And there came to me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying…
And there came unto me one of the seven angels, etc. There is a spirit world. This is a fact, established by conclusive reasoning and accordant with the concurrent beliefs of mankind. This spirit world is a commonwealth. It has a social order. The existence of spirits destitute of gregarious instincts and social affinities is conceivable, and may be perhaps somewhere in existence in the great spirit world - the world of which the material universe is the offspring, mirror, and servant. But of such non-social beings we have no proof or information. The great spirit world in which we believe, and of which we read, is a community that has its laws of intercourse, sympathy, and cooperation. Hence in Scripture it is frequently figurated as the Jerusalem from above, the heavenly Jerusalem, etc. Jerusalem is its metropolis, the centre of its authority and influence. Now, the magnificent capital of this great commonwealth of the good is the sand picture in this dream, for a dream or vision it manifestly is. Literally, a city like the one here represented has never existed, and, according to the laws of architecture, proportion, and gravitation, perhaps never could exist; and hence prosaic interpreters, however learned, incapable of distinguishing between fact and figure, have, in their expositions of this and other visions, produced such a jumblement of incongruities which disgraces their own common sense and discredits the Scriptures. Taking the vision before us as a parable, or a pictorial illustration, of the social state or order of the good, we may attach to it the following characteristics.
I. HEAVENLINESS. Heaven reveals it to man. "And there came unto me one of the seven angels which [who] had the seven vials [bowls] full of the [who were laden with] seven last plagues, and talked with me [he spake unto me], saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife [the wife of the Lamb]" (ver. 9). Ministers from the celestial world are represented not only as talking to the author about it, but as inviting him to look at it. All the ideas of men concerning a perfect social state have come to us, not as the deductions of our own reasoning, but as communications from heaven. Heaven enables man to see it. "And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem [showed me the holy city Jerusalem], descending [coming down] out of heaven from God" (ver. 10). It is not until we are elevated into the higher modes of thought and feeling that we have reached a standpoint from which we can command a view of this supernal state. Down in the valley of worldliness, under the shadow of the hills, and amid the exhalations and fogs of sensualities, it would be impossible to catch a glimpse of the King in his beauty, in the land that is afar off. We must climb the mental Pisgah, and reach the Mount of Transfiguration. Heaven brings it down to man. "Descending [coming down] out of heaven from God." This perfect social state must come down to us from heaven, if we are ever to realize and possess it. Men from ages of false religious teaching have come to regard heaven as something at a distance, as something yonder, not here; something in a certain locality in the universe, not something in a certain state of mind and character. Hence the cry, "Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I flee away, and be at rest!" But he who would have heaven in the soul, its perfect state, must bring it down, its sympathies, purposes, down into his own heart. His prayer should be, "Thy kingdom come: thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
"In sacred silence of my mind,
My heaven, and there my God, I find."
II. DIVINITY. "Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like [as it were] a jasper stone, clear as crystal" (ver. 11). As the Shechinah lit up the holy of holies in the temple, God's presence radiates through every part of this spiritual communism of the good. He is its Essence and its Inspiration. He is its [Light, transparent as the crystal and beautiful as the gleaming shot from the precious jasper. A poet has spoken of "looking through nature up to nature's God." He should have said look down on nature through God. God is in his great social system of order what the cloudless midday sun is to our globe. All other lights are buried in the brightness of its rays, and from it all life, and beauty, and motion, and order proceed. Human systems of government, what are they? Black, battling, boundless chaos. But the perfect social order is Divinity itself, all filled with God; he is All in all - the Centre, the Circumference, the Beginning, and the End of all. God is the Light of it.
III. SECURITY. "And had [having] a wall great and high, and had [having] twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels," etc. (vers. 12-14). The metropolis of this spiritual commonwealth is abundantly protected. It had a wall "great and high," impregnable and unscaleable. It had "twelve gates," three for each point of the compass - "north," "south," "east," "west." "Twelve foundations" also it had, and all the twelve gates guarded by "angels," that excel in strength. The systems of government and social order that men construct, how flail and transient they are! They are constantly changing, breaking up in confusion, and themselves sinking into ruin.
"Here a vain man his sceptre breaks,
The next a broken sceptre takes,
And warriors win and lose;
This rolling world can never stand,
Plundered and plucked from hand to hand,
As power decays and grows." But here is a kingdom that cannot be moved, a "city that hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God."
IV. SYMMETRY. "And he that talked [spake] with me had a golden reed [had for a measure a golden reed] to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof" (ver. 15). The metropolis of this commonwealth is not reared capriciously and without plan. Every material is properly measured and put in its right position. The Architect is of unerring skill. Is there any symmetry in our schemes of government, whether political, social, or ecclesiastic? What one generation has constructed, and admired as just and wise, the next, blessed with a higher education, pronounces both unrighteous and unwise. The Architect of this city measured the whole by "the golden rule." "Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself."
V. AMPLITUDE. "The city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large [great] as the breadth" (ver. 16). The city is of vast dimensions. The walls that enclose it stretch ever about fifteen hundred miles. "The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal." There is nothing limited or narrow in the scheme of social order which God has established for the government of communities; it embraces all, of whatsoever tribe or land, secular condition, or grade of intellect or culture. Look at the political schemes that men formulate! As a rule, they are ever in favour of the rich and the powerful - the few, to the disadvantage of the multitudes. Look at the religious schemes! As a rule, how miserably narrow! Officialdom has turned temples into shops, preachers into traders, and the God of infinite love into an object whose approbation is to be obtained by fulsome flattery, whining cajolery, and cringing servility, expressed in prayers and hymns that shock the common sense and conscience of the unsophisticated amongst mankind. Oh that we could "comprehend with all the saints what is the height, the depth, the length, the breadth, of God's love"
VI. COSTLINESS. Things that men regard as the most precious and costly are here mentioned as belonging to this wonderful social edifice. "And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold," etc. (vers. 18-21). In the description we have "jasper," "gold," "precious stones," "sapphire," "chalcedony," "emerald," "pearls," etc. The pearl was regarded by the ancients as of all things the most precious. Elsewhere God's truth, his Word, his moral system, is represented as "more precious than gold, yea, than even fine gold." It is the transcendent good.
1. The greatest thing in the universe is mind. Mind is the maker and manager, the owner and lord, of all material systems.
2. The greatest thing in mind is love. Pure, disinterested, self-sacrificing, Christ-like love, this identifies us with God, makes us one with him. "There abideth," says Paul, "faith, hope, charity;... the greatest of these is charity." This love is the essence of that social order which God has established in his moral creation. All the precious stones, the gold, the pearls, etc., of the creation, are puerilities compared to this. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.