"They will never again be hungry or thirsty, and they will be fully protected from the scorching noontime heat. For the Lamb who stands in front of the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to the springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe away all their tears." Rev. 7:16-17

In the preceding chapter, we contemplated that majestic scene—the Shepherd-King seated on the throne of His glory, at the great final gathering of His flock—separating the sheep from the goats; and apportioning to each their several recompenses. One, and only one additional theme remains. But it is that towards which all the others point and converge. It is the assembling of the flock within the Fold of Heaven.

The world's long day is now over—Time's curfew-bell is tolling, proclaiming that evening has come—that earth's fires are to be put out, and the flocks to be eternally housed. Or rather, the long spring-time of everlasting bliss and glory has begun. The bleak herbage of the wilderness—the brookless channels—the falling snows—the angry tempests—the roar of the ravening wolves—are known no more. It is a glorious picture of unbroken sunshine—gleaming pastures—clear waters—living fountains! The passage selected for these concluding meditations, suggests some thoughts, alike regarding the SHEPHERD and the SHEEP.

I. The SHEPHERD. It is evidently the vision of a rustic scene which is now in the eye of the Apostle of Patmos. We have all the accessories of such a scene. First, in the words of contrast—where the picture of a flock is brought before us—bleating amid arid pastures—panting defenseless under the fierce rays of a burning sun—and turning often their languid eyes towards waterless courses—"They will never again be hungry or thirsty, and they will be fully protected from the scorching noontime heat."

And then observe his positive description of the bliss of the ransomed. It is a flock feeding on the meadows of Heaven, and reclining by its perennial streams. They are 'fed' on these abiding pastures, and "led" to the living fountains of waters." We look for the completion of the picture. We see the rejoicing sheep browsing on the everlasting hills. But we gaze in vain for the great central Figure. We expect to see the glorified Shepherd seated on some sunny eminence overlooking "the multitude which no man can number," and which He has purchased with His own blood. Jesus is there; we see Him.

But, strange mixture of metaphor, it is not as a SHEPHERD, but as a LAMB. He precedes the flock—feeding them and leading them. It is one of those singular, dream-like transitions common in prophetic symbol—but which, when we come to examine them, are so significant and full of meaning. We have in a previous apocalyptic vision, a similar startling and remarkable figuration; startling from the same powerful (we had almost said violent) change of metaphor. The apostle had been speaking of Christ as the "LION of the tribe of Judah," breaking the seals of the prophetic roll, and unfolding the destinies of the Church and the world. In most magnificent language, he further describes all Heaven, redeemed and unredeemed—"ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands"—gathered in to do homage to this Majestic Being who had "prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof."

When we gaze, amid the stupendous throng, for the object of this adoration—lo! we are arrested by the sight, not of a Lion, but of a LAMB! It is the same in this beautiful rustic vision. We lose sight, for the moment, of the Shepherd—or, if in reality He still remains, the beloved Evangelist at all events describes Him under a different symbol and epithet. It is the name which he himself knew so well—that by which the Great Shepherd was first pointed out to him—He loves it still—"Behold the Lamb of God!" But there must have been some greater truth hidden under this change of simile than the mere association of the writer. Let us briefly inquire what that truth is—in other words, what we may deduce from this apparently singular metaphor, of THE LAMB leading the flock to their pastures of blessedness.

The description implies, that there will be a continual remembrance on the part of the ransomed, of the death and sufferings of their Shepherd. In that same remarkable passage to which we have just adverted, it is not only a Lamb that is represented as receiving the homage of countless worshipers, but it is specially noted and delineated, "a Lamb as if it had been slain"—a Lamb with the blood-marks upon it—wounded and smitten. A Lamb slain! Strange symbol, in the place where suffering never enters, and death is unknown! What is this, but in the most expressive figurative language to tell us, that Christ's sacrificial death will ever be present to the thoughts of the Redeemed—that Calvary's Cross and Calvary's Sufferer—the sword awaking from its scabbard and smiting the Shepherd, will continue the theme of eternity.

Yes, though all remembrance of death and suffering will otherwise be banished from Heaven—no pang known—no pain capable of being either felt or feared—it would appear there shall, through all coming ages, be one exception; one memory of ignominy and superhuman anguish. The once smitten Shepherd will be there, with wounds in His hands. "And one shall say unto Him, what are these wounds in Your hands? Then He shall answer, those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends!" He wears the sign and memorial of suffering on His glorified body; and as the Redeemed flock gaze on the significant emblem, they will cry to one another—"Behold the great love with which He loved us!" "The Good Shepherd gave His own life for the sheep!"

A second truth we may gather from this figure of the Lamb leading the ransomed in the heavenly world is, THE PERPETUITY OF CHRIST'S EXALTED HUMAN NATURE. It is not as a kingly Shepherd He leads, but as one of the flock Himself—wearing their nature. In an earlier portion of this volume, we dwelt at some length on the holy humanity of the Son of God—how when He came down to tabernacle on earth, He set up His own tent among human tents. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt" (literally, tented or tabernacled) "among us." "In all things He was made like unto His brethren." He was Brother in our nature—"bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh!" What of His Divine Person, now that He is exalted? How in this respect will He stand related to His ransomed flock and fold to all eternity? He is, and ever will be, "that same Jesus," unchanged and unchangeable.

John, when he first saw Him in His Resurrection glories in Patmos, "fell at His feet as one dead." On many antecedent occasions, it had been otherwise with that favored disciple. He had often times enjoyed with Him confiding, endearing fellowship. He had pillowed his head on His bosom at the Last Supper. He had received the last injunction and benediction of love from His lips on the cross. Now, however, when He beheld the luster of His ascended majesty—His feet like burning brass—His eyes like a flame of fire—His voice like the noise of many waters—the bright blaze of unearthly glory projected on His path—he fell prone to the ground, awe-struck and speechless. But a gentle Hand is laid upon him—a gentle Voice restores his confidence. It is the Lamb of God still!—the Brother with His changeless human tenderness! "He laid His right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I AM He that lives and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore."

And in the vision we are now considering, he sees the Lamb—the glorified Redeemer—still retaining the identical nature in which He suffered, "leading" His people in the realms of everlasting day! Christ's mediatorial kingdom, with regard to His saints, shall continue forever. With respect to His enemies—after their final trial and doom, that reign shall cease. It is said, "Then shall He deliver up the kingdom"—(that portion of His sovereignty which has reference to the wicked)—"to God, even the Father"—(into the hands of God absolute).

But it is different with His reign over His ransomed and triumphant Church—"of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end." God has given Him "length of days forever and ever." The Lamb, "slain from the foundation of the world," is still, in the glories of exalted Humanity, to lead His Redeemed to the living fountains of waters. In name, and nature, and love, Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, today, and forever!"

Let us pass now from the glorified Leader to THE GLORIFIED FLOCK. Let us gather a few thoughts, from what is here said, regarding the Redeemed in glory. The Lamb feeds them, and leads them to living fountains of waters, and God wipes away all tears from their eyes. The first thought these words suggest is—that all the joys of the ransomed Flock will be associated with the love and companionship of their Shepherd. He feeds—He leads—He wipes away all tears from their eyes—and in a previous verse, under a different figure, it is said, "He who sits on the throne shall dwell among them."

Heaven would be no heaven without Jesus! Take Him away!—It would be to blot out the sun from the celestial firmament—every star would hide its face—the angel would disrobe him of his shining attire, and stand in sackcloth before the vacant throne! Take Him away!—let the Shepherd leave His Redeemed Church—and you might give the flock heaven's choicest pastures—you might sentinel the heavenly fold with archangels—it would be no compensation for the loss. The long-forgotten cry would ascend piteously amid the fairest landscapes of Paradise Regained—"Tell me, O You whom my soul loves, where YOU feed, where YOU make Your flock to rest at noon!"

But He, the Shepherd-King, whose invitation on the throne of judgment was—"Come, you who are blessed,"—will be true to His word. As He was with them in all places where they were scattered in the cloudy and dark day—so, in the bright and cloudless day of glory—in all places He will be with them. We may take the words of a beautiful parallel passage of Old Testament, and give them a heavenly meaning—"They will be my sheep, grazing in green pastures and on hills that were previously bare. They will neither hunger nor thirst. The searing sun and scorching desert winds will not reach them anymore. For the Lord in his mercy will lead them beside cool waters." "Leading" them, "feeding" them—wiping the very tear-drops from their eyes. What figurative language could express nearer, closer, more intimate fellowship and communion!

The fellowship of the believer and his Savior on earth—alas! how fitful, intermittent, transient! He is too often "like a stranger in the land, and like a wayfaring man, that turns aside to tarry for a night." But in Heaven, in the full vision and fruition of a Savior-God—the song lisped here, often with trembling lips and stammering tongue, will rise triumphant from an ever-present experience of its bliss—"Who shall separate me from the love of Christ?" "You will show me the path of life. In YOUR PRESENCE there is fullness of joy!"

Oh! What a motive for holiness of life and character does this thought supply! Heaven—an eternity with Jesus! Heaven—everlasting companionship with infinite purity, tenderness, love. To enjoy Him, I must be like Him. Earthly friendships are formed and cemented by identity and similarity of tastes, pursuits, and enjoyments. What should be my life-long aspiration now, in the prospect of living forever in the presence and fellowship of the Holy One? "Let every man that has this hope in him purify himself, even as He is pure!"

This description would seem to denote AN INFINITE PROGRESSION IN THE JOYS AND FELICITIES OF THE RANSOMED FLOCK. The Shepherd is seen leading them from pasture to pasture, from fountain to fountain, from eminence to eminence—higher and yet higher up the hills of God. On earth, the pilgrim company are represented as going "from strength to strength." It will be so, in a nobler sense, in Heaven. As the loftier we ascend a mountain, the wider is the landscape that is spread before us—so the higher the heavenly pilgrim mounts in his ever-upward ascent—the wider will be the horizon and circumference of his joys. His song will be the true "Song of degrees." He will be attaining ever new views of God—new unfoldings, and revelations of the Divine purposes—new motives for the ceaseless activities of his holy being.

Heaven will thus, in the language of the old divines, be "a rest without a rest." "They rest." "They rest not." Such is the beautiful delineation here given in the vision of the Seer of Patmos. The Lamb is represented first as "feeding" His flock. They lie down at His side, in restful repose, by the green pastures of His love—basking under the sunshine of His smile.

Next, the Lamb is represented as "leading" them. The rest is for the time over. He leads them deeper and yet deeper, through these sunlit meadows, along these glorified valleys, to new living fountains of water—ever advancing, yet never reaching the plenitude of bliss—satisfied to the full, and yet ever new satisfaction—pastures ever greener—waters ever clearer—the sun of their joy ever climbing the sky and never reaching the meridian. The plummet-line let down, and yet the cry ever the same, ascending from the unsounded infinity of love—"Oh, the depth!"

The figurative language of the Evangelist further indicates, that there will be an unfolding of the Shepherd's wisdom and faithfulness in His earthly dispensations. Not only is the Lamb to feed them with gracious views of the Divine dealings, and to lead them from fountain to fountain of wisdom, and goodness, and grace—but, by a beautiful and most expressive symbol, God is represented as wiping away all tears from their eyes. As if, when they entered glory, some lingering tears were still there. As if the eye had not recovered from the night of earthly weeping. But, before long, no remaining vestige of sorrow will be found. As in a forest, after a drenching thunder-shower, every bough, and blade, and leaf is dripping with rain; for a considerable time after the sun has shone out, and the sky is blue, and the birds of the grove are singing—the lingering drops gem the branches, and sprinkle the sward. But the sun is up—and his genial rays are drinking up the moisture—nature's tear-drops. One by one they evaporate—slowly, gradually; and the refreshed forest rejoices, and basks in the sun's radiance.

So with the great Sun of Deity in heaven. One by one, earth's remaining tears vanish before the radiance of that Sun of Wisdom and Love. Weeping can be no more—the fountain of weeping, the memory of weeping, are gone forever! Beautiful as are the preceding representations of the Lamb leading, and feeding—we love to dwell on this finishing touch in the inspired picture—"God wiping away all tears from the eyes." Do you wonder, Reader, at your Shepherd's dealings? Are you apt, with misgiving heart, to ask—why that desolation of the earthly fold? why that angry hurricane—that harsh night-wind—that pelting rain, which destroyed the choicest pasture, and maddened into foaming torrent the calm still water—sweeping loved ones down the resistless flood?

Yes! and you may carry these tearful eyes with you as you enter heaven. But there is a gracious Hand waiting there to wipe each one of them away! These lingering drops will be crystal lenses, through which, as you enter glory, you will see in vivid manifestation the loving-kindness and faithfulness of your Heavenly Father.

Are you wondering now why that wolf of the forest was allowed to prowl upon your path? You will see, then, that it was to lead you nearer, and keep you nearer the Great Shepherd. Do you wonder why these springs and rills of earthly happiness were withdrawn, or dried in their channels?—why a blight was allowed to pass over your earthly pasture? It was to lead you to feel and to exclaim—'O God, all my happiness—all my springs, are in You?'

Do you wonder now why that 'lamb of the flock' was early taken? You will see then, that it was in order to lead yourself through the wicket-gate. He emptied your home, and your heart, and your fold on earth—that He might lead you and your to the better fold above. Following the steps of the Heavenly Shepherd, as one by one in the fold of the ransomed—these "loved and lost ones"—will be revealed to your sight, one here, one there, reposing in the celestial pastures—when you see to what a blessed land you had early sent your children—how will the once tear-bedimmed eye have its every tear wiped away—and at the contemplation of God's wisdom and love, in what appeared at the time the dark providence of earth—the ever-deepening song will ascend—"So we Your people and sheep of Your pasture, will give You thanks forever!"

Yet once more, this description would seem to indicate, that THERE WILL BE A VARIETY AND DIVERSITY IN THE JOYS OF HEAVEN, suited to the various capacities and tastes of the redeemed. It is not to one fountain to which the Lamb is said to lead them; they are "living fountains of waters." Like the four-branched river in the first earthly Eden, there will be, from the one great river of Deity, streams which make glad the city of God. There will be some STREAMS of calm, clear, peaceful meditation—some that leap from rock to rock, singing their way onward, bearing in their course refreshment and joy.

The PASTURES will be different. Some will delight to feed on the pastures of knowledge—some to repose on the pastures of love—some to climb the mountain in the ceaseless activities of holy ardor—their truest rest will be worship—their highest joy, holy work and labor. We delight to think of the Flock of Heaven—each member of it perfect in the full measure of its own bliss—but each under the Shepherd's eye, thus following the pasture, or climbing the mountain-steep, or browsing by the streamlet, it most loves.

And yet, all the Fold, in these separate and distinctive ways, combining to glorify their Shepherd-King. Flock of the ransomed! while yet out in the lower valley, not infrequently, it may be, overtaken by the cloud and the storm—cleave more and more closely to your Divine Shepherd. He has promised to give you "grace and glory"—admission to the fold on earth, and an everlasting entrance into the better fold above.

Some who read these pages may possibly be scattered far and wide, feeding on different pastures, penned in different earthly folds, and tended by different under-shepherds. May we meet at last, an undivided flock, under the ONE Shepherd, amid more enduring pastures! Make sure now of your personal and saving interest in His Shepherd-love. Enter by the one door into the sheepfold. Follow with unwavering eye His footsteps—repose on Him your burdens—confide to Him your misgivings and fears. Let life be a happy, peaceful reclining by the green-pastures and still waters of His love. Let Death's anticipated valley-gloom be dispelled by a present and habitual leaning on the rod and staff of His immutable promises—"And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away!"

"Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise." Psalm 79:13

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