A Prospect Bright, Unfailing!
In days of increasing gloom and perplexity, like the
present, the soul of the saint is the more sent into its sure hiding-place
or up to its Pisgah heights of hope and observation. It gets more
accustomed to meditate on the strength of those foundations which
God has put under our feet, the intimacy of that communion into which
He has even now introduced our hearts, and the brightness of those
prospects which He has set before our eyes. In connection with this
last thing, I would listen to the voice of the Spirit to the churches
in Revelation 2-3.
These words may be read with two intents: either to
see what the moral standing of those churches was and then to get
admonition for our souls, or to see what the promises of Christ
to them were, that we might get joy and consolation . It
is only in this respect that I am now reading them, listening simply
to those several promises which the Lord makes to His faithful ones,
and which will be found, I believe, to unfold before us, in order,
the joys and glories which await the saints in coming days.
Ephesus.-"To him that overcometh will
I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the Paradise
of God." This is the simplest form of promise. It tells the
saint that he shall feed on the very kernels, or fat kidneys of eternal
life, so to speak. Those outside shall have the leaves of this
same tree for healing (Rev. 22), but the saints of the heavens shall
have more. The very fruit of the tree itself, gathered, as it were,
immediately from it, where it grows in the midst of God's garden--not
the fruit brought to them, but gathered by their own hands off the
very tree. Strong intimation of the freshness, the constant freshness,
of that life that is theirs. The Lamb shall lead them to the fountains
of living water--not to streams or channels, but to the spring-head
of the river of life (Rev. 7). All this again telling the undiluted
vigor of our life; as our Lord Jesus says (and what can pass beyond
such words), "Because I live, ye shall live also." Here
in this promise to Ephesus is the tree of life partaken of immediately
by the heavenly saints. For this is their portion in life, to receive
it from, and to nourish it at, the very fountains and roots themselves.
Smyrna.-"Be thou faithful unto death,
and I will give thee a crown of life. He that overcometh shall not
be hurt of the second death." This is something beyond what
had been previously said to Ephesus. Here life is regarded rather
as a thing gained than imparted. It was imparted in
its richest form to Ephesus, but here we see it gained by Smyrna;
for Smyrna was sorely tried: some were cast into prison, and all of
them were in tribulation. They were to suffer many things; but they
are promised, on being faithful unto death, a crown of life,
and life is thus spoken of as what they had earned or gained;
as James in like manner speaks, "Blessed is the man that
endureth temptation; for when he is tried he shall receive the crown
of life, which the Lord hath promised to them who endure trial;" and
this is beautiful in its season. The Lord delights to own the faith
of His saints, and if they have shown that they loved not their life
in this world unto death, it shall be as though they had gained it
in the world to come. Life shall be as a crown to them there, as
the glorious reward of not having cared for it here.
Pergamos.-"To him that overcometh will
I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone,
and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving
he that receiveth it." We have another source of joy disclosed
here. Life is possessed, and that abundantly and honorably,
as we saw at Ephesus and Smyrna; but there is here the promise of
another joy--the sense of the Lord's personal favour and affection--communion
with Him of such kind as is known only by hearts closely knit
together in those delights and remembrances with which a stranger
could not intermeddle. This is here spoken of to the faithful remnant
in Pergamos. They had held His faith in the midst of difficulties,
and clung to His Name, and this should be rewarded with that which
is ever most precious--tokens of personal affection, waking the delighted
sense and assurance of the heart of the Lord being knit to their heart.
If the heart in this wilderness know its own bitterness, from the
waters of Marah that flow here, there it shall know its own delights
from the enjoyment and conscious smile of the Lord Jesus. He will
kiss His saint "with the kisses of His mouth"--He will
retire as from the scene of the public glory to do this; or, in the
midst of it all, give that pledge which shall speak it. It is the
hidden manna which is here fed upon, and the stone here received
has a name on it which none know but he who receives it.
This, as another has said, all expresses this individual affection.
It is not public joy, but delight in the conscious possession of the
Lord's love. How blessed a character of joy in the coming day is this!
Life possessed in abundance and in honor we have already seen, as
at Ephesus and Smyrna; but here at Pergamos, we advance to another
possession, not glory in any form of it as yet, but the blessed certainty
and consciousness of the Lord's personal affection.
Thyatira.-"He that overcometh and keepeth
My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations,
and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of a potter
shall they be broken to shivers, even as I received of My Father;
and I will give him the morning star." Now we read public
scenes, scenes of power and glory. This is not merely life,
though enjoyed never so blessedly; nor simple personal affection and
individual joy therein, but here is something displayed in honor and
strength abroad; here is power and glory in the first character in
which the glories of the saints are destined hereafter to be unfolded,--that
is, in their being the companions of the Lord in the day when He comes
forth to make His enemies His footstool; or, according to the decree
of the second Psalm, to break them with a rod of iron, to dash them
in pieces like a potter's vessel. This will be His power just before
He takes His kingdom. This will be His ridding out all that would
have been inconsistent with the kingdom. This will be the girding
of the sword on the thigh, like David, ere the throne be ascended,
like Solomon (Psalm 45); it will be the rider's action ere the reign
of the thousand years be begun (Rev. 19,20). This is glory, this is
manifested power; the first exercise of it in the hand of Christ,
the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven; and in that act of
power and display of glory, the saints (as we are here instructed
and promised) shall be with Him, they outliving, gloriously outliving,
all that night of horrible storm and dread judicial darkness, as the
star which "flames in the forehead of the morning sky," outlives
the gloomiest night. This is blessed in its place, and here given
to us in due season; for after the life and the personal
hidden joy, the public glories thus begin to be
ushered forth; for we shall find that this one, here spoken of to
Thyatira, is but the first of a long and brilliant train of them.
Sardis.-"They shall walk with me
in white,* for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same
shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name
out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father,
and before His angels." This is a stage onward in the scenes
of the glory. The vengeance has been taken; the sword of Him who sits
on the white horse has done its righteous service, and the vessels
of the potter have been broken, and the kingdom has come. The Lord
Jesus here promises to His faithful ones, that He will confess them
before His Father and His angels. This is not redeeming them from
judgment, or saving their souls (as we speak), but owning them, publicly
owning them, before the assembled dignities of the kingdom. For
He promises them that they shall walk with Him in white, for they
are worthy. This is not that they have washed their robes, and made
them white in the blood of the Lamb. That they have done, it is true,
but that enables them to appear without reserve or blot before
the throne (7:9), but here it is not as before the throne,
but as walking in white with the Lord Jesus in the kingdom. That
hand, which now in grace washes their feet, will then take them into
it, as it were, and own full companionship then in the realms of glory
with Him. What a character of joy is this! To be publicly owned
thus, as before (as we read to Pergamos) privately personally caressed.
In how many ways does the Spirit of God here trace the coming joys
of His saints! The life, the love, the glory, that are reserved for
them! The tree of life and its crown, too, the white stone, carrying
to the deepest senses of the heart the pledge of love; and then companionship
with the King of Glory in His walks through His bright and happy dominions.
But even more than this the same Spirit has to tell.
Philadelphia.-"Him that overcometh will
I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out:
and I will write upon him the name of the city of My God, which is
new Jerusalem, that cometh out of heaven from My God: and I will write
upon him My new Name." We have just seen the heir of the kingdom
as the companion of the Lord of the kingdom, abroad in the light of
the glory, walking in white with Him, owned before the Father and
the angels. Here the promise is, that the faithful one shall have
his place in the system of the glory itself. That he shall be
of that glorious order of kings and priests who shall then form the
character of the scene. Each of them being a pillar in the temple,
and each enrolled as of the city. High and holy dignities! The saints
integral parts of that glorious economy, as in the church on earth,
they are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit,
and grow together, all compacted, and fitly formed, like the members
of the body, each being needed to the general completeness; so in
the glory, shall each of the faithful ones to the Lord Jesus fill
his place in the temple and city, a needed member of that royal
priesthood then established in their holy government in the heavens,
where the new Jerusalem dwells and shines. What honour is put on them
here! Owned abroad,in his companionship with the Lord, walking,
as hand in hand, through the rich and wide scene of glory, confessed
before all; and also owned within, as bearing each in himself
a part of the glory, every vessel needed to the full _expression of
the light of the new Jerusalem, and formed as a vital part of the
fullness of Him who is to fill all in all, a king and a priest; each
of them occupying his several rank and station in the temple and the
city, the Salem of the true Melchizedec. What a place of dignity!
Surely, love delights to show what it can do and will do for its object!
O if we had but hearts to prize all these things, and to prize them
because of their telling us of this love which has counselled these
things for us! For what higher, happier thought can we have even
of glory itself, than that it is the manner in which love lets us
know what it will do for its elect one. Poor, poor heart that
moves so little at these things, while the mind stirs the conceptions
Laodicea.-"To him that overcometh will
I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and
am set down with My Father in His throne." Here the highest
point of glory is reached. This is the bright and sunny elevation
to which this passage, through the joys and honors of the kingdom
and presence of the Lord Jesus, has conducted us. Here the faithful
one enters into "the joy of his Lord"--sharing His throne.
Not only owned by Him abroad, and established with Him within--walking
in white with Him, or fixed as a needed and honored portion of the
great system of royal priesthood; but with Him seated in the supreme
place. What could be done more than is done? But from this elevation,
can our souls look back and trace the journey? or rather, while they
do so, can they value what thus they gaze at, and long for a draught
of these joys, and for a sight of these glories, as the hart pants
after the water-brooks, and the watchman waits for the morning? This
is what we want--a heart to prize our portion. The joys are rich,
and the glories are bright, but the heart is feebly responsive.
Exceeding great and precious things surely have now
passed before us. The tree and crown of life--the white stone--the
morning star--the walk in white abroad through the paths of glory,
and residence at home in the temple and city of glory--with a place
on the throne itself-these are ours, as faithful to the Lord Jesus.
Life enjoyed in abundance--and honor, friendship, and love, tasted
in their deepest personal intimacies--and glory shared in all the
displays of it, whether in the power of judgment on the enemy, or
in all the honors and dignities of the kingdom. If the Lord Jesus
Himself be prized, those things will be welcomed by us. If He Himself
be loved, all this nearness to Him in life, affection, and glory,
will be the heaven we desire. But is He our object? Do
w e make our Lord Jesus such? Can we send the message of the loving,
longing soul after Him, and say, "Tell Him that I am sick of
love." This is the point to start from, or rather this is
the mind both to start and to travel with, and then all will be well,
and all welcome, as we pass along through that scene of varied joy
and glory which these chapters thus in due order so open and spread
out before us. And these joys and glories tell us that we are Christ's
object, for they surely can be the portion only of those whom He delights
to honor and to bless. -- Girdle of Truth (available from Present
* I would observe that the use of white garments is
variously shown in the progress of this Book of the Revelation; and
there are different suits, as it were--the robe--the raiment--the
linen (the last is either "shining," or simply "white").
1. They are used by the redeemed, simply as before
the throne. This expresses their full cleansing through the blood
of the Lamb, so as to entitle, or enable, them to stand in God's very
presence without fear (Rev. 3).
2. They are used as the only adorning or clothing of
the Lord's beautiful bride (Rev. 19).
3. They are used by them also as following the rider
on the white horse. This expresses their ability to join Christ
in the exercise of judgment, so fully are they delivered from all
judgment themselves (Rev. 19).
4. They are used by them also as they walk
with Christ in the kingdom. This expresses their worthiness
to be companions of the king under the bright and peaceful shining,
and along the paths of the glory (Rev. 3).
5. Finally, they are used by them also as they sit
on their own thrones. This expresses their priestly purity, combined
with their royalty dignity (Rev. 4).
Thus, in each condition and action in which the glorified
saints appear, they are seen as spotless ones, pure and unsullied,
because of that righteousness in which, through grace, they stand.
They appear before God--they judge the world--they walk in the dominions
of the great King of glory, in immediate company with Himself--they
sit on their own thrones, all in white, in owned and conscious
righteousness. A white-robed people indeed; not a blot on them;
but all consistent with the divine light around. And the whore, or
apostate woman, has, in contradiction of this, her purple and scarlet
1 LORD, we can see, by faith in Thee,
A prospect bright, unfailing,
Where God shall shine, in light divine,
In glory never fading.
2 A home above, of peace and love,
Close to Thy holy Person!
Thy saints shall there see glory fair,
And shine as Thy reflection.
3 Oh! how we thirst the chains to burst,
That weigh our spirits downward,
And there to flow, in love's full glow,
With hearts like Thine surrounded.
4 No more as here, 'mid snares to fear
A thought or wish unholy!
No more to pain the Lamb once slain,
But live to love Thee wholly!
5 No more to view Thy chosen few
In selfish strife divided!
But drink in peace the living grace
That gave them hearts united!
6 Lord, haste that day of cloudless ray,
That prospect bright, unfailing,
Where God shall shine in light divine,
In glory never fading.
--Spiritual Songs, No. 455