When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. He laid His right hand on me, and said, "Don't be afraid! I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look--I am alive forever and ever!" (Revelation 1:17-18)
The Apostle John, left alone in Patmos, away from all
congenial fellowship with loving human hearts, had doubtless often longed in
his rocky solitude, for some token or manifestation of his Redeemer's
personal Presence. When he called to mind the former privileged bliss of
near and endearing communion with the Lord he loved, but which in a visible
form he enjoyed no more—the prayer of his lonely heart and lonely spirit
must frequently have been—
The same gracious words have been breaking on my ears today. This Holy Table is one of the special places and occasions—a spiritual Patmos—where Jesus loves to record His name, and where He commands the blessing, 'even life for evermore!'
"I was dead!"—This solemn, mysterious truth I have been permitted significantly to recall through the symbols of His own appointment. But now, as the Table is left, He seems, in this still hour of reflection and retrospect, to bequeath for meditation the glorious counterpart assurance—a glad watchword surely in renewing the beaten paths of life—"but look--I am alive forever and ever!"—or, as that might be better rendered, "I am THE LIVING ONE,"—He who was dead "dies no more—death has no more dominion over Him!"
How blessed to be able to look up to the right hand of God, and behold, seated there, as my Advocate and Intercessor, not a stranger, but an ever-living, never-dying Friend—with a heart beating responsive to human sympathy. Not only, as God, able to save, but, as Man, able to compassionate—feeling what is done to His people, as sensitively as if it were done to Himself. When I think that into the hands of this God-man Mediator has been committed universal rule and sovereignty—that He directs all that befalls me—that it is He who sends prosperity—who gives the gourd and the sunshine—that it is He who appoints the blight and the shadow—that every trial is ordered by Him, and every tear permitted by Him—I may feel sweetly assured that all is well. He has renewed to me, today, at His Sacramental Feast, the pledges of His love and tenderness—so that this may well be a balm-word and a heart-cheerer alike in all time of blessing and in all time of tribulation—a support and solace in every vicissitude of this mortal scene; hallowing joy, consecrating sorrow, dispelling my fears, lightening my darkness, and at last smoothing my death-pillow—"I know that my Redeemer LIVES!"
The words of a Brother Apostle seem like a comment on the above divine vision and voice of Patmos—"When Christ who is our LIFE shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory." "The glorious appearing" of THE LIFE—in other words, the second coming of his Lord, was the special theme and revelation of the Apocalypse. That mystic Book has well been called "the Book of the Coming One." It begins, in its opening chapter, with "Behold, He comes with clouds!" It ends in its closing chapter, with a thrice repeated blast of the same silver trumpet—"Behold, I come quickly!"
The Sacrament of Communion may, with equal propriety and emphasis, be called—"The Feast of the Coming One." I have just been commemorating Him, in His first Advent, as the Dying One; when He came in humiliation—the Man of sorrows, despised and rejected—and bowed His head on Calvary's Cross. But while a Feast of remembrance, it is equally a Feast of anticipation. Every returning celebration is giving augmented power and reality to the divine words—"Until the day breaks, and the shadows flee away!"
Even His own people are prone at times, through wavering faith, to ask—"Where is the promise of His Coming?" There is no sound of His footstep. The wheels of His chariot are tarrying—and outer nature, in her majestic unvarying sequences, seems to countersign the doubting thought, "All things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." From this Mount of Ordinances the chimes of the Advent Bell break on the listening ear. "Ever since, has this blessed Institution lain, as the golden morning light, far out even in the Church's darkest night, not only the seal of His presence and its pledge, but also the promise of the bright day of His coming."
I have recently been privileged to stand, so to speak, on a divinely-built watch-tower, looking for that day-dawn—"the blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of the Great God our Savior."
"Yet a little while, and He who shall come will come, and will not tarry." That Advent season has its date in a yet unrevealed future. Meanwhile, be it mine to be so living and acting, that the cry can never be heard too soon or too suddenly—"Behold, the Bridegroom comes!"—Ever ready to hail Him with exulting welcome; and so at last, to sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and the festal throng of the glorified, in my Father's Kingdom.