For the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd. 'He will lead them to springs of living water,' and 'God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'"
I. GOD AND ALL HEAVEN THEN HONOURED SILENCE. The full power of silence many of us have yet to learn. We are told that when Christ was arraigned "He answered not a word." That silence was louder than any thunder that ever shook the world. Ofttimes, when we are assailed and misrepresented, the mightiest thing to say is to say nothing, and the mightiest thing to do is to do nothing.
I. WHO ARE IN HEAVEN. St. John tells us that:
1. They are a multitude. Heaven is no unpeopled place. It is the answer given by the Lord to the question his disciples asked him when he was on earth, "Are there few that be saved?" Then he did not see fit to answer it plainly, but here there can be no question as to the reply. For:
2. They are "a great multitude," one that "no man can number." How could it be otherwise? Would God have created and perpetuated the race of mankind knowing for how could he not know the issue of his own work, "Known unto God are all his works? " - that sin and Satan would win the most of them? How, in such case, could our Lord be said to have "destroyed the works of the devil"? Without doubt sin doth abound, but grace doth much more abound. If, at the time St. John was made glad through this vision, as we are through him, already there were in heaven this mighty multitude, what must they be now? and what will they be when the end cometh, and our blessed Lord hath delivered up the kingdom to the Father? They had already "begun to be merry" (Luke 15.). What must the holy mirth be now? and what shall it not be?
3. A miscellaneous multitude. "Out of every kindred and nation," etc. How greatly, then, do they err who think and teach that only those nations who here on earth have heard the joyful sound of Christ's holy gospel can furnish contingents to that redeemed throng upon whom St. John delightedly gazed! What did our Lord go to "the spirits in prison" for, as St. Peter tells us he did, if not to bring them there the joyful tidings which here on earth they had not heard? How little we yet comprehend of "the breadth, and length, and depth, and height" of the love of Christ! Surely this vision should help us to a larger understanding of that infinite love.
4. To them all life had been full of trouble. They had all of them "come out of great tribulation." Whilst we may not omit the final tribulation of which our Lord tells in Matthew 24., and to which the opening of the sixth seal refers, we cannot limit it to that. "Man is born to trouble;" he is "of few days, and full of misery." "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now." To how few would life be worth living were it not for he hope of a better one! But we are placed here as at a school, and the trials of life are the appointed methods of instruction whereby we unlearn evil and learn good. The poor often envy the rich; but if all were known, the lot in life, or rather ere eternal life be gained, of us all is much alike. "The rich and the poor meet together," and share in their common inheritance of trouble. But from all this they have now "come out," and are "before the throne of God and the Lamb."
5. They had all been lost but for Christ. For they had all sinned. None of them had kept their garments undefiled. But he who came "to seek and to save them that were lost" found them; by his Spirit drew them to himself; by his blood washed their sin-stained robes, and made them white; and now, all of them, not one excepted, are in heaven full of adoring gratitude to him who redeemed and saved them by his own blood. None are there on any other ground, nor can any ever be. On what, then, are we relying for the hope we all cherish of one day being where they are?
II. WHAT THEY DO THERE,
1. They celebrate the heavenly harvest home. They carry "palms in their hands," branches of the palm. No reference is here to heathen uses of the palm as symbol of victory and the like. But far sweeter and holier reminiscence is awakened. The scene before us is the antitype of the most joyous and inspiriting of all the observances of Israel - that of the Feast of Tabernacles. It was held at the close of the year's outdoor labours; with it the season of rest began. "All was safely gathered in." It commemorated God's care of them in the old wilderness days, and afterwards his continual care of them by the gifts of his providence. The feast was a most joyous one. The Jews said that he did not know joy who knew not the Feast of Tabernacles. One chief feature of the feast was the universal carrying of palm branches (cf. Nehemiah 8:14-17). Such is the scene from which the imagery of St. John here is drawn. It told of the troubles of the wilderness ended; the harvest home of the Church come. It speaks of everlasting joy.
2. They serve. Day and night in God's temple is this service rendered. But in another place St. John says, "I saw no temple therein;" and hence we must understand by the temple all heaven and earth, for all, as was the ancient temple, are to be filled with his glory. And as to the service, who can describe, who can limit, who can sufficiently set forth, its beneficence, its joy, its glory?
3. They show forth the praises of God and the Lamb. (Ver. 10.) Festal joy, service, worship, the worship which consists in heartfelt praise, - such are the occupations of heaven.
III. THEIR EXCEEDING BLESSEDNESS.
1. They want not. They neither hunger nor thirst.
2. They weary not, as in the travel and toil of the wilderness they had done, when the fierce heat of the sun smote them; and as in the hard toil of life.
3. They weep not. The poet Burns used to say he could never read this without tears. And when we think of what life is now - a place of tears - and that there there shall be none, one's heart may well rejoice. But there are also the unspeakable joys that come from:
4. The realized presence and love of the Lord Jesus Christ. He shall be as a Tent to cover them, as a Shepherd to feed them, as a Guide to lead them to fountains of living water.
CONCLUSION. Have we those we love in heaven? Rejoice concerning them. Are we on the way there ourselves? - S.C.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst.I. THE PERFECTION OF THE PROVISION which is enjoyed in heaven.
1. The glorified dwell under the shadow of God. It is for this reason that "the sun shall not light on them. nor any heat," because they dwell in God. Oh, what a dwelling-place that will be!
2. Next, we are assured that they shall have all their necessities prevented. "They shall hunger no more." To be supplied when we hunger is the mercy of earth: never to hunger at all is the plenitude of heaven. God shall so fill the souls of His redeemed that they shall have no longings: their longings shall be prevented by their constant satisfaction.
3. Further, as we read we discover a third blessing, namely, that every overpowering influence is attempered — "Neither shall the sun," etc. To us even "our God is a consuming fire" while we are here; but in the saints there remaineth nothing to consume. The light of God is not too bright for eyes that Christ hath touched with heaven's own eyesalve. Blessed, indeed, are they who shall behold the King in the ivory palaces above!
4. When it is added, "Nor any heat," we learn that injurious influences shall cease to operate. By our surroundings here we are troubled with many heats. The very comforts of life, like warm weather, tend to dry us up. A man may have gold, a man may have health, a man may have prosperity and honour till he is withered like the heath in the desert in the day of drought. Unless a dew from the Lord shall rest upon the branch of the prosperous he will be parched indeed. We have need of grace whenever God gives us blessings of a temporal kind. But no heat of that sort shall happen to saints in heaven: they can be rich, and honoured, and perfectly beautiful, and yet under no temptation to self-exaltation.
5. "Neither shall they thirst any more"; they shall feel that the Lord Jesus is such an all-satisfying, all-sufficient portion that their desires can go no further. In the fair haven of the love of God in Christ Jesus shall my spirit abide for ever.
II. THE DESCRIPTION OF THE PROVIDER. Who is this that feeds them? It is the Lamb.
1. Does it not teach us, first, that our comfort and life must come from our incarnate Saviour — the Lamb? The expression is very peculiar. It is written, "The Lamb shall shepherd them." This is an accurate interpretation. How is that? A shepherd, and that shepherd a Lamb! Here is the truth which the words contain, — He that saves is a man like ourselves. He that provides for His people is Himself one of them — "For which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren." The Lamb is their hope, their comfort, their honour, their delight, their glory.
2. Does it not mean more than that? "The Lamb" surely refers to sacrifice. The glorified drink the deepest draughts of delight from the fact that God was made flesh, and that in human flesh He offered perfect expiation for human guilt.
3. "The Lamb" must refer to the meekness of character, the lowliness and condescension of the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus Christ on earth was "led as a lamb to the slaughter." He was "meek and lowly in heart." The character of our Lord, then, brings our spirit all that it needs; but yet this is not all: the text speaks of "the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne" as feeding them. Think of that, the Lamb in the midst of the throne. Can you put these two things together, a sacrifice and a throne? He that stooped to be made sin for us is now supreme sovereign, King of kings and Lord of lords. Think of that and be comforted. Our Representative is glorified. Our covenant Head, our second Adam, is in the midst of the throne.
III. THE MANNER OF PROVIDING. In two ways the saints in heaven enjoy it — the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them. Go over this, and think first of the feeding of them. The Greek word is "shall shepherdise them." In heaven Jesus is a shepherd ruling over all His flock with a happy, genial, sympathetic sovereignty, to which they yield prompt and glad obedience. Here He has under. shepherds, and He hands out the food by our poor instrumentality; and, alas I sometimes we are found incapable, or forgetful, and the flock is not fed: but it is never so in heaven, for the Lamb Himself maintains the pastorate, and acts the shepherd in a manner which none of us can emulate. Then it is added, "He shall lead." You may read it, "He shall guide them to fountains of waters of life"; it is but a variation of the same thought. Now, even in heaven the holy ones need guiding, and Jesus leads the way. As eternity goes on, I have no doubt that the Saviour will be indicating fresh delights to His redeemed. "Come hither," saith He to His flock, "here are yet more flowing streams." He will lead them on and on, by the century, aye, by the chiliad, from glory unto glory, onward and upward in growing knowledge and enjoyment.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)Isaiah 49:10): — In the New Testament text we have the heavenly state above; and in the Old Testament text we have the state of the Lord's flock while on the way to their eternal rest. Very singular is the sameness of the description of the flock in the fold and the flock feeding in the ways. The verses are almost word for word the same. When John would describe the white-robed host, he can say no more of them than Isaiah said of the pilgrim band, led by the God of mercy.
I. THE HEAVENLY STATE ABOVE.
1. The supply of every need. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more." The unrenewed man is always thirsting; but Christ can stay this even now, for He saith, "He that drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst." There is not, in all the golden streets of heaven, a single person who is desiring what he may not have, or wanting what he cannot obtain, or even wishing for that which he has not to his hand. Oh, happy state I They are filled with all the fulness of God.
2. The removal of every ill. Thus saith the Spirit, "Neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat." We are such poor creatures that excess of good soon becomes evil to us. Hence we need guarding from dangers which, at the first sight, look as if they were not perilous.
3. The leading of the Lamb.
4. The drinking at the fountain is the secret of the ineffable bliss. "The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them unto living fountains of waters." We are compelled to thirst at times, and, alas! we stop at the very puddles by the way, and would refresh ourselves at them, if we could. This will never happen to us when we reach the land where flows the river of the water of life. There the sheep drink of no stagnant waters, or bitter wells, but they are satisfied from living fountains of waters. In the home country souls have no need of the means of grace, for they have reached the God of grace.
II. THE HEAVENLY STATE BELOW. I think I have heard you saying, "Ah! this is all about heaven; but we have not yet come to it. We are still wrestling here below." Well, if we cannot go to heaven at once, heaven can come to us. Isaiah painted our Lord's sheep in his presence on the way to heaven, and John drew the same flock in the glory with the Lamb: and the fact that the pictures are so much alike is full of suggestive teaching. Here are the same ideas in the same words.
1. First, here is a promise that every want shall be supplied. "They shall not hunger nor thirst." If we are the Lord's people and are trusting in Him, this shall be true in every possible sense. You shall have no anxious thought concerning what you shall eat, and what you shall drink, but, mark you, if you should know the trials of poverty, and should be brought very low in temporal things, yet the Lord's presence and sensible consolations shall so sustain you that spiritually and inwardly you shall know neither hunger, nor thirst. Our Lord can so adapt our minds to our circumstances, that the bitter is sweet, and the burden is light.
2. Then, next, there is such a thing as having every evil removed from you while yet in this wilderness. "Neither shall the heat nor sun smite them." Suppose God favours you with prosperity; if you live near to God you win not be rendered proud or worldly-minded by your prosperity.
3. Further, it is said, that on earth we may enjoy the leading of the Lord. See how it is put: "For He that hath mercy on them shall lead them." Here we have not quite the same words as in the Revelation, for there we read, "The Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall lead them." Yet the sense is but another shade of the same meaning. Oh, but that is a sweet name, is it not? "He that hath mercy on them." He has saved them, and so has had mercy on them. Yes, that is very precious, but the word is sweeter still — "He that hath mercy on them," He that is always having mercy on them, He that follows them with mercy all the days of their lives, He that continually pardons, upholds, supplies, strengthens, and thus daily loadeth them with benefits.
4. But now the last touch is the drinking at the spring-head. We were not surprised to find, in our description of heaven, that the Lamb led them to the fountains of waters; but we are delighted to find that, here below, "even by the springs of water shall He guide them." You can even now live upon God Himself, and there is no living comparable to it. You can get beyond all the cisterns, and come to the river of the water of life, even as they do in heaven. To live by second causes is a very secondary life: to live on the First Cause is the first of living.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Let us, then, enlarge our thought, and say, The life of the dead is a protected life. Think of the great multitude that stands before God to-day. Think of the little children brought into this world all warped and twisted, so that they never knew how to play. Think of the young that have grown up with the promise of joy, only to see the cup of happiness dashed from their lips. Think of the lives that have been misunderstood — the lives that have gone on day by day doing their duty, sacrificing themselves, seeking only for what was noble and pure and of good report, and all the time misunderstood, unappreciated, without sympathy, left to bear the burden and the heat of the day alone. Think of those who have lain for years and years on the bed of sickness. Think of the women that have borne great burdens — burdens not only of misapprehension, of misunderstanding, but of cruel brutality. Think of the multitudes that have risen day by day only to labour and toil, and have lain down at night too feeble, too weary, too much oppressed, for any thought of God, crushed by the burden and the labour of life. Now the word of St. John is that from all these things they are protected. A life free from care and responsibility, and the burden and heat of the day. This is the first thought that St. John would impress upon us in regard to the life of the dead. Nevermore can those things that are so hard for us light on them. All Souls' Day should be full of joy for the protected life of the dead. But that is not all. "They hunger no more; and the Lamb doth lead them," etc.
2. A life of satisfaction; a life in which every wish and aspiration of the soul is gratified. What a life is that! I like to think of the great multitude of God's children who have entered into that new world and into that new life, seeking such different things because their needs are so different. One soul seeks only for rest; and that is given it. Another soul needs peace and harmony after the long struggle to make peace on earth. Another has been frightened, and longs for the sense of safety, and that is given. Another has all through life been thirsting for the sight of the Eternal Beauty, which no picture, no statue, no flaming of the sky at sunset, could adequately express. "We shall see," said the prophet long ago, speaking for these artistic souls — "we shall see the King in His beauty." Others have found the satisfaction of their souls in "the sound of the harpers playing on the harps." The great multitude whose souls have been stirred by music, and yet in the most glorious symphony, in the noblest chorus, have always felt the human discord that underlay the harmony — there they are satisfied, there the perfect harmony of the Eternal Life soothes, invigorates, and inspires them. Others have laid hold of the tree of the knowledge of life. All through life they hungered for knowledge, and yet all getting of knowledge was the getting also of sorrow. There it is changed. There the tree of life is seen to be the tree of knowledge. Drinking deep of the Divine life, filling themselves with the life of the Lamb of God, these souls have found that not through knowledge did they gain life, but that through life they have gained knowledge. Oh, how wonderful it is to think of this vast expansion of humanity, as the flower expands that has been transplanted into a more genial clime! It is good to think of the lives that are satisfied to-day, as they stand before the throne of God, and are led by the Lamb to the living fountains of waters. The life satisfied; the life rejoicing in the knowledge of the thing that it has dreamed of as impossible; the life rejoicing in the knowledge that every hope that has shot across its sky was the witness of a reality which God had prepared for them that love Him. Full salvation. Sin has fallen away like some filthy garment, and the soul stands in the presence of the King, and the glory of the King clothes it, and it finds its satisfaction in beholding His beauty. And how has all this come to pass? "The Lamb shall lead them forth." The spirit of Jesus is typified by the Lamb. The spirit of perfect sacrifice is meant by the Lamb. And that spirit has entered into the lives of these men and women and children. It is the new spirit that has taken possession of them in the new life that has made the protection and the eternal satisfaction. It opens up before us the thought of the endless progress of the dead. They are being led by the Lamb. And now turn back from this picture of the life of the dead to that other one with which we are so much more familiar, which we may call the death of the living. We are not protected. On us the sun does light and the heat does burn; with us the sorrow and sin, and suffering and pain, and misunderstanding and cruel suspicion, and unkindness and weariness, and discouragement and hopelessness exist. How sad it all is! How dark the picture is, as compared with the glory that is revealed by the other! And I think it is because of this picture, that men so often ask themselves, Things being as they are, how is it possible that the dead should have perfect joy? Now St. John entered into that mystery. And he has not pretended that their joy is complete. He did believe that their life was protected. He did believe that they were being satisfied day by day, because they were following the Lamb. But he adds, "God shall wipe away all tears from off their faces." Tears! Yes, tears in that glorious life — tears must be there, because of the incompleteness of human life. It is inevitable that they should sorrow. It is no less inevitable that their sorrow should be comforted of God. Only standing before the throne of God there comes the eternal comfort that must always come with the remembrance of power and wisdom and goodness. And so their tears are wiped away. It is not a life without sorrow. It is a life comforted of God. And what is their word to us? It is — Follow the Lamb. Strive to have the spirit of Jesus Christ. For they that have that spirit have now the foretaste of the life of the dead. FollOw the Lamb, for in following Him and striving to have His spirit there comes the satisfaction that the soul can find in no other way; and all the joy and beauty and glory of life is found to have its interpretation and its full realisation in the beauty of the life of Jesus Christ.
(Leighton Parks, D. D.)
The Lamb...shall feed themI. THE SHEPHERD. It is evidently the vision of a pastoral scene which is now in the eye of the Apostle of Patmos.
1. The description implies that there will be a continual remembrance on the part of the ransomed of the death and sufferings of their Shepherd. A Lamb slain! Strange symbol, in the place where suffering never enters, and death is unknown!
2. A second truth we may gather from this figure of the Lamb leading the ransomed in the heavenly world is, the perpetuity of Christ's exalted human nature. It is not as a kingly Shepherd He leads, but as one of the flock Himself — wearing their nature. He is, and ever will be "that same Jesus," unchanged and unchangeable.
II. Let us pass now from the glorified LEADER to the glorified FLOCK.
1. All the joys of the ransomed flock will be associated with the love and companionship of their Shepherd. He feeds — He leads — He wipes away all tears from their eyes; and in a previous verse (15), under a different figure, it is said, "He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them." Heaven would be no heaven without Jesus. "Leading" them, "feeding" them, — wiping the very tear-drops from their eyes. What figurative language could express more intimate fellowship and communion! The fellowship of the believer and his Saviour on earth — alas! how fitful, intermittent, transient! "In Thy presence there is fulness of joy."
2. This description would seem to denote an infinite progression in the joys and felicities of the ransomed flock. The Shepherd is seen leading them from pasture to pasture, from fountain to fountain, higher and yet higher up the hills of God. The heavenly pilgrim will be attaining ever new views of God — new unfoldings, and revelations of the Divine purposes — new motives for the ceaseless activities of his holy being. Heaven will thus, in the language of the old divines, be "a rest without a rest." "They rest." "They rest not."
3. The figurative language of the evangelist further indicates that there will be an unfolding of the Shepherd's wisdom and faithfulness in His earthly dispensations. God is represented as wiping away all tears from their eyes. As if, when they entered glory, some lingering tears were still there. As if the eye had not recovered from the night of earthly weeping. As in a forest, after a drenching thunder-shower, every bough, and blade, and leaf is dripping with rain; for a considerable time after the sun has shone out, and the sky is blue, and the birds of the grove are singing, the lingering drops gem the branches and sprinkle the sward. But the sun is up: and his genial rays are drinking up the moisture — nature's tear-drops. One by one they evaporate, slowly, gradually; and the refreshed forest rejoices, and basks in the sun's radiance. So with the great Sun of Deity in heaven. One by one earth's remaining tears vanish before the radiance of that Sun of Wisdom and Love.
4. Yet once more, this description would seem to indicate that there will be a variety and diversity in the joys of Heaven, suited to the various capacities and tastes of the redeemed. It is not to one fountain to which the Lamb is said to lead them; they are "living fountains of waters." Like the four-branched river in the first earthly Eden, there will be, from the one great river of Deity, streams which make glad the city of God. The pastures will be different. We delight to think of the flock of heaven — each member of it perfect in the full measure of its own bliss — but each under the Shepherd's eye, thus following the pasture, or climbing the mountain-steep, or browsing by the streamlet, it most loves. And yet all the fold, in these separate and distinctive ways, combining to glorify their Shepherd-King.
(J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
God shall wipe away all tears
I. The firmest spirit is liable to be discomposed by THE CONSEQUENCES OF THAT INTIMATE CONNECTION WHICH SUBSISTS BETWEEN THE SOUL AND THE BODY. Life is often embittered by a constitutional debility, or by accidental violence; by the acute pains of some diseases, by the effects of those exertions and indulgences that were prompted by health and vigour; and by the growing infirmities of years of that dissolution from which nature recoils. But they who are before the throne of God have received, in place of the earthly house of this tabernacle, a building of God.
II. Independently of bodily distress, WE ARE EXPOSED TO NUMBERLESS SORROWS BY THE DEGREE IN WHICH EXTERNAL OBJECTS AFFECT OUR HAPPINESS. Many are hardly able with sweat and toil to earn that measure of the good things of life which is necessary for subsistence. Some fail in every scheme which they form to better their fortunes: at one time, the visitation of heaven, at another, the imprudence, the treachery, or the malice of man, snatches from them the fruit of their labours. But when the great plan of the Divine government with regard to the human race shall be accomplished, there will be no further Heed for that seemingly unequal dispensation, which, although the source of many tears, is, in mercy and love, employed by the Father of mankind, to administer correction to their vices, to afford a trial and a display of their virtues, and to carry forward purposes too important and too remote for their apprehension. The sufferings of the righteous will no longer form part of that discipline which the imperfection of human nature requires; nor will the unmerited success of the wicked be continued, as an instrument of good to those to whom it appears to bring evil.
III. A third source from which the tears of good men flow is THAT KIND AFFECTION WHICH GOD, WHO IS LOVE, HATH PLANTED IN THE HUMAN BREAST. Although this principle be the solace of life, although it create those pleasing attentions and toils without which the repetition of the same scenes would become wearisome, and the labour of life intolerable; yet, in the mixed state in which we are called to exercise kind affection, it multiplies our cares and anxieties, and it often fills our hearts with anguish. The objects of our affection are not allowed to remain with us always, and there is no time when we hold them secure. The living sometimes inflict the most cruel wounds upon an affectionate heart. But the tears which flow from the distresses, the departure, or the improper behaviour of others, shall be wiped away from the eyes of those who are before the throne. In the city of the living God there is no affliction that demands the tribute of sympathy from those who are unable to give any other relief; no depraved mind that proves unworthy of the affection of which it had once been the object; no painful separation of kindred spirits; the people are all righteous, and the pure spiritual joy of righteousness and benevolence gladdens the whole company of the redeemed.
IV. If the servants of God were able in this state to attain the perfection of virtue, they might bear with composure bodily distress, the difficulties of their outward state, BUT THE BEST OF THE CHILDREN OF MEN ARE BOWED DOWN UNDER THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF VAIN THOUGHTS, OF IDLE WORDS, AND OF UNPROFITABLE ACTIONS. But God shall wipe away the tears of sin from the eyes of those who, knowing this bitterness, do indeed hunger and thirst after righteousness; for the day is coming when they shall be faultless. There will then be no sophistry to mislead the understanding, no false appearance of good to excite improper desires, no example of vice to allure imitation; there will then be no remainder of corruption to afflict and humble the spirit, no grovelling appetite to war against the soul, no mean passion to tarnish the beauty of holiness. Conclusion:
1. If all tears are to be wiped away hereafter, it follows that religion does not profess to wipe them away here.
2. If we believe that the time is coming when our tears shall be wiped away, let us prize the gospel of Christ, which hath given us this blessed hope.
3. This description of the happiness of heaven, like every other which the Scriptures contain, reminds us of the necessity of a virtuous life.
(G. Hill, D. D.)1. It is the ministry of tears to keep this world from being too attractive. You and I would be willing to take a lease of this life for a hundred million years, if there were no trouble. After a man has had a good deal of trouble, he says, "Well, I am ready to go. If there is a house somewhere whose roof doesn't leak, I would like to live there. If there is an atmosphere somewhere that does not distress the lungs, I would like to breathe it. If there is a society somewhere where is no tittle-tattle, I would like to live there. If there is a home-circle somewhere where I can find my lost friends, I would like to go there."
2. It is the ministry of trouble to make us feel our complete dependence upon God. We lay out great plans, and we like to execute them. It looks big. God comes and takes us down. As Prometheus was assaulted by his enemy, when the lance struck him it opened a great swelling that had threatened his death, and he got well. So it is the arrow of trouble that lets out great swellings of pride. We never feel our dependence upon God until we get trouble. We do not know our own weakness, or God's strength, until the last plank breaks. It is contemptible in us, when there is nothing else to take hold of, that we catch hold of God only.
3. It is the ministry of tears to capacitate us for the office of sympathy. The priests under the old dispensation were set apart by having water sprinkled on their hands, feet, and head; and by the sprinkling of tears people are now set apart to the office of sympathy. Where did Paul get the ink with which to write his comforting Epistle? Where did David get the ink to write his comforting Psalms? Where did John get the ink to write his comforting Revelation? They got it out of their own tears. When a man has gone through the curriculum, and has taken a course of dungeons, and imprisonments, and shipwrecks, he is qualified for the work of sympathy.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
I. NO ANXIETIES. In that world there is "no more curse." There, too, sickly bodies will Hover be seen. There the head shall languish and ache no more. The eyes shall no longer refuse to see, nor the cars to listen. There no paralysis cripples. There no nerves tremble and are afraid. The inhabitant of that bright city shall no more say, "I am sick." There all labour and anxiety for provision for yourselves and families will be ended.
II. NO BEREAVEMENTS. Our Saviour tells you that, if you are amongst "the children of the resurrection," you and your departed relatives who loved Christ shall meet again, and that thenceforward neither they nor you will "die any more." There are no graves in heaven.
III. NO SIN IN OTHERS.
IV. NO SIN IN OURSELVES.
(C. Clayton, M. A.)I. TEARS ARE TO FILL THE EYES OF BELIEVERS UNTIL THEY ENTER THE PROMISED REST. How numerous, too, are the tears of unbelief! We manufacture troubles for ourselves by anticipating future ills which may never come. Tears of repentance, we cannot carry thither with us. Tears for Christ's injured honour. These are holy drops, but they are all unknown in heaven. Tears of sympathy: when we "weep with those that weep" we do well; these are never to be restrained this side the Jordan.
II. EVEN HERE IF WE WOULD HAVE OUR TEARS WIPED AWAY WE CANNOT DO BETTER THAN REPAIR TO OUR GOD. He is the great tear wiper. God can remove every vestige of grief from the hearts of His people by granting them complete resignation to His will. Our selfhood is the root of our sorrow. He can also take away our tears by constraining our minds to dwell with delight upon the end which all our trials are working to produce. He can show us that they are working together for good. Moreover, He can take every tear from our eye in the time of trial by shedding abroad the love of Jesus Christ in our hearts more plentifully. He can make it clear to us that Christ is afflicted in our affliction. The Lord can also take away all present sorrow and grief from us by providentially removing its cause. Providence is full of sweet surprises and unexpected turns. Still, the surest method of getting rid of present tears, is communion and fellowship with God.
III. THE REMOVAL OF ALL TEARS FROM THE BLESSED ONES ABOVE.
1. All outward causes of grief are gone. Poverty, famine, distress, nakedness, peril, persecution, slander, all these shall have ceased.
2. Again, all inward evils will have been removed by the perfect sanctification wrought in them by the Holy Ghost. No evil of heart, of unbelief in departing from the living God, shall vex them in Paradise; no suggestions of the arch enemy shall be met and assisted by the uprisings of iniquity within.
3. All fear of change also has been for ever shut out. They know that they are eternally secure. Saints on earth are fearful of falling. No such fears can vex the blessed ones who view their Father's face.
4. Why should they weep, when every desire is gratified?
(C. H. Spurgeon.).
The seventh seal... silence in heaven.I. THE SILENCE OF MEDITATION. There is a blessing, which we know not yet, in thought. In this busy human life it is hard to think. "The world is too much with us." It drowns the "still small voice" of God. But in heaven thought will no more be disturbed. There will be no unsolved perplexities, no distracting fancies. The plan of Creation and Redemption will be unfolded. The discords of earth will be resolved in the celestial harmony.
II. THE SILENCE OF ADORATION. When we see God as He is, we shall praise Him as we ought. The cloud which spreads between Him and us shall be done away. We shall enter into that rapture of worship which finds no voice in words. Our soul will lose itself in the infinite bliss of communion with Him who is its Father and its God.
III. THE SILENCE OF FRUITION. All the voices of earth are only so many cryings for something that is not of earth, but of heaven. They are expressions of a Divine dissatisfaction with the limitations of our human life. Is there not something that we all desire and cry out for — to be rich, perhaps, or successful, or happy, or good? And will it not always be a desire, never fulfilled? Could the dearest wish of our heart be granted to-day, another wish, still dearer, would arise to-morrow. Every new day dawns with a fresh purity upon our lives, but in the evening it is stained with failure and sin. We are always sighing for a holiness which is always unattained and unattainable. Nay, the blessings which God gives us do not last long. Over all our life there hangs the shadow of death. We are always dreading to speak that saddest, tenderest word on earth, "Farewell." There is "silence in heaven," because there is no loss nor any boding fear of parting still to come. They who live in the Divine Presence are sheltered from the storms of time. They are safe for ever and ever.
(J. E. C. Welldon, M. A.)
II. HEAVEN MUST BE AN EVENTFUL AND ACTIVE PLACE. It could afford only thirty minutes of recess. The celestial programme is so crowded with spectacle that it can afford only one recess in all eternity and that for a short space.
III. THE IMMORTALITY OF A HALF-HOUR. Oh, the half-hours! They decide everything. I am not asking what you will do with the years or months or days of your life, but what of the half-hours. Tell me the history of your half-hours, and I will tell you the story of your whole life on earth and the story of your whole life in eternity. Look out for the fragments of time. They are pieces of eternity.
IV. MY TEXT SUGGESTS A WAY OF STUDYING HEAVEN SO THAT WE CAN BETTER UNDERSTAND IT. The word "eternity" that we handle so much is an immeasurable word. Now, we have something that we can come nearer to grasping, and it is a quiet heaven. When we discourse about the multitudes of heaven, it must be almost a nervous shock to those who have all their lives been crowded by many people, and who want a quiet heaven.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)I. Soul-silence often FOLLOWS GREAT EXCITEMENT. From the storms of remorse, secular anxieties, arid social bereavements, the soul of the genuinely Christly arises into a "peace that passeth all understanding."
II. Soul-silence is often found ABSORBING WORSHIP.
1. The prayers of saints on earth are of great practical interest in the spiritual universe.(1) They are offerings that are acceptable to its Supreme Ruler.(2) In rendering them acceptable to God, His highest spiritual ministers are deeply engaged.
2. The prayers of saints on earth exert an influence on the things of time.
III. Soul-silence often SPRINGS FROM HIGH EXPECTANCY. What wonderful things are before us all! Were we earnestly waiting for the "manifestation of the sons of God," waiting the advent of Him who is to wind up the affairs of the world, how silent should we be!
(D. Thomas, D. D.)I. THE SILENCE OF SUPPRESSION. "While I kept silence," David says; that is, while I suppressed my sense of sin, and sought to check and coerce the tide of free confession. This is the silence of our fallen nature; our abuse of God's gift, bestowed upon us for a very different end. If any of us are thus silent to God, let not night close upon us without breaking that silence: if conscience accuses us of sin, let it be heard while it may: if any iniquity of ours is separating between us and God, bring it to Him, and spare it mot, that it may be forgiven for Christ's sake, and its chain removed from us by His Holy Spirit.
II. THE SILENCE OF CONVICTION. First there has been that sullen silence of which we have spoken; the heart locked up, and refusing to empty itself of its secret. Then, many times, the first silence has been broken by prevarications, excuses, and self-justifications, going perhaps even to the length of direct falsehood. Then, in process of time, by patient hearing and inquiry, these also have been broken down: the false tongue has been confuted by the force of truth, and every refuge of lies has at length been swept away. When this is so, then at last there is silence; refreshing by comparison, and, in this life, certainly in young life, hopeful; till it comes, there is no hope, because the soul is still trying to say Peace to itself fallaciously. But now there is silence: now may punishment try its remedial power, being accompanied, as it ever ought to be, with a fall forgiveness. Now, too, may the sinner, humbled in himself, before others, and before God, listen with livelier interest to the assurance of God's forgiveness, to the comfort of the blood of sprinkling which speaks not to reproach but to console.
III. THE SILENCE OF PREPARATION. Every real, certainly every great, work of man is prefaced by a long silence, during which the mind is concentrated upon the object, and possessing itself with that which is afterwards to be produced. What is all study but the preliminary to some work, or else to one's life's work? It is not in man to be capable of always giving out, without long processes of taking in. This is the secret of so many barren and unfruitful ministries, that men are trying to dispense with silence: they are altogether in public, never in solitude: they are counting their exertions, instead of weighing them, satisfied if they are always labouring, without forcing themselves to prepare for labour by silent study, by silent meditation, by silent prayer.
IV. THE SILENCE OF ENDURANCE; that of him who with a noble self-restraint refuses to avail himself even of a plea which might avail for his deliverance. He is following the example of One who Himself in the very crisis of His earthly fate exhibited in its fullest glory the dignity and the majesty of silence.
V. THE SILENCE OF DISAPPROBATION; that silence by which, perhaps most effectively of all, whether in the society of the young or of the old, a Christian enters his protest against wrong, and acts as a witness for the truth. Who has not seen the effect of silence, of a Christian, a consistent silence, upon uncharitable or wicked conversation? Before the presence of disapprobation, however unobtrusive, evil soon shrinks, cowers, and withdraws itself.
VI. THE SILENCE OF SELF-RESTRAINT, general and habitual, or else special and particular.
VII. THE SILENCE OF SORROW, AND OF SYMPATHY WITH SORROW.
1. Grief may forget itself (as it is called) for the moment in society, and sorrow for sin may spend itself — alas! it often does — in fruitless and only half-explicit confessions and lamentations to man: but these are dangerous as well as vain remedies. In either case, be silent; only add the words, silent before God. Let Him hear all from you, and, to speak generally, none else.
2. I spoke, too, of the silence of sympathy. Who has not suffered from the officiousness of a talking sympathy?
VIII. THE SILENCE OF AWE, THE SILENCE OF MEDITATION, THE SILENCE OF PRAYER, YES, THE SILENCE OF PRAISE.
IX. THE SILENCE OF DEATH. The silence of death may reign around the bed from which a living soul has departed and on which a dead body lies alone. But it reigned first in the departing soul itself. At what particular point in the illness isolation began, and the presence of friends was no longer felt in the dying, varies no doubt with the nature of the disease, and certainly can by none be defined: but well may it be seen that after a certain point silence and solitude have taken possession, that there is, to all intents, an abstraction from things around, and an absorption in things within.
(Charles H. Collier, M. A.)
I. WHAT IS INTENDED WHEN WE SPEAK OF PROGRESS BEING APPARENTLY STAYED? There are in the Word of God great promises and prophecies which open up a glorious vision for the future days. There have been also great events which have excited in the Church of God the strongest hopes, and which ever and anon form a restful background. To such periods there succeed long years in which either no appreciable advance is made towards the inbringing of the new heavens and the new earth; or if in one direction some progress appears, in another the cause of righteousness seems checked afresh by new developments of error, folly, and sin. The prophets of God are crying, "Flee from the wrath to come." They long for some manifestation of Divine power to startle man. But no. Man goes on sinning. And our God seems a God that "does nothing" (Carlyle). The thunder is rolled up. The lightning is sheathed. There is a prolonged lull. There is "silence in heaven." The sceptic makes use of the quietude to ask, "Where is the promise of His coming?" The careless one settles down at his ease, and cries, "The vision that he seeth is for many days to come." Hollow professors desert in crowds, and go over to the ranks of the enemy. And still — still there is "silence in heaven." No voice is heard from the invisible realms to break in upon the steady course of this earth's affairs, or to arouse and convict a slumbering world!
II. WHAT DOES THIS SILENCE MEAN? What does it mean?
1. Negatively.(1) It does not mean that this world of ours is cut adrift in space, or that the human family are left fatherless and lone.(2) Nor does it mean that time is being lost in the development of the plans of God. Catastrophes are not the only means of progress.(3) Nor does it imply that God is indifferent to the sin which He is ever witnessing. "The Lord is not slack," etc.(4) Nor does it imply that God is working on any other plan than that which He has laid down in the book.(5) Nor does the silence mean that God will ultimately let sinners escape with impunity (Romans 2:8, 4).
2. Positively.(1) We are not to expect startling providences at every turn of life.(2) We are to he guided more by what God says than by what we see before our eyes. The book gives principles which are eternal.(3) There are other sides to, and other forms of, God's working than those which startle and alarm.(4) By the silence of heaven God would test His people's faith, and quicken them to more fervent prayer.(5) God would thus teach us to study principles rather than to gaze on incident.
III. WHAT SHOULD THIS SILENCE TEACH US? AND WHAT EFFECT UPON US SHOULD IT HAVE?
1. Let us learn anew to exercise faith in the spiritual power which God wields by His Spirit, rather than in the material energy which shakes a globe.
2. Let us use heaven's time of keeping silence as a time for breaking ours (Isaiah 62:1, 6, 7).
3. Let the ungodly make use of the space given for repentance, by turning to the Lord with full purpose of heart.
4. Let us lay to heart the certain fact, that, although judgment is delayed, come it will.
(C. Clemance, D. D.)
PeopleAsher, John, Joseph, Levi, Manasseh, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, Zebulun
TopicsCenter, Feed, Fountains, Front, Glad, Guide, Keeper, Lamb, Lead, Leads, Midst, Seat, Shepherd, Shepherds, Springs, Tear, Tears, Throne, Waters, Watersprings, Wipe
Outline1. An angel seals the servants of God in their foreheads.
4. The number of those who were sealed of the tribes of Israel: 144,000.
9. Of all the other nations an innumerable multitude, which stand before the throne.
14. Their robes were washed in the blood of the Lamb.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesRevelation 7:17
1620 beatitudes, the
5362 justice, believers' lives
5059 rest, eternal
4817 drought, spiritual
LibraryAll Saints' Day
Westminster Abbey. November 1, 1874. Revelation vii. 9-12. "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and …
Charles Kingsley—All Saints' Day and Other Sermons
What and Whence are These?
The Bliss of the Glorified
The Fifth vision "In Heaven"
The Glory of the Martyrs.
Appendix the Daughters of Jerusalem
Two Shepherds and Two Flocks
General Notes by the American Editor
The Holy City; Or, the New Jerusalem:
An Advance Step in the Royal Programme
Notes on the Second Century
The Consecration of Joy
The Blessing of God.
Death Swallowed up in victory
The Poor in Spirit are Enriched with a Kingdom
Meditations of the Blessed State of the Regenerate Man after Death.
Of Meditating on the Future Life.
Jesus Sets Out from Judæa for Galilee.
Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
The Living One
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