And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. And no one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
I. HEAVEN REQUIRES HIS TRAINING. "No man could learn that song." Man cannot blend in the happy harmony of the celestial state without previous training. Analogy would suggest this. In the physical system every being is fitted to his position, his organism is suited to his locality. These bodies of ours, as now constituted, could probably live in no other planet than this. In the social system the same principle of fitness is required. The stolid clown could not occupy the professor's chair, nor could he who is reckless concerning law, right, and order occupy the bench of justice. It is just so in relation to heaven. To feel at home in the society of the holy, cheerfully to serve the Creator and his universe, and to be in harmony with all the laws, operations, and beings in the holy empire, we must manifestly be invested with the same character. But what is the training necessary?
1. Not mechanical. Ceremonial religion enjoins this.
2. Not intellectual. Theological training may be conducive, but it is not sufficient.
3. It is moral - the training of the spiritual sympathies, the heart being brought to say, "Thy will be done." No one can "sing the song," blend in the harmonious action of heaven, without this. A man with corrupt sympathies could never sing in heaven; he would shriek. In the midst of happy myriads he would be alone. His darkness would conceal from him the outward sun; his inner flashes of guilt would change for him the God of love into a "consuming fire."
II. REDEMPTION IS THE CONDITION OF HIS TRAINING. "Those who were redeemed from the earth." The redemption here referred to is evidently that procured by the love of Christ. The training requires something more than education; it needs emancipation, the deliverance of the soul from certain feelings and forces incompatible with holiness - a deliverance from the guilt and power of evil. The grand characteristic of Christianity is that it is a power to redeem from all evil. No other system on earth can do this.
III. THE EARTH IS THE SCENE OF HIS TRAINING. "Redeemed from the earth." The brightest fact in the history of the dark world is that it is a redemptive scene. Amidst all the clouds and storms of depravity and sorrow that sweep over our path, this fact rises up before us a bright orb that shall one day dispel all gloom and hush all tumult. Thank God, this is not a retributive, but a redemptive scene. But it should be remembered that it is not only a redemptive scene, but the only redemptive scene. There is no redemptive influence in heaven - it is not required. A wonderful world is this! True, it is but a spark amidst the suns of the universe - a tiny leaf in the mighty forests! Let the light be quenched and the leaf be destroyed, their absence would not be felt. Still it has a moral history the most momentous. Here Christ lived, laboured, died. Here millions of spirits are trained for heaven. What Marathon was to Greece, and Waterloo to Europe, this little earth is to the creation. Here the great battles of the spiritual universe are fought. It is the Thermopylae of the creation. - D.T.
Thrust in thy sickle, and reap.Joel 3:13; Jeremiah 51:33). In Matthew 13. both harvests — that of good and evil alike — are told of. "Let both grow together until," etc. Still more commonly the figure stands for the people of God and their ingathering into His blessed presence. And we think that here, whilst there can be no doubt as to what the vintage means, the "harvest" does not mean the same, but that gathering of "the wheat into His garner" which shall one day most surely be accomplished. For see the preface (ver. 13) to this vision. It speaks of the blessed dead and their rest. And but for the plain pointing out that the vintage did not refer to them, that also would have been so understood. And the Lord Jesus Christ — for He is meant — is Himself the Reaper (ver. 14), Himself thrusts in the sickle (ver. 16), whilst the vintage of judgment is assigned to an angel (ver. 17), indicating that it is a different work from the other. And the figure itself, the harvest, the precious corn fully ripe, belongs generally and appropriately to that which is also precious and an object of delight, as is the company of His people to the Lord whose they are. It is not the time of the harvest, but the corn of the harvest, which is spoken of here, and this is ever the type of good, and not evil. Thus understood, let us note —
I. THE HARVEST. "The harvest of the earth." This tells of —
1. The multitude of God's people. Who can count the ears of corn even in one harvest-field? how much less in the harvest of the whole earth?
2. The preciousness of them. What could we do without the literal harvest of the earth? Our all, humanly speaking, depends upon it.
3. The joy of God in them. "They shall joy before Thee with the joy of harvest."
4. The care that has been needed and given.
5. The "long patience" that has been exercised. Who but God could be so patient? We often cry, "How long, O Lord, how long?" But He waits — and we must learn the like lesson — for the harvest of the earth, for that which is being ripened in our own soul.
6. The evidence of ripeness. We know of the natural harvest that it is ripe by the grain assuming its golden hue. And when it is thus with the people of God, when the golden light of the Sun of Righteousness shines on them and they are transformed thereby, then the evidence of ripeness is seen, and the season for the sickle has come.
7. God will certainly gather in His people. "Harvest shall not fail"; nor shall this harvest either. "Look up, lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."
II. THE VINTAGE. Under the altar on which was "the fire," over which the angel told of in ver. 18 "had power," were the souls of them that had been slain for the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 6:9). They had asked, "How long, O Lord dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" And now the answer is given. The vintage of vengeance has begun. For the "grapes" of the "vine of the earth" are fully ripe. It is the judgment of the whole earth, when "all nations" shall be gathered (Matthew 25.) before the Son of Man. The square of four — four ever the symbol of the earth — amplified by hundreds, the "one thousand and six hundred furlongs" of ver. 20, likewise point to the universality of this awful judgment. Minor fulfilments — presages, predictions, and patterns of the final judgment — of these there have been many and will be many; but in this vintage of vengeance upon the world's sin all are summed up and fulfilled. But will there be any such event at all?
1. Men have ever felt that there ought to be such judgment.
2. And now it is declared that such judgment shall be. Conscience assents to it.
3. Human law and justice strive after right judgment.
4. And the judgments that come now on ungodly nations, communities, and individuals are all in proof.
(S. Conway, B. A.)I. THE ILLUSTRIOUS PERSONAGE INTENDED. This we conceive to be no other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the exalted Messiah, who, for the suffering of death, was made a little lower than the angels, and is now crowned with glory and honour.
1. His characteristic designation — "The Son of Man." This was the form or similitude He wore. The manhood of Christ is exalted to the throne of Deity.
2. His high exaltation. He is said to be throned on the clouds of heaven, and dignified with the highest honours.
3. The insignia appropriate to His office. He is advanced to the dignity and authority of a king, and therefore is invested with a crown of gold, and a sickle — an emblem of power, answering to a sceptre or sword, but put in this form, as having a relation to the service which was immediately to be performed in reaping the harvest of the earth. These are the regalia of His kingly office.
II. THE MAGNIFICENT APPEARANCE HE ASSUMED.
1. He is seated on a white cloud. On a cloud, to betoken His elevation and empire. On a white cloud, to signify the immaculate purity of His nature, as the Holy One of God; the unimpeachable rectitude of His administrations, transparent as the fleecy vapour of which these visible heavens are composed; and the blessed consequences of His government, when purity shall be universally established, and "white-robed Innocence," returning to our forsaken world, shall take place of fraud and rapine, violence and blood. Furthermore, on this luminous cloud He is said to have been seated, as on a throne, expressing at once the high dignity and perfect repose which He enjoys.
2. On His head was a golden crown. The crown is an emblem of empire and dominion, and a crown of pure gold fitly represents the validity of His title, and the honour and glory by which He is encircled.
3. In His hand there is a sharp sickle. This I apprehend to be an emblem of His judicial authority and retributive vengeance. To Him the Father hath given authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man, and hath put all things into His hands. What havoc and slaughter shall be made by the sharp sickle, with which He is invested, when His irreclaimable enemies shall be made the helpless victims of His inexorable indignation! When the great day of His wrath is come, who shall be able to stand?
III. THE PRACTICAL LESSONS INCULCATED BY THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE SUBJECT.
1. We infer the high and honourable conceptions we should form and entertain of the Lord Christ.
2. We infer that, "before honour is humility."
3. Let us learn how important it is to ascertain whether we are among the subjects of this exalted Prince.
4. Let us learn to rejoice in the perfection of His administration.
5. Let us learn how terrible will be the final doom of all the enemies of this mighty Prince.
6. If such be the advantages and pleasures connected with the sight and contemplation of a glorified Saviour in this world, what will the beatific vision include? To see Him as He is, without the interposition of any obscuring veil, any dense medium!
I. GOD PREPARED THE EARTH FOR HIS SEEDING. Scientific men may wrangle over the ages and order of creation. It is enough for us to know that, at a given time, God had prepared the earth to be the scene of a moral trial for a new race of beings. The farmer cleans, and ploughs, and manures, and harrows, and ridges, his fields, in precise adaptation to the crop that he intends to grow upon it; and earth is the prepared field of God, made ready for His sowing.
II. GOD SEEDS HIS PREPARED EARTH WITH MEN. Scattering the seed all over the earth, that man's probation may be carried on under every varying condition of soil, and landscape, and climate, and relationship. God keeps on seeding the earth with men; every seed with a great possibility in it; every seed set where its possibility may freely unfold, and where the God-provided influences all tend to the nourishment of all its best possibilities. Men, men everywhere are the seed of God. They are quick with Divine life, and sown in the earth to grow into a harvest for God.
III. THE HARVEST GOD SEEKS FROM HIS SEEDING IS CHARACTER. God sows His earth with moral beings, in the hope of reaping moral character. But what is moral character? It is the proper fruitage of the earth-experience of moral beings. But can we understand it a little more fully than that? A moral being is one that can recognise a distinction between good and evil, and, when the distinction is seen, can choose for itself which it will have, the good or the evil. But a moral being must be put into such circumstances as will offer it the choice between good and evil. And substantially the test amounts to this: good is doing what is known to be the will of the Creator: evil is doing the will of the moral being himself, when that is known to be not the will of the Creator. The story of a life is the story of that conflict. It is the growth, through the long months, of God's seed into the "full corn in the ear" of established moral character. It is the unfolding of what God would gather in from His seeding of men, the righteousness of the accepted will of God. One thing only does man take through the great gates — the character that he has gained. It is the full ear that heads the stalk, and ripens for the reaper.
IV. GOD HAS ANXIOUS TIMES WHILE HIS SEED OF MEN IS GROWING INTO HIS HARVEST OF CHARACTER. Every blade that breaks the earth in the farmer's field has to fight for its life with varied foes: insects, worms, mildew, rust, living creatures, varying temperatures, crowding weeds; the growth of every blade to stalk and ear is a hard-won victory. The stalk can do its best, and be its best, only at the cost of unceasing struggle and watchfulness. And the field of earth is but a type of the world of men. Every character is the product of a stern experience, the issue of a hundred fights; a triumph from an unceasing struggle. The problem of each man's dealings with his surroundings — helpful be they, or injurious — God is intensely interested in. He is anxious as the farmer is anxious over his growing blades. The one thing of profoundest interest to God is the making of characters in His great earth-fields. Be it so; then a fact of infinite sadness has to be faced. The issue is disappointing, for God's harvest-hope of reaping character from His sowing of men is only partially fulfilled.
(R. Tuck, B. A.)I. THE TRUE THEORY OF A GOOD MAN'S LIFE RIPENING FOR THE HARVEST. Did you ask, while you saw the farmer plodding his weary way, what means that sowing? Did you ask, as you saw the wind and the snow fulfilling the word of a higher power, what means the white flake and the rough blast? You have now the plainest answer in the growing of the corn. And if you again inquire, What is it growing for? the harvest will explain that. When the ear has been well filled, and the heat hath ripened and moulded the wheat, and the golden treasures are gathered home amid the reapers' song of joy, and the barns are filled with plenty, the result will sufficiently explain the theory of agricultural toil and of natural influences. And in like manner the growth of the soul explains the moral discipline of life; and the harvest of souls in heaven explains their growth on earth. The days we spend at present are all days of discipline. Now, is this the theory of your life? Are you conscious of such growth and ripening? "No," says some poor, timid, cast-down Christian, "there is no growth, no ripening in me; my heart is as hard and cold as ever it can be." But, are you not conscious of resisting temptation? You cannot deny that you are fighting against sin. H you cannot boast of any good, and have a great deal of evil to lament, still you can conscientiously admit that if you did not make a decided stand you would have a great deal more of evil than you have at present. And is there not hope in that fact — that casting off of evil, and striving and praying and wishing to get rid of spiritual death? — is not that a sign of spiritual life, of spiritual growth, at least in its earliest stage? Thank God, there is hope. It is God working in you; He will not fail to watch over you for your good.
II. THE TRUE THEORY OF DEATH as illustrated by the text. First of all, it is never premature. If the wicked are not cut down until they are ripe for judgment, we cannot believe that God's people are cut down till they are ripe for glory. Fitness for heaven, be it remembered, consists not in the particular state of mind in which a man may happen to be when the death-stroke overtakes him. It does not depend upon his being in a state of religious consciousness. No; it depends upon the habits in previous life, upon the principle of his previous history. Nor shall we be dismissed till we have had full opportunity of doing all that the Master intends us to do. There are different degrees of service, even as there are varied kinds of service. The terms of service are sometimes long and sometimes short. Nor forget that there may be much living to good purpose when the length of life has been very limited. We often measure life by length. Does not God measure it by depth and breadth? We look at quantity, does not He look at quality? The harvest is never premature, and is always carefully gathered in, and nothing lost. There is something very instructive in the signs of careful preparation for the harvest, which are indicated in the text. Before it is commenced, a voice announces the arrival of the time, and the purpose is calmly and deliberately executed. In the death harvest there is no haste and nothing lost. "Of all that the Father hath given Me," said Christ, "have I lost nothing." He is as careful of what there is of value in the soul as of the soul itself. How very apt are we to fancy, when such an one is suddenly cut off, that the great stores of his mind are wasted, that his acquirements by study and discipline are now lose to him. No, no, we may rely upon it, that there is not anything worth carrying into the eternal world that that sanctified soul will leave behind it; not one noble affection but is nobler than it ever was; not one great principle but it is stronger in the soul than ever, not one spiritual habit but it has grown in force, not one true excellence but it excels in beauty. And the harvest gathered in without less is preserved afterwards without loss: "Gather the wheat into My garner." Corn is laid up to be preserved; but that is not all, it is also laid up that it may be used. At the death harvest, the soul is placed for ever beyond the reach of harm. The accidents to which it was exposed while growing, the moral frost, and blight, and mildew, and the blast of the lightning, they are all among the former things, and have passed away. But the soul is preserved where it will be of greater use than it ever was. The best use of the corn comes when it is cut. All before was subordinate usefulness, beautifying the landscape and furnishing subjects for poets and painters; but when it is cut, it feeds and sustains the nations. So the best use of the soul and its acquirements will be in heaven, not here.
PlacesBabylon, Mount Zion, Patmos
Topics144000, Beasts, Bought, Creatures, Elders, Except, Forty, Forty-four, Front, Hundred, Learn, Presence, Price, Purchased, Redeemed, Rulers, Sang, Save, Seat, Seemed, Sing, Singing, Song, Sung, Thousand, Thousands, Throne
Outline1. The Lamb standing on Mount Zion with his company.
6. An angel preaches the gospel.
8. The fall of Babylon.
15. The harvest of the world.
20. The winepress of the wrath of God.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesRevelation 14:3
1652 numbers, 3-5
LibraryThe Approval of the Spirit
TEXT: "Yea, saith the Spirit."--Rev. 14:31. The world has had many notable galleries of art in which we have been enabled to study the beautiful landscape, to consider deeds of heroism which have made the past illustrious, in which we have also read the stories of saintly lives; but surpassing all these is the gallery of art in which we find the text. Humanly speaking John is the artist while he is an exile on the Island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. The words he uses and the figures he presents …
J. Wilbur Chapman—And Judas Iscariot
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Letter Xlix to Romanus, Sub-Deacon of the Roman Curia.
Whether virginity is the Greatest of virtues?
The Glory of the virgins and Religious.
Naked or Clothed?
Ripe for Gathering
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Therefore, if we Compare the Things Themselves, we May no Way Doubt that The...
Letter Lii to Another Holy virgin.
A Treatise of the Fear of God;
Appendix the Daughters of Jerusalem
Vanity of Human Glory.
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