"They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters."--Rev. 7:16, 17

There would seem to be, at the first blush of these words, an apparent contradiction of ideas and dissonance of meaning. There is the negative of hunger and thirst, and yet a positive provision supposing still their existence--the absence of desire, and yet the presence of rich and ample refreshment. Now, as God's word never contradicts itself, and as its apparent discrepancies are perfectly reconcilable--no, those very discrepancies often confirming its actual agreement, as opposite notes in music produce the sweetest harmony--we may suppose that there is an underlying truth in these words of a most interesting and instructive character, the intelligent reception of which, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, will convey to us a vivid idea of that special attraction of heaven set forth in the negative--"They shall HUNGER no more, neither THIRST any more."

The whole passage is a splendid picture of the blessedness of those who had died in the Lord. They are first described by the vestments which they wear--"Who are these who are arrayed in WHITE ROBES?" They are a robed assembly, and their robes are white. The robe in which they are arrayed is the imputed righteousness of Christ, the "Lord our righteousness,"--"clothed upon" with "the righteousness of God which is unto all and upon all those who believe." Not a shred of their own righteousness composes that vestment, not a thread of their own unworthiness is woven with that robe. It is the righteousness of the incarnate God, wholly, entirely, and His alone. O my soul! praise and adore the Savior who has provided for you such a righteousness--a righteousness that has answered and honored every precept of God's law--in default of a single work or one particle of merit of your own, invested with which you do stand 'complete,' "accepted in the Beloved!"

How perfect must be the justification of the believing sinner!--how costly his attire!--how resplendent his glory! seeing that he stands in the "righteousness of GOD" Himself. "The righteousness of GOD, which is unto all and upon all those who believe." By no creature is this standing excelled; by none is it equaled--the sinner raised from the ash-heap of his vileness and pollution, is made to sit among the princes of heaven. The color of this robe is expressive. It is "white." White is the emblem of dignity and purity. When our Lord was transfigured on the Mount, "His face shone as the sun, and His clothing was WHITE as the light." The angel at the tomb--the first preacher of Christ's resurrection--was "clothed in clothing white as snow." The ancient kings and priests, and the Roman patricians, were robed in white, indicative of rank, purity, and rectitude. Thus are the glorified spirits arrayed. They form a part of that "glorious Church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing," which Christ will present to Himself and to the Father, in that day when "those who are wise shall shine as the brightness of the skies, and those who turn many unto righteousness as the stars forever and ever."

A similar vision of the saints in glory is presented in connection with the final nuptials of the Church, when the marriage of the Lamb will be celebrated, and she shall be presented to God "as a bride adorned for her husband." "Let us be glad and rejoice; and give honor to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and WHITE, for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." Have we on this wedding-garment? Divorced from our idols, and separated from our own righteousness, are we united by the Spirit, and through faith, to Christ? Have we a vital union with Christ the Head? Oh! let no uncertainty attach to this momentous matter. We are either in Christ, or out of Christ; one with Christ, or separated from Christ; for Christ, or against Christ; invested with His righteousness, or still clothed with the filthy garments of our own. The marriage-supper of the Lamb is fast speeding on! Oh! that when the King comes in to see the guests, that solemn and personal inspection may not discover us without having on the wedding-garment, which is the imputed righteousness of the King Himself! But, with Paul, may we be "found in Him, not having our own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."

Cleansing is another distinctive feature: "And have WASHED their robes, and made them white in the BLOOD of the Lamb." They are not only justified, but they are also pardoned. A related truth with justification is pardon--essentially distinct, they are yet savingly one. Justification gives us a title to heaven; pardon, a fitness for its enjoyment--the one clothes us, the other cleanses us--by the one we pass out of the court of God's justice, freed from all condemnation; in virtue of the other we emerge from the prison of God's law, released from all debt. Justification, in its forensic sense, looks upon a believing sinner as though he had never broken the law; pardon, as though he had never incurred its guilt.

Now it was this twofold condition of the glorified saints which appeared in the vision of the Evangelist. They were washed in the blood of the Lamb--therefore they were before the throne of God. It was not their own blood that washed them--it was not their suffering of martyrdom that exalted them--they could only occupy that position as they were cleansed and robed--the blood and righteousness of the Savior constituting their one and only plea. Sin-burdened, guilt-oppressed soul! behold your present and future standing before God! No longer hesitate to plunge into the sea of Christ's blood, or to accept the offered robe of His righteousness. No merit of your own will afford you the slightest encouragement to come to Christ; and no demerit shall dare prohibit your coming. Though you were the most holy of fallen creatures that ever lived, though you were to sacrifice your first-born for your transgression, the fruit of your body for the sin of your soul, yes, give your own body to a martyr's flame, all would not avail to place you as a pardoned and justified sinner before the throne of God: you could only stand there on the footing of Christ's Atonement once finished for all time. "THEREFORE they are before the throne of God."

"Jesus! Your blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
In flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head."

Precious blood! glorious righteousness! you are my trust and hope now; and hereafter my plea, my boast, and my song forever and ever!

Another feature of the glorified saints is the discipline through which they came. "These are those who came out of great tribulation." Suffering was their school--trial their discipline--affliction their furnace. The path to heaven is the royal road of suffering. There the King Himself walked, learning, though a Son, obedience by the things which He suffered. Our blessed Lord foretold us of this: "In the world you shall have tribulation." And the apostles but echoed this truth when they reminded the early Christians that, "through much tribulation they were to enter the kingdom." In this crucible their principles were tested, in this furnace their grace was tried; and, like the three children of Israel, they lost nothing in the flames but the cords that bound them, emerging from the baptism of suffering with not even the smell of fire upon their garments.

Accept, then, beloved, the discipline of the Refiner as a necessary part of your heavenly training, and as assimilating you to the "noble army of martyrs" who have gone before you. And though the tongues of fire leap high, and the furnace blazes with heat, yet One like unto the Son of Man shall tread it at your side, and you shall come out of it with no trace of the fire upon your robes, except their deeper purity and richer luster.

These words may also admit of a pointed and remote allusion to the great tribulation which is to overtake God's Church during the terrible reign of the coming Antichrist. This future baptism of fire, more terrific in its nature and consuming in its effects than any that ever preceded it, will, for the elect's sake, be shortened; but from its searching flames the Church of God will emerge all the more resplendent, and her Head all the more triumphant. Every species of evil, and form of false doctrine, and mode of torture that ever existed, now embodied in this hydra-headed monster, will then be entirely and forever destroyed; and from out this fierce and fiery tribulation the saints of the Most High shall be delivered, "purified, and made white, and tried." From this rapid view of the character and heavenly position of the saints in the New Jerusalem, let us more closely consider this negative quality of their blessedness--"They shall HUNGER no more, neither THIRST any more, neither shall the sun light upon them, nor any heat."

Shall we take the lowest idea suggested by this negative of heaven--the total absence of all bodily hunger? In this lowly, but expressive sense, there shall be no more hunger or thirst. That the saints of God have often been exposed to famine--that many noble servants of Christ, and laborers in His vineyard, have perished by hunger and thirst, is a notable fact in the history of the Church of Christ. Of the Church in the wilderness it is recorded, "Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them." Speaking of his deprivations for Christ, and those of his fellow-apostles, Paul could testify, "We both hunger and thirst, and are naked." And this suffering for Jesus he numbered among the highest lessons of his spiritual education--"I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content--in all things I am instructed to be HUNGRY, and to suffer NEED." Our blessed Lord will show this to have been a part of the discipline of His saints in that day when, before an assembled world, He will recognize the humble crust and the simple cup of cold water, given to a needy disciple in His name, as given to Himself. "I was HUNGRY, and you gave me food--I was THIRSTY, and you gave me drink." Who can read the early history of the Patagonian Mission, and not recall the touching fact of Gardner and his fellow-missionaries dying of starvation in their noble and self-sacrificing efforts to plant the standard of the cross on those heathen shores?

Now, keeping these facts in view, there is a peculiar charm in this impressive negative--the absence of all literal hunger and thirst in heaven. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more." We are here reminded that the risen bodies of the saints will not be material or corporal, but spiritual and immaterial. "It is sown a natural body, it is raised a SPIRITUAL body." What this "spiritual body" will be, we are left to conjecture. Enough that it will require no longer the material nourishment needful to sustain our present life, but will be sustained by nourishment suited to its nature and requirements--gathered, it may be, from 'the tree of life,' which, 'bearing twelve manner of fruits, and yielding her fruit every month,' is planted in the midst of the street, and on either side of the river. But this lower interpretation of the negative is not without its practical teaching. Let us not forget that many of the Lord's most holy saints--many among His hidden but brightest jewels, are, in this life, suffering, and even dying, because of bodily necessities.

Be it our holy mission to seek them out, and supply their need. "Deal your bread to the hungry," (Isa. 58:7)--recognizing Jesus in His needy saints. Thus shall we prove the reality of our faith, and the sincerity of our love. "If a brother or a sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled; notwithstanding you give them not those things which are needful to the body, what does it profit?" (James 2:15, 16)

No, more. Not to the needs of the saints only are we to give of our abundance, but also to those who are not--yes, even to our enemies. "If your enemy is HUNGRY, feed him; if he THIRSTS, give him drink." Oh! how divine and heavenly is the religion of Christ! Where else, on the face of earth, will a religion be found which teaches us to love our enemies, and to do good to those that despitefully use us? But the gospel of Christ inculcates this, and the gospel is divine. Lord, impart to me its mold, and imbue me with its spirit.

Saint of God! often hard pressed for the necessaries of life, and, like the Shunamite widow, with "not anything in the house, except a cruise of oil," (2 Kings 4:2) do not think harshly of your God and Father--that thus He should deal with you. Your blessed Lord passed through this trial before you, for He ofttimes hungered and thirsted, and even had no where to lay His head. All is in love; and your present temporal need is but designed to prepare you for that blessed world, and to heighten its bliss, of which, in its literal sense, it is said, "And they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more." Until the dawn of that blessed negative, trust the love, providence, and faithfulness of your covenant God, who has promised concerning His child, that, "bread shall be given him; his water shall be sure." (Isaiah 33:16) Recall the assuring words of Jesus, "Your Heavenly Father knows that you have need of these things."

This negative also teaches the absence of spiritual hunger and thirst in the New Jerusalem of the saints. At first sight this would seem to indicate the withdrawal of one of the most blessed conditions of our present Christianity--the spiritual appetite of the regenerate soul. Most true, indeed, is this, a blessed condition of the believer! What is it that unmistakably confirms the existence of our spiritual life, and evidences the fact of its healthy growth? Is it not the soul's appetite for food, its longing desire for its own spiritual nourishment, whereby it grows in grace and in the knowledge of God and of Christ? "Blessed are those who HUNGER and THIRST after righteousness," or, as the Greek expresses it, happy are they! Beloved! have we this evidence within us of real conversion, this attribute of healthy spiritual life--the soul's hunger and thirst after God, and righteousness, and heaven? Hence David's experience--why not ours?--"As the deer pants after the waterbrook, so pants my soul after You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God."

Oh! to possess more of this vital religion--this spiritual life--this ascent of the living water welled within the soul, and springing up in communion with God, in fellowship with Christ, in aspirations after holiness, in longing desires for heaven--yes, springing up into eternal life. Such shall be supplied. "He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry with goodness." "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Out of the fullness of Christ, from the granary of His word, and the streams flowing through the appointed channels of grace, the Lord will supply all its need. He has promised to "keep the souls of His saints alive in famine;" that is, when a scarcity of the bread and water of life exists--as, alas! in many places and pulpits of the land it often does--in the absence of a truly evangelical ministration of the word, and a spiritual and simple form of worship--the Lord will still feed and nourish the souls of His saints, keeping their grace and their graces alive amid the spiritual drought amid which they dwell. Oh! let us never forget what a full and present Christ we have to live upon; that, in the most destitute place, amid the most barren means--no rich pastures of the Gospel--no spiritual means of grace--no communion of the saints--isolated, lonely, and depressed--Christ is near to you, in all the plentitude of His grace, and tenderness of His love, and watchfulness of His eye, and sympathy of His nature; and your soul shall live, for He will "guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and make fat your bones; and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not." (Isaiah 58:11)

But, in heaven, the soul's spiritual hunger and thirst will cease, simply because it will have passed beyond the region of necessity--all need swallowed up in supply, all destitution in plenty, all desire in complete satisfaction. "In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures forever more." "As for me, I will behold Your face in righteousness--I shall be satisfied when I awake, with Your likeness."

No more shall we need the holy Sabbath--hallowed and welcome as it now is--for there it will be one eternal Sabbath. No more shall we require the Supper of the Lord--needful and precious as it now--is for there we shall banquet at the marriage supper of the Lamb. No more demand a Christ-exalting ministry--much as we prize it now--for there we shall be in the blissful presence of Christ Himself, leaning upon His ineffable bosom, gazing upon His transcendent countenance, feasting upon His overflowing love, and basking in the unclouded beams of His glory.

"O happy souls! O glorious state
Of overflowing grace!
To dwell so near the Father's seat,
And see His loving face!

"Lord! I address Your heavenly throne;
Call me a child of Thine;
Send down the Spirit of Your Son,
To form my heart divine."

"Neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat." The sun of affliction will never scorch--the fiery darts of Satan will no more be hurled--the heat of toil and labor will have passed--the fires of persecution will no longer burn--all this will entirely and eternally have passed.

"For the Lamb, who is in the midst of them, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters." Christ's place in heaven will be, what it ever has been in the care of His Church and in the government of the world--central. He will, as the Lamb of God once slain, be "in the midst of the throne"--He shall occupy the central place in the universe. And still it will be His office to minister to His Church. He will feed them with the heavenly bread, and make them to drink of the new wine of the Father's kingdom--and will lead them, not to torpid and failing springs, but to "living fountains of water"--ever springing, ever ascending, ever increasing, at which the enlarged and enraptured soul will drink--drink deeply, drink incessantly, and drink forever. Heaven is a 'garden of fountains,' all its blessedness, all its fullness, all its beauty flowing then--as now it flows--from CHRIST the Lamb--occupying then--as He occupies now--the first and the last and the central place in His Church's salvation, adoration, and love--and so Christ will still be to His glorified saints through all eternity, what He was to them through all time--"ALL AND IN ALL!"

Home       QUOTES       SERMONS       BOOKS