If we are to understand the
book of the Revelation, the best way is to read its closing
chapters first, and then move backward to the beginning. As in so
many matters, the end explains all, for the end - the goal -
governs all; so it is here, in the all-inclusive purpose and
movements of God. These closing chapters, in their sublime
symbolism, gather together all the elements and features of the
Divine intention, and see them consummated in full and final
ascendency and glory.
If we were to try to
concentrate all the symbolic meaning into one definition, we
should put it somewhat in this way: The end to which God has
always moved, and is moving through all that the Bible - as
concentrated in the book of the Revelation - contains, is to have
a certain expression of His nature and character, His virtues and
excellencies, represented and expressed governmentally in this
universe. To see that organic representation is to see what God
is like and what God ever intended should be in His creation.
That statement immediately
demands a contemplation - if not exhaustive, certainly sufficient
- of that consummate representation. So, we begin at the end.
The final feature in the Bible
corresponds to the first in Genesis, it is -
Supremacy of Life
"He shewed me a river of
water of life, bright as crystal..." Life, Divine Life, has
been the supreme and all-dominating issue of all time. The battle
of the ages has been between life and death; their respective
causes and sources, and their ends. To see how true this is we
only need to note what is the connection here in Revelation 22.
1. It is the consummation and
finality of all that has gone before.
2. It is associated with the
two major factors in history -
a) The Throne; i.e., supremacy, dominion, authority, government;
b) The Lamb; i.e., redemption, salvation, sin's destruction,
righteousness triumphant, and love victorious;
also with -
c) The Tree of Life; i.e., health, sustenance, reproduction or
propagation "after its kind";
d) The removal of every barrier to perfect fellowship with God
We can never make too much of
Eternal Life, for, amongst and including all other things, this
is what Christ is, what He came to give, and what He died to
The next step back (chapter 21)
brings into full view -
Holy City, New Jerusalem"
Here we have a perfect galaxy
The concept of a city is that
it is the governmental centre and heart of the kingdom. In it
there are to be found all those features and characteristics
which are true of the kingdom. It is the summation and
representation of all the elements which constitute the realm
over which it reigns. In this symbolic representation of God's
end we have the nature of world-dominion as God ever intended it
Here we must pause and
carefully adjust our mentality to the fundamental reality. We
must escape from the finality of symbolism in our imagination and
come down with both feet on what lies behind that symbolism. We
are not really dealing with things as such at all. We are
in the presence of spiritual character, and God's character at
that. Albeit, it is the character of the Lord disseminated,
distributed, inculcated, and manifested in as many aspects as a
universal metropolis can contain. A few of these we can note.
a) Heavenliness. "The
Holy City... coming down out of heaven."
Into this clause and its
implication we need to gather all that weight of emphasis laid by
the Lord Jesus on His essential heavenliness of origin, mission,
nature, relationship, direction, government and resource. So
largely this is characteristic of John's Gospel.
Then we need to note His
teaching on the essential heavenliness of the Church, as not
being of this world. John, Paul and Peter have a great deal to
say on this truth and fact.
"They are not of this
world, even as I..." (John 17:16).
"Seated together with
him in the heavenlies..." (Ephesians 2:6).
"The Jerusalem which is
above, which is our mother" (Galatians 4:26).
"Ye are come to... the
heavenly Jerusalem" (Hebrews 12:22); and so on.
This City is the embodiment of
the heavenly nature, order and way of things.
Yes, the City is not a thing,
it is a nature!
b) With this nature there
immediately goes its Stability. Read the description in
general and note how substantial this city is. How massive,
weighty, strong, dominating, and immense. It is indeed the Eternal
City. This says simply and forcefully that the enduring,
time-outlasting, impregnable, indestructible thing is Divine
character. No wonder that God is more concerned with conformity
to the image of His Son, with heavenly nature, than with anything
else. This explains so much of His dealings with His spiritual
c) Costliness. "Costly
If the stones mentioned suggest
beauty and glory, this is the fruit of a great cost:
The cost of redemption. The
cost of sanctification. The cost of service. The cost of souls.
The cost of "the fellowship of his sufferings".
The pearls which form the gates
- the ways in and out - bring this costly anguish into
concentration, for the pearl is something formed by the vital
fluids of the organism.
From the Tree in the City the nations
derive their health. 'The nations walk in the light thereof.'
The gates are on the four sides, and four is always the number of
creation. Paul prayed that the Church might know "what is
the breadth and length and height and depth" of "the
love of Christ which passeth knowledge" (Eph. 3:18,19).
Here, indeed, that prayer has its answer. All-comprehending and
no exclusion, when things are for ever as God will have them.
Then, all that cannot be will have been banished for ever. Here
we have the many times repeated "all things" of Paul's
The city is as "a jasper stone, clear as crystal".
The river is clear - or bright - as crystal. And "the city
was pure gold, like unto pure glass."
What is spiritual is transparent. What is carnal is opaque.
"Nothing that maketh a lie" can come in here. The Liar
and the lie, with all deception, insincerity, dishonesty and
duplicity, will have been burned up. The people of God who form
this City will have been purified and refined. The Spirit of
Truth will work to produce this feature of singleness, purity and
crystal-clearness in our hearts. We must be suitable to the
presence of God. The above are but a few hints and pointers
regarding the so-much-more at the end, to which God is working.
If the City speaks of eternal government, as the number twelve
indicates, then, shall we repeat, the eternal Kingdom will be
governed by what is true to God's nature.
It is not our intention to trace back through this great book
all the movements and activities which have this end in view. It
will be seen - in the light of the end - that the judgment of
Satan and his kingdom, the destruction of satanically energized
world-hierarchies, and then, as a first realm of purification,
the interrogation and arraignment of the churches - as
representative of the whole Church - is governed by that end.
That first sphere of judgment is shown to permit of no merely
comparative or partial rightness. The good is noted, but the
activity of "the seven spirits", i.e. the Spirit in
sevenfold expression, is on the line of spiritual completeness,
Thus we return to the first message in this series, and see
how God's end answers to His beginning. Christ is the First and