THE WHITE ROBES AND LIVING FOUNTAINS OF WATER

Revelation 7:13-17

These beautiful verses (explanatory of the previous part of the vision) we were unable to fully expound in the preceding chapter. They are more, however, than explanatory葉hey contain some new and precious unfoldings of the Heaven of the redeemed, which cannot be passed cursorily or in silence. After the preceding revelations of judgment and terror, how grateful and soothing to the Seer of Patmos must have been this lull in the storm葉his bright though momentary glimpse through the midst of the tempestuous clouds! The words must have fallen on his ear like serenest music. Let us, with him, enjoy the elevated calm.

Laying aside the perplexities of interpretation and conflicting renderings which beset many other portions of the Book, let us, under the direction, not of human commentator, but of John's celestial guide, the member of the white-robed multitude葉his Interpreter in the true "Palace Beautiful," enter in spirit within the open door of the upper sanctuary. The passage is like a mirror set in eternity, in which the believer sees reflected his future character and condition. We all, beholding as in a mirror our heavenly glory預re encouraged to look forward to the time when we shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord. The verses unfold to us the former experience and condition of the Redeemed, under the twofold aspect of SIN and SUFFERING.

(1.) It was a condition of SIN, "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." From the hour when Abel was admitted a solitary representative of the glorified Church, to the time when its voice shall become "as the voice of many waters and as the voice of mighty thunderings," no human soul has ever passed, or ever can pass, within the gate into the City, that has not been stained with guilt. Every pillar in the Heavenly Temple is a ransomed pillar, bearing the inscription, "The chief of sinners, but I obtained mercy." The whitest robe there was once soiled with pollution葉he holiest and purest member of that redeemed family was once a rebel against the authority of the Being before whose throne he is casting his crown.

What an encouragement, amid our struggles with temptation, the buffetings of Satan, our proneness to backsliding, our depressing consciousness of ever-present frailty and corruption, our defiant pride and hardened unbelief, that this "bright array" have had thus an identity of experience with ourselves葉hat they have passed through the same "sloughs of despond;" been held captive in the same dungeons of Doubting Castle; felt the same chains of corruption dragging them to the dust in spite of every effort to rise heavenwards; and have finally reached their thrones and their crowns covered with the scars of battle!

They are now glorified witnesses to the fullness and freeness of the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness. The Blood that has been so precious to them may be equally precious to us, their robes may be our robes葉heir Heaven may be our Heaven葉heir God may be our God. The guiltiest there was not too guilty to be the recipient of one of these shining garments; and there cannot, therefore, be a sinner on earth too degraded or vile to listen to the Divine invitation, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."

(2.) But their past earthly condition was also one of SUFFERING, "These are they who came out of great tribulation." And in the conclusion of the verses we are led to infer something as to what this tribulation was. When we are told they are to "hunger no more, neither thirst any more," it is equivalent to telling us, that once they hungered and thirsted, and fainted and groaned and were burdened. And in that most exquisitely tender of all Bible delineations of divine love, God 'wiping away all tears from their eyes,' we are informed that the place where these Redeemed came from was a weeping world, where every eye was once dimmed with tears.

God's Word does not conceal, but, on the contrary, rather publishes and forewarns, that the road to Heaven is one of trial. Christ prepared His people for the highway there being hedged with tribulation, that if any would follow Him to the crown, it must be by the way of the cross. "Beloved," says Peter, "think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you, but rejoice." These trials are the ladder-steps by which the immortal spirits in this vision attained their bliss. We can almost imagine ourselves listening to their varied testimony.

"God laid me," would be the experience and retrospect of one, "on a bed of sickness. I was living a life of engrossing worldliness. I was taking my health as a thing of course. I thought that the strong frame, and vigorous pulse, and undimmed eye, could never, in my case, be shattered or impaired. I had no thought of death容ternity I put immeasurably away from me! He who gave me the abused talent stretched me on a couch of pain. Year after year I was familiarized with the dim night-lamp葉he sleepless vigils葉he aching head. Mine was the mournful monotonous soliloquy, 'Would God it were evening! would God it were morning!' But He allured me into the wilderness that He might speak comfortably to me. I now praise Him for it all. Through the chinks of the battered earthly tabernacle were admitted the first rays of the heavenly glory. In the solitary night-watches my lips were first tuned for the heavenly song. Heart and flesh fainted and failed me, but my tribulation led me to Him who is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

"I was reposing in the sunshine of earthly prosperity," would be the testimony of another. "The fabled horn of plenty exhausted its ample stores in my lap. Riches increased; ah! I set my heart upon them; they filled my waking and sleeping hours; my closet, my Bible, my family, were sacrificed in the demon scramble. Life was a mad attempt to refute and gainsay the great utterance of incarnate Truth"A man's life does not consists in the abundance of the things which he possesses!" At an unexpected moment the crash came葉he whole fabric of a lifetime (the golden fabric) fell to the ground. Seated amid empty coffers, and dismantled walls, and blighted hopes, I was led to bring the perishable into emphatic contrast with the eternal. I too thank my God for it all. But for that whirlwind-blast which swept over me, burying the hoarded treasures of a vain existence, I would have died the fool that I lived. But the loss of the gold which perishes, led me to the unsearchable riches; to lay up treasure beyond the reach of bankruptcy and the fluctuations of capricious fortune."

"I was an idolater of my family," another would tell. "I was leaning too fondly and tenderly on some cherished prop耀ome gourd in the earth-bower of my happiness. The prop gave way葉he gourd withered. But as some gentle spirit (be it that of husband, or wife, or child, or brother, or sister) winged its flight to the realms of glory, it brought me, as I was never before, into near and holy contact with the Unseen. The tie snapped on earth bound me to the Throne of God要oices from the celestial shore were heard saying, 'Come up here!' I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Henceforward my heart was where my garnered treasures were. And though every step of my saddened way was sprinkled with tears, every one of these were needful悠 could not have lacked one of them; the pangs and voids of the smitten spirit, of which they were the outward exponents, served to wean me from this poor world. These thorns inserted in the earthly nest drove me to the wing, and allowed me not to cease my flight until I had reached the golden eaves of the Heavenly Home!"

While, however, we thus speak of the Redeemed as a tried and suffering band, we must not be misunderstood; as if we meant that their sorrows brought them there, and were the procuring causes of their white-washed robes and immortal bliss. No! Though these once weeping sufferers had wept an ocean of tears, that could not have wiped away the guilt of their sins. Observe, it is not "These are they who came out of great tribulation," therefore are they before the throne of God; but, "These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." It is not the tribulation which saved them, but the Blood shed by the adorable Redeemer.

Suffering of itself never can conduct to Heaven. The most fearful succession of trials can never certify to me that I am a child of God. It is only when affliction is sanctified that I can glory in it. In vain did the angel of old come down to Bethesda to "trouble the pool," unless the diseased person stepped in. In vain does the Angel of sorrow come down to the Bethesda pool of the human heart to trouble it, unless the "troubling of the waters" be followed by "the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit." "Affliction," it has been well said, "never leaves us as it finds us. We have only reason to rejoice in our tears, when they serve, not as, alas! is the case with many, only to dim our eyes more to unseen realities傭ut rather, as the lenses of a telescope, to bring nearer and more endearingly to view a the Better Country."

Let us pass to the other great topic these verses bring before us裕HE HISTORY OF THE HEAVEN OF THE REDEEMED. They supply many interesting and suggestive thoughts.

(1.) It is to be a state of PERFECT HAPPINESS. This comprehends entire exemption from trial and complete freedom from sin; in other words, a beautiful combination of Holiness and Happiness. "You shall hunger no more!" There are there no more longings that cannot be satisfied傭lanks that cannot be filled耀hadows which mock the hand that would vainly grasp them. "You shall thirst no more!" You who have been wasting your strength on nature's broken cisterns and polluted streams, listen to this. "Thirst again," the attribute and characteristic of universal humanity, is unknown yonder謡here God Himself is revealed as the Fountain of Life, and where we shall drink of the rivers of His pleasures. "The sun shall not beat upon you!" Here on earth, your journey is in a desert land; often you sigh in vain for shadowy palm or sheltering rock, to screen you from the scorching heat of affliction. In Heaven, that sun shall set to rise no more; and in its stead, God Himself is to rise on you; for "they need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light."

And it would seem from the glowing description, that this felicity, though it is to be perfect all at once in kind, is to be ever increasing in degree預 progressive felicity, advancing with the years of eternity. The Lamb is represented as "feeding them"熔pening up new sources of enjoyment, affording new matter and new motive for praise, fresh views of His own glory, brighter displays of Redeeming love! "The Lamb shall lead them to living fountains of waters" as if there was an insatiable longing in these Redeemed bosoms to know more of the Great salvation, every fresh draught only quickening their desire to drink deeper still.

And it is "THE LAMB" who shall lead them and feed them! The Lamb and the Fountain are the two most precious words to the pilgrim in the wilderness, and they are precious still in the land of everlasting rest. Though in Heaven there is to be eternal freedom from sin and trial and suffering, the remembrance of these is not to cease. This, we found in a previous vision, is the song which the twenty-four Elders葉he representatives of the redeemed, love to sing: "You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation!" Yes, and these memories of sin and sorrow, so far from marring or interrupting, will rather quicken and intensify, the grateful praises of the ransomed myriads!

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes!" This tender and beautiful description would lead us also to infer that there will be a gradual opening and unfolding of the wisdom of God's dealings with His people on earth, until the tear-drops of the wilderness, still lingering in their eyes, are all removed. Every providence will be cleared up, every dispensation vindicated. With an eye once full of tears now tearless; and a spirit once repining now giving utterance to no murmur, every new morning will find the Redeemed reposing in serener confidence and with profounder and more restful love, on the God whose hand has obliterated the last trace of sorrow!

(2.) It is to be a state of GREAT GLORY. That once suffering, but now triumphant multitude are represented as having their station nearest the throne, "They are before the throne," and He who sits upon the throne "tabernacles among them." We have previously found the angels depicted as standing "around about the throne and around the Elders" (the multitude of redeemed). This intimates the amazing fact, that it is ransomed sinners who occupy the inner circle around the throne! It is ransomed sinners who are honored with the nearest gaze of Deity! What a wondrous glimpse does this open to us of Heaven!葉o see angel and archangel giving way to the redeemed from the earth, to let the joint-heirs with Christ be partakers with Him on His Throne!

We listen to the song of the entire multitude傭right armies of unfallen angels用rincipalities, and powers, gathered in to this majestic festival of the Lamb, headed by cherubim and seraphim. One theme thrills on every tongue熔nward rolls the triumphant anthem, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." But these surrounding voices are at intervals silenced. From the one favored band in the vision who are "before the throne," with festal palms in their hands and blood-bought crowns on their brows, there rises alone the chorus, "He was slain for us!"

(3.) God Himself is to constitute the essence of their enjoyment. In all the beauteous and varied imagery in which these verses abound, the same grand idea is present in every clause. Is Heaven spoken of as a Palace, and He as a Sovereign seated on the throne? the Redeemed are represented as ranged before it, and the summit of their happiness attained, when it is said of them, "Now are they before the Throne of God," gazing on His unveiled majesty.

Is Heaven described as a Temple, and the occupation of the Redeemed that of High Priests in the regal Sanctuary? Still He is the supreme object of their worship, "They serve Him day and night, in His temple."

Again the figure is changed. These favored citizens of the Heavenly Zion are pictured as a happy Flock reposing in the meadows of glory. But what would they be without the presence of their Shepherd? "The Lamb who is in the midst of the Throne" shall tend them, feed them, guide them, enfold them!

Or do we behold them changing their posture of adoration, and going in search of the living fountains of waters? While yet they were inhabitants of earth, often were they seen in the attitude of pilgrims, "coming up from the wilderness leaning on their Beloved." Behold them now, coming up from the Throne; they are leaning on their Beloved still, "It is the Lamb who leads them." It is a bold but fine conjecture of one of our great poets, when he is telling of the bright consummation of that "Course of Time" of which he sang, that there are moments in Heaven when the Redeemed around the Throne hush their voices and go, as it were, amid the solitudes of eternity, to hold communion with God alone.

But these words, from which the idea probably is derived, tell us that there is no such thing as absolute solitude in Heaven. The Ransomed may for a while lay aside their harps and retire from the company of angels amid the sequestered fountains of waters; but still they are not alone葉he LAMB leads them and feeds them.

Once more謡hen, in the light of eternity, mysterious earthly dealings are cleared up, and dispensations vindicated, every tear removed葉he most touching part in this office of tenderness is the hand which wipes these tears away耀till it is God"And GOD shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Yes! He is the light of Heaven葉he central glory of that world of brightness. Tell what this world would be without the sun, and you can form some feeble idea of what Heaven would be to the Redeemed without HIM. There are many other powerful incentives to draw us to this world of glory. Departed friends who have fallen asleep in Jesus are there. Sacred are the voices which seem ever and anon to steal down in sweetest cadence葉he soft whisper of Heaven's own love葉elling that though they cannot come to us, there is a blessed meeting-place in their own inheritance of light, which knows no parting. But in this vision of John's, there are no other or subordinate motives mentioned. The lesser rays are swallowed up in the glory that excels, and God is all in all!

Reader! if you are looking forward to taking your place as a worshiper in the upper Sanctuary, the same Divine Being who will form the center and focus of your bliss there, should form the center and substance of your happiness here. Test the reality of your hopes by this. What is it that is drawing you to Heaven? Is it some dreamy indefinite idea of material splendor預 place of exemption from sorrow and suffering, where every wish is satisfied, and the very fountain of tears is dried? This may be, and doubtless will be, all true. But are its Mansions desirable, because they are the dwelling-place of your God? If at this moment it were divested of all its other attractions, would it be enough to know "God shall be with them and be their God?"

This was David's Heaven, "I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness." This was Asaph's Heaven, "Whom have I in Heaven but You, and there is none upon earth that I desire besides You." This was Paul's Heaven, "Having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better." This was John's Heaven, "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." Yes! it is interesting specially to note, that to this mighty gazer of Patmos, to whom, in his apocalypse, had been revealed so many visions of dazzling beauty, Heaven consisted not in these溶ot in scenery, nor in any outward elements of bliss; but that the essence of its happiness and glory was likeness to God耀erving HIM with a fervor that never wearies, and a love that knows no languor or decay.

What shall we say, then (as we sum up these observations), of this dwelling-place of God's redeemed-Israel葉his home of the Church-triumphant? Is there nothing in all its endless bliss to fire our ambition? Do the harpings of that innumerable multitude; these perennial fountains of water; these palms ever green; these thrones ever bright; the thoughts of sorrow ended; sufferings forgotten; tears wiped away; angels our companions; above all, of God Himself our everlasting Friend and portion溶ot urge us to break loose from the enthralling chains of earth, and to feel as if there were nothing worth living for in comparison with this?

It is said of Anaxagoras, the philosopher, that one night when in the act of studying the stars, his countrymen came to confer upon him an inheritance, in token of their appreciation of his genius. His reply was, "I wish it not葉hese heavens are my country." Can we say the same in a grander, diviner sense? Are all earthly joys, and honors, and pleasures a bauble, compared with what faith unfolds in the splendors of immortality? Would that we might thus rise to the full realization of that glorious heritage, to whose priceless blessings all can be heirs through the blood of the Lamb. There are white robes for all用alms for all幼rowns for all幽eaven for all. This vision is one of many chimes from the bells of Glory, gathering in the ransomed worshipers to the great festival. Let us listen to the summons. Let us be putting on now our festal garments, and prepare to take our place amid the rejoicing throng.




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