"Sweetest strains from soft harps stealing;
Trumpets, notes of triumph pealing;
Radiant wings and white stoles gleaming,
Up the steps of glory streaming;
Where the heavenly bells are ringing,
Holy, holy, holy! singing
To the mighty Trinity!
Holy, holy, holy! crying;
For all earthly care and sighing
In that city cease to be."
—Thomas A Kempis, 1380.
"Clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands."
What a transition! from earth to heaven—from the mortal
to the immortal—from partial sanctification to complete and everlasting
purity. The beggar "lifted from the ash-heap," "set among princes," and
caused to inherit "a throne of glory!" (1 Sam. 2:8.)
"Clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands."
It is a figurative representation of glorified saints, as "priests
and kings unto God." The "white robe" is the priestly
emblem—the "palm" is the kingly emblem. They are to have censers
as well as crowns. They are to be employed as consecrated Levites in
the Heavenly Temple, as well as to reign invested with regal dignity. As in
all the Bible pictures of Heaven, so, here, there is a beautiful union of
active service with royal honor. "His servants shall SERVE
him."—"They shall reign forever and ever," (Rev. 22:3, 5.)
The expression, "standing before the throne,"
denotes boldness, confidence, acceptance. They are "accepted in the
Beloved." They could have no other boldness but in Jesus. Their robes derive
all their whiteness, their palms all their greenness, from Him, before whom
every palm is waved, and at whose feet every crown is cast. They sang by
anticipation in their militant state, and they may love to repeat it still
as "a song of remembrance"—
"Bold shall I stand at that great day;
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
While by Your blood absolved I am,
From sin's tremendous guilt and shame!"
Have I this boldness and confidence now? Am I now
clothed in the imputed righteousness of Immanuel? And do I look forward to
the time when I shall stand arrayed also in the stainless robe of
personal holiness—that "clothing clean and white, which is the
righteousness of the saints?" (Rev. 19:8.) Do I love to think of Heaven
as a place of living employment; where, as a member of the glorified
priesthood, I shall minister at God's altar, and be filled with zeal for
His honor and glory? Jesus comes down now to earth to "sup" with me,
(Rev. 3.) Then I shall sit down at His everlasting banquet, and hold
uninterrupted fellowship with Him. "THEY shall walk with ME in white, for
they are worthy," (Rev. 3:4.)
But I shall be a KING too. I shall stand with a
palm-branch in my hand! The weapons of earthly toil and warfare will
then be laid aside; the emblems of triumph and victory take their place. The
Roman conqueror ascending to the Capitol of old, with the laurel on his
brow, and the palm-branch waving above his head, was a feeble type of the
sinner saved by grace, passing through the triumphal arch of glory, to
receive "the crown of life" which his Lord has promised! "The kings of
the earth," we read, "bring their glory and honor unto it," (Rev.
21:24)—that is to say, all the pomp and splendor of earthly sovereignty is
taken to typify and image forth the transcendent greatness of Heaven.
We may well pause and wonder at these royal honors in
reserve for us! "KINGS unto God!" All the splendors of sovereignty,
without its harassments and burdens! No thorn in the crown; no "suspended
sword" from the "fretted ceiling," dimming the sparkling jewels with its
shadow; and painfully reminding that the crown is "corruptible," often
"defiled," always fading!
In Rev.4:4 we read, that "round about the thrones were
twenty-four seats," (or, as that might be better and more literally
rendered, "twenty-four thrones.") Every head is to be a crowned one. "I
appoint unto you" by covenant, says Christ, "a KINGDOM, even as my
Father has appointed unto me," (Luke 22:29.)
While believers are designated "a priesthood," they are a
"royal priesthood"—royally born—royally fed—royally attended—royally
crowned! Some are to have regal authority "over five," some "over ten
cities," according to the fidelity with which they have discharged their
trusts during the period of earthly probation.
Am I preparing for these royal honors? Having "palms
in their hands" indicates that, as victors and victorious, these sainted
conquerors were once engaged in the strife of battle. Am I fighting
now? Do I feel the world—my own heart—to be a battle-field, and that there
is no discharge in that spiritual warfare until I reach the gates of glory?
Let me not dream of the crown, unless I am conscious of striving for it. It
is alone promised "to him who overcomes," (Rev. 3:21.) It has been
quaintly said by a writer on this verse, that "a station on the feet
in front of the throne in heaven, is the effect of being often on
the knees before the throne on earth." Oh for faith, and grace,
and spiritual fortitude here, to "fight the good fight of faith, and to
lay hold on eternal life!" (1 Tim. 6:12.) How will the everlasting
respite from pain and sorrow, corruption and sin, be all the more enjoyed,
by reason of the struggles and conflicts which have preceded it!
Believer, think of this! Once within yonder peaceful
gates, and the blood and dust of the earthly arena is washed away forever.
The long "white robe" speaks beautifully of this promised rest. The
toil of the militant state is over. There may then be used the flowing
vesture. There will be no need of fleeing, and of girding up the dress, when
there is none to pursue. When we reach the battlements of glory, we shall be
able to say, "O enemy! destructions are now come to a PERPETUAL end,"
Glorious time!—when we shall stand before the throne,
faultless monuments of God's wondrous grace. How blessed if, at a dying
hour, we can exclaim, in the prospect of this royal priesthood, this white
robe, and evergreen palm, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of
righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me at that
day!" (2 Tim. 4:8.) "Be of good cheer, Christian, the time is near when
God and you shall be near, and as near as you can well desire. You shall
ever stand before Him; around His throne—in the room with Him—in His
presence-chamber! Would you yet be nearer? You shall be His child,
and He your Father. Yes, you shall be an heir of His kingdom!