"And there will be NO MORE death or
sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils
are gone forever." Rev. 21:3-4
In already considering the representation given by the
Apostle of Patmos of the New Heaven and the New Earth, "the holy city, New
Jerusalem, descending out of Heaven from God"—we have confined our attention
to the positive elements of bliss in store for the Church of
the glorified, as these are described in the verse immediately preceding,
"Look, the home of God is now among His people! He will live with them, and
they will be His people. God Himself will be with them, and God shall wipe
away all tears from their eyes."
We come now to the negative description which John
gives of that same blessedness. It is a fourfold delineation. He conducts us
in thought, first, down to Earth, and exhibits a hall or picture-gallery,
whose gloomy recesses are hung with representations of—Death; Sorrow;
Crying; Pain; and then, taking us to the New Jerusalem above, we find, if we
may so express it, the corresponding recesses in its glorious walls are
blank—"And there will be NO MORE death or sorrow or
crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone
forever." These in their order—
I. There shall be no more DEATH. We must, in the
first instance, visit the Earth and pace its picture-gallery of gloomy
illustrations. It contains a vast gathering of diverse and ever-varying
portraits of death. Here is a picture of old age, one who has
lived beyond the appointed fourscore years—his brow furrowed with wrinkles,
"gathering up his feet into the bed." Here is manhood in its prime,
with eye apparently undimmed and natural force unabated, bidding farewell to
those who are soon to be fatherless. Here is a mother pressing a blighted
flower to her bosom. Here is a king borne from his sack-clothed
palace, a mourning nation following the funeral procession. Here is the
friendless beggar carried from his couch of loneliness and poverty to
the last narrow home of all. Here is the Philanthropist, the widow
and orphaned children lining the streets as the funeral procession
passes, and pronouncing the silent eulogy with their tears. Here is the
strong swimmer in his agony resigning himself to his inevitable fate.
Here the companion-picture, as from the side of a vessel, the coffin is
lowered into the silent depths where no epitaph can be written, nor footstep
follow, nor tear fall. Here is the captive in his cell, uttering
alone his last appeal to Heaven, with no human eye to cheer him, and no
human hand to smooth his straw pillow. Here is unfortunate courage,
lying on its crimson shroud, deaf to the roar of battle, amid heaps of
slain. Here is the drunkard, with the drained cup at his side and
delirium in his eye. Here is the bold skeptic, the defiant reprobate,
the scorner of grace, with haggard look, gazing on the sand-glass at his
side, wearying for the termination of its wasted grains. Here is the
Believer, his lips moving in their last prayer, his eyes closing in
their last slumber gently as an infant's sleep; while white-robed angels
hover over his pillow ready to bear the soul to Paradise.
But why linger in these corridors? They are co-extensive
with all time. Every second, it has been computed, a fresh picture
is thrown off for their somber walls. At every beat of our pulse a
death takes place! The Rider on the Pale Horse has never slackened his
speed since the hour of the fall. Death has passed upon all. Every household
has its saddened memories. What circle is there where there is no name
mentioned with faltering lips? What fold among us but misses its lamb? What
family Bible but has the significant record under a cherished entry? Who has
not pressed the cold hand? Who has not watched "life balanced in a
breath"—the dwindling candle-flame flickering in the socket? Who has not
contributed a loved portrait to the silent gallery? Who has not chiseled
names, fragrant with affection, on monumental tablets?
And if, in some rare exceptions, death, the great foe
of human happiness, has not yet come, who among us has not the dread
anticipation for ourselves or for others of the inevitable hour? Who has
never been a prey to the disquieting thought of the unheralded footfall—the
sudden incursion of nature's great midnight robber?
But in Heaven "there shall be no more Death!" In
that Holy City, New Jerusalem, there shall be no death-gallery—no chamber of
terrors—no brush—no paint—no canvas to delineate them. No "loved and lost"
there; but all loved and restored, never to be lost again—the iron crown
of the King of Terrors trampled forever in the dust! The Believer, the
glorified citizen will there reign in life—wear the diadem of immortal
being, sealed by the mighty Angel who has in His hand "the seal of the
life-giving God!" Oh, blessed, comforting thought!—the very fear of this
last enemy, felt and dreaded no more—the saying brought to pass, as it is
written, "DEATH is swallowed up in victory!"
II. There shall be no SORROW there. We descend yet
again to Earth's picture-gallery. We are taken now to a silent,
secluded, lonely spot. The hush of sacredness and privacy is here. The
former corridor we trod, is patent to the observation of all. Ah! it
cannot be hidden; it comes with observation: the muffled bell—the darkened
window—the mournful procession—the somber attire—the missed face in the
exchange, the street, the home, the House of God.
But there are often pictures of hidden grief and
sorrow, hung away from public view in the secret chambers of the heart.
The saddest spectacles of earth are not those unfolded to the eye. There are
scenes with a screen drawn between them, which are not for public gaze. They
are kept with key and padlock; the gallery is paced with silent footstep and
bated breath. It is this hidden, muffled, unuttered grief which we believe
is here referred to in the word "Sorrow."
Are there none whose eyes trace these pages, who know of
such pictures that are engraved—deeply-embedded in the walls of their inmost
heart? That cutting disappointment of young and ardent affection—that cruel
withering of a cherished gourd—that faithless wound of your trusted
friend—that base requital of a long friendship—that unkind stab on
reputation? Or, more painful still; as we pass to Sorrow's most secluded,
shadiest niche—that blot on character—that profligate boy—that picture of
lost virtue and blighted innocence—that castaway on his plank—that ship,
that abandoned lonely hulk, without mast or sail or rudder—drifting,
drifting away on the surges of despair!
In that city of God there shall be no more Sorrow. These
pictures of sorrow shall be burnt to ashes with the last funeral fires of
Time. No sad realities, no sad memories can be perpetuated on the walls of
Heaven. To take an illustration from the photographic world—the undeveloped
picture remains on the plate, while it is preserved in a dark chamber. But
expose it without using the fixing solutions to the light, it immediately
fogs and evaporates; every trace of it is lost. So with these pictures of
Sorrow. Remove them from this dark world and its gloomy corridors; expose
them to the eternal sunshine of Heaven, where the darkness is past and the
true light shines; they are gone—not a vestige of sadness is left. "There
shall be no more sorrow;" the former things are passed away.
III. There shall "be no more CRYING." Enter
another room in the Earthly gallery. John could doubtless understand, better
than we, the meaning and appropriateness of the expression here employed
with reference to this next chamber. It is an oriental corridor. In
these eastern countries a wild demonstrative grief was often indulged in, as
it is to this day. With us, it is otherwise. Our homes of sorrow are seldom
or never scenes of frantic and uncontrollable anguish. The smitten heart
rather retires within itself, seeks the sacred calm of its own chamber, and
utters its plaint in silent tears. Perhaps its sorrow is all the profounder
and more real on this account—like the deepest stream, it has least sound.
It is different with other nations, and specially the
orientals. Their funerals, as we know from a Gospel picture, were
accompanied with "the minstrels and people making a noise." When the
first-born in Egypt were found dead, there was "a loud cry," we read, that
went up throughout all the land of Egypt. Doubtless, that night when Israel
marched forth in the darkness, they would be met at every step by bereaved
mothers having dust on their heads and sackcloth on their loins; beating
their chests, and making the still air resound with the dirge of woe.
When Herod executed the cruel decree of slaughtering all
the infant children of Bethlehem, "In Rama there was a voice heard,
lamentation and weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing
to be comforted, because they were no more." The voice of these bereft
Hebrew mothers is represented as waking the echoes of the death-stricken
land. By a bold figure or impersonation, Rachel is represented rising from
her grave, as if her ashes were stirred by the cry of blood, and seating
herself amid the murdered innocents, indulging in a wild and inconsolable
We may take perhaps the crying spoken of here,
more truthfully still, as denoting aggregate mourning; the loud shout
or wailing of numbers, in contradistinction to the individual and personal
woes indicated by the previous word Sorrow. Such was the howl which reached
the ear of the wakeful prophets of Israel, rising throughout the land at the
approach of the hosts of Sennacherib. Such was the shriek (as the
word literally means) which arose from Philistia on the approach of the same
colossal invader, "Wail, you Philistine cities, for you are doomed! Melt in
fear, for everyone will be destroyed."
Such, above all, was the cry, unparalleled in its
fearfulness, which arose from the unfortunate millions of doomed
Jerusalem—the dirge of woe which was heard amid the horrid blaze of their
temple and city—an utterance of despair so loud and terrible, that, in the
words of the historian, the very mountains around gave back the echo. Such
is the cry which is still, ever and anon, heard from wounded, tortured,
terror-stricken nations, when the sword leaps from its scabbard at the
bidding of unbridled ambition, and plunges whole kingdoms into
mourning—or when oppression lifts its cruel rod, and the old, old
story is told of the strong trampling on the weak; wringing a mournful wail
from the down-trodden and enslaved.
In our great Indian Empire, it seems but yesterday, since
a similar shriek of bereft widows and desolate orphans ascended to
the skies. The war-drum has again been heard. The dogs of war have been
again let loose, and a louder moaning than all has just ascended from
bloody battlefields, and that, too, in the midst of the fairest provinces of
God's earth, desecrating the name alike of Christianity and civilization,
"enough to make devils triumph and angels weep." Alas! that cry will be
echoed and perpetuated so long as the Prince of darkness holds sway over the
pride and passions of fallen humanity.
Blessed be God, in Heaven, that "cry," in whatever sense
we take it, shall never be heard. "There shall be no more Crying."
One of the songs of the ransomed citizens of the New Jerusalem, as they call
to their now conquered oppressors, will be, "My enemies have met their doom;
their cities are perpetual ruins. Even the memory of their uprooted cities
is lost." We read in ver. 24, "The nations of the earth will walk in its
light, and the rulers of the world will come and bring their glory to it."
Whatever was great and glorious and honorable among these earthly kings and
sovereigns will be brought into the new City and kingdom of the redeemed.
But no crown shall be there stained with sinful ambition—no scepter dimmed
with the lust of conquest—no spirit debased with the cannibal-thirst of war.
No, the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day, for peace shall be
within its walls and prosperity within its palaces. How joyful to forecast
the glories of that celestial city where "there shall be no more Crying!"
IV. Neither shall there be any more PAIN. Descend
we yet once more to the supposed picture-gallery of Earth. It is this time,
again, a quiet, secluded corridor in these halls of sadness. We leave the
loud din and cry of multitudes; and our thoughts are centered on the picture
of one solitary object. For long years, that wasted invalid has been
prostrated on a couch of distress, uttering day by day the weary plaint,
"Would God it were evening; would God it were morning;" suffering ploughing
its deep furrows on the cheek—every nerve a chord of anguish—gnawing pain
fastening, vulture-like, on every bone and sinew; the very footfall of
loving friendship forbidden to cross the hushed chamber, lest it may awake
sensations of torture.
Or, is there not emotional pain as well as
physical suffering? Yes; there are painful duties, painful
associations, painful meetings, painful partings, painful
separations. There is the pain of breaking up and severing valued and
trusted friendships. There is the pain (what parent has not felt it when it
comes?) of the first break in the family. There is the pain of having oceans
and continents intervening between those whom the ties of nature, or the
accidents of life, have taught us to love. There is the pain which Paul's
Ephesian friends had, when they accompanied him to the ship at the Port of
Miletus, and in solemn prayer the parting blessing of Heaven was asked and
There is the worse emotional pain of unhappy estrangement
between Christian and Christian—those who are conscious of loving the one
Lord, yet passing and repassing on the street without one sign of
acknowledgment and recognition; alienated by some miserable party
distinction or some still more unworthy private misunderstanding, which in
their better moments and better natures they deplore with tears.
But in Heaven there shall be no more pain of any kind
and the key to all the blessedness of this deathless, sorrowless, painless
place is, that it is to be a Holy city; "I John saw that Holy
city." Hushed will be the cry of anguish, because ended forever will be the
reign of sin.
And now, having explored these four picture-galleries of
Earth, to illustrate by contrast the fourfold negative bliss of Heaven—let
us bear in mind, in conclusion, to whom it is we owe all the joys,
positive and negative, of this celestial city—who is it that has plucked
that sting from death; that has hushed, and will at last forever
hush, that voice of wailing and crying and pain? We must
revert to the magnificent opening vision of the Book—to the majestic Being
who was seen walking in the midst of the golden candlesticks, and hear His
voice: "Fear not; I am He that lives and was dead; and, behold, I am alive
for evermore; and have the keys of the grave and of death."
Enter by faith the Redeemer's vacant tomb. See the
vestments in which He had been wrapped. These are lying scattered on the
rocky floor, the blessed vouchers and evidences, that in behalf of all His
covenant people, He has burst the bands of death. But behold, too, a further
significant symbol. The napkin is folded up. It is carefully laid by.
It is of use no more. The time of tears is over. The weeping world
has had its anguish hushed by that risen Conqueror. Its sorrow, its crying,
its pain—oh! for a little longer these may, and will continue. But the fear
of eternal anguish, eternal weeping, eternal crying, is now past! And
so brief is our weeping time during earth's passing night, so near
is the tearless hour, that the napkin may well be folded up, "wrapped
together in a place by itself." Gaze upon it reposing in the tomb of Jesus
as the pledge of a tearless immortality.
Blessed Savior! You who shed for me, not Your tears, but
Your blood, open these gates of righteousness in the celestial city; then
shall I enter into them, and praise the Lord. It is Your sovereign grace
and bleeding love which will bring me there! This, shall be my
ascription now, in sight of these jeweled gates and jasper walls, and my
ascription, when admitted as a glorified inhabitant, "Blessed be the Lord,
who has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong City!"