will then realise, as never before, that Israel is God's earthly people - a humbling position for them! All through Israel's history these nations have opposed and persecuted Israel. In Jeremiah 3:17, "At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of Jehovah; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of Jehovah, to Jerusalem; and they shall no more walk after the stubbornness of their evil heart".

Tracing this chain of blessing further we can say God will involve the new Jerusalem, the assembly showing that the assembly will keep its character of showing grace. This verse here is a very important one to prove this point. The assembly of God has the privilege to manifest the grace of God. This is true today, in the time of grace in which we live, but the assembly will keep this character of showing grace even in the millennium although it will then be manifested in a different way. It is the important aspect of grace that is before us now.

To confirm the efficiency of this healing we should notice that sin is going to be a rare occurrence in the world to come, "the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed" (Isa.65:20). Because of the absence of Satan to work upon the evil nature sin out breaking will be rare.

The basis of all the blessings which we have at the beginning of this chapter is the "throne of God and of the Lamb". These words occur twice, in verses 1 and 3 and we do not forget that He also is "the lion of the tribe of Judah". This character He will exhibit at the beginning of the kingdom, the only occurrences of this expression (Rev.5:5). He is also the Lamb is God, and the Lamb here gives His character to the throne. When we think of government in a kingdom, and of an animal to symbolise this we would probably choose the lion, but here we do not have the Lion, we have the Lamb. This reminds us of the character of the Lord Jesus who was the One who when He was reviled did not revile again, and when treated unjustly did not threaten. He was the One who, as Isaiah 53 shows us, who did not open His mouth. What a government will that be! It is the very opposite of what we have now in present world government.

Is the Lamb also seen on the throne in chapter 4?

No - not until chapter 5.

Notice He is standing there, not sitting (ch.5:6). This would suppose that the activity of the throne is what is to engage us in Revelation.

As to the healing of the nations. Malachi 4:2 tells us, "And unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth and leap like fatted calves". And in 2 Samuel 23:4, when we come to the last words of David we find, "And he shall be as the light of the morning, like the rising of the sun, A morning without clouds; When from the sunshine, after rain, The green grass springeth from the earth".

We should be careful to distinguish the timing of the healing of the children of Judah and Israel which is mentioned in Malachi 3:1-7. This is also spoken of clearly in Isaiah 30:26. This latter Scripture tells us, "And the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that Jehovah bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the wound of their stroke". This healing refers to the time of Jacob's trouble and the healing of the people of God at the beginning of the millennium. This must be clearly distinguished from what we have here. What we have here is the healing of the nations during the millennium. Did we say anything about who the servants are (v.3)?

We had in the end of the previous chapter those who enter the city. At the beginning of Revelation it is said that God has given the revelation to show His servants things which must shortly come to pass but here we may see servants who are distinguished from the city, a wider group than the believers who belong to the assembly. At the end of the previous chapter, those who shall reign with Christ, will include the Old Testament saints and also the martyrs of the tribulation period. These are the three groups who will reign with Christ. Perhaps we may see here (in contradistinction with the city itself) the servants who see His face and on whose foreheads His name is. Those who shall reign with Christ are more than the assembly. It is my thought, but made with a question mark.

I think globally it will be all those believers who have part in the first resurrection. Of the four phases of the first resurrection, they will all be entitled to the privilege of reigning with Christ. (These were discussed in the readings in year 2000, p.68)

Is it not significant that the word "serving" in verse 3 is priestly service? This seems to suggest a distinctive dignity put upon the service. The Lord may use other agents in connection with the healing, but the priestly service is prominent with the heavenly saints of the assembly. If we are distinguishing the families there is a distinctive place for those who serve as priests.

Is not this priestly service according to the order of Melchizedek? Of the two priesthoods, Aaronic priesthood is a priesthood of intercession, a representation of the people to God, but the Melchizedek priesthood is a priesthood of blessing manward. Here we see the blessing of the earth through the instruments in God's hands, the assembly and all the believers who have part in the first resurrection.

Would we get an example of that in the end of Isaiah 66:19, "And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off , that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles". What is the character of this service?

In Isaiah 66 it is more the nations as instruments of helping his own earthly people, quite a different thought from what we have here. All these nations are used as instruments to bring back the elements of Israel to the land of Israel at the beginning of the millennium.

"My glory among the Gentiles"?

It is by doing His will, as the following verse shows. The nations accomplish the will of God in helping Israel to get its place which it should have, and we can see this taking place at the present time. We are at the threshold of the coming of the Lord. If we look at the Middle East we see a very interesting situation, with wonderful possibilities, but that is not our study now. As to the servants and their priestly service, in looking again at Revelation 5 where we see the Lamb standing in the midst of the throne, and the twenty-four elders, representing the Old Testament and New Testament saints, singing the new song, what do they sing? "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open its seals; because thou hast been slain, and hast redeemed to God, by thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and made them to our God kings and priests; and they shall reign over the earth" (vv.9-10). Perhaps most of us already know, these twenty-four elders, the assembly and Old Testament saints, who have already been raised, do not sing this song about themselves. They sing about those who will still be slain and will still be raised. In chapter 20:4, those martyrs of the tribulation who also belong to this first resurrection will also reign with Christ in the millennium. Their song is not "thou hast redeemed us" (v.9) and "made us" (v.10), as in some Bibles, but "thou hast redeemed" (v.9) and "thou hast made them" (v.10). Naturally the same thing is true of themselves, but the thing is they sing about others who will probably be included in the servants who we find in verse 3 of chapter 22 - a wider circle. We have to be careful not to fall into the modern trap of only thinking of the blessing which concerns ourselves. The end result of this inevitably leaves us with a contracted view of the vast range of Divine operation and glory.

When you speak of some Bibles, sadly it includes the Authorised Version. The "us" in the King James is not in the Darby translation.

 

Reading 8

Revelation 22:3-6

"And no curse shall be any more; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him. And they shall see his face; and his name is on their foreheads. And night shall not be any more, and no need of a lamp, and light of the sun; for the Lord God shall shine upon them, and they shall reign to the ages of ages."   (22:3-5)

The service here is priestly service as in Revelation 5. At the end of verse 5 we read that "they shall reign to the ages of ages". This would seem to be not only in the millennium but also in the eternal state. In the millennium we have, according to Revelation 20, that the twenty-four elders and the two groups of martyrs from Revelation 6 and 13 that they will reign with Christ during the millennium, but in the eternal state, Revelation 21:2-5 it would seem that only the church will reign with Christ unto all eternity.

In chapter 21:2-5 the holy city is seen coming down from heaven and God dwelling with men. There is only God, the city, and the rest are "men", so that all the other believers except the assembly will be in the eternal state on the new earth. In the eternal reign the administration will be by the assembly only, the holy city.

We have said several times that the companies of the Old Testament saints and the church are seen together in chapter 4 and 5. I doubt whether the word of God tells us that the Old Testament saints in heaven will be translated back to the earth in the new heaven and new earth, I do not know if anything is said on this very thing. We have the sequence of events in a historical order in chapter 20 and 21, the millennium reign, the judgment of the dead, and the introduction of the new heaven and new earth. That takes us to chapter 21:8, then the retrospect of the church during the millennium to the verse we have just considered 22:5. It seems to me (and I would welcome the comments of the brothers), that the historical retrospect closes and we come out of time, returning to the eternal state in the last part of verse 5. The ages of ages seem to suggest the eternal state.

This question is not easy to answer. Does the answer not revolve around the question who comprise "the tabernacle"? If we see the tabernacle as the assembly, men must be composed all the other saints of all the other dispensations. Clearly we do not have here the most intimate view, that is, the believers in the Father's house for the reason that here we have only the external display of the eternal glory by God. It is also clear that Old Testament saints and those who are raised after the tribulation will reign with Christ during the millennium but they will not be indwelt of the Spirit and know Divine relationships and privileges as does the assembly. Maintaining this distinctive privilege for the assembly I find the question particularly difficult.

How does the assembly divide its time between Revelation 21:2 where she comes down out of heaven from God as a bride adorned for her husband. That is going to be an eternal position, and also she is in the Father's house; so how does she spend time in the Father's house here also as in verse 2 of 21?

Simultaneously! Have we not often remarked that we cannot introduce our thoughts of space and time into eternity. These two sides which you mentioned, the Father's house, and the glory which we are called to, this display of glory and blessing are two aspects of the eternal state. They exist simultaneously, two different aspects of God and Father of the Lord Jesus and of the assembly, and of the whole redeemed body, but for our little minds it is difficult to take in. Nevertheless it seems clear that this is the position. We must dismiss that thought I think, that we are partly in the Father's house and partly ruling. These are simultaneous, and can only be explained as being two aspects of the same eternal state as presented in Scripture.

A brother has said that the Father's house is the dwelling of the children. That may help us here. John dwells much on relationship and communion with the divine Persons. not the assembly as developed in Paul's ministry. This may be seen in chapter 2 and 3 of Revelation as the responsible body on earth. There are two notable exceptions, for example, when the assembly clearly is in view, the Father's house in John 14 and the call of the bride and the Spirit for the return of Christ in chapter 22:17 of Revelation.

Would you think that one of the difficulties in answering the question has been the fact that in the eternal state the word 'reign' is used? Usually when the word reign is used it supposes a kingdom. Sometimes we get around the difficulty by talking of the administration in the eternal state. We could not imagine anything disorderly at that time, and the word reign usually supposes some active opposition. There will be administration in the eternal state, but let us still keep it clear in our minds the assembly will continue to have its distinctive position.

In the Father's house we are at home and as the tabernacle of God with men we fulfil a task. When I was still working I had a farm and I had a house where I lived, and I had a building on the farm where I worked. There was quite a difference between the two, I lived in my house and I worked on my farm. Of course I could not be in both places simultaneously but this is no problem in the eternal state. No doubt this transcends our understanding but it is a fact. Regarding the matter of us reigning in the eternal state we spoke about this in quite some detail last year and we were very careful as to the meaning or significance of this reigning. There will not be any need for containing evil because there will not be any evil. In the eternal state God dwells with men and then He has the assembly as the stage for His dwelling with men. With regard to the Old Testament saints the question where they will be in the eternal state it would be good for us again to be careful. I would like to give one thought in this connection, God has created the angels as eternal inhabitants of heaven and God has created men as the eternal inhabitants of earth, with the exception of those who have been chosen before the foundation of the world. The believers who are part of the assembly were created in order to dwell on earth eternally, this is the plan of creation, but then there is the counsel of election and this is the height of our calling, namely, that men are taken out of their proper destination which God had given them, taken out of it by God, and introduced into His own home. These are the tremendous thoughts of God in His purpose and counsel. We will be eternally at home in the Father's house. There the family relationships will be practically enjoyed, the relationship with the Father and the Son, but we will also have a task in eternity, namely that God will dwell with men in us. It is the wonderful glory of His grace.

To summarise in few words the various blessings that are in the last two or three verses. Firstly, no more curse, eternal and perfect blessing from and through the throne of God and the Lamb, second, divine administration perfect and eternal, and third, servants serving Him in perfect liberty, seeing God's face, fourth, this is fellowship and communion. Fifth, the name of God on their forehead is the seal of the perfect identification with the Godhead. Number six, no more night, no more candle, luminary, divine light for ever. Seventh, reigning to the age of ages, the ultimate destination.

A comment from 1 Corinthians 10:11, "Now all these things" - incidents from Old Testament history - "happened to them as types, and have been written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come". Is there not an important principle in this verse that the assembly of God today has already features which she will carry through the eternal ages. The end of the ages has come upon us. One example from Revelation 22, "there shall be no curse". The Lord Jesus is the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world". It will be actually taken away at the end of the millennium. It will be there even during the millennium, but this is not in connection of the assembly. In Genesis 3 as a consequence of sin we read about thorns and thistles coming up from the ground, in Isaiah 55 we read that at the beginning of the millennium that "instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress, and instead of the nettle shall come up the myrtle" (v.13), and we read in another passage in Isaiah 11, "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb" (v.6), so we can say to a certain degree the curse of sin will have been taken away, but we have to wait until the end of the millennium until the presence of sin will be taken away completely.

"And he said to me, These words are faithful and true; and the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets has sent his angel to show to his bondmen the things which must soon come to pass."   (22:6)

Proceeding, it is quite clear that we now come to the divine stamp upon the certainty of what is about to take place. This testimony comes from several sources. In verse 6 we have the testimony of the Lord God of the Spirits of the prophets and the testimony of his angel. The emphasis here is upon the words of the prophecy of this book. How comforting it is to know that we can put our feet down firmly upon the word of God and this section seems to come in to assure us as to the veracity and the certainty of the divine record, a very important point at this stage of the reading.

We usually consider from verse 6 to the end of the book as the epilogue, the conclusion of the book of Revelation and of the whole Bible. The Spirit of God here sets a seal on those things which have been revealed. The things are faithful and true, the same expression found in connection with the eternal state in chapter 21:5, so the seal now is on something broader, on things which will shortly come to pass. These things must and can be received by faith. They are certain, they must come to pass.

We have a threefold witness here. Normally for human things two witnesses are required (e.g. Deut. 17:6), but here we have three. In verse 6 it is the angel, he "has sent his angel to show to his bondmen", but then in verse 8 we have the inspired apostle, "And I, John, was he who heard and saw these things", and further on in verse 16 we find, "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify these things to you", so we have a divine witness here which we are to take seriously and let it have the proper effect. These words should lead to worship. Of course it is to the wrong person here, because the apostle wants to worship an angel, but the effect is the right one. The words which are here solemnly confirmed refer to the Revelation, but also to the whole Bible and should lead us to worship.

It says that the words are faithful and true. We remember that in chapter 3:14 the Lord is "the faithful and true witness", so everything stemming from Him will be faithful and true.

We may see the line of Revelation (ch.1:1-2). From the beginning there is a chain of witness, God, then Jesus Christ, then the angel, and then John, and finally to us. It seems that the Spirit of God returns to this, to confirm it now that the revelation is finished. Likewise, spiritually speaking, chapter 1:5 John gives us the church's response when simply the name of Jesus is mentioned. When the revelation is complete the expectation of the Lord's return expresses in the heart and spirit in the church and through the Spirit, "the Spirit and the bride say, Come. Even so, come, Lord Jesus".

This sixth verse seems like an echo of what we read in the first chapter (1:3), and it becomes a signal that we are coming to the conclusion of the book. It brings everything to its close, so it is very precious to consider all the details of the sixth verse. The sayings are faithful and true. They are not the religious speculations and imaginings which are prevalent everywhere, outside of, and sadly even within, Christendom. The words are absolutely reliable, they are a revelation from God. It reminds us a little of what we have in Romans 3:4, "let God be true, but every man a liar". So here we have something sure. It is a light shining in a dark place (2 Pet.1:19). As has been said, this should be a stimulus to thanksgiving and worship. Again it is speaking of the servants, which reminds us of the character of Revelation which has more to do with the kingdom side of things rather than the revelation of church truth. That is noteworthy and it is a reminder of that which came at the very beginning, and they are things which must shortly come to pass. God is the accomplisher of His word and we can always be sure of that.

It is "the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets" which is different from chapter 1 where it was "the seven Spirits which are before his throne" (1:4). It seems to me that "the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets" insists on the fact that the content of the Revelation is consistent with all the prophecy of all the Bible. Matters are now focusing together to this final point.

In this present series of studies we had an address once on the certainty of the divine revelation, it was based on 2 Peter 1:16-21 {this was in 1999 and is included on pages 5-19 of the book of that year}. In that session we had the prophetic word made more sure, and we were reminded of several confirmatory facts as to the truth of what we are studying now. This section is in line with confirmation that is elsewhere and how necessary this is. We are not following "cunningly devised fables". It is something that is firmly fixed in the Scriptures of truth and it cannot be shaken.

It is worth noticing in verse 7 you get "this book", in verse 9 "this book", in verse 10 "this book", in verse 18 "this book" twice, in verse 19 "the book" and again "this book". What a comfort in knowing the words are enshrined in God's holy word. It is always necessary but it will be so especially in the time of Jacob's trouble, when there is so much to lead the saints astray, Matthew 24 and Mark 13. Perhaps we may say in our own day also, there is much to lead us astray also, but here we have something we can rest our souls upon. The words are confirmed, the veritable oracles of God.

In this verse here it talks of "the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets" showing that the prophets are subject to the Lord God, and emphasising the Lord's authority over them. In 1 Corinthians 14:32 we read, "And spirits of prophets are subject to prophets". How do we see this working in the assembly today?

It is a basic principle that the spirits of the prophets are subject to God. It is the same in 1 Corinthians 12 where God and the Holy Spirit are to be obeyed in everything. The guidance of the Holy Spirit is what we should look for in the assembly. In 1 Corinthians 14 it is more the responsibility of the prophets, of any brother in the assembly. He has absolutely no right to argue that he is guided by the Spirit of God. In 1 Corinthians 14 the spirit of the prophet is subjected to the prophet. He has the responsibility to speak of things according to the word of God. We are also plainly told that "and let the others judge" - a responsibility which rests upon those who hear. So there are two sides, the side of the Holy Spirit, the Divine side (1 Corinthians 12), and the side of our responsibility under the control of the Scripture (1 Corinthians 14), and both are to be carefully observed.

We should mention that there are two separate thoughts in connection with prophecy. Firstly it is telling things which will come to pass, in other words foretelling. The second meaning of prophecy is in the assembly (1 Corinthians 12-14), applying the word of God to the present state of affairs found among the saints in the assembly. This is forth-telling, a gift stated in 1 Corinthians 14:1 as something we should desire. Prophecy is a most important gift. And as to this who knows the needs better than the Spirit of God? How important it is to give the Spirit His proper place in the assembly. Notice how all are to be subject to the Spirit. When we come together in the assembly, looking for the Spirit's leading, the privilege and responsibility of the prophets is to exercise their gift (see 1 Peter 4:11). Some may go so far as to say that any gathering of the people of God that makes no provision for the exercise of this gift, is not gathered on true assembly ground.

 

Reading 9

Revelation 22:6-7

"And he said to me, These words are faithful and true; and the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets has sent his angel to show to his bondmen the things which must soon come to pass."   (22:6)

Something further could be mentioned in connection with prayer. Most of us were happy to say 'Amen' to the prayers, but some may think that the time for prayer is rather short when we are in conference. Would it not be good if the same spirit of prayer could be carried away from this conference. The apostle could say, "not as in my presence only, but now much rather in my absence" (Phil.2:12). It would indeed be wonderful if the resolve, the deep heart yearnings that have been expressed in the conference, could be worked out in our lives individually, and also in connection with our assembly lives generally, when we go home.

A question regarding a statement made in an earlier reading, is it God's original thought that the assembly should dwell on the earth?

It was not my thought to convey such an impression. I wanted to show that God created man in general with the purpose and destination of dwelling on the earth eternally, but it was also purposed, and that before the foundation of the world, that those who believed on the Lord Jesus during the time of grace should be given a very special and peculiar place. The Lord's instruction was always with a view to take the assembly out of this earth in order to bring them into the Father's house. This is their position and the eternal destination of the assembly. This puts them in contrast to believers in other ages, even in contrast with the believers of the Old Testament and also in contrast to believers who will dwell on the earth during the millennium. The Father's house is the proper and eternal destination of the assembly of God.

We have to be clear that God has no afterthoughts. Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken" (Acts 2:23), so that the plan of salvation was clear even before the world's foundation. There is no idea that God had to do a 'patch-up' work, as some have thought and even expressed.

As to the section read, there is an important point in regard to verse 6. In the address to Laodicea (and this has especial power for us as living in Laodicean days), "These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness". We have to take notice of the threefold testimony to the veracity and certainty of the communication. First we had in verse 6 "the spirits of the prophets", and then in verse 8 "John, was he who heard and saw these things", and then in verse 16 "I Jesus". This "threefold cord is not quickly broken." (Ecc.4:12).

The expression, "the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets" may puzzle some. It reminds us that God is the One who has the authority not over the prophets as such, but over their spirits of those of whom we read. That God is the God of the spirits of all men is something mentioned already in the Old Testament. In Numbers 16:22 where we read that "God is the God of the spirits of all flesh". It means that God is not only Creator but also He has authority over His creatures and over all humanity. All the spirits of men are subject to this sovereign God. That is a very general statement, but here there is this special statement concerning the prophets. It is not the spirits of the prophets in themselves, independently, who have thought but also have said and written these things, it is the God of their human spirits who has given the predictions which are found in this book. He has sent His angel, a heavenly messenger, as in chapter 1:1 where it is said, "to show to his bondmen what must shortly take place". It is carefully made clear here that, as Peter says, "For we have not made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, following cleverly imagined fables" (2 Pet.1:16). Even if it is now nineteen hundred years (John wrote at the end of the first century), it is still "shortly". It was shortly then and it is still shortly now because as the same apostle Peter writes in the second epistle, "one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day". That means we might be encouraged to think, 'Ah, six thousand years - six days; seventh day - millennium'. It is not in the Bible as such, but it is an old tradition amongst Christians from the second century. It is not the sense here, "one day with the Lord is as a thousand years", but we have to add the following statement, "and a thousand years as one day". Putting these two scriptures together it means that for God time is no factor at all. For us time is a very important factor, but not for God. We have been reminded of His counsel before the foundation of the world and for Him it was all as if it is accomplished, so if the Lord Jesus says, "And behold, I come quickly" we must say, as again Peter says in his second epistle, "The Lord does not delay his promise" (3:9). The promise of His coming is precious and shortly will be fulfilled. We were praying for the gospel this morning. For one reason, among many, God is waiting to give time for people to repent, He "is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance". He is patient with those who are not yet believers. We have been reminded that there may be one or two in our company today and perhaps it is for you that the Lord has not come. Perhaps it is your soul He wants to save. Things must and will shortly come to pass, but when the last soul is saved He will come. His coming in these three verses in our chapter is not limited to the rapture. When He says, "behold, I come quickly", He speaks about His second coming to give to everyone what they deserve. The only two passages in Revelation where we could insert the rapture is between chapters 3 and 4 where John is lifted up after the history of the assembly as a testimony on earth is taken up to heaven. The second is in chapter 12 where we see that the son of the woman of Israel is taken up to heaven and after He is taken up to heaven the three and a half years begin, so we might insert the rapture there too. It is in the Lord's coming we find from chapter 4, "the things that are about to be after these". Three times this expression, "the things which must come to pass", chapters 1:1, 22:6 and 4:1, where it is not said, "the things which must soon come to pass", but "the things which must take place after these things" (v.1). So if the Lord says, "behold, I come quickly" it is in view of His appearing not the rapture.

We should underscore the use of the imperative, "must". In this verse these things are fixed and inevitable because the Lord has said so. Although the primary thought is not in relation to the rapture there is nevertheless also a sense that things are going to happen rapidly in these end times.

"And behold, I come quickly. Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."   (22:7)

In verse 7 we have two points presented to us. Firstly, "behold, I come quickly" is the word given to us by Christ Himself. Secondly, it is one of the seven blesseds found in the book of Revelation, "Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book". Concerning the first thing, "behold, I come quickly", the expression is found four times in the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation has been called 'the book of the Lord's coming'. The first time we find this expression is in the epistle to Philadelphia, "behold, I come quickly", and then three times here in the last chapter, verses 7 already quoted, and now verse 12, "Behold, I come quickly, and my reward with me, to render to every one as his work shall be" and lastly in verse 20, "He that testifies these things says, Yea, I come quickly. Amen; come, Lord Jesus". There are two phases in the second coming. First the Lord to take the church to Himself, and then His public appearing in glory. We must not here exclude the first stage of the Lord's coming particularly in view of the fact that in this chapter the Lord Jesus presents Himself not as the Sun of righteousness, as in Malachi. "The bright and morning star" is more particularly is connected with the church. As to the second mention of His coming (in verse 12) this relates to the reward is in connection with the public appearance of the Lord Jesus.

A brief word on the seven times the "Blessed" is found seven times in the book of Revelation. They can be called the beatitudes of the Revelation1. There are similarities with the blessings in the words of the Lord in Matthew 5, the blessings for the earth and for the heaven. The first blessing is in chapter 1:3, "Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of the prophecy", and interestingly enough it is very much the same as the sixth one, chapter 22:7, so there is a completeness in those seven blessings. The second time is in chapter 14:13, "Write, Blessed the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth. Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; for their works follow with them".  The next one is in chapter 16:15, "Blessed is he that watches and keeps his garments, that he may not walk naked, and that they may not see his shame". The next one is in chapter 19:9, "Blessed are they who are called to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb. And he says to me, These are the true words of God". The fifth one is in chapter 20:6, "Blessed and holy he who has part in the first resurrection: over these the second death has no power; but they shall be priests of God and of the Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years". The sixth one is in the verse we have before us this morning, verse 7 of chapter 22, "Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book" and then in chapter 22:14, "Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have right to the tree of life, and that they should go in by the gates into the city".

Could I ask for a clarification in one matter. It has been said there are four times in Revelation the Lord said, "I come quickly". How do you regard chapter 2:16. Is that a different context?

As to the Lord's word to Pergamos is "Repent therefore: but if not, I come to thee quickly, and I will make war with them with the sword of my mouth", the leading thought is therefore on the searching eyes of the Lord, just as in Psalm 139 virtually saying, 'Look at what you are doing'.

Could some brother please distinguish between the word 'bless' and 'blessed'?

The first word 'bless' is a verb and the second 'blessed' is an adjective. The two words are linked. Essentially blessing speaks of good things from someone or something. "Blessed is he" is the one the thing from whom or from which the blessing comes, for example "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" is occurring three times, Ephesians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:3 and 1 Peter 1:3.

There are different words that are rendered "blessed" in English, quite a subject in itself. But the verb 'to bless' usually has often a special meaning in both Hebrew and Greek to speak well or to say good things when the Divine aspect is considered. Thus in Hebrews 7:7 where we read, "And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better". The word 'makarios', means happiness in the highest imaginable state, not from human sources but from God. In the beatitudes on the 'Sermon on the Mount' when the Lord says "Blessed", it is not quite the same word as in Ephesians, it is not a verb there, but an adjective, [makaria] which means the highest form of blessing conferred by God. It cannot be equalled by anything on earth from God's side. In Revelation in the seven references the adjectival form is used.

Perhaps one verse gives a good definition of blessing when it comes from the Lord, Proverbs 10:22, "The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it". That would be in contrast with what comes from other sources.

In 1 Peter 3:14 it says, "if also ye should suffer for righteousness' sake, blessed are ye". If we are not prepared for reproach we will not get this blessedness.

Moving on, let us keep in mind that "No [prophecy of the] scripture is of any private interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20). Every Scripture has to be understood first of all in its own context, and then in the context of Scripture as a whole. That particularly applies when we are looking at Scriptures about the Lord's coming. Many Scriptures speak about the Lord's coming in a comprehensive way, beginning with the rapture right through His public appearing. Where there is a specific reference that is always clear from the context. This helps us to understand how that the rapture is entirely a matter of privilege. We shall be gathered in to be with Himself regardless of faithfulness or failure. But Revelation as a whole is about service, that is, our responsibility is prominent, and the way that we live and serve Him while we wait for His coming. So we would expect that usually the reference is to responsibility and therefore His appearing. This would seem to be the reason that there are seven 'apocalyptic beatitudes'. The blessedness of being faithful to Him and serving Him will be publicly demonstrated when He appears again in glory.

We mentioned that there are these two points presented, the Lord's coming and the word of prophecy. It raises the question, 'What is the relationship between those two?'

On the one hand the Lord's coming has to do with the hope of the church. The church responds later on and says, "Come", and therefore the first stage of the coming is emphasised. The word of prophecy on the other hand has to do with the earth. Here notice both are presented together. This is very interesting because we might think that if we are occupied with that which deals with the earth it is something that is not about the church. This would be a mistake. It is something that enriches the hope to us and brings urgency to the response. If we realise what happens on the earth, the judgments that are coming, then we will only say so much more, "Come". I think that is a relationship in the reverse direction. If we did not have this hope that the Lord would come quickly I do not think we will be much interested to understand the words of prophecy of this book.

What adds greatly to the value of these studies is the verse in Revelation 19:10, "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy".

Does not verse 7 here appear to be a repetition of what we get in chapter 1:3, "Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things written in it; for the time is near"?

It is a repetitive statement but the earlier one also speaks of hearing. This one speaks of keeping.

Could we notice another important difference between the two verses. In chapter one "they", but here it is "he". Things have come down to the individual. In the last church it is "if any one" (3:20). We are not in a day of large things. The Lord is not looking for crowds. It has come down to the individual today, "Blessed is he". We do not lose sight of the fact that the word is for all but the responsibility is on the individual. It comes home to me.

Referring for a moment to the general testimony of the 'brethren', we should not be blind to the fact that there is a whole group who have downgraded the study of prophecy. They place great emphasis on the assembly. Things on earth have been regarded as beneath our dignity but the sad result has been that this particular company had gone off the rails very seriously. I think the truth of prophecy has a profound effect upon a heavenly company. This is a very important emphasis for us, otherwise we might as well give up the study of Revelation.

The Lord has thought it well to reveal His thoughts about the world so as to bring us by faith to the position of Abraham. Like him we do not have our home here. Like him we are to pass through this world bearing witness that it is under judgment which we know will shortly come to pass. Abraham was the one to whom the Lord revealed His secrets (Gen.18:17). There are the two things promised to us. The first one is the Lord's coming, and with it the successive phases of this second coming. The second is that He is going to destroy that which either opposes Him, or which has served its purpose (Heb.12:26-29). These two promises are designed in God's wisdom to make us strangers in this world and to understand the true position of the assembly on earth waiting to be taken with Him to heaven.

If God gives us this light in His word then it is our privilege and responsibility to "keep the words of the prophecy of this book". This is reiterated in verse 9, "keep the words of this book". This is practical evidence that we love the Lord Jesus when we keep His words and His commandments (see also John 14:21 and 23). The Lord has to reiterate the matter because He knew there would be many wrong interpretations of this book, as well as many attacks upon it. The two books which are perhaps most ridiculed are Genesis and Revelation, and prophetic material in general. The first book deals with God's sentence upon the sinner and the last book deals with God's judgments upon the sinner so we can understand the reason for the attack. Need we wonder therefore at the emphasis to keep the sayings in this book? God is the source of the light and He also interprets the book for us. It is part of an integrated whole prophetic word.

As to the word "Behold, I come quickly" it is clear that there is a time set when the Lord Jesus Christ will come. For the servant we should be expecting that at any moment. It has always been so whatever dispensation the believer is in, whether those of us who are going up to heaven, or those who will be here on the earth after we are gone. In each dispensation there have always been those looking for the Lord to come. When the servant forgets that his master is soon to come he soon becomes careless with dire results (Matt.24:48-51, Luke 12:45-46). For the watching servant, "my reward with me" (v.12), what amazing grace and what incentive!

In the light of this blessed truth, viz that the coming of the Lord is very near, and the closing testimony in, for example, 2 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, 2 Peter and Jude, need we be surprised at the present amazing upsurge of evil? Never, may we say, has the rapid increase of evil been so apparent. Needless to say there have been dark pages in the history of the human race but never we believe has the progress been so rapid as today. The world indeed is "on the Gadarene slope" - on the road to outright and blatant apostasy.

It is nevertheless important for us that we are not to be waiting for events. We are to be awaiting a Person. He who is coming and says, "I come quickly". Let us conclude with the focus put upon the Person of our blessed Lord. We are looking to Him and all that coming will mean for Him as well as those of us who we trust are all looking for Him at any moment. Let us not make too much of the servant who gives the revelation (v.8) but give all homage and honour is God Himself and the Lord Jesus, the focus we have here.

1   A separate address was given on this subject at the beginning of the 1997 conference and can be found as a preface to the readings of that year (page 5 et. seq.).

 

Reading 10

Revelation 22:8-15

There are some specially attractive presentations of the Lord in the verses that have not been reached. In verse 13, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end", and then in verse 16 we come to the One who is "the root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star" and in the closing section the particularly special presentation of the Lord Jesus. There is a desire to move on and in the intervening verses, perhaps someone will give us the substance of it quite briefly.

"And I, John, was he who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to do homage before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. And he says to me, See thou do it not. I am thy fellow-bondman, and the fellow-bondman of thy brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Do homage to God."   (22:8-9)

 

We should remember that the book is "The Revelation of Jesus Christ", and we should seek to have His Person before us. This is really the theme and central subject of the book. There are prophetic unfoldings but it seems the intention of the Spirit of God is to bring Him spiritually before us. Indeed we ought always to remember that the "spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus" (ch.19:10). Some reference must be made to the reaction of John when he received communication from the angel but there is always the danger of looking too much at the servant rather than his Master. In our closing studies may we seek to focus on the Lord. Only this will have effect in our lives. If we are right about Him other things tend to drop into place.

This is a good suggestion. Let us concentrate on the particular glories of the Lord, and perhaps some brother or brothers could briefly summarise the intervening verses.

There are two occasions when John fell down and did homage to the angel (19:10 and 22:8). The first because he was overwhelmed by the revelation of the marriage supper of the Lamb , and second, because of the truth that the Lord's coming is near.

The only angel who accepts worship is the devil himself. In our day the upgrading of the spiritual person has brought disaster to some, and it is a warning for us all.

 

"And he says to me, Seal not the words of the prophecy of this book. The time is near. Let him that does unrighteously do unrighteously still; and let the filthy make himself filthy still; and let him that is righteous practise righteousness still; and he that is holy, let him be sanctified still. "Behold, I come quickly, and my reward with me, to render to every one as his work shall be."   (22:10-12)

In these verses we get a fixed condition of things. It is a solemn thought that the time will soon come when the opportunity for decision will be over. Briefly, looking over these verses, we can see an emphasis that we must make the most of the present opportunity. "Now is the accepted time" (2 Cor.6:2).

Could we say a brief word about the writer, John, "And I, John, was he who heard and saw these things". Right at the end of his prophecy he mentions his name as he does at the beginning, "John to the seven assemblies which are in Asia" (1:4). He is mentioned in the book less to draw attention to the character of the one who is the writer of this book and also to draw attention to the circumstances in which he was found when he received the revelation (ch.1:9). He is the writer of the gospel by John and of the Revelation, although in neither case does it say so. It does not say John the apostle was the writer either of the gospel or of the Revelation, but I have no doubt myself that this is the case. I mention it because both of these books could have been written by other Johns. In his gospel he brings out Christ in all the glories of His Person as the Son of God, and in the book of the Revelation chiefly we have the Lord presented as the Son of Man. John was the one who leant in the bosom of the Lord on the night of betrayal (John 13:23). He was the one who five times described himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20). On the other hand the Lord spoke of him as "Boanerges..... Son of thunder". To emphasise what has been said, that even this great man makes a mistake when he bows and seeks to give worship to an angel. One query, in Mr.Darby's translation it says, "Do homage to God" although he puts a footnote to say that is worship, perhaps a brother can tell me, is there any difference in the New Testament between the word 'worship' and 'homage' and if there is, can I have the answer?

There are at least two words in the New Testament for 'worship'. One is the word used here 'proskuneo', which means primarily 'to do homage'. When so used to God as here (and nearly always) it is worship. The other word is 'latreuo' which we have had already in regard to the bondmen, "his servants shall serve him". That is what has been spoken of as priestly worship. There are other words used in a more general sense, but the word here is 'proskuneo' which means, when used of men, is to do homage, but when used of God the homage to God is worship.

We live in a world of change. Not only are things changing but as we have noticed the rate of change is increasing all the time. But let it be clear we are moving on to a time when there will be a settled condition and this would appear to be what is referred to in verse 11. The time is approaching when God will make everything plain. There will be no shades of grey, it will be either black or white. This is addressed to servants so that they likewise can "make the message clear and plain" and also tell the listeners of their responsibility. Neutrality is neither one thing or the other, and perhaps as we approach the end of the book, this seems to be the lesson is for us. When Daniel received his prophecy he was told, "close the words, and seal the book, till the time of the end." (Dan.12:4), but coming to the end of revealed Scripture the message is "Seal not the words of the prophecy of this book. The time is near" (v.10)

If the meaning of this verse 11 means that neutrality is totally impossible, it is an important matter, but I am still having difficulty to understand this "let him does unrighteously do unrighteously still" because in the word of God there is always a call for repentance before the rapture, and even after the rapture with the gospel of the kingdom the same, and after the time of the final judgment there is always a call for repentance, so why here is it not?

Verse 11 is a difficult verse for me also, but what may give us some light is the Lord's word to Laodicea, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. Thus because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spue thee out of my mouth" (Rev.3:15-16). I believe this is very similar to the thought expressed a moment or two ago, namely that the inner state will shortly be manifest openly.

Matthew 13:29-30 reads, "But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn". For me Matthew 13 gives some clarification of this subject. Some years ago I visited Israel and took account of the wheat and tares. When you see these two plants in their early stages you cannot discern between these two, but when they are ripe the wheat are a golden colour and the tares are black, so black that if it contacts your clothes they become black with powder and you cannot easily clean it. One will say at the later stage the difference is unmistakable, but in the early stages of growth they are indistinguishable. I think this is the time we live today, but it is changing very rapidly. Filthiness is something very common nowadays, and people even speak proudly about filthiness. For us it is a sign of the times. We are near to the time of harvest.

As to the message for unbelievers we can be thankful that in Revelation 22 there is still the message in verse 17, "let him that is athirst come; he that will, let him take the water of life freely". So there is still a message to repent even at the end of Revelation 22.

As to verse 11 we should all be clear on one thing. When the Lord comes the day of grace will be over, and at that time the condition in which man is found will determine his eternal condition. But before that time verse 11 plainly says that the will be a time for some when there is no change possible. Could we not say only God Himself can read hearts like that? For us verse 17 is the guide line. While there is life there is hope. The dying thief confirms there is mercy at the eleventh hour. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom.10:13 - quote from Joel 2:32).

The Lord only is omniscient. When He chose twelve disciples He said, "Have not I chosen you the twelve? and of you one is a devil" (John 6:70), and yet at the last Passover none had any idea who it was, "They began to say to him, each of them, Is it I, Lord?" (Matt.26:22). "The Lord knoweth them that are his" (2 Tim.2:19).

It would almost seem that this is the sentence of God upon the situation. It is not the gospel preacher's assessment it is God's assessment, so our business is to preach the gospel.

As to verse 11, it is to be hoped that in no one thinks it gives liberty to do evil, no way! The verse in 1 Corinthians 14:38 looks a little bit like it. In a completely different context Paul says, "But if any be ignorant, let him be ignorant", Paul there speaks about professing Christians, but there is some similarity. In no way does Paul want brothers and sisters to be ignorant so he puts the hearer under responsibility. He says 'If somebody wants to be ignorant'. Similarly now, if somebody wants to do evil he must bear the consequences. "Behold, I come quickly". I think that is the main bearing of this verse, to put every man under the responsibility of the consequences of what he is doing especially in view of the coming of the Lord.

Perhaps there is also a word of encouragement to the one who is waiting for the Lord. There may be the danger of becoming unsettled and in despair as to the state of things in the world. Not a few in so-called Christian circles have had ideas about setting the world right (e.g. the leaven in Matthew 13 misunderstood by some as referring to the spread of the gospel) and seeing that is not so, there is the need of encouragement with some. Let us be careful to maintain what is right in relation to our own position. The Lord who is omnipotent He has the situation well in hand.

In terms of dispensation verse 11 places us beyond the church period. In fact the last revelation about future events in the Old Testament was Daniel's. He was told to seal his prophecy, but now the prophecy is unsealed. This is the parenthesis after the ages which are predicted by Daniel. This is the church period not revealed in the Old Testament, and for which no time is set. Now we live in the period of grace which God ordains that every man should repent. Verse 11 is not that period of grace, but the future events will take place shortly. It is the same expression as in 1 Corinthians 4:5, "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come".

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."   (22:13)

Happily we have no difficulty with verse 13. "The Alpha and the Omega", the first and last letters of the language in which the New Testament was written. It is a matter of Speaking. "The first and last" is a matter of Being. "The beginning and the end" is a matter of Doing. The Lord Jesus in Person is the sum and substance of all that God has to say, the sum and substance of all that God is, and the sum and substance of all that God is doing. We could not have a more comprehensive statement that this.

So we can say the presentation we have of the Lord is a very complete one, backed up from Old Testament Scripture. The One who has spoken is none other than God Himself, and in the circumstances, responsibility has to be measured by the fact that very shortly we shall be in the presence of the One who is the final Judge.

As the Alpha and the Omega, the sum and substance of all that God has to say, this is expounded very fully in Hebrews 1. As the First and the Last, which is a matter of being, the sum and substance of all that God is very fully expounded in John 1. As the Beginning and the End the matter of doing, in Him resides all the power in whom and by whom God will achieve and do anything that is for His glory, this is expounded very fully in Colossians 1.

"Thus saith Jehovah, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, Jehovah of hosts: I am the first, and I am the last, and beside me there is no God" (Isa.44:6). This is one example where Old Testament scriptures confirm the deity of our Lord Jesus.

Could we add the reading of Isaiah 48:12 with regard to His relation to Israel? "Hearken unto me, Jacob, and thou Israel, my called. I am HE; I, the first, and I, the last". This is another confirmation although not quite the same expression. Also Isaiah is 41:4, "Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I, Jehovah, the first; and with the last, I am HE". There is a very helpful footnote in Darby's translation connecting it with the expression of God as "the Same", and if you turn back to his original references to this there are over a score of references to this, which need not be repeated here. They are all in Darby's footnote against Isaiah 41:4 and Deuteronomy 32:39.

In the Septuagint, the same expression is found as we get so frequently in John's Gospel when the Lord said "I am", or "I am he".

The Jews were far better theologians than most of us will ever be. They were under no delusion as to the force of what the Lord said and what the Lord did. This is very clear when we consider that the three divisions in John's Gospel. In John 10:19 that there is a division because of His words, the Alpha and the Omega. In John 9:16 there was a division because of what He did, He is the Beginning and the End in giving of sight to the man who was born blind. And again in chapter 10:19 and 5:18 there is a division because of His Person. He is not a demon, He claims God as His own Father. The Jews quickly recognised that in saying what He did He was laying claim to Deity, in doing what He did He was laying claim to Deity, and in saying what He said in claiming He was laying claim to Deity. Reading John's Gospel there is no doubt at all that the Jews fully understood the force of what He did, what He said, and the fact of His Person. He is God.

We have noticed that several times in the Old Testament God takes His title as "the Same". There is a remarkable instance of this in Psalm 102, when the Lord Jesus accepted the cross from His Father in verses 24-27, "I said, My God, take me not away in the midst of my days! ...Thy years are from generation to generation. Of old hast thou founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands: They shall perish...... But thou art the Same". God's title is asserted as a tribute to the Son in Psalm 102, and repeated by the apostle in Hebrews 1:10-12. In Hebrews 1 the seven glories of Christ as the Son of God are supported by seven quotations of Old Testament Scriptures, and this one is the sixth one. It may be the most beautiful and striking expression of the One who is the "first and the last", "Alpha and Omega", "the beginning and the end". He is beyond time, in eternity (Heb.13:8). "I am he that is". It presents beautifully what Christ is, the One who is eternal, the eternal Word of God.

(The particular reference to the Same in Darby's footnote is Deuteronomy 32:39, where there are no fewer that 22 references.)

It may be a question whether this verse 13 does not carry more weight than the other verses in the various Old Testament passages. In Isaiah the Lord as the Eternal One is viewed as in contrast to idols and false gods. The Same there is really a matter of comfort for the faithful when everything is in trouble and ruin. What a comfort for us it is to link it with a scripture like 2 Corinthians 1:20 all the promises of God are presented and have been and will be accomplished in the Lord Jesus. Yes, He is the Lord, the Eternal One, He is God majestic and grand enough to bring the counsel and purpose of God into effect. How great and precious is the Person of the Christ.

(If there should be any who have not read J.N.D.'s Bible in Ps.102:24 we can only say it is remarkable beyond words - a break in the middle of the verse. It is the clearest testimony possible as to the Deity of His perfect Manhood. It is not noticed in the Authorised Version - ed.)

"Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have right to the tree of life, and that they should go in by the gates into the city. Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one that loves and makes a lie"   (22:14-15)

There is manifestly a distinction, a separating line between those described in verse 14 and those without in verse 15. It is clear also that the One before us in verse 13 presents the dividing line. The blessed ones are those that wash their robes and they have a twofold portion, they have "right to the tree of life", this is their personal portion, and they "go in by the gates into the city", this is their collective portion. It is to be observed that John presents these two aspects in his writings. The first part has to do with the personal part. Thus we get the incident with Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the man at Bethesda, and finally the blind man in chapter 9. The collective aspect begins with the Shepherd of the sheep (ch.10) arising out of the blind man in chapter 9, the supper arising out of the raising of Lazarus, and the precious upper room section in chapters 13 to 17. The resurrection scenes likewise pass from the individual to the collective position. The portion in the tree of life is that which belongs to us personally and those who enter into the city speaks of the collective portion. What a solemn word is the word "without", those who have not washed their robes, those who have rejected the glorious Person of the Lord Jesus. As always the division is because of Him.

Could we remark again the importance of an expression of the dignity of the Person of the Lord. See this for example in relation to Laodicea especially in view of the fact that we live in Laodicean days. The Lord is presented as the One who is "the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God". The Lord Jesus is the beginning of the creation of God, the old creation, also the new creation, but He is also the end. That is mentioned already in chapter 21:6 when we read that He is "the beginning and the end", and that is in the section where the eternal state is brought before us. The Lord Jesus is at one end the Creator but He also brings everything to the end, that means into a state where everything can be for all eternity to the glory of God. Concerning verse 14, where we read "Blessed are they that wash their robes" it seems mainly to relate to those after the rapture of the saints as we have seen in verse 11. The same words "wash their robes" are used in chapter 6 and 7 for saints in the time of the tribulation.

A few words about "washing their robes" and the alternative reading including "Blessed are they that do his commandments". For myself I think the right reading is "Blessed are they that do his commandments", and I will give you four reasons for it. Firstly, as J.N.Darby puts in his footnote (in the Morrish edition but not in the Stow Hill edition), it says "The change to 'to do his commandments'..... must have been made very early for Cyprian (d.258) and Tertillian (d.220) have it", in other words long before the oldest manuscript we have. Secondly, the reason that Darby could not possibly have known, is that the majority of manuscripts have "to do his commandments". The third reason is that "to wash their robes" in Revelation 7:14 we have that the company "have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb", but here there is no mention here of the blood of the Lamb. A very important point is that in Revelation 7 they have washed their robes, it is the aorist tense, in other words, they have done something, and have done it once, but the state produced by the act continues. Here it is in the present tense, washing their robes, and that does not seem to fit at all with the truth for the washing by blood is a once and for all thing. We do not have repetition in washing by blood, it is a once and for all thing and here we have something which seems to indicate that they were going on with washing their robes. It is a general idea in Christendom that that you have a constant application of the blood of Christ. This is something to be resisted. Fourthly, the last reason, the words "do his commandments" it is His commandments, the Lord's commandments, not looking back to law and keeping the law of Moses. Those who do His commandments are those that love Him, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" the Lord said (John 14:15). It is the response of love to love, not a legal requirement, "Blessed are they who love the Lord", they do His commandments. That is the reason why I think this is the right translation, "Blessed are they that do his commandments".1

Let us notice the high privilege here, the right to enter in the holy city. They are within because they have God's life. In contrast, those who are without are cursed of God. Without is mentioned in three different meanings in Scripture. One without the city as here. Second, "without" is the people in the world in contrast with the Christians. Thirdly, in 1 Corinthians 5, without is in contrast to within, the spiritual domain where ecclesiastical discipline is maintained. Essentially the vessels to honour are within and vessels to dishonour are without. We have to be very cautious not to mix up the three different meanings.

1  This point is much debated by the scholars. What is presented here appears to be a minority view but it is valuable contribution nevertheless.

 

Reading 11

Revelation 22:16-17

"I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify these things to you in the assemblies. I am the root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star."   (22:16)

Could we continue the theme of the Lord's glories in these closing words? It would seem that the "root of David" is another of the divine testimonies to the divine majesty of our blessed Saviour. Remember how that John the Baptist had said, "he was before me" (John 1:15,30), the Lord Jesus Himself said, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). Melchizedek was another one who was assimilated to the Son of God and Adam was a figure of Him that was to come. So one can see here in "the root of David" the divine majesty of His Person shining out in a very attractive way. It adds to the other presentations we have had of the Lord already. As "the root of David" we have His divine majesty, but as "the offspring of David" we have to have a reminder of His perfect Manhood. These two glories particularly relevant to God's earthly people. It reminds us of the covenant made with David (2 Sam.7). Just as in "the bright and morning star" we have that which is particularly precious to the assembly.

The prophetic part of the book ends with chapter 22:5. These verses are a kind of appendix, an epilogue to the verses 6 to 15 looked at this this morning. In verses 16 to 21 the Lord Jesus steps in directly and sends His angel to give His testimony in the assemblies. He takes the name of Jesus the name of His humiliation, a special touch for us. As the Son of God He is the root of David, as the Son of Man He is the offspring of David. When the people in Israel met with the Lord Jesus in Jerusalem at the last week of His life on earth (see Matt.22:15-46) they came to Him to test Him, and the Lord Jesus asked them a question which they would not answered, "If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?" (Matt.22:45, Luke 20:44). To have answered the question correctly they would have had to acknowledge the Person and claims of the One who asked the question.

As the Son of David the Lord Jesus has a right to the throne, but as the Lord of David He is the One who gives the crown.

As to the testimony "to you in the assemblies", this is purely Christian, but this reference to David is Jewish and relates to the earth. The two come together.

No doubt we have all been impressed throughout the conference with the way in which we have moved from the earthly company to the heavenly company and from the heavenly company to the earthly company. The two are inextricably connected.

If we turn to 2 Timothy 2:8 in an epistle which clearly speaks about Christianity responsibility, Paul tells Timothy to "Remember Jesus Christ raised from among the dead, of the seed of David, according to my glad tidings" (J.N.D. translation). That shows us the Lord raised from the dead is the Lord in glory now after accomplishing His work, but He is also the seed of David. This is not exactly the same expression as here but the thought is the same. This scripture is more complete. It confirms that the Lord Jesus is the fulfilment and centre of all Old Testament promises of God relative to His earthly people and also to those things which find their fulfilment in the assembly. But salvation is of the Jews, a fact which we should never forget or neglect. When the Lord spoke to the Jewish teachers and Pharisees He said, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me" (John 5:39). So the Old Testament is testimony to the Lord Jesus but specially in relation with Israel. We have no prophecy about the assembly in the Old Testament, many types but no direct prophecy. The pivotal point (at all times) is our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:1-4 is similar. There we read "Paul, bondman of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated to God's glad tidings, (which he had before promised by his prophets in holy writings,) concerning his Son (come of David's seed according to flesh, marked out Son of God in power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection of the dead) Jesus Christ our Lord".

We can also add the message to the assembly in Philadelphia, "These things saith the holy, the true; he that has the key of David, he who opens and no one shall shut, and shuts and no one shall open" (Rev.3:7). The key is to open the way to the fulfilment of the promises made to Israel, and notice the important place given to it in the address to Philadelphia.

We cannot help but wonder at the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Creator, the Upholder of all things, that He could stoop so low and say, "I am Jesus". In connection with His reference to all Humanity, "I am Jesus", it is He whom angels worship. In psalm 22:6, "But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and the despised of the people" and in Hebrews 2:9, "we see Jesus, who was made some little inferior to angels on account of the suffering of death". We have much to praise the Lord for, for His Humanity and all the amazing results of love that came to die.

"The root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star" indicates to the reader the distinctive hopes of Israel and the church. We have with Israel earthly government with Jerusalem at the centre, the city of peace, which is the hope of the Jew. But our hope is different, it is heavenly. It is the morning star. Although today we have many reminders of the darkness of the day, we have also the cheer that a new day is about to dawn, and that is our hope. It is distinct from Israel and yet these are both known by those indicated in the churches who are standing firm in [their] in responsibility. I think that is very significant. The hopes of Israel and the Jew had been lost for many centuries but it was one of the important truths recovered to the church of God in the early 1800's. Sadly this distinction is still unknown or little known by many even today. We can feel privileges to be reminded of these truths in a day when this truth is again being given up by many and forgotten by more.

There is another scripture, not dissimilar to this, in 2 Corinthians 1:20, "For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen". God has affirmed all that He is going to do, and this affirmation is in the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. He Personally is both the affirmation of the promises and the confirmation of the promises. This seems to fit nicely in parallel. The darkness is about to give way to the clear light of day. He is the Sun of Righteousness. He is also the morning star.

There is a specific prophecy in Isaiah 11:10, "And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious". Here we have the root of Jesse. The name Jesse (David's father) is often used of David instead of his own name. It is the ensign to the people, those that are faithful, Israel, but also "to it shall the Gentiles seek".

The term "morning star" is only mentioned 3 times, in 2 Peter 1:19 (JND) and Revelation 2:28, and 22:16. It is an encouraging thought that this name of our Lord is kept for those who live in the end-times. In 2 Peter it is a word especially for us today. The Morning Star is already to arise in our hearts (that is Peter) and in Revelation 22:16 it is the Bright and Morning - shining most brightly in the darkest day.

The thought of the immanence of the Lord's return is pressed in this closing section. It may come at any moment. We can say we are at the very threshold of His coming.

In 2 Peter it is in relation to the prophetic word. The mention in Revelation 2 is in connection with the promise made to the overcomer in Thyatira the first of the last four churches in Revelation 2 and 3 which continue simultaneously until the Lord comes. Isaiah 21 tells us the answer to mockers, "The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night" (vv.11-12). The morning and the night, both will come. Let us be quite clear that now is the daytime for those who preach the gospel. It reminds us of what the Lord tells us in John 9:4-5, "I must work the works of him that has sent me while it is day. The night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world". The night is coming when there will be no more call for repentance and promise of blessing. It is a comfort for the believer but a most solemn warning for the unconverted. The last words of David in 2 Samuel 23 also tell us of another bright day, particularly about Israel, not directly the church.

I was once was privileged to be in Israel and walk up the Mount of Olives about five o'clock in the morning. It was a beautiful Spring morning, remarkably clear and cloudless. Looking up the stars seemed to become remarkably brilliant. As I continued to walk up the Mount the stars began to drop out, until only one was left and was still shining even when the sun appeared over the Eastern horizon - the morning star.

This would seem to confirm the connection between the bright and morning star and the Sun of righteousness that shall appear (Mal.4:2). Just before the introduction of God's earthly kingdom of Christ the bright and morning star shines with exceeding brilliance in the hearts of those who are privileged to wait for Him.

In Peter it is something special. The star arises in the heart, unusual surely! This is not looking at the star in the heaven. Peter is presenting the star as inside. It corresponds with the wording of Colossians 1:27 where "Christ in you the hope of glory". It is not only an expectation but a personal appropriation which changes our whole outlook.

Who are those that come into the real enjoyment of the brilliance of the morning star? Will this be the result of the gospel of the everlasting kingdom?

The gospel of the kingdom is after the rapture, and the enjoyment of the morning star is before the rapture. The result of verse 17 sorts out various groups before the rapture.

Let us not overlook that this is a voice to the consciences here. To be able to see the morning star we have to be fully awake. In the Jewish day of twenty-four hours there are twelve hours of day and twelve of night, the next day starting at 6pm. The first watch was three hours to 9pm, then 9pm to 12pm, 12pm to 3am and 3am to 6am, the four watches. At midnight the Christians at the beginning of the nineteenth century heard the midnight cry (Matt.25:6) and the church, as such, rose up from the long sleep of the middle ages. Three o'clock in the morning is the moment in the night when it is darkest and coldest. We also can grow cold like Peter if His grace does not keep us. Another danger is to fall asleep. The call is to keep awake, to be ready, the morning star shining in our hearts. Then we are ready for the Lord Jesus when He comes. The morning star shines in Revelation in Philadelphia (ch.3:7-13) although it is not specifically named. Chapters 4 and 5 give us the heavenly scene after the church is raptured into heaven. The church once there does not return any more to earth. The era of the Sun of righteousness will be the last verse of chapter 11 and beginning of chapter 20. In between there will be a succession of events. Dennett's "The Morning Star and the Sun of Righteousness" with all the intervening events is helpful reading1 . Grace on one side, righteousness and judgment on the other side, and in-between there will be all the successive judgments for God to introduce His Son's kingdom in righteousness.

In the first instance the whole book of Revelation is really a general epistle to the seven churches which are named in chapters 2 and 3. This appears to be confirmed here in verse 16. At the end of each of those seven epistles in chapters 2 and 3 it is what the Spirit says to the churches as a whole. In our day believers gathered elsewhere in other localities can also say this is the Spirit's voice for us today. But we cannot say it is only for those seven assemblies. Sadly not everyone has this concept. The word "churches" is often used in Christendom today for denominational and sectional churches, but the Spirit is speaking to the church as a whole. It is not independent churches as is sometimes said in relation to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. It is looking at those churches and addressing individuals in their responsibility along the lines of what we have in Romans 14 :4 where each stands or falls before its own master. Similarly each assembly is responsible directly to the Lord. We do not get church truth from this prophetic book.

This is an important point and we trust it is understood by all. To take systematic assembly teaching out of Revelation is to wrench the teaching of the seven assemblies out of their context. Here in the last chapter he does not speak about the seven assemblies, but he speaks about "the assemblies". It is not Pauline teaching. Another point which confirms this is the presentation of the morning star. It is no more prophecy but the Lord Jesus Himself who is speaking. During the whole book it was the angel who told John what was going to happen, but here the angel withdraws into the background and the Lord Jesus Himself comes to the fore and He says, "I Jesus". So this is not prophecy strictly. It is a testimony of the Lord Jesus presenting Himself in His humiliation but as the One who is also Head in relation to His assembly. It is in this character that Revelation ends. The Lord presents Himself to those who belong to Him and says, "I come quickly", I am "the bright and morning star". So the first part of the book, in the opening verses, and the last part, are not prophecy but introduction and conclusion which emphasises very precisely our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is what the Spirit of Christ desires to leave on our hearts, a distinct impression of the Lord.

This seems to be emphasised by the fact that the stress is upon the "I". Verse 16, "I Jesus" ('ego'), then later in the same verse "I am the root and offspring of" ('ego eimi'), and in verse 18, "I ('ego') testify". It looks like divine authentication given by the Lord Himself, a signature if you like at the end of the book of Revelation.

"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is athirst come; he that will, let him take the water of life freely."   (22:17)

So if the Lord fills the vision, and all other considerations are put to one side, it inevitably produces a result. If the conscience and the affections are reached the immediate result is "the Spirit and the bride say, Come". The enjoyment of it is so rich that it cannot be kept to ourselves, it has to be spread around, "And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is athirst come; he that will, let him take the water of life freely". It is an expression of our appreciation of the Lord personally filling the heart, and in the sense of the marvellous blessing connected with this we cannot keep it to ourselves, we must share it, and the circle gets bigger and bigger.

1   This book is available from Chapter Two. (Note for publishers: Make more prominent)

 

Reading 12

Revelation 22:16-22

"I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify these things to you in the assemblies. I am the root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star."   (22:16)

"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is athirst come; he that will, let him take the water of life freely."   (22:17)

The apostle Paul had a custom in writing his epistles. At the end he would take the pen out of the hand of the scribe and close the letter himself. For example in 2 Thessalonians 3:17, "The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write". It gave the seal of authenticity to the epistle. Everyone is supposed to recognise the handwriting and know it was a genuine letter of the apostle Paul. We have the same impression here in the book of Revelation and at the end of the Bible. The Lord Jesus as it were takes the pen and writes here, "I Jesus". It is the strongest affirmation of authenticity as a testimony that this is the true and faithful word of God.

This is a very satisfactory introduction to verse 18. You may remember that in 2 Thessalonians referred to there were those who had been writing letters to mislead the saints, and in the circumstances Paul had to put his own signature upon the epistle to confirm that it was from him. One can see the relevance of this in the book of Revelation because the number of interpretations given to it are legion and consequently we also need to have the word from the Lord Himself. This seems to be the explanation of what we have in verse 18, sealing the authenticity and exactitude of what is in this book.

With regard to verse 17 how do we know that the Spirit and the bride are saying "Come" to the Lord Jesus? Are they not saying "Come" to the sinner? In verse 17 it is "the Spirit and the bride say, Come", how do we know that they are saying this to the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus? Could the words not be saying "Come" to the sinners?

One point is that the word "Come" is singular.

This verse 17 comes right at the end. The Lord is about to return, and the pitch has got to the stage where the Spirit Himself is saying "Come". We have to remember that when the Lord comes He goes back to heaven and the bride is with Him. In this day in which we live are we not crying out for the Lord to come? In the question "And let him that is athirst come", are we are now making an appeal to those who are unconverted who do not form part of the bride, who are not the Lord's people, "let him that is athirst come: (there is no doubt that the Lord will come so if you are athirst) take the water of life freely". Surely this is a gospel calling? Would it not suggest that the order and emphasis is correct?

At the beginning of the book in chapter 1:5 there is a salutation from the three Persons of the Godhead, God Himself, the Spirit and the Lord Jesus, and as soon as the name of the Lord is pronounced, the church immediately adds "Unto him that loves us" (J.N.D.). We find likewise at the end of the book as soon as the Lord Jesus Himself presents to His church as the bright and morning star immediately the bride (the church), says "Come". In doing so she is directed by the power and function of the Holy Spirit so to do. This is the fifth and last distinct mention of the Holy Spirit in the book of Revelation (of fourteen altogether in John's writings). The first mention of the Holy Spirit is in the revelation given to John in chapter 1:4 and the second is the Holy Spirit's attributes, in particular chapter 4 verse 5 reminding us of the seven spirits in Isaiah 11:2. Then there is the candlestick with seven branches, presenting the seven attributes of the fullness of power, wisdom and blessing in the Lord Jesus as the Light of the world. Incidentally in chapter 4 the seven spirits are lamps, in chapter 5 verse 6 the seven spirits are eyes. So the Spirit sheds light on the scene and the eyes of the Lord discern everything of the world. Then the third mention of the Spirit is in chapter 14:13 in connection with the second "blessed", "Blessed the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth. Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; for their works follow with them", the rest promised to the overcomers who give their lives for the Lord as martyrs. Then fourth, the message of the assemblies. It is very important, what was said earlier, that a message is given to each church. Seven times the call to the hearing ear to hear is addressed to us, individually to each Christian, not only are we to hear what the Spirit says to the angel of that particular assembly, but also hear what is said to all the assemblies considered as a whole. Then the fifth mention (v.17) to me is the most beautiful. It touches our heart's affections. Do we notice that whenever the name of the Lord is mentioned our hearts and affections answer immediately, "Lord Jesus, Come"? There are three things mentioned. First is answering the call of Christ, "The Spirit and the bride say, Come". The second time the focus is on those who belong to the church, but who do not think enough of the Lord and His near return. Then there are those around us every day who need the gospel. Are there any among them who will respond to a salvation so readily available, "Come..... let him that is athirst come; and he that will, let him take the water of life freely", is addressed by the church and directed by the Spirit consider the same thing as we have said in chapter 21:6-7. Last year at chapter 21:6-7 we said in detail, "I will give to him that thirsts of the fountain of the water of life freely". There the Lord Jesus promises the water in connection with the eternal state. Here the words are placed by the Holy Spirit in the mouth of the church to the sinners in the world while the door of grace is still open. Brother Darby said that it is probably the most complete exposition of the position of the church. We await the Lord's return, waiting for the Lord, calling the others to wait with us, urgently, earnestly, turning to the world while there is still time.

It is "the Spirit and the bride", not the Spirit and the church. The bride will only be fully manifested in heaven but here already "the Spirit and the bride say, Come". There will be at the end of the tribulation those who cry for the Lord to come but that will be the Jewish remnant. They will be looking for fulfilment of Old Testament scriptures that assures them that their Messiah will come. They will not be part of the heavenly bride. The Spirit that marks the believers today will surely be saying "Lord Jesus, Come".

It would appear to be the expected result of the work of the Spirit of God working in the hearts of believers. The morning star has already arisen in the hearts of the believers and we are expecting that new day to dawn when the Lord Jesus Christ shall come. Our privilege as well as our responsibility individually is to make the Saviour known to a thirsty world is consequent upon this.

It seems that the testimony we give may be silent testimony as well as a spoken. Testimony will only carry weight as our lives are lived practically in accord with what we stand for. Unquestionably such lives will have an effect also on those that are athirst to come to the Lord Jesus. In verse 17 the circle gets larger and larger, "the Spirit and the bride", "him that hears", then "him that is athirst come" who are really desiring, and those who have maybe just heard of the grace of God, "he that will, let him take the water of life freely". Is there a difference between "the Spirit and the bride" on the one hand and "he that hears" on the other. Are these different groups?

As I understand it as soon as the Lord Jesus presents Himself as the "bright and morning star" at the end of the night of His absence, announcing His return, the answer of the church as a whole is "Come", but within the church there are believers who are not cognizant of the fact and detail of His return.

Would this indicate that we could expect something of a revival at the very end of this dispensation?

This would seem to be the direction in which the Spirit will work but as to whether the dimension of the movement will measure up to the size we usually connect with the word "revival" there does not seem to be any indication. In chapter 7:9 we see tremendous results from the preaching of the everlasting gospel, but there is no such indication of similar results here.

The expression of their hearts immediately is directed by the Holy Spirit as to the Lord's return, and within the church it appears there will be believers who will be met in the air by Christ although at that moment they do not know this precious truth. To these we have a responsibility to make them understand more clearly the Lord's coming. The third thing is we turn to the world and say, "There is still time to come to get the water of life freely".

Is it not significant that in this section that it is the Spirit that is mentioned before the bride? Turning back to Genesis 24 where we get a picture of the Spirit's activity (a very complete picture), we find that there is an inquiry, "Who is the man that is walking in the fields to meet us?" (v.65). It is a rather vague enquiry, but then the word comes clearly, "And the servant said, That is my master!" The Spirit at all times will conduct the heart to Christ. The fact that the Spirit is mentioned before the bride would show that there is no deficiency on the Divine side. On our side there may be some deficiency but the different groups referred to are secondary to the fact that the Spirit is performing His service, at all times drawing attention to Christ.

The disciples said to the Lord, "when shall these things be" (Mark 13:4). Interestingly enough it is in the 'Servant Gospel', Mark, where the Lord is recorded as saying in verse 32, "But of that day or of that hour no one knows, neither the angels who are in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father". We have looked at expressions which among other things affirm His Deity. We have no doubt as to that, but we need also to consider that administratively some things are in the hands of the Father peculiarly, and the timing of His coming is administratively in the scope of the Father, not the servant Son of man. Another possible point of view is that instinctively, longingly, those who comprise the bride are now saying, "Come". The bride longs to be presented to the Bridegroom. Why does He not come? Could it be that it is when the Spirit adds His voice to the constant longing of the bride that then, simultaneously, the longing of the bride has added to it the voice of the Spirit and at that moment the Father gives the word? It is a question of administration here, but Mark 13 and Revelation 22:17 do go together. The Spirit is omniscient, He is God and the Son is omniscient, He is God; but here this appears to be a matter of administration, and the timing is in the hands of the Father, and subject Son confirms His own position.

Mark 13 has to be read in conjunction with Matthew 24 and 25. Essentially in Matthew 24 and 25 the point of view of the Lord Jesus is in terms of His appearance in glory for judgment. But those two events, the church raptured and the judgment the world are not independent of one another. Mark 13:31 is probably more in connection with His appearing. Among the seven types of the Lord coming to take His bride, the church, in the Old Testament probably Isaac and Rebekah is the most beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus' return. In terms of affection we are in the very centre of Christ's affections. On the side of affection we can learn much in the Song of Solomon, Have we or have we not left our first love? Have we kept the Lord's return in our hearts and the immanence of it? There is an important if sad lesson to be learnt in the two epistles to the Thessalonians. In the first the Lord's coming is mentioned in each of the five chapters. In the second, written perhaps only one year later, their love had increased and their work also but patience had waned. They seem to have lost the sense of the immanence of the Lord's coming. Have we done any better? I do not think so. We have to give attention to this. "My lord delays to come" (Matt.24:48). Let us take account of what the servant was doing. He was oppressing people. As soon as in our hearts the Lord's return is delayed then we are in danger.

No doubt the full thought of the bride is really her situation in heaven. The thing that touched my heart when I read it for the first time fifty years ago, it was affection. As a boy I lived by the seaside in a fishing village and I used to go down to the harbour wall and there were the wives of the fishermen at 6, 7 or 8 o'clock. Dinner was cooking at home and the boats were but dots on the horizon, but before they could read the name on the boat and that it was their husband's boat, and they could go home and "put the potatoes on". They were looking for their husbands to return. It is a blessed thing to be waiting for Him. Are our hearts on fire looking for that Man coming for us? "Come, Lord Jesus".

Linked with the affections and desire a verse from the Song of Solomon, 8:14, is helpful, "Haste, my beloved, And be thou like a gazelle or a young hart Upon the mountains of spices", and also 2:17, "Turn, my beloved: be thou like a gazelle or a young hart, Upon the mountains of Bether". No doubt the setting is Jewish with the desire is to be lifted out of difficulties, but there is a certain parallel with our own situation.

No doubt there are other references where we see that the Spirit taking the lead in our lives even today. In Romans 8:26 we are reminded there are times when we do not know what to pray for "the Spirit itself makes intercession" in groanings which cannot be uttered. Notice again the Spirit is mentioned in the first place. Similarly in Galatians 4:6 also it is not our spirit but the Spirit that cries "Abba, Father". That He is the One who takes the lead individually and also collectively, a very comforting thought.

 

"I testify to every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any one shall add to these things, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book. And if any one take from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book."   (22:19)

I would like to say something about verses 18 and 19. This morning with verse 7 before us, "Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book", we were asked a question whether we could apply this word not only to Revelation but to the whole of Scripture, and the same question might be asked now. It is said in verse 18, "If any one shall add to these things, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book. And if any one take from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book". This is nearly at the end of Scripture but if we go back into the first part of Scripture, the Pentateuch, not in Genesis, but in Deuteronomy, God says practically the same thing to His people as to the law, "Ye shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall ye take from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you" (Deut.4:2). These two exhortations can be together, the first which God spoke to His earthly people concerning the first part of the Old Testament. Seeing those two passages in conjunction, one at the beginning of the dealings of God with men and one at the end there is no doubt that we can apply this to the whole of Scripture. There is no scripture which might be taken away and there is no part of scripture where we may add anything. Some may say both passages are both limited to the books in which they are given, but if it was only here in the end one could ask the question. Is it not wonderful that God has given it thousands of years ago in the first part of His holy word as well as at the end that it is His holy word to which nothing may be, nor must be, added, and from which nothing may be taken away? The Lord says here, 'If you do that, if you add anything then plagues will be added to you which are written in this book, and if you take away from this book God shall take away his part from the tree of life'.

There are Bibles where it says, "from the book of life", and let me add here some thoughts here as to the reason and the causes why these different readings can occur. We had one before in the course of the day already, and this goes back to the famous Erasmus of Rotterdam who was a very learned man but a humanist. He was interested in the old languages, a feature of the Renaissance, and he was the first to say, 'Why not print the New Testament in the original language' (the printing press had just been invented some fifty years before). This had never been done before and Erasmus of Rotterdam in 1515 was the first to do so, but for that enterprise he needed manuscripts. Until the invention of the printing press every Bible had to be written by hand and there were comparatively few of them, only about six to ten of them. Nowadays we have about 5,300 manuscripts of the Greek Bible, but when Erasmus five hundred years ago printed his first Bible in Greek he had about six to ten manuscripts, all of them dating from about one thousand years after Christ and when the first New Testament scriptures were written. Unfortunately also these rather late manuscripts which he used for the printing of the New Testament were not complete and for our present interest, there was a serious gap in the Revelation. Thus when Erasmus wanted to print it in Greek he had no Greek text retranslated the Bible (and this is very important). He retranslated this part of the New Testament from the Latin back into Greek and he used the normal Latin Vulgate Bible of the Catholic church at the time. It was from this source he got "the book of life". But now we have about 5,300 manuscripts of the Greek Bible and there is not one in which the word "the book of life" occurs. This New Testament of Erasmus became naturally a forerunner, and it became world famous. The first to use it was Martin Luther in 1522 when he was translating the Bible into German. He used the New Testament in Greek, the original language but with these two weaknesses, it had only a few manuscripts and very late manuscripts, and secondly the last part of the Revelation was not the original Greek but retranslated into Greek from Latin. But the Lord used Luther for a great blessing in Germany and all over the Western world. Later on the Dutch Bible, the French Bible and the English Bible were translated from texts which stemmed back to what Erasmus had published. This is the basis of the Authorised Version. This Greek text became so well known that after fifty or sixty years it was called "The Received Text", the text received by all scholars as the only one, and there was no other at that time. About a one hundred and fifty years ago when Mr. Darby started to translate a new translation and at that time scholars had found about one thousand manuscripts of the Greek Bible in comparison with six to ten of Erasmus, and in these manuscripts which were at the disposal of Mr. Darby and his collaborators there were manuscripts which were five, six, seven hundred years older nearer to the original than the manuscripts of Erasmus had used. But in these further manuscripts the words "the book of life" never occurred and it became the basis for other new translations done mostly by unbelievers. Tischendorf was probably a believer, but later scholars and modern scholars are mostly unbelievers. They had many Greek manuscripts although not so many as we have today. Even the unbelieving modern editor of the New Testament says the text of the New Testament is practically one hundred percent sure. They base it mainly on the oldest manuscripts which were not known to Erasmus. Nowadays in certain Christian circles (and we are not untouched by it) there is a battle between those who cling to the Received Text and those Christians who cling to the text reconstructed by the modern scholars based on 5,300 manuscripts which we have now. Some go back almost to the time of John. The oldest portion of the Bible is the Gospel by John going back to the year 130 AD or even 125 AD (number P53 is the oldest part of the New Testament).

Why should we know this? Because the Received Text is not the inspired text which is shown by what has just been said and the modern Greek editions based on the oldest manuscript are not inspired either because it is the work of unbelieving 'Christians'. What are we to do? The first point is that for the most part both types of text are absolutely identical. There are not two different New Testaments! Ninety-five to ninety-seven percent are identical, so there is only five percent of all the thousands of words where there are differences and here we have one. Let us never forget that the Received Text is not inspired nor are all the modern versions, and modern Greek editions. No doubt we do need spiritual intelligence to see what the Spirit wants us to have. It appears that the word "commandment" should not be in verse 14, and the word "book" should not be here, nor should be "tree" because the evidence of the oldest manuscripts shows clearly that was not there. But at the same time we must be careful. Both the Received Text has its faults and all the unbelieving editors of the Critical Text which combines the greatest scholarship of our times in this field. What we need, and that is what brother Darby did, and what the other brethren did and are doing, to find the mind of God in the text, and happily there is now doubt all except a few remaining words.. Let us beware of being partisans of either the Received Text or the Modern Text which are both are human editions of the one inspired by God which God has been pleased (we must say so) to pass into our days in this way. The Old Testament has been translated in an entirely a different way. There is only one text in the Hebrew and there are practically no serious difficulties chiefly because of the Jews reverent jealousy to preserve the Old Testament in exactitude, something quite different from the way most scholars handle the New Testament.

Probably most of us render hearty thanks to God for Darby's translation with its valuable footnotes. Here we seem to have the judgment of a spiritual man in regard to some of these differences. Along those lines we do not lose our confidence in the Bible that is in our hands.

It almost seems that if scholars come to a passage which they do not like they will do this very best either to get rid of it, or 'water down' its full weight. The words here are most unpopular, "if any one takes from the words of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life." Solemn words indeed.

"He that testifies these things says, Yea, I come quickly. Amen; come, Lord Jesus."   (22:20)

Time is running out but there is one point that we must not miss before we finish. Three times we have in the section "I come quickly" (22:7,12,20). In verse 7 it is in connection with "the words of the prophecy of this book". We noticed this produced no response. Have we not to acknowledge that oftentimes we have been faulty and deficient in keeping the words of the book. Secondly in verse 12 we get the same expression, "Behold, I come quickly, and my reward with me, to render to every one as his work shall be". Again sadly we have been deficient in the matter of our works also and consequently there is no response, but when we come to verse 20, "Yea, I come quickly". Who says it? The Lord Jesus. And it is in this context, the glory and beauty of the Person and the One who has been engaging our attention in the multiplied testimonies to His majesty and greatness and His grace. This produces the immediate response. Is not this a very lovely touch to conclude our studies, an affectionate response to the Person of Jesus.

What underlines this is that this is the only place in Revelation that we have "Lord Jesus" in verse 20, and in verse 21, "the Lord Jesus Christ", again the only similar reference in Revelation. So it is a very, very precious end to brought in...... Lord Jesus and Lord Jesus Christ closes the book of Revelation and also the whole Bible, a fitting conclusion to the sacred Scriptures..

Would you think it carries with it the suggestion that we are glad to submit to such a precious Lord?

Amen.

The book of Revelation and the whole Bible finishes on what we may call a 'test of fellowship', a test of communion. The Lord Jesus makes this call "I come quickly", the bride answers, "Amen; come, Lord Jesus". We come back to the question of our affections and to the Lord and the link between the Lord Jesus Christ and the Lamb, the Bridegroom and the bride, His wife. The marriage supper of the Lamb has not yet taken place but according to 2 Corinthians 11 we belong to Him now just as much as ever we ever shall be. Paul had espoused the Corinthians to Christ. We are more than engaged, we belong to Christ, He has purchased us with the price of His own life. In Song of Solomon in chapter 2:16 we read, "My beloved is mine, and I am his", and in chapter 6:3, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine" and in chapter 7:10 it is the top note, "I am my beloved's, And his desire is toward me". We belong to Christ and Christ wants us for Himself. Then the test of communion, "Amen; come, Lord Jesus", answering directly to Him. It corresponds with the last two verses in the Song of Solomon (ch.8:13-14). "Haste, my beloved, And be thou like a gazelle or a young hart Upon the mountains of spices". It is to be noticed that it is the voice of One that dwells in the gardens. Do not gardens suppose a company who are in accord with Him and who hearken to His voice?

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints."   (22:21)

 

It is the day of grace now and it is the true grace of God in which we stand (1 Pet.5:12). There could not be a more fitting conclusion. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints".