George Everard, 1884
"Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him!" Revelation 1:7
There is many a "behold" in Holy Scripture, but in this passage, we reach the climax of them all.
"Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear Him" (Psalm 33:18).
"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 John 3:1).
"Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
"Behold the Man" (John 19:5).
"Behold your King" (John 19:14)
Every one of these views of God's love and of the Savior's grace, are full of deepest meaning and instruction to us.
But in grandeur and solemn awe, none can for a moment reach the "behold" of the Revelation. It sounds the keynote of the whole Apocalypse. It gathers within itself the great prophecy of Daniel spoken centuries before, and the bold utterance of Christ as He stood before the Jewish Council. Look at the words of the prophet Daniel 7:13, "I saw in the night visions, and behold One like the Son of man came with the clouds of Heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him, and there was given Him dominion and glory and a kingdom," etc.
Consider the words of Christ when standing before His bloodthirsty judges (Matthew 26:64), "Hereafter shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of Heaven!"
Then take the words of John as given in the Revelation, "Behold, He comes with clouds, and every eye shall see Him!"
In each of these passages two points are very prominent.
It is everywhere distinctly affirmed that He comes in the clouds of Heaven. When He ascended to the Father, we are told that a cloud received Him, and hid Him from the sight of His disciples. And as He ascended, so the angels declared that He must come again. So shall it be. In a cloud He departs--and in a cloud He shall return to the earth. And is there not here a plain evidence of His Divine power and authority? Is not this one of the symbols of Jehovah's majesty and glory? We read in Psalm 18 something of the greatness which appertains to God, and here is one part of that description: "He made darkness His secret place. His pavilion round about Him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies". Look again at Psalm 104:3, "Who makes the clouds His chariot--who walks upon the wings of the wind."
To none but Jehovah's fellow, to none but the co-equal Son of the Most High, would it have been granted thus to come back to our earth, mighty and glorious, seated on the very chariot of Jehovah Himself!
No less impressive is the second point. The Lord Jesus is to be the one object on which every eye is to be fixed. "Every eye shall see Him!"
These words have never yet been true of any one who yet has lived. Kings and conquerors have had their days of triumph, and perchance hundreds of thousands have looked upon them as they celebrated the victories they had achieved. We read of a notable scene in olden time, when a monarch gathered together an army of some three million, and placed his throne where he could gain a sight of them all, and where a large proportion of them might be able to see him.
But far higher, grander, vaster, is the prospect set before us of Christ at His appearing. In that concourse, none are absent. All ages, countries, races, and divisions of mankind are present there. None can escape that vision. None are lost or hidden amidst the assembled myriads. How it can be, no thought can possibly fathom. That it shall be, no room is left for doubt.
He who once trod the shore of Galilee's lake,
He who once was the Friend of a few fishermen,
He who was meek and lowly of heart,
He who endured so patiently the scorn and the shame of His bitter cross--
it is He who shall then be manifested as the Glorious King and Judge of human kind, and upon whom every eye of sinner and of saint shall then be turned!
By that look, there will arise an extremity of woe and of gladness, the possibility of which has never yet been realized. There are the two sides. It may be well to consider both.
1.Is not the eye frequently the inlet of the greatest possible dismay, alarm, terror, and distress? Imagine the men of the old world as they saw the door of the Ark close, and then by and by saw the huge raindrops descend, and watched the rising waters until every ray of hope was quenched.
Imagine the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah as they saw the words of Lot fulfilled, and the fire descend from above on the doomed cities.
Imagine the company of Korah as the ground began to heave beneath their feet and the vast chasm open its mouth to receive them.
Imagine the conscience-stricken Ahab as he saw the prophet Elijah standing in the field of Naboth--the very sight of the faithful servant of Jehovah awakening him to all the judgments which his sin was bringing upon him.
Imagine a man coming home from Australia with the earnings of a life's labor, and seeing the vessel with it all sinking in the depths.
Or imagine the parent watching by the deathbed of the child in whom all his hopes were centered, who had been the idol of his home and the one object for whom he had lived.
Or, once again, imagine a criminal in the dock, and what his feeling would be to see in the witness-box, the man who has been the repository of all his secret plots of evil; or on the bench the strict and impartial judge who will surely condemn the man that is found guilty.
Now think what will the sight of Christ be to the unsaved man. In that sight will be every possible element of grief and distress.
Every idol of his heart will be dashed to pieces in a moment. Whether it be home or wife or child, a high position or a store of wealth, the fruit of a life's toil or the usual enjoyment of some gift of Divine Providence--whatever it may be, it becomes a thing of the past. The stream is dried up; time is no more, and time's possessions have passed out of his hand.
From that sight will arise the shame of discovery. However cleverly the plot has been laid or the deed of evil hidden from the eyes of men, there will be no more possibility of concealment. The eyes which are as a flame of fire see through every disguise. The impenitent sinner must stand naked and confounded, with his sin open and known to all.
A soldier had been found out in the commission of a deed of darkness. He was tried by a court-martial and condemned to be shot. When the hour approached, he was in the utmost terror. "It is not death I fear," said the man, "but how can I bear the sight of two thousand soldiers looking upon me in my disgrace?" What will it be for the sinner to stand exposed to the gaze of unnumbered multitudes, in the day when every secret of his heart and life is made manifest!
Then, too, conscience will speak out, and can no longer be silenced. As the sight of Elijah brought the sin of Ahab to his remembrance, what will it be when men see Him against whom they have sinned, and who knows them altogether? Ah! the reproach, the remorse, the sting of conscience on that day! Too often conscience slumbers now--it is drugged by the Devil's opiates. It sleeps on, silenced . . .
by false hopes,
by low views of sin,
by promises of future amendment, or
by the idea of mercy in God, even where that mercy has been despised and rejected!
But then it will sleep no more. The sight of a coming Judge will effectually and forever dispel all its delusions. In no uncertain tone will the voice be heard: "You are the man!" "What have you done?"
Moreover, that sight will be to the sinner, the token of the coming day of wrath.
What the first raindrops were to the men of Noah's time,
what the bursting of the storm of fire was to Sodom,
what the trembling earth was to the company of Korah--
that will the first sight of Christ be to the sinner hereafter. It will be the end of all uncertainty. It will sweep away in a moment a thousand questionings. It will bring a revelation of the Divine judgment against sin and ungodliness and unbelief which none can withstand. Alas for the reviler and blasphemer, the profligate and the drunkard, for those who have denied Christ, and for those who have taught others to reject His salvation! How will such be able to behold the dazzling majesty of His presence, the throng of His attendants, and the earth shaken to its center!
We have a glimpse given of the scene that we may look for. "The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks: Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" Revelation 6:14-17
Yes, "every eye shall see Him!" For through rock and mountain and cave, that eye shall still behold him. No hiding-place will be deep enough or dark enough to cover him from sight.
Think of it, friend, you who are yet in your sins. Think of it, friend, who are yet kept back from Him by the shadows of earth. Would it not be well to seek a hiding-place now? Would it not be well, even this very day, to flee from the anticipation of His wrath--to the arms of His mercy? Would it not be well now to fix your eye on Him, in deep self-abasement and humble trust? Hidden in Him, covered with His all-sufficient merit, and arrayed in His snow-white robe of righteousness--what then shall you fear? What then will the presence of His glory be to you, but the most blissful sight that ever you have seen!
2.The brighter side of this subject, must not be forgotten.
If the eye is the inlet of fear and dismay--it is no less the inlet of joy, too deep for words to express.
Imagine the joy of Abraham and Sarah in the sight of the child so long promised and so long waited for!
Remember the old patriarch Jacob and the gladness he must have experienced when again he saw his long-lost son, and saw him as ruler of the land of Egypt!
Think of the delight of the shepherds as they beheld the infant Jesus, in whom they had learned to recognize the Savior of the world; or of the Eastern Magi, as with exceeding great joy they again beheld the star which pointed to Him.
Or you can picture to yourself the full heart of the loving wife as she sees the ship that brings her husband home to her after a long voyage.
Or look at it in another way. Here is a man who has long set his heart on the accomplishment of some great and noble object. It has been his one aim and prayer for many a year. Perhaps it has been the building of a church in some poor or neglected neighborhood. Perhaps it has been the founding of an asylum for orphan children. And now the desire of a lifetime has been fulfilled. What untold pleasure and thankfulness it awakens within him as he sees the reward of his toil and the answer to so many prayers!
And in the believer's sight of the coming King, something similar to every one of these elements of grateful joy will be found, and will burst forth in fullest measure. It will be gladness in its highest form, and with no single cause of alloy.
I remember well an old servant of Christ who faithfully followed the Master for upwards of sixty years. A few years before his death his sight suddenly failed him. He sought advice, but he was told that it was impossible to provide a cure. He would never see again while he lived. A bright and happy thought awoke within the heart of the good man. "Then the next person I shall see will be my Savior!" said this faithful servant of his Lord.
And what that sight will be to a Christian man, who can express?
In that sight, all heart-joys meet. Raise your thoughts to the very highest conceptions of sanctified hope and expectation--and that moment will surpass them all.
Here the desire of the soul will be fully satisfied. We read that "hope deferred makes the heart sick; but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life." Through long centuries has the Church waited for the return of her Lord.
Year after year has the earnest and wakeful believer been looking for "that blessed hope," even the glorious appearing of the Son of God. And now the day has come.
No more waiting, weary days.
No more triumphing of the wicked.
No more hiding the pure truth of God beneath the covering of human traditions.
No more sorrow or sin to trouble the Christian's heart.
The blessed day has come with all its rich treasury of deliverance, peace, felicity and victory.
Here mutual love will be abundantly satisfied. The Bridegroom will rejoice in the Bride--and the Bride will be satisfied forever in the presence of her Lord. It is said by Solomon, "The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing;" and we find it true in our present state. But it will not be true then. "Your eyes shall see the King in His beauty!"--and this sight will be enough. It will be the one great joy of the redeemed forever. To see Christ, to be with Him, to look deeper into His loving heart, and to share that love through endless ages--this will be the chief element in the pleasures which are at God's right hand.
"The King there in His beauty
Without a veil is seen;
It were a well-spent journey
Though seven deaths lay between.
The Lamb with His fair army
Does on Mount Zion stand,
And glory, glory dwells
In Emmanuel's land.
The Bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom's face;
I will not gaze at glory,
But on my King of Grace.
Not at the crown He gives,
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel's land."
Here will be the transforming power of this sight. Consider the words of John in his First Epistle, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it does not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is!" (3:2). There will be a perfect conformity to His image. Sin will be annihilated in the soul, and no temptation ever be able to stir one thought of evil. This mortal body will put on its garments of glory and immortality. In heavenly purity, in unwearied brightness and activity, in an atmosphere of love, born of the love that inflames the heart of Christ--the risen saint will be satisfied as he awakes in the likeness of His Savior. And with the sight of Christ Himself, there will be ten thousand sights that will multiply indefinitely the Christian's joy. What will it be to behold angel and archangel, cherubim and seraphim, and all doing homage to Him whom we love?
What will it be to see the saints of olden times, prophets, apostles, martyrs--those whose words have been a guide to us along our journey here?
What will it be to see those who have been dear to us in the flesh, and who fell asleep in Christ before ourselves?
What will it be to see those to whom God has made us instruments of spiritual good--who through our prayers, efforts, or influence have been led to the Savior's feet?
What will be the sight of that city pictured to us in the Revelation in such glowing words--but whose true glory and beauty no heart of mortal man has ever yet conceived?
Christian, rejoice! This sight is for you! This hope is for you! Unworthy in your own eyes; oft lamenting your own infirmities, your lack of love, your failings in the Master's service--yet your eyes shall see and your heart shall overflow with the joys which are at God's right hand.
"Every eye shall see Him!"
Then let your eye now ever be toward Him. Watch, lest your eye be turned aside. Let it never be found "beholding vanity." Let it not be accustomed to delight itself in the unwholesome sights of the theater, or the vain display of self-adornment, or in that which only ministers to the gratification of pride and self-indulgence. Let not your eye shoot forth glances of envy, passion, covetousness, or any unholy thought or desire. Let it not slumber in carnal ease and selfish sloth, while souls are perishing around.
Nay, let your eye be upward, seeking daily aid and grace from above. Be ever looking unto Jesus as your great Pattern and Exemplar, and also as the Fountain-head of all supplies of wisdom, strength, and consolation.
But more than this. Let your eye look around you to see the needs and miseries of mankind. Then, with a heart of sympathy and a tongue of love, go forth to cheer and help your brothers and sisters in their distress, and to guide the wanderer back to the fold.
As the good Samaritan looked on the man who had fallen among thieves, and then in self-denying pity stretched out his hand to help, to heal, and to save him--so be it your happy privilege to minister, wherever you can, to the child of sorrow and of need. Let your "eye affect your heart"--and then spare neither time, nor trouble, nor toil, nor means to raise the fallen, to comfort the mourning, or to save the lost.
Then with double joy shall your eye behold the coming King, and shall receive from His lips a double reward, that inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of His brethren, you have done it unto Him.
You shall rise! my dust, you shall arise,
Not always closed your eyes;
Your life's first Giver
Will give you life forever.
Ah, praise His name!
Then as they who dream, we shall arise,
With Jesus to the skies,
And find that morrow,
The weary pilgrim's sorrow,
All past and gone!
Then within the holiest I tread,
By my Redeemer led,
Through Heaven soaring,
His holy name adoring,