"Oh, how beautiful that region,
And how fair that heavenly legion,
Where thus men and angels blend!
Glorious will that city be,
Full of deep tranquility,
Light, and peace, from end to end!
All the happy dwellers there
Shine in robes of purity,
Bound in firmest unity.
Labor finds them not, nor care,
Ignorance can never perplex,
Nothing tempt them, nothing vex;
Joy and health their fadeless blessing,
Always all things good possessing."
—Thomas A Kempis, 1380.
"And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory
of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light."—Rev. 21:23.
Heaven is here compared to a city. But it is no created
orbs, no material luminaries, which light up its glorious edifices. These
are superseded. There is no longer need of the intervention of means
as on earth. All the knowledge and light and glory of the Church triumphant
emanate directly from the Divine Source of all excellence. The immediate
presence of the Creator and the Lamb will render unnecessary every other
medium of communication. As a vessel requires props before being launched to
sea—or a house in building requires scaffolding before it can be
completed—so the Church, in its earthly condition, requires the props and
scaffolding of ordinances and means of grace. But when the erection is
finished—the last stone placed on the consummated structure—then the
scaffolding is removed—it is needed no more. "There shall be no more prayer
there," says Baxter, "because no more necessity; but the full enjoyment of
the thing prayed for. God's face shall be the Scripture where we
shall read the truth."
We have servants in the lower
banqueting-house—angels are ministering spirits sent forth "to minister to
the heirs of salvation." The Church has ordained office-bearers to carry the
vessels of the sanctuary. In Heaven, the Master "girds Himself and
serves," (Luke 17:8.) Here it is mediately through the
creature our spiritual needs are supplied—there all will be supplied
directly from God and the Lamb. It is "THE LAMB who leads to the
living fountains of water." It is "God" who "wipes away all tears
from the eyes!" (Rev. 7:17.) Here on earth, the use of means is
indispensable. They are adapted for our state of imperfection. The
infant or sick man cannot bear the full blaze of the sun—they must have the
curtain drawn, or the brightness tempered and subdued; it is only with
increasing age or returning health that either are able to look on the
light. So in the infancy and weakness of our probation-state we could not
bear to gaze on the unveiled majesty of God's glory—we could not endure its
intolerable brightness; it would blind and consume us. The figurative "sun"
and "moon" of ordinances are, therefore, graciously appointed for the
feebleness of our earthly condition. But when invested with the nobler
powers of our heavenly manhood, we shall be able to dispense with these—we
shall be able to draw aside the veiling curtain, which is needed now to
subdue and modify, and to gaze with eagle-eye on the brightness of Jehovah's
To borrow an apt illustration: None of the lower animals
can hold, in the noblest sense of the word, fellowship with man, as
they are at present constituted; but let one of them have suddenly imparted
to it the gift of reason, then it becomes immediately fitted to do
so. So it is with regard to our present and future relation to God. We are
unable, with our present limited powers, to hold, in the highest sense,
intimate fellowship with Him—we have the feeblest conceptions of His glory,
the most inadequate apprehension of His goodness, and power, and excellency,
and majesty. But when we come in a glorified state to have higher and nobler
spiritual endowments conferred on us, we shall be able to see, as we
cannot do now, His glorious perfections, and to enjoy, as we cannot
do now, His presence and favor, His fellowship and love.
The city will then have no "need" of the sun! It
is needed now, while on earth—the softer and more subdued light is
required now; but earth's darkness will then be past, and the true
Light will shine. We shall be able (without being, like Moses, hidden in the
cleft of any sheltering rock) to "see God and live!" (Exod. 33:20.)
And what a fellowship will this be!—The
Being of all beings, the Light of all lights! David felt it to be
subject-matter of gratitude and joy—"I am companion to those who fear
you." He had a hallowed joy in the fellowship of kindred spirits on
earth. What will it be to be the companion of God Himself?—to be linked with
all that is essentially great, and glorious, and good,
in the universe—not only to be brother to the angelic hosts, but, in a
higher sense than even the Father of the faithful knew it, "to be called"
(and to BE) "the friend of God!"
If, even on earth, I have known something of Him as my
"Light" and my "Salvation"—if I have seen somewhat of His glory shining
through the battered chinks of my ruined soul—what will it be to bask in the
floods of infinite light and love before the Throne? "What can be desired,"
says one now in the midst of the glorious realities on which he often dwelt,
"beyond the bliss imparted by the consciousness of loving and being loved by
Him, in whose smile of love the highest archangels find the very heaven of
heaven to consist?"
I shall be independent of all that contributes to light
up my earthly pathway. Friends I may have then among the angels—hallowed
reunions of earthly affection may and will take place in that world
of glory; but though I expect to prize and cherish them, I shall have no
"NEED" of them. They will be among the "lesser glories," having no glory
(comparatively) by reason of "the glory that excels." The sunlight and the
moonlight will pale into nothingness in the presence of mightier
But while I shall be lost in amazement at the exceeding
greatness and excellency of this great Being, who is enthroned "in light,
inaccessible, and full of glory"—while all the eloquence of earth that has
tried to portray the majesty of His glory will fall immeasurably short—it
will, at the same time, be a softened glory. Never, in these sublime
pictures of Heaven which we have in the Book of Revelation, is the Lord God
Almighty spoken of but in conjunction with "the Lamb." John "saw no
temple; the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb were the temple," (Rev.
21:22.) Now he sees no light. The luster of earthly sun, and moon, and
stars, have faded, and are quenched forever, but "the Lord God Almighty
AND THE LAMB are the light thereof." He hears the redeemed multitude
sing a lofty anthem, but it is this—"Salvation to our God that sits upon
the throne, AND UNTO THE LAMB," (Rev. 7:10) What is the design of this
often-recurring imagery and symbol but to keep ever before the Church, even
in its triumphant state, the intervention of a Mediator, by whom alone it is
that we can see God and live? "The Lamb is the light thereof!"
Calvary's cross and Calvary's Savior will still be the theme and
mystery of eternity!
And if light be the emblem of purity, how I ought, in the
prospect of such a Heaven and such a Presence, to make it my great ambition
to be "perfecting" that "holiness, without which no man can see
the Lord!" (Heb. 12:14.) Holiness becomes that city! Its gates are never
shut except against sin. Let me seek, as its chartered citizen, that every
vestige of the accursed thing be now put away. What a happy world,
where temptation shall no longer be felt or feared!—where I shall never
more, by reason of sin, be mourning an absent Lord—never more, in the midst
of my own erring estrangements, be uttering the plaintive soliloquy of the
patriarch, "Oh that I knew where I might find HIM!" but ever reposing
in the joyous consciousness, "I am still with You!"
"With HIM all gathered! to that blessed home,
Through all its windings, still the pathway tends;
While ever and anon bright glimpses come
Of that fair city where the journey ends.
Where all of bliss is centered in one word,
'So shall we be forever with the Lord.'"