"Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who remains awake and clothed, so that he will not go naked and let his shame be exposed."
I. THE UNCLEAN SPIRITS ARE "SPIRITS OF DEVILS." The devil stands as the representative and head of all that is unlike God, and that is antagonistic to his Name and kingdom - "the adversary."
II. THE SPIRITS ARE SPECIALLY DISTINGUISHED AS "UNCLEAN SPIRITS." All unholiness is uncleanness. They prompt to all disobedience and worldly lust and foulness of life, all unbelief and evilness of conduct.
III. THEY STIMULATE AND INSPIRE "THE KINGS OF THE EARTH" - the subtle ruling powers, passions, habits, and other forms of evil which hold sway and dominion over men. The king is the symbol, not of weakness, but of power and authority and government; fit emblem of whatever domineers over the life of man.
IV. THEY STAND IN DIRECT ANTAGONISM TO GOD. This is the utmost evilness conceivable. To be led astray by temptation, to fall by unwatchfulness, to yield to evil, is bad enough, and entails just and merited punishment; but the utmost vileness is that which places itself in direct and active opposition to the Holy One. "He that opposeth God and exalteth himself against all that is called God."
V. THEREFORE LET THE LOWLY BELIEVERS
(1) take heed: watching;
(2) keep free from the contamination Of sin in every guise: "keepeth his garments."
(3) For the danger is great;
(4) and the great Master cometh at an hour when we think not: "Behold, I come as a thief in the night."
(5) He that so watcheth is verily "blessed." - R.G.
The sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates... Three unclean spirits
1. The dragon is described to us in the twelfth chapter by figures and names, which leave no doubt of their meaning. He is expressly termed the devil and Satan — the old serpent, with evident reference to the history of man's fall — the deceiver of the whole world — the accuser of the brethren. He is described as a dragon — that fabulous monster of antiquity, with its huge coils of serpent-like scales — here painted with seven heads, ten horns upon one of them, and seven crowns — telling at once of manifold versatility, giant strength, and more than regal dominion. He is described further as casting down to the earth the third part of the stars of heaven — to express at once the audacity of his presumption, and the superhuman sweep of his success. He stands before the woman clothed with the sun and crowned with the stars — emblem of the Church of God now travailing in birth with the Saviour of prophecy and of expectation — stands, I say, watching for the Incarnation, and eager to devour the Divine Child at the moment of His birth. Frustrated by the final rescue which transfers the imperilled Saviour, by ascension, to the throne of God in heaven — and himself receiving a defeat in the war with the glorified Christ which hurls him back, wrathful and revengeful, upon an earth not yet regenerated — he turns all his fury first upon the Church, which escapes from him into the wilderness, cared for by God Himself, who has prepared there her temporary home and her heavenly supplies — cared for by God, but helped even by the earth, who, in a sense wonderfully true to history, has sometimes even protected and favoured her — first, I say, upon the Church herself, and then (by a slight modification of the metaphor) upon the individual Christian, represented as not yet sharing the full security of the Church as a whole, as having still to fight for his life, though the Church is guaranteed from the once threatened destruction.
2. The second enemy is depicted in the thirteenth chapter. A wild beast of hideous composite form — lion, bear, and leopard in one — is seen by the evangelist rising out of the sea. With one slight — very slight — difference his first appearance is that of the dragon himself. There are the seven heads and the ten horns upon one of them, only in this latter case the horns arc crowned, not the heads, and therefore the crowns are ten, not seven. The dragon gives him his power and his throne: he is to represent him: the dragon is a power out of sight: the beast is his impersonation and his "express image." One peculiarity of this foe is a portentous vitality. He receives a mortal wound, but he lives again. The admiration of the beholders rises into adoration. They worship the dragon who gave him his authority, and they worship the beast who lives after dying. The second enemy is the world. There is no mistaking the symbolism. In the interpretation of Daniel's vision the four beasts combined into the beast before us are expressly said to be kings: the beast is the world, as the dragon is the devil. The world, in its aspect of power — the aspect here presented — is a great reality. In St. John's time it was the formidable — apart from revelation the irresistible, invincible — foe of the little Church of Jesus Christ. The time was to be when an apparently fatal wound was to be inflicted upon this antagonist — a wound, of which one illustration, if not the one fulfilment, was to be the nominal conversion of the Roman Empire to the faith which once it persecuted. Surely that wound was a mortal wound? Wait a while and you shall see the world rise from its bed of death — you shall see names changed, realities surviving — you shall see kings ruling in lust and rapine "by the grace of God" — you shall see the nominally Christian world wax wanton in turn against its imaged and sculptured Lord — you shall see Christian kings issuing their edicts of exile against Christian worshippers, and Papal Rome drawing from her scabbard the sword which Pagan Rome had for ever sheathed. The power of the world is superhuman in its vitality: the dragon — this accounts for it — gives the beast his throne and his authority, and that throne and that authority, call themselves what they may, are still adverse and antagonistic to the cause and the people of Jesus Christ.
3. There is a third enemy, called in the text, for the first time, "the false prophet"; but clearly marked, in later passages of the nineteenth and twentieth chapters, as identical with the "beast from the earth" of the thirteenth. His characteristics are peculiar. They combine might and meekness. He has two horns like a lamb, but he speaks like a dragon; he unites the seeming innocence of the lamb with the subtlety which beguiled Eve in the serpent. There is no doubt as to his origin — it is more patent than that of the second — he comes up out of the earth whatever his apparent influence with heaven and the unseen. In some sense he is the viceroy of the second enemy; "he exercises all his power before him" — the power which the dragon gave he guides to its destination. His work is to glorify in every way the beast which is the world. He makes earth worship the world. He magnifies, by every art and every persuasion, the miracle of the revival. He props miracle by miracle, can make fire come down from heaven by his incantations to deceive mankind into the idolatry of the beast which died and lives. He bids them make an image of the god-world, and then he puts life into the image and makes it speak. St. John lived in days when the beast was embodied in the empire, and when the image of the emperor was an object of worship. The suspected Christian was bidden for his life to sacrifice to that image. All this would make the figures of this part of the vision very real and very life-like to the Church of that time. Illustrative, not exhaustive, of them. The second beast, like the first — the third enemy, like the second, lives on until now. He is the wisdom, as the other is the power, of this world. He is that subtler, more penetrating influence of policy and diplomacy, of skill and scheming, of expediency and statecraft, of knowledge divorced from religion, of science falsely so called, of reason set against revelation, and creatureship exalted into rivalry with the Creator, without which the brute-force of wealth and numbers, of edicts and penalties, of arms and armies, would have no avail ever against intellect and enlightenment, would have lost it long ago in the face of popular growth and advancing freedom. It must be confessed that it is not easy to set before ourselves in a sharp, strong, telling way the distinctions and contrasts of the three enemies. They interlace and intertwine with each other — their general drift is the same — they are working to one end, and they are helping one another to reach it. Yet we must endeavour to see why they are distinguished, and to discover their special characteristics as influences upon the generation occupying the earth on the very eve of the great day. "I saw three unclean spirits come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet."(1) We might hesitate long and anxiously about the first of these. We might think of many characteristics of the evil spirit in his fall and in his ruin, in his reign and in his warfare, as they are suggested to us in the hints and warnings of the Bible. But there is one quality which seems to underlie and motive all, and that is insubordination. It is the unwillingness to keep the rank and the station — "the first estate," as St. Jude calls it — assigned by the Lord of all to the individual being created. It is the inability to curb and coerce the unruly workings of that pride of self, that lust of liberty, that passion for independence and exemption from jurisdiction, which begins by trying to escape from the omnipresence, and ends by making omnipotence itself its foe.(2) And what of the inspiration from the "beast" which is the world? To it also we might assign many names, but we shall choose one among them and call it materialism. It is the pressure upon us, the influence over us, of this brute thing, the power of the present, the power of the seen, the power of sense and time, the power of the circumstance and the surrounding of the men that shall die and the world that passeth away; it is the inability to withstand the custom and the fashion, the force of numbers and the cry of voices and the command of the society which can compel or outlaw; it is the influence, in One shape, of clamorous appetite and eager ambition and unsatisfied getting; it is the influence, in another shape, of the meanest and vilest of philosophies, saying, The body is all — let it have its way; or, The body is all — there is no hereafter.(3) Insubordination — materialism — what shall be the third spirit? Think of the characteristics of the lamb-like, serpent-like wonder-worker — of the ingenious subtle inventor that can draw fire from the sky and make images speak — that can assert itself under another's name, impose its edicts with authority, and ostracise the poor Christian that would so much as buy or sell unmolested — think of all this, and you will not count the third influence misnamed if we call it intellectualism — the thing which struts and parades itself as "thought," intelligence, an open mind, a refusal to see with other's eyes, a repudiation of the received, a passion for the original — though its discoveries are oftentimes the mere echo of an echo from days of obsolete objection, of puerile, infantine bewilderment.
The battle of that great day of God Almighty
1. In the first place it lies level to the most superficial observation that this, our earth, was chosen of God as the theatre of a great judicial conflict. This world is not a pleasure-garden in God's realm, in which white-footed angels may walk at the cool of day, fearing no thorns or flinty roughness, and inhaling only the fragrance of roses and spices. It is not a place of idle sauntering for any citizens of God's empire, just giving grateful shade, and musical with birds and fountains. It is a rough battlefield on which Good and Evil are met to strive for the mastery. It would not be strange, then, at all if in a world so purposed and elected the conflict should ever be keener; the progress be not more and more pacific, but more and more troubled and stormy; the struggle should ever gather to itself on either side more masterful forces, and the final battle be more resolute and deadly, as it is to be more determinate than any that have gone before.
2. But let us descend for a little from the broad view to details of the engagement, and see how the strife goes in the individual heart — what the law of progress, and what the character of the most decisive victories. Leave out the more spiritual aspects of the conflict for a moment, and come in upon one who is wrestling with some evil habit. Here is a man trying to break away from the bands of intemperance. His first efforts are feeble and ineffectual. He doesn't understand the power of his adversary. All his measures are mild, all his efforts are languid. He tries gentleness and moderation long enough to see that they only play into the hands of the enemy. It begins to dawn upon him that nothing but a terrible final duel can lay his enemy prostrate. Now the grim appetite rises in its strength. The soul, too, seeks to put on power. It thinks of whatever may stimulate its prowess — property wasted, health blasted, name dishonoured, family comfort and peace desolated, life imperilled — and meets the dread hour. It has need of all the heroism it can summon up. It navel: knew till now what the contest must be, and more than once now, doing its best, it may be worsted. It must yet put forth a more desperate strength. The battle that wins for it deliverance, that breaks the tyrant's sceptre, will be the fiercest battle of all the war. So it is with all the vices — with every evil habit. Is it not thus with the more spiritual struggles for the new spiritual life? The soul begins perhaps by entertaining graver thoughts. That is well, but that doesn't end it. It isn't even the beginning of the end. It reasons with its wild and lawless propensities. The headstrong rioters laugh at such proclamations. They are paper-bullets. It seeks realise an outward reformation. This is no more than cutting off the outposts of evil — shooting down a picket or two. It tries exercises, Bible-reading, praying, good-willing; but only to discern more clearly how immovable the heart. The heart is yet securely intrenched. The citadel has not been carried. The soul becomes more in earnest, and the forces waken and multiply on either side — the truth pleads, and conscience and fear and the Holy Ghost and the world pleads — and the flesh and the adversary. This will be another struggle from any that have gone before. It will be a striving unto blood. It will be a grapple for life or death. The soul, if it wins, comes out of it after all pale and spent, with scarce strength to raise the shout of victory. Is not this private and individual strife an epitome of the larger — the public — the universal and comprehensive struggle? Are not the final conflicts ever the most desperate? Is not the fact of hopeful progress declared, not by increasing pacification, but by the growing sternness and fierceness of the contest?
3. When these three combine against God and his people — Sadduceeism, with audacious head; absolutism, with a chained fellow-man beneath its heel; and false religion, binding and loosing human consciences with a lie — then will that last great battle be joined whose fortunes and whose fluctuations will issue in giving the kingdom to the saints of the most High God. There will yet be such a combination. There is yet to rock the perturbed earth the tumult of that battle-day. Evil is not to be quietly dispossessed of its seat in this fair province of God. It holds by immemorial possession. It shall please God to show the full prowess of truth. The mightiest rally of evil in its united strength will be permitted. Gog and Magog will be gathered to the war. The false prophet, the beast, and the old dragon will consolidate their divisions in one dread array. Christianity will advance her banner and sound her charge. Considering what she is called to encounter, considering the long historic past, considering all the prophetic intimations, it will not be strange if she is called to contend against carnal weaponry. That "Armageddon" of the Lord, on which evil, with all its myrmidons, is finally to fall down slain, will be, we believe, not figuratively, but in some part of it, and in the high places of the field, literally an "aceldama." There will be "the thunder of the captains," "with confused noise and garments rolled in blood."
(A. L. Stone.)
Behold, I come as a thiefRomans 11:22): first, His goodness is showed in that He will give warning in all dangers; but here is His severity also: when warning will not be taken, then He comes with judgment. Christ here says "He will come as a thief in the night," and this His coming is by reason of our unfaithfulness. And His coming is sudden, unless to some of His children that He prepares by warning. When He came into the world at His first coming there were but a few "waited for the consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25): the rest did not. When He comes to any man or nation in His judgments doth He find faith? No; He finds them blessing themselves that to-morrow shall be as to-day. All that have spiritual life, labour to be waking Christians and then watching Christians. What is the difference between men but that carnal men are sleepers and spiritual men are waking? And what is the difference of Christians that are good and that are not? The one is a watchful Christian and the other not so. Wherein is one better than another? As the one is more careful to avoid sin than another. To come, therefore, to some directions how to carry ourselves, and among others remember this: we should have this waking and watchful consideration that we have a soul immortal, and that we are for eternity; and whatever we do in the flesh that shall be ever with us; and how that shortly we are going to the tribunal seat. In all these respects we should labour to be watchful at all times, because that time in which we take liberty to ourselves may be the time of our surprisal. We should therefore watch at all times, in prosperity and adversity. We should watch against all the sins of our persons and the sins of the state we are in. Besides, if we use this course, we shall bring our souls to that awe as that they shall not dare to offend God, by reason they must come to be examined. And how will our souls be willing to be judged before Christ, when we are unwilling to set ourselves before ourselves? If we use this it will bring a holy awe upon our souls, because they know they must come to examination for every sin. But mark what follows: "Blessed is he that watches and keeps his garments close lest he walk naked."
1. First, know we have no garments of our own. Now it is thus in spiritual things. We have no garments of our own since the fall; but before we had. We have none now but original corruption that spreads over the soul. Besides that, men living unto years have another nature worse than the leprosy, custom. Here is all the clothing we have of ourselves; but for any spiritual good we must fetch it from Christ (Revelation 3:18).
2. Now the second thing is this, we having none of ourselves, therefore we must have garments; and when we have them we must keep them clean and close: "Blessed is he that keeps his garments close." For the first must be garments for defence; so in spiritual things there must be garments to defend us from the wrath of God, else we lie as naked to God's wrath as a man in a storm being naked lies open to the storm. We must have garments of amity and friendship now. Again, we must have garments for distinction. Now, garments do distinguish Christians at the day of judgment. Garments that are coverings must be all over of equal extent. They cover the whole man. So head, hands, and heart, all must be sanctified as well as justified. So that those that look upon a Christian should see nothing in him but somewhat of Christ, His words, His callings, His thoughts. And we must be clothed not only with garments, but armour, because we live in the midst of our enemies, by which we may perceive the necessity of the putting on of the one as well as the other. Now, as we must have garments and must keep them close, so also we must keep them from stains. The persons where these graces are may be defiled, but the graces are pure. We should, therefore, labour to keep our actions unspotted. The righteousness of Christ is an excellent garment, but it must be put on; and if we have Christ we have all. There is another thing intended in this Scripture. These are dangerous times, and there are spiritual cheaters abroad in the world. Therefore we should keep our profession close, and keep our truth and our judgments close, and get love into our affections; for we shall be set upon, and if we walk at large, then heretics and seducers will come between us and salvation, because our garments are not close. If a man will have any good by religion, he must cleave to religion. "Lest they walk naked, and men see their shame." All shame arises from this, that we do not keep our garments close. So long as truth and Christ by truth have a place in the soul, so long we are safe. Now to give some directions how to keep our garments close.(1) Labour for convincing knowledge, because all grace comes into the soul by the light thereof. Grow, therefore, in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; and often propound queries to our judgments about the Word and sacraments. Am I able to maintain this truth I have been brought up in? And do I find them true to my soul, &c.(2) Those that will have good gardens will have flowers of every kind, so a Christian must have graces of every kind. We must put on whole Christ for justification and sanctification, and we must add grace to grace; and when we have put on every grace we must keep them clean, and not defile our profession.
1. They warn.
2. They quicken.
3. They rouse.
4. They comfort.
I. THE COMING. It is the long-promised advent. Christ comes! He comes —
1. As Avenger.
2. As Judge.
3. As King.
4. As Bridegroom.Like lightning; like a thief; like a snare. Like lightning to the world, but the Sun of morning to His Church; like a thief to the world, but like a Bridegroom to the Church; like a snare to the world, but like the cloud of glory to His own.
II. THE WATCHING. Not believing, nor hoping, nor waiting merely; but watching — as men do against some event, whether terrible or joyful, of which they know not the time. Watch, for ye know neither the day nor the hour of His arrival. Watch, for that day is great and glorious. Watch, for ye are naturally disposed to sit down and take your ease. Watch, for Satan tries to lull you asleep. Watch, for the world, with its riches and vanities and pleasures, is trying to throw you off your guard.
III. THE KEEPING OF THE GARMENTS. Be like Nehemiah, who, when watching against the Ammonites, did not put off his clothes night nor day. Keep your garments all about you, that when the Lord comes He may find you not naked, but robed and ready.
IV. THE BLESSEDNESS. Blessed is the watcher; blessed is the keeper of his garments. Many are the blessed ones; here is one class specially for the last days.
1. It is blessed, for it cherishes our love.
2. It is blessed, for it is one of the ways of maintaining our intercourse.
3. It is blessed, for it is the posture through which He has appointed blessing to come, in His absence, to His waiting Church.
V. THE WARNING. Lest ye walk naked, and men see your shame. "Shame" has three meanings
1. The shameful thing or object.
2. The feeling of shame produced by the consciousness of the shameful thing.
3. The exposure to shame and scorn from others. The first of these is specially referred to here. But all the three are connected.
(H. Bonar, D. D.)I. "BEHOLD!" Here is a business infinitely more momentous than any other that can engage you.
II. "I COME." Jesus the Son of Mary — Christ the Son of God. He whose hands were filled with mercies, and whose heart overflowed with love. He comes to see how we have requited His love — what benefit we have derived from His glorious incarnation and His great redemption — what use we have made of His Word, of His Sacraments, of His Church, of His ministers, of His Sabbaths, of His grace. I come, not I will come, but I come — the present tense, I am coming, I am on My way. "Behold, I come as a thief": when all is repose, quietness, confidence, security. Such will, very generally, be the state of that generation of men who are living when the Lord descends at the last day. "Behold, I come as a thief." Most who die, die suddenly. A year before, a month before, they never thought of dying. Many never give a serious thought to death a week before they die, and some not even a day.
1. Watch, while others sleep.
2. Pray, while others trifle.
3. Labour, while others are idle.
(T. Nunns, M. A.)
Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments
I. First LET US TAKE THE WORD "GARMENTS" AS USED LITERALLY, AND AS DENOTING ONLY THE CLOTHING OR COVERING WHICH WE WEAR UPON OUR BODIES. The Bible teaches us something about our garments in this plain and literal sense. Many seem to think that religion has nothing to do with the manner in which a love of dress and outward adornment is indulged; that every one is at liberty to choose and act for themselves in this matter. A Christian, however, does not think so. He has learnt that there is a sobriety and suitableness of attire which become godliness; and he makes it his aim to adorn, not himself, but the gospel he professes, even in this particular.
II. But LET US NOW TAKE THE WORD "GARMENTS" IN ITS FIGURATIVE SENSE, AND SEE WHAT DOCTRINAL TRUTHS IT IS EMPLOYED TO TEACH.
1. The perishable nature of all earthly things.
2. The sinfulness of our nature, and the worthlessness of our best deeds.
3. Again, the figure contained in the text is used also in the Bible in a more cheering and gracious signification. "Garments of light," are spoken of; "garments of praise"; "white garments"; "holy garments"; "shining garment." These beautifully significant figures were not all of them applied, in the first instance, to sinful creatures like ourselves; yet they truly betoken the state of God's redeemed people at one period or other of their earthly pilgrimage. Collectively, they portray the believer's sanctification.
4. But I must proceed to remark, lastly, that there is a sense given, in the Bible, to the figure in our text, which is especially glorious and worthy of remembrance. "Garments of salvation" are spoken of, beautiful garments, which are something more than mere garments of sanctification, though that is an immense blessing; garments in which the believer may appear before God "with exceeding joy."
(F. W. Naylor, M. A.).
And he gathered
(E. J. Rose, M. A.)
PlacesArmageddon, Babylon, Euphrates River, Patmos
TopicsAwake, Behold, Blessed, Clothes, Doesn't, Exposed, Garments, Happy, Keepeth, Keeping, Keeps, Lest, Naked, Robes, Shame, Shamefully, Stays, Thief, Unclothed, Unseemliness, Walk, Walked, Watches, Watcheth, Watching
Outline1. The angels pour out their bowls of wrath.
6. The plagues that follow.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesRevelation 16:15
2565 Christ, second coming
4113 angels, agents of judgment
LibrarySin Charged Upon the Surety
All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned every one to his own way, and the LORD hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. C omparisons, in the Scripture, are frequently to be understood with great limitation: perhaps, out of many circumstances, only one is justly applicable to the case. Thus, when our Lord says, Behold, I come as a thief (Revelation 16:15) , --common sense will fix the resemblance to a single point, that He will come suddenly, and unexpectedly. So when wandering sinners …
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 1
The Sins of Communities Noted and Punished.
Opposition to Messiah Ruinous
Healing a Demoniac in a Synagogue.
Instruction for the Ignorant:
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