And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light…
We may safely say that those who muse much on heaven are often privileged with such foretastes of what God hath prepared for His people, as serve, like the clusters of Eshcol, to teach them practically the richness of Canaan. With them it is not altogether matter of report that the inheritance of the saints is transcendently glorious. They have waited upon the Lord, until, according to the promise of Isaiah, they have been enabled to "mount up with wings as eagles."
I. WITH OUR PRESENT CONSTITUTION THERE WOULD BE NOTHING CHEERING IN AN ARRANGEMENT WHICH TOOK AWAY NIGHT FROM OUR GLOBE. The alternation of day and night, the two always making up the same period of twenty-four hours, is among the most beautiful of the many proofs that God fitted the earth for man, and man for the earth. We know that other planets revolve in very different times on their axis, so that their days and nights are of very different lengths from our own. We could not live on one of those planets. We could not, at least, conform ourselves to the divisions of time: for we require a period of repose in every twenty-four hours, and could not subsist, if there were only to come such a period in every hundred, or in every thousand. And besides this, it is very easy to speak of night as the season of dreariness and gloom, as the representative of ignorance and error — but what should we be without night? Where is there so eloquent an instructor as night? What reveals so much of the workmanship of the ever-living God? So that there is not necessarily anything very desirable in the absence of night: it would be the reverse of a blessing to us in our present condition, and would imply the diminution rather than the enlargement of knowledge. What then are we to learn from the statement that there shall be no night in heaven? We learn much, whether it be the natural, or the figurative, night, whose total absence is affirmed. Night is now grateful, yea necessary, to us, as bringing quiet and repose to overwrought bodies and minds. But all this arises from the imperfectness of our present condition; we are so constituted that we cannot incessantly pursue either occupation or enjoyment, but must recruit ourselves. And it would evidently be to raise us very greatly in the scale of animated being, to make it no longer needful that we should have intervals of rest; body and soul being incapable of exhaustion, or rather of fatigue. There is no night there, because there we shall need no periods of inactivity; we shall never be sensible of fatigue, and never either wish or want repose. It is given as one characteristic of Deity, that He never slumbers nor sleeps. It is affirmed moreover of the four living creatures which are round about the throne, that they "rest not day and night, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." And, therefore, I read the promise of a splendid exaltation, of an inconceivable enlargement of every faculty and capacity, in the announcement of the absence of night. And though it be true that night now discloses to us the wonders of the universe, so that to take from us night were to take a revelation of the magnificence of creation, whence comes this but from the imperfection of faculties — faculties which only enable us to discern certain bodies, and under certain circumstances, and which probably suffer far more to escape them than they bring to our notice? Be it so, that night is now our choice instructor. I feel that night is to cease because we shall no longer need to be taught through a veil, because we shall be able to read the universe illuminated, and not require as now to have it darkened for our gaze. I shall be adapted in every faculty to an everlasting day. And if from considering night in its more literal, we pass to the considering it in its metaphorical sense, who can fail to be struck with the beauty and fulness of the promise of our text? We take night as the image of ignorance, of perplexity, of sorrow. And to affirm the absence of night from the heavenly state may justly be regarded as the affirming the absence of all which darkness is used to represent. I behold the removal of all mistake, of all misconception; conjectures have given place to certainties; controversies are ended, difficulties are solved, prophecies are completed, parables are interpreted. I behold the hushing up of every grief, the prevention of every sorrow, the communication of every joy. I behold the final banishment of whatsoever has alliance with sinfulness, the splendid reimpressment of every feature of the Divine image upon man, the unlimited diffusion of righteousness, the triumphant admission of the fallen into all the purities of God's presence, and their unassailable security against fresh apostacy.
II. St. John is not content with affirming the absence of night: HE PROCEEDS TO ASSERT THE ABSENCE OF THOSE MEANS OR INSTRUMENTS TO WHICH WE ARE HERE INDEBTED FOR THE SCATTERING OF DARKNESS. "They need no candle, neither light of the sun." And what then is to make their perpetual day? "The Lord God giveth them light." The whole apparatus of mirror, and temple, and sun, will be taken away, because we shall be admitted to the beatific vision, to all those immediate manifestations of Deity which are vouchsafed to the angel or the archangel. "The Lord God giveth them light"; is not this to say that the Lord God giveth them Himself? for you will remember what is affirmed by St. John, "This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." And therefore God in some ineffable way is to communicate Himself to the soul. There will probably be a communication of ideas: God will substitute His ideas, great, noble, luminous, for our own, contracted, confused, obscure; and we shall become like Him, in our measure, through participating His knowledge. There will be a communication of excellences: God will so vividly impress His image upon us, that we shall be holy even as He is holy. There will be a communication of happiness: God will cause us to be happy in the very way in which He is happy Himself, making what constitutes His felicity to constitute ours, so that we shall be like Him in the sources or springs of enjoyment. The expression, "the Lord God giveth them light," seems to indicate that our future state, like our present, will be progressive; there is to be a continued communication of light, or of knowledge, so that the assertion of Solomon, "The path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day," may be as true hereafter as here. Whatever may be the attainments of the just man whilst on earth, he sees only "through a glass, darkly." But he has yet to pass into a scene of greater light, and to read, in the opened volume of God's purposes, the explanation of difficulties, the wisdom of appointments, the nice proportions of truth. Then shall the Divine attributes rise before him, unsearchable indeed and unlimited, but ever discovering more of their stupendousness, their beauty, their harmony. Then shall redemption throw open before him its untravelled amplitude, and allow of his tracing those unnumbered ramifications which the Cross, erected on this globe, may possibly be sending to all the outskirts of immensity. Then shall the several occurrences of his life, the dark things and the bright which chequered his path, appear equally necessary, equally merciful; and doubt give place to adoring reverence, as the problem is cleared up of oppressed righteousness and successful villany. But it shall not be instantaneous; for if the mysteries of time were exhausted, and redemption presented no unexplored district, God would remain infinite as at the first, as sublime in His inscrutableness as though ages had not been given to the searching out His wonders. Thus will the just proceed from strength to strength; knowledge, and love, and holiness, and joy, being always on the increase; and eternity one glorious morning.
III. "AND THEY SHALL REIGN FOR EVER AND EVER" — "they shall be kings for ever and ever." Wonderful assertion! wonderful, because made of beings apparently insignificant. Yes, of us, who are by nature "children of wrath," of us, who are "born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards," even of us is it said, "They shall be kings for ever and ever." And on what thrones shall we sit in heaven? over whom shall we be invested with dominion? I connect the different parts of the verse; and I read in its last clause, only differently expressed, the same promise, or prophecy, which I find in all the rest. I shall reign over the secrets of nature; all the workmanship of God shall be subject to me, opening to me its recesses, and admitting me into its marvels. I shall reign over the secrets of Providence; my empire shall gather back the past, and anticipate the future; and all the dealings of my Maker shall range themselves in perfect harmony before my view. I shall reign over the secrets of grace; the mediatorial work shall be as a province subject to my rule, containing no spot in all its spreadings which I may not explore. I shall reign over myself: I shall be thorough master of myself: no unruly desires, no undisciplined affections: I shall not be what an earthly king often is, his own base slave: no war between the flesh and the spirit, no rebellion of the will, no struggle of corrupt inclinations; but with all that true royalty, the royalty of perfect holiness, I shall serve God without wavering, and find His service to be sovereignty.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.