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only hasten putrefaction in what is lifeless and rotten, it must not therefore be blotted from the heavens, or hindered from shining into our world. There is another side to the question. If it is an ill thing to what is ill, the life of what is living requires it. Believers must be forewarned and forearmed, or they too will be deceived and perish. And if the wicked are made the more wicked, the righteous and holy will be the holier, and without it cannot be defended and kept as they need to be. Therefore, let not this holy book be sealed up, nor its grand prophecies shut off from the fullest record and the most unreserved proclamation. There is always a twofold effect from the preaching of the divine word.
It is quick and powerful, and never leaves people where it finds them. It either makes them better, or it makes them worse. It if does not absolve, it the more condemns. If it does not soften to penitence, it hardens in iniquity. If it is not a savor of life unto life, it is a savor of death unto death. And, unfortunately for the great masses of its hearers, it is an instrument of damnation rather than of salvation. Particularly is this true with regard to the foreshowings of prophecy as set forth in this Book. For the most gracious purposes have these revelations been given. They come to us freighted with spiritual blessing, light, and confirmation. They are the very things, in God's estimate, for the setting of believers right in their conceptions, lives, hopes, and aims, and for shielding them against perils from which it is next thing to impossible otherwise to escape. And yet there is the strangest unwillingness to believe or receive them as they stand written.
Even good people are offended at them, denounce them, ridicule them, explain them away, do anything with them but admit them into their belief and expectations of the future. I doubt not, that this Apocalypse has been and will be the rock on which many a one's salvation is wrecked by reason of the offence taken at its presentations. To the savants and scientists of this world, there is no part of all the Scriptures which seems so absurd and impossible. They can get on with everything else a thousandfold better than with the outlines of the future which this Book gives. To their philosophy it is the very consummation of nonsense. And if this is the scheme and outcome of the Gospel system, they will have none of it. They know better. They have got beyond all such puerilities. They would not swallow such things for their lives, and scorn to take for divine what embraces them as the consummation of this world.
Their sneers, contempt, and blasphemy nowhere rise to such a pitch as when they are asked to accept and believe that this Book is of God, and means what it says. And all the more so shall the temper be as the sensual and devilish wisdom matures, develops, and exhibits its proud knowledge and mastery of the material elements. But the truth of God must be spoken nevertheless. Let the unjust one do injustice all the more; let the filthy one defile himself all the more; let the offence, and the stumbling, and the scepticism, and the scorning, and the blasphemy, and the condemnation be aggravated by it as they may, "the words of the prophecy of this Book "must not be sealed up. There are some elect ones whom it will benefit, enlighten, and save from the toils of the Old Deceiver. There are righteous ones whom it will establish and secure in their righteousness. And there are some consecrated ones whom it will the more set apart for God and the more intensify in their devotion and their ready-making to join their Lord and Master in the Golden City of the New Jerusalem. Though the wicked shall do wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand, yet the wise shall understand, and for them the Book is necessary.
VI. One particular more in this Epilogue is all that I can notice tonight. It is a particular which the oldest and best manuscripts and all the most competent critics agree in giving in a different form from that in which it stands in our English Bibles. It relates to the conditions and qualifications upon which the beatitudes of this Book are suspended. Our English version reads, "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14). The now better-established reading, to which all consent, literally rendered, is: "Blessed they that wash their robes, that they may (in that day shall) have the power over the tree of life, and enter by the gates into the city."
(NOTE: See the Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, the Vulgate, the Ethiopic, and some Armenian copies, Lachmann, Buttmann, Ewald, Thiele, Tregelles, Alford, Wordsworth, and all the great authorities.)
The meaning is not essentially different; but the true reading cuts out the possibility of a legalistic interpretation, gives to the passage its genuine evangelic flavor, and conforms its imagery to what was previously said in this Book with reference to what brought the great multitude out of the great tribulation (Revelation 7:14).
Washing, or cleansing, is the great qualification for heaven-"the washing of water by the word" (Ephesians 5:26), "the washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5)-cleansing by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7). There is no doing or keeping of commandments that can save us without this (Ephesians 2:8-9). Hence, Paul speaks of the Corinthian Christians as "washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11); and John ascribes glory and dominion to the Lord Jesus for having washed (freed) us from our sins in His own blood (Revelation 1:5); and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of our drawing near to the holiest of all, "having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:22) as the high priest of old (Hebrews 10:22). Nor can we ever hope to enter the Holy City, or eat of its fruits, or taste of its blessedness, without this spiritual washing from all the filthinesses of the flesh and of the spirit. "The dogs, or unclean ones, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one loving and making a lie (or what is false)," are all excluded from that pure and holy habitation. And whoever hath good hope of seeing and being with Christ in heaven, "purifieth himself even as he is pure" (1 John 3:2-3).
But the washing of which the text speaks, while presupposing and including this general cleansing, is something more special. It is a washing of garments or robes. It has reference to habit in particular, in addition to the nature in general. One's clothes are reckoned with himself. They are an outside part of him, but what marks the form, order, or habit in which he bears himself. There is something moral and spiritual in clothes. They express much of the inward taste and character. They come between us and society, to a large extent represent us to society, and react again on our inner consciousness, moral sense, and state of mind and heart. We cannot always judge one from the clothes he wears, but we cannot help the effect which clothes have upon our judgment of people. They tell a story of the wearers of them. And if anyone is habitually filthy, slovenly, unclean, and untidy in his garments, it is a blur upon him, a repugnance, a thing to make his presence unwelcome and undesirable in respectable company. When it comes to agreeable social recognition and conversation, clean clothes are associated with a right heart, a right mind, and a right feeling. Anything short of this is an offence and a disqualification. Hence, the Scriptural figure of keeping one's garments and washing one's robes, as a spiritual requirement for the society of heaven. He that hath not on" a wedding garment" is cast out, and not permitted to have place at the supper table of the king. We must therefore distinguish this washing of robes and cleanness of apparel from the spiritual and more inward washing of the man in general.
What then is this particular washing of garments? This question I have nowhere seen answered; and yet it needs to be answered, and can be answered. Nor need we be surprised if it should turn out to have direct reference to the main subject of this Apocalypse. The chief honors of the kingdom at Christ's coming are everywhere connected with a looking and waiting for that coming, and the earnest and loving direction of our hearts and hopes to it as the great goal of our faith. Thus we read," Unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28). "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared, teaching us that denying ungodliness and fleshly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:11-13). "There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8). "Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven" (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). It appears from this, and such like passages, that the attitude of looking, waiting, watching, and constant stretching forth of the heart, for the coming again of the Lord Jesus in his great Apocalypse, is the proper Christian habit, and that we put our prospects in peril where this habit is not cherished and kept as the very spirit and life of our faith. And the putting of ourselves in this attitude, and the cultivation of this habit, is what I take to be the particular washing and keeping of our garments to which the Scriptures so frequently refer. It is the general washing in the blood of Christ carried out into the habit of the soul toward his promised return.
An example of this particular washing and whitening of the Christian's robes is given us in the case of the great multitude which comes out of the great Tribulation (Revelation 7:9-14). What was the particular defect and trouble which brought them into that tribulation? Why were they not in the company of those who were kept from that "hour of trial" and already crowned in heaven before the great tribulation set in? The Saviour himself, in Matthew 24:42-51, and elsewhere, gives the explanation. They would not believe that Christ could come in their lifetime. They did not watch and keep themselves in readiness for his return. They said, "My Lord delayeth his coming;" and began to smite their fellow-servants, to run with the common world around them, to eat and drink with the drunken, and did not keep themselves girded as servants that wait for their Lord. Hence, they were not ready when their Lord came, and for that reason were cut off from the exalted favors of the waiting and ready ones, and compelled to feel the weight of the afflictions which then fall in judgment upon the godless world. And this was the having of soiled garments, unwashed robes, which had to be made white to fit them for place in the society of heaven. A great multitude of them get to heaven afterward, because they wash their robes and make them clean in the blood of the Lamb. And that washing, as we learn from the Parable of the Ten Virgins, is the bringing of themselves to a true advent faith and habit.
So again, in Revelation 16:15, this same keeping of garments is specifically connected with a state or habit of watching and being in readiness for the impending advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. "Behold, I come as a thief; blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments" (Revelation 16:15).
It is therefore clear to me that this washing of robes and keeping of garments relates to the attitude and habit of looking for the coming of Christ, and keeping in constant expectation and readiness for it as an impending event. And the blessedness of access to and power over the Tree of Life, and of entrance by the gates of pearl into the Golden City, is here made to depend on this very washing of our robes and keeping of our garments. What a lesson for those who despise the advent teachings and make light of the doctrine of the certain and speedy coming of the Lord! Brethren, as you hope to walk those golden streets, and eat of those immortal fruits, see to it that you have your garments clean and "your loins girded about like unto men waiting for their Lord."