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Before he was born, the angel said to Joseph, "Call his name JESUS, for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). This name was given him; and this name he still owns in heaven. He says: "I, Jesus,sent my angel to testify to you these things." It is as our Saviour that he has given these revelations, and it is as our Saviour that he will fulfill them. It is part of his salvation work-the great superstructure of which his first coming was the foundation-the bloom and fruitage of what was then planted. As Jesus, Saviour, he was spoken of by the ancient prophets; as Jesus, Saviour, he was born into our world; as Jesus, Saviour, he died, rose again, and ascended into heaven; as Jesus, Saviour, he sent the Holy Spirit, and ever liveth to intercede for us, and as Jesus, Saviour, he sent his angel to signify these things, and will come again to fulfill them.
But, in claiming that he sent this angel, he at the same time claims to be the sovereign of all sacred wisdom and truth. In Revelation 22:6 it was said that "the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets," sent this angel; and here he says, "I, JESUS," sent him-sent him as "my angel." He thus identifies himself with the eternal source of all inspiration-with the very Lord God Almighty. He is not only a Saviour, but "a great one." What he thus does, and proposes to do, and tells the churches that he will do, he does, not as a mere man, not as a mere prophet and high priest, but as the possessor of all prerogatives and powers of Godhead-as the Lord God of angels, and the Lord God of the spirits of all prophets. There is no place for the Arian heresy in this Book. While he is ever JESUS, born of the Virgin Mary, and the Lamb that was slain, he is nevertheless the ever-living YAHWEH, true God as well as true man, whom all the principalities of heaven worship even as the Lamb, to whom "the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for the ages of the ages," is to be ascribed.
Nor are these the only titles under which he here presents himself. He who says "Behold, I come quickly, and my reward with me to give to each as his work is," further adds, "I, the Alpha and the Omega, First and Last, the Beginning and the End." Three times does he take to himself this designation (Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). Of these three expressions, the first is symbolic, signifying the same relation to the universe which the first and last letters of the alphabet bear to the whole series of letters; the second is the same in signification, and is the Old Testament designation of God, even that by which he encourages confidence in the promises and predictions given through the prophets (Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12); and the third emphasizes the same thought only in a more philosophic style. The three together are among the most profound and intense denotations of the eternity, the immutability, the almightiness, the omniscience, and the faithfulness of Deity. In thus appropriating them to himself, the Lord Jesus claims to be the eternal One, from whom all being proceeds, and to whom all being tends and returns-the source and the end of all history-he who called the world into existence, presides over all its changes, and brings it to its consummation according to his own will. He thus sets himself before our faith as he who originated all things, who knows equally all that has happened and that will happen, and who is the ever-living and unchanging Administrator of all that is or can be, so that what he makes known as yet to take place may be accepted and relied on with perfect confidence, as rooted and grounded in the eternal Wisdom and Almightiness. He must therefore be very God of very God, the coequal and co-eternal Son of the Father. And in this character he makes and engages to perform whatever is predicted in the prophecies of this Book.
And still further does he describe himself in relation to these revelations. Sending his angel to testify these things for the churches, he declares, "I am the Root and the offspring of David, the bright, the morning Star." The duality of his nature, as at once both God and man, is here affirmed. As God, he is the Root or origination of David-he who gave David being and place, and out of whom David was raised up, even David's Lord; and as man, he is the offspring of David, David's son, one born of the house and lineage of David (Matthew 22:43.) He is the Kernel in the Kernel of the ancient theocracy, at once the source and blossom of it-the Yahweh which induced it, at length revealed as its product,-the object of Old Testament adoration incarnated as the great promised One of the seed of Abraham, of the house of David. Hence, the additional statement, that he is "the bright and morning Star." The covetous prophet, Balaam, impelled by the Spirit contrary to his wishes, prophesied of a star to come out of Jacob, and a scepter to rise out of Israel, with which should be the dominion (Numbers 24:17-19). That star, now come to its full brightness, and ushering in the morning of the eternal blessedness, Christ here claims to be. And as the Godman risen out of Jacob, and possessed of all authority and dominion, he gives forth these revelations, and pledges to fulfill them. He thus teaches us what a sublime Lord and Saviour we have, and what is the foundation on which we may count that he will fulfill all the wonders of this Apocalypse.
II. A second of these remaining points relates to the time when these things shall come to pass.
One cannot but be impressed with the constantly repeated expressions touching the nearness of these occurrences. In the very opening verses the note was sounded, "The time is near." The same is heard throughout all that followed. And here, in the conclusion of all, the same is reiterated, over and over, that these things" must come to pass shortly." Three times the Saviour says, "Behold, I come quickly." And the voice which commanded the seer not to seal up what he heard and saw, also adds, "The time is near." Nor is it here alone, but throughout the New Testament in general, that such expressions are used. Everywhere is the promised Apocalypse of the Lord Jesus represented as close at hand, liable to occur at any time. The impression thus made upon the early Christians was, that Christ might come at any day or hour, even in their own lifetime. Exactly when he would come, was nowhere told them.
According to the Saviour's word, it was not for them to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power (Acts 1:6-7). Nay, from that time to the present, and for all time until the promise itself comes to be fulfilled, the saying of Christ has held, and must hold, "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matthew 24:36). It was useless, therefore, for them, and will continue to be useless for anyone, to attempt to ascertain or determine, how long it will be until Christ shall come again, or how soon all these things shall be accomplished. When once they begin to come to pass, people will be able to tell where they are, and to know that the time has arrived; but, until then, they must needs remain in ignorance. All the instruction which we have upon the subject is, that what is foreshown will certainly come to pass; and that, from the beginning until the fulfillment commences, we are to be in constant expectation of it any year, any day, any hour; to which the ever-present and ever-intensifying signs, together with the multiplied precepts of the holy Scriptures, continually admonish us.
Well has Archer Butler said, "To seek to penetrate more closely into these awful secrets is vain. A sacred obscurity envelops them. The cloud that shrouded the actual presence of God on the mercy-seat, shrouds still his expected presence on the throne of judgment. It is a purposed obscurity, and most salutary and useful obscurity, a wise and merciful denial of knowledge. In this matter it is his gracious will to be the perpetual subject of watchfulness, expectation, conjecture, fear, desire-but no more. To cherish anticipation, he has permitted gleams of light to cross the darkness; to baffle presumption, he has made them only gleams. He has harmonized with consummate skill, every part of his revelation to produce this general result;-now speaking as if a few seasons more were to herald the new heaven and the new earth, now as if his days were thousands of years; at one moment whispering into the ear of his disciple, as if ready to be revealed, at another retreating into the depth of infinite ages. It is his purpose thus to live in our faith and hope, remote yet near, pledged to no moment, possible at any; worshipped not with the consternation of a near, or the indifference of a distant certainty, but with the anxious vigilance that awaits a contingency ever at hand. This, the deep devotion of watchfulness, humility, and awe, he who knows us best knows to be the fittest posture for our spirits; therefore does he preserve the salutary suspense that ensures it, and therefore will he determine his advent to no definite day in the calendar of eternity."
But the much-emphasized fact, put forth with all these promises and predictions of his return, that the interval between us and their accomplishment dare never be extended in our estimate, and is always represented as brief-so brief that we never know but that another year, or month, or week, or day may reveal to us our coming Lord-ought not to be without the most quickening effect upon our hearts and devotions. Certainly, what we are so solemnly told is "near," and "must shortly come to pass, we are at no liberty to postpone, or to think yet far away. And especially now, that eighteen hundred years of that "shortly" have passed, and that every symptom of the close proximity of the end is so manifest, should we beware of thinking that years and ages are yet to intervene before our Lord's coming can occur. Ever, as the Church moves on through time, and above all in the days in which we live, the next thing for every Christian to be looking for in this world is the coming of Christ to fulfill what is written in this Book. The Bible tells of nothing between us and that Day.
III. A third of these remaining points relates to the proper spiritual affection toward the speedy accomplishment of these holy predictions.
The Apocalypse of Christ is the coming or revelation of Christ in the scenes and achievements which are here described. But it is not made known to us as a thing of cold and barren speculation. It is the living outcome of all our faith and hope as Christians. It is a thing to which every proper Christian impulse necessarily goes out. There can be no genuine Christianity, no true and living sympathy with what we profess to believe, if there be no going forth of the soul to what is thus set before us. This is here expressed with a depth and intensity which should not fail to impress every serious heart.
First of all, the Holy Spirit himself calls for the Apocalypse of Christ. "The Spirit says, Come; "that is, Come tho"; as an answer made to the announcement of the preceding verse. So the Syriac version, and all sound interpreters. When the promise of the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, was given, Christ said: "He will guide you into all truth: and he will show you things to come" (John 16:13). Descending upon the Church always to abide with it, that Spirit has ever been active and operative in and through the Church. And in all these gracious operations there is a direct and constant reference to these things to come, to make them known, to awaken and nurture faith in them, and to prepare people to become partakers in their blessedness. In all these operations there is therefore a constant looking and yearning for the fulfillment of what is thus to come, and hence an unceasing calling of the Holy Spirit to the bright and morning star to come, as promised and foreshown-to consummate the great work by that Apocalypse to which all prophecy, all faith, all hope, and all the operative graces of the Spirit have reference.
In other words, it is the very spirit, soul, and aim of divine grace to bring the great consummation, which comes alone through the coming of Christ. In the inspiration of prophets and apostles, in the regeneration and sanctification of people, and in all the appointments, endowments, and labors of the Church, in so far as the Holy Spirit is potent and active in them, there is one unceasing call and pleading for that return of the Godman, by whose coming again all things are to be completed and the whole work finished up. Two things, therefore, are thus certified to us; first, that there is no true and saving religion-no piety originating from and resting in the Spirit of God-which does not anxiously move toward and center on Christ and his promised Apocalypse; and second, that the fulfillment of these predictions is absolutely certain, in that the operations of the Holy Spirit in the Church are all conditioned to and ever calling for the bright and morning star to come.
And what the Spirit looks to and calls for is repeated in the spiritual consciousness of the Bride. The Bride is not the Church outwardly taken; for not all who have connection with the Church as a visible body shall be everlastingly joined with the Lamb. None are the Bride but those who in living inward fact are joined to Christ as the branches are joined to the vine. Only those who are spiritually in Christ, "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" (Ephesians 5:30), are his Bride. And it is here given as a characteristic of the Bride, that she re-echoes and embodies the call of the Spirit, even the call for the bright and morning star to come. When people forget to think of the coming again of the Lord Jesus in his great Apocalypse-when they cease to look and long for that as the crown and goal of their faith and hope-when they make light of it, and treat it as a fable, and regard all concern about it as fanaticism-they show and prove that they do not belong to that elect body of God's saints which constitutes the Bride of the Lamb, for the deepest heart-voice of the Bride, with that of the Spirit itself, is, "Come, Lord Jesus; come as thou hast promised and foreshown; come quickly."
Taking all the precepts and inculcations of the sacred Scriptures with regard to Christ's return, it becomes a plain and evident impossibility for people to be true and obedient followers of the Gospel, and not to look, and watch, and long, and pray, and make it a great point in all their religious activity and devotion to be ready for the glorious coming of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. The Apostles and early Christians were all alive to this subject beyond everything else in Christianity. It was their life, their inspiration, the pole-star of their faith and hope. It was the thing which most marked them, set them apart from the world, and was their great distinguishing spirit, as compared with other people. And if it is not so with Christians now, it is because they have sunk away from the original life of their religion, and lost their proper fellowship with the true and only Bride of the Lamb, for the voice of the Bride to her Lord continually is, "Come." Nor can she be in the spirit and life of a true Bride without having this feeling ever living in her soul, and permeating her whole being. Destined for Christ, and having her chief joy and salvation in him and what he is ordained to accomplish for his people, she cannot but go out with all zeal and fervency for his revelation, or she ceases in soul from her character as his Bride.
And what the Spirit and the Bride say, everyone that heareth is to say, and must learn to say, if ever he is to become partaker in these glorious things. The hearer is he who is made acquainted with these great purposes of God, and is informed of what is in reserve for God's true people. But his hearing will profit him nothing if it does not awaken his soul, kindle his desires, and draw him to devout longing and endeavor to possess and realize these things for himself. Nor is he rightly awake and appreciative to what he hears, so long as he does not care whether Christ is to come again or not, or does not center his soul upon what can only come with Christ's glorious Apocalypse. Therefore, the word here is, "Let him who heareth say, Come." Redemption lies in that coming; and if people do not learn to desire it, they do not yet desire the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and are not yet true and believing hearers. For all effectual hearing of the Gospel