QUIET TALKS ON THE CROWNED Christ of Revelation BY S. D. GORDON
Author of "Quiet Talks on Power", "Quiet Talks on Prayer", "Quiet Talks about Our Lord's Return"
CHICAGO NEW YORK TORONTO FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY LONDON AND EDINBURGH
COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY
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Crowning the Christ is an intensely practical thing, whether taken in the personal sense or the world sense. He has been crowned in the upper world. With wondrous patience and graciousness He pleads for the personal crowning in our lives. Some day—no one knows just when—He will begin to act as the crowned Christ in all the affairs of our earth.
The initiative of all action to-day on the earth is in man's hands. Some day the initiative of governing action on the earth will be in the hands of the crowned Christ, even while the personal initiative of each man's life will still be in his own hands.
God is intensely practical. Jesus was never concerned about speculation nor mere discussion; He was too intent on helping people. The Bible is wholly a practical book. It is concerned only with helping us. It does not tell us all the truth there is; we shall be constantly learning more in the future life. But it does tell us all we need to know now. And its purpose in telling us what it does is wholly practical,—to urge us to right choice, and to lives that square with the choice. This is the purpose that decided just what truth should be told in the Book.
There is one book of the sixty-six devoted wholly to this subject of the crowned Christ,—"The Revelation of John." Every one of these books touches Him at some angle, and finds its deepest meaning in what He was to do and did do, and yields up its secrets only under the touch of His hand. But this book, the closing and climax of all, the knot in the end of the inspired thread, this deals wholly with the action of the crowned Christ.
No book of the sixty-six has seemed so much like a riddle and set so many a-guessing. And without doubt much of its meaning will be clear only as events work themselves out. Events will prove the only expositor of much. But it is with the deep conviction that this is wholly a practical book, written wholly from a practical point of view, and concerned wholly with our practical daily lives, that I have ventured to take it up in this series of simple, wholly practical, Quiet Talks. And it is only this side of its teachings that will be dealt with here. The Book is a street leading into the true overcoming life the Master would woo us to.
It is only after many years' study of this Book of the Revelation, and a special study the past three years and a little more, that I have ventured to put these talks together. And now they are sent out with the earnest humble prayer that others may find some little practical help in prayerfully reading, as I have found much in prayerfully studying, under the Master's gracious faithful touch.
I. THE CHRIST CROWNED, THE FACT 9
II. THE CROWN BOOK 39
III. A SIGHT OF THE CROWNED CHRIST 63
IV. A MESSAGE FROM THE CROWNED CHRIST 97
V. AN ADVANCE STEP IN THE ROYAL PROGRAMME 127
VI. A CLEARING-UP STORM IN THE REALM 151
VII. THE CROWNED CHRIST REIGNING 215
VIII. WATCHING THE HORIZON 235
I.—THE CHRIST CROWNED, THE FACT
"When God sought a King for His people of old, He went to the fields to find him; A shepherd was he, with his crook and his lute And a following flock behind him.
"O love of the sheep, O joy of the lute, And the sling and the stone for battle; A shepherd was King, the giant was naught, And the enemy driven like cattle.
"When God looked to tell of His good will to men, And the Shepherd-King's son whom He gave them; To shepherds, made meek a-caring for sheep, He told of a Christ sent to save them.
"O love of the sheep, O watch in the night, And the glory, the message, the choir; 'Twas shepherds who saw their King in the straw, And returned with their hearts all on fire.
"When Christ thought to tell of His love to the world He said to the throng before him, 'The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep—' And away to the cross they bore Him.
"O love of the sheep, O blood sweat of prayer, O man on the cross, God-forsaken; A shepherd has gone to defend all alone The sheepfold by death overtaken.
"When God sought a King for His people, for aye, He went to the grave to find him; And a shepherd came back, Death dead in His grasp, And a following flock behind Him.
"O love of the sheep, O life from the dead, O strength of the faint and the fearing; A shepherd is King, and His Kingdom will come. And the day of His coming is nearing."
Christ is crowned. Not in any vague far-fetched meaning, but in the plain common-sense meaning of the word, He is crowned.
For crowned means put in the place of highest power, with full right to exercise that power at will. And when the crucified Jesus went up that Olivet day, before the astonished eyes of the disciples, into the sightless blue, on the cloud, He was received in the upper world by the Father. And He was lifted up into the place of highest honour and greatest power. He sat down at the right hand of the Father.
He had said it would be so. Breathing the air thick with bitter hate on the night of His trial, He had quietly said to the Jewish rulers that even so it would be, bringing at once about His person the bursting of the storm of hate. Now His unfaltering trust in His Father has its sweet reward.
The Holy Spirit poured out on Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, was the gift of the crowned Christ. The rushing sound as of a mighty wind that filled all the house, the tongues of flame plainly seen, the bold talking to the crowds of foreign Jews of God's mighty power, the faithful witnessing about the crucified Jesus in the city that hounded Him to death, the convinced crowds openly declaring at the peril of their lives their belief in the despised Jesus, the strangely rare unselfishness even in money matters, and the winsome graciousness of spirit that marked, not only the inner circle, but these greatly increased crowds,—all this said one thing in clear unanswerable tones of unmistakable power, Christ is crowned. For the sending down of the Holy Spirit was the act of the crowned Christ.
And every touch of the Holy Spirit's presence within trusting hearts,—the sweet peace, the quiet assurance, the longing for purity, the drawing away to prayer, the hunger for God's Word, the intense desire to have others saved, the passion to please this wondrous God of ours,—all these simple marks of the Holy Spirit's presence in our hearts, all tell us, and each tells us, in unmistakable tones, that Christ is crowned. For this wondrous Spirit within is the gift of the crowned Christ.
When Jesus went up from the earth, holding as His sure captive the captivity of suffering and death to which He had with such great strength yielded, He received gifts, coronation gifts. The Father gave Him all. He gave Him the disposal and control of all. This was the crowning.
And in His great out-reaching love Christ received these gifts on behalf of men, His blood brothers. And at once He gave to men, to His trusting disciples, the all-inclusive gift, the Holy Spirit, His coronation gift. So God came anew to dwell with men as originally planned.
This blessed Presence within tells me, by His mere presence, that Christ is crowned.
The writers of the New Testament make a chorus of sweet music on this chord, ringing out in clear tones the full notes of delight and joy. Luke's simple narrative sounds the note four times. Paul swells it out with a joyous fulness that grows in volume and intensity as his narrowing prison walls shut out more and more the lower lights, and centres his upward gaze upon Jesus, "far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named," with "all things in subjection under His feet." John's special companion and working partner, Peter, makes this note blend with and dominate the minor chord of suffering for Christ's sake.
The Christian Hebrew who wrote so eloquently to his fellow-countrymen of the immense superiority of Jesus and so modestly withheld his own name, strikes this note five times with strong, clear touch. He quotes that Eighth Psalm, which so wonderfully gives God's own ideal for man's mastery over all creation. And then he tells us that in Jesus the ideal will yet be fully realized. And that while the whole plan has not yet fully worked out as it will, yet even now we see the Jesus who tasted death for every one, crowned with glory and honour as part of the plan which He carried out in suffering the extreme suffering of death.
And our Lord Jesus Himself, talking out of the glory to the man who was His bosom companion on earth, reserves as His last tender plea to us to live the overcoming life this—"he that overcometh I will give him to sit down with me in my throne as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne."
And so we find out just what this word crowned means. Jesus was received in the upper world, exalted, glorified, made to sit down at the Father's right hand, put far above all rule and authority, with a name greater in the sweep of its power than any other, and with all things put in absolute subjection under His feet. This is the simple, direct meaning of the sentence—Christ is crowned.
What a contrast the two faces of that glory cloud saw! The face looking down, and the face looking up! The one—the downward face—looked upon a cross, a Man hanging there with a mocking crown of thorns without and a breaking heart within, scowling priests, jeering crowds, deserting disciples, sneering soldiers, weeping women, heart-broken friends, a horror of darkness, a cave-tomb under imperial seal, and blackest night settling down over all.
The other—the upward face—looked upon a great burst of the upper glory, the countless angels singing swelling songs of worship, the wondrous winged cherubim, the redeemed hosts from Eden days on reverently bowing and exultantly singing, the exquisitely soft-green-rainbow-circled throne, the Father's face, once hidden, but to be hidden now never again, the shared seat on the Father's throne,—what a contrast!
Here crucified—there crowned. Crucified on earth, one of the smaller globes of the universe. On the throne of the whole universe of globes—crowned! From the lowest depth to the one extreme height. From hate's worst to Love's best. From love poured out for men to love enthroned for those same men; love triumphant each time, on cross and on throne. What a contrast! What a coronation! What a welcome home to a throne!
The Music of a Name.
It is most intensely interesting to recall that, of course, this is just what the very word Christ means,—the Crowned One. We sometimes get so used to a word that it is easy to forget its real meaning. The word Christ has been used so generally for so many centuries as a name that we forget that originally it was a title, and not a name.
And it still is a title, though used chiefly as a name. Some day the title-meaning will overlap the name-meaning. We may never cease thinking of it as a name, but there is a time coming when events will make the title-meaning so big as to clear over-shadow our thought and use of it as a name.
It helps to recall the distinctive meaning of the words we use for Him who walked amongst, and was one of us. Jesus is His name. It belongs to the man. It belongs peculiarly to the thirty-three years and a bit more that He was here, even though not exclusively used in that way in the Book.
There's a rare threefold sweetness of meaning in that five-lettered name. There is the meaning of the old word lying within the name, before it became a name, victory, victor, saviour-victor, Jehovah-victor. There is the swing and rhythm and murmur of music, glad joyous music, in its very beginnings as a common word.
Then it has come to stand wholly for a personality, the rarely gentle, winsome, strong personality of the Man of Bethlehem and Nazareth, and of those crowded service-days. And every memory of His personality sweetens and enriches the music in the old word.
And then the deepest significance, the richest rhythm, the sweetest melody, come from the meaning His experiences, His life, pressed into it. The sympathy, the suffering, the wilderness, the Cross, the Resurrection, all the experiences He went through, these give to this victory-word, Jesus, a meaning unknown before. They put the name Jesus actually above every name in the experiences of tense conflict and sweeping victory it stands for. This threefold chording makes music never to be broken nor forgotten.
"There is no name so sweet on earth, No name so sweet in heaven, The name before His wondrous birth, To Christ the Saviour given."
Lord is a title, of course. It was used of one who was a proprietor, an owner, or a master. It was commonly used as a title of honour for one in superior position, as a leader or teacher. In speaking of Jesus it is coupled with the title Christ as an interchangeable word, as well as an additional title. But peculiarly it is the personal title given Jesus by one who takes Him as his own personal Master, while it still retains its broader meaning.
But Christ is peculiarly the official title of Jesus. There is only one Christ. Lord is used of men. It is used of both the Father and the Holy Spirit, as well as of Jesus. But the name Christ is used of only one person, and can mean only that one. There could be only one Christ.
The word or its equivalent was used occasionally in the Old Testament in a narrowed sense for the King of Israel, who is reverently spoken of as "the Lord's anointed," that is, God's Messiah or Christ.
But the one common thought of it among the Hebrew people, growing ever intenser as the Old Testament period merges into the time of the New, was that there was one coming, the Messiah, the Christ, God's chosen, the one anointed and empowered, to be their Deliverer. The one question that sets all hearts a-flutter about the rugged John of the deserts was this: "Is he the Christ?" In their thought there was only one to whom the title belonged.
And even so it is. Christ is the official title of the One Chosen and anointed by God to be ruler over His Hebrew people, and over all the race, and the earth, and the universe,—God's King, to reign until all have been brought into full allegiance to the great loving Father. The Christ is the Crowned One, God's Crowned One. The very word Christ tells that Christ is crowned.
Our Great Kinsman.
There is an intensely interesting question that crowds its way in here, and it proves an immensely practical question, too. Why was Christ crowned? We can say at once that this was His due. He was given that which belonged to Him in good right. He was reinstated in His former position, with all the power and glory that were His before His errand to the earth.
Then too this was His vindication after the shameful treatment of earth. Before the eyes of all the upper world, both loyal and disloyal eyes, this man whom earth hounded so shamelessly is vindicated; He is set right by the Father.
But there is yet more than this. It is a more of a sort that concerns us very closely, and it sets one's heart a-beating a bit faster. This crowning was part of a plan, a plan of which our earth is the centre. It was the second great part of a plan of which the suffering and dying were the first great part. Both were for the sake of us men and our earth-home, and the lower creation.
This is the thing being emphasized in the second great paragraph of the Hebrews. Man was made the under-master of the earth and of the lower creation, but lost, weakly surrendered, his place of mastery. The new Man came to recover for man what had been lost and to realize this original lost plan.
And so He became our brother, sharer of our flesh and blood, tempted like as we, perfected in His human character by the experiences He went through, then tasted to the bitter dregs the death that belongs to our sin. And then following that, He was crowned with glory and honour. And so He rises to the place of mastery over all that belongs to perfect man. So He brings all creation into the glad subjection which is its natural happy state. It is for earth's sake, for the race's sake, and for the sake of our faithful companions and servants, the whole lower creation, that Christ has been crowned.
We think more about the personal meaning to ourselves of His having died and risen again. We need to remember, too, this broader meaning. The dying and rising secures our salvation personally. The crowning and the reigning will work out the redemption of all nature and of the lower creation, and this in turn will mean much for men living on the earth in the Kingdom time, and for the race as a race.
This leads at once to another question that presses in. What is the domain of the crowned Christ? If we take the crowning in the common meaning of that word, it means that there is some domain that Christ rules over. What is it that He is crowned over?
And the answer is so sweeping as to seem far-away and dreamy to us who are living on this sin-hurt earth. He is the crowned Ruler of the whole created universe and all intelligent beings in it. He has been placed over absolutely every "rule and authority and power and dominion, and not only in this present age but in the coming age." There is simply no limit in extent to His domain. Everything has been placed in subjection to Him and is now subject to His word, and His alone.
There is a striking passage in Philippians that fits in here. In speaking of the exaltation of Jesus Christ, Paul is careful to explain particularly that every knee would bow, in the heavens, and, on the earth, and under the earth or in the world below.
This threefold division is very striking. The heaven things are understood at once, and things of the earth sphere. But there is a third world to be taken into account, that strange uncanny world of evil spirit beings in rebellion against God's authority. It is spoken of repeatedly as principalities and powers, indicating numbers and organization, dignity, and power. All of this is included in what has been placed under Christ's authority.
Is Christ Reigning Now?
But there is still another question that has been impatiently pushing underneath for some time. And it also is an intensely practical one. Does this mean that Christ is actually ruling now over this domain of His? How about the affairs on the earth? Are all things here subject to Him? Is this the way He would have things go? And some of us think the evil spirits seem pretty free in their movements. This present order of things that we are living in the thick of, is this the reign of the crowned Christ? And some of us feel the stress of things so much that we can scarce keep patient for a thoughtful poised answer to our questions.
There are those, and good earnest folk they are, too, who tell us that Christ has come, and is constantly coming, more and more, into our common life. The higher ideals that are crowding for expression, the more spiritual conceptions of man and his brotherly relations, the constant striving toward better civilization, the bettering of the condition of the poor and less fortunate, the increased recognition of men's rights in the complex industrial world, the increasing effort to correct evils by legislation, the great moral reforms that are sweeping aside the awful liquor curse, and loosening women's bonds, and safeguarding young womanhood and children, the newer aggressiveness in the missionary propaganda and in much of the activity of the Church, even the attempt to humanize and civilize the warfare that in itself is stupidly savage and utterly inhuman,—is not all this a coming of Christ and of the Christ-spirit into our common life? many ask.
And there is only one answer to such questions, a strong emphatic "yes." It surely is the Christ-spirit that moves in all of this. This is a coming of Christ; and a blessed coming, too. There was nothing of this sort before the Christ-spirit began to sweeten the world's life. And there is none of it to-day except in those parts of the world where the Christ-spirit influences life.
But—there's a "but"—it proves a blessed but; this is only a crumb or two falling from a loaded table. And he who judges Christ by these crumbs only, wholesome and toothsome as they are, will have a very skimpy conception of Christ.
All of this sort of thing that has come has come very slowly. It has had to fight through and in, every step of the way that it has come. Its coming has been opposed stubbornly, maliciously, viciously every inch of the road, as only those know who are in the thick of the struggle for these reforms, panting for breath sometimes.
It is as though a few whiffs of wholesome life-giving air have breathed through the cracks and crevices of the breastworks and fortifications of evil in which all our common life seems entrenched. But the fortifications are still there. If the sweet, wholesome breathing in through cracks and crannies has been so blest, what would it be if the forces of evil were clean removed from the scene, and the Christ-spirit became the whole atmosphere breathed fully and freely without restraint, with no bad draughts, and no counter currents to guard and fight against?
It would seem like a strange sort of a kingdom if the present is even a gradual coming in of the Kingdom. We would seem to be having a new, strange sort of a Christ if the present is a sample of His sort of reigning. For it may well be thoughtfully doubted if ever there was such a condition of feverish unrest in all parts of the world as to-day.
It is most difficult to put your finger on a single spot of the world-map that is not being torn and uptorn by unrest in one shape or another. Either actual war, or constant studious preparation for war, actually never ceases. And it is difficult to say which is the worse of the two. The actual war reveals more terribly to our eyes and ears the awful cost in treasure and in precious human blood spilled without stint. The never-ceasing preparation for war seems actually to cost more. In the immense treasure involved, and in blood too, given out, not on an occasional battlefield, but in the continual battle of daily life to meet the terrible drain of taxation, it costs immensely more. There is less of the tragic for the news headings, but not a whit less, rather much more, in the slow suffering, the pinched lives, and the awful temptations to barter character for bread.
Then there is the continual seething unrest in the industrial world; the protests sometimes so strange and startling against social and political conditions; the feverish greed for gold, and land, and position; the intense pace of all our modern life; the abandonment of home and home ideals; the terrific attack against our young womanhood. The political pot which gathers into itself all these things, never quits boiling or boiling over, in some part of the world, now here, now there. And it seems like the greatest achievement of diplomacy when here and there it can be kept from boiling clean over, or at least made to boil over less.
It would seem indeed like a queer sort of kingdom if this is a sample. Some of us would have less heart in repeating one petition of the old daily prayer. And Christ would seem to have quite changed His spirit and character if this is a result of His coming.
The Greatness of Patience.
And the great simple truth is this, the truth that in the strange mix-up of life we easily lose sight of is this: Christ has not yet taken possession of all of His domain; a part of it still remains to be possessed. "We see not yet all things subjected to Him." We are living in the "not-yet" interval between the crowning and the actual reigning. We are living on the "not-yet" possessed part of His domain.
And the question that comes hot and quick from our lips, even though with an attempt at subdued reverence, is this: "Why does He not take possession, and untangle the snarl, and right the wrongs, and bring in the true rational order of things?" And all the long waiting, the soreness of hearts over the part that touches one's own life most closely, the shortness of breath in the tensity of the struggle, underscore that word "why?"
And the answer to the impatient question reveals all afresh the greatness of the love of our Christ. His greatness is shown most in His patience. But patience is one of the things we men on this old earth don't know. It's one of the unknown quantities to us. It can be known only by knowing God. For patience is love at its best. Patience is God at His best. His is the patience that sees all, and feels all with the tender heart that broke once under the load, and yet waits, steadily waits, and then waits just a bit longer.
In this He runs the risk of being misunderstood. Men in their stupidity constantly mistake strong patience for weakness or indifference or lack of a gripping purpose. And God is misunderstood in this, even by His trusting children. But, even so, the object to be gained is so great, and so near Christ's heart that He waits, strongly waits with a patience beyond our comprehension; waits just a bit longer, always just a bit longer.
There are two parts to the answer. Jesus the Christ is giving man the fullest opportunity. He never interferes with man's right of free choice. Man is free to do as he chooses. Every possible means is used to influence him to choose right, but the choice itself is always left to the man. The present is man's opportunity. The initiative of action on the earth is altogether in man's hand. All of God's power is at man's disposal; but man must reach out and take. This long stretched but waiting time is for man's sake, that he may have fullest opportunity. The longsuffering of God would woo men.
When at length opportunity comes to its end it will be only because things have gotten into such desperate shape, into such an awful fix, that at length for man's sake Christ will step into the direct action of the earth once again. He will take the leadership of earth into His own hands, even while still leaving each man free in his individual choice. This is the first part of the answer. The waiting is that man may have fullest opportunity.
Then Christ has a great hunger for willing hearts. No words are strong enough to tell His longing for a free, glad, joyous surrender to His mastery. He could so easily end the present conflict, but He waits that men may bring to Him the allegiance of their lives, given of their own glad, gracious, voluntary accord. He was a volunteer Saviour. He longs for that love that is the bubbling out of a free, full heart.
The best love is only given freely without any compulsion of any sort, save only love's sweet compelling. He wants what He gives—the best. And so He waits, patiently waits just a bit longer. This is the second bit of the answer. The long delay spells out the hunger as well as the patience of God's heart. The divine Husbandman is patiently waiting, and sending warm sun and soft rains and fragrant dews while waiting.
"The Husbandman waiteth— The Husbandman? Why? For the heart of one servant Who hears not His cry.
"The Husbandman waiteth— He waiteth? What for? For the heart of one servant To love Him yet more.
"The Husbandman waiteth— Long patience hath He— But He waiteth in hunger— Oh! Is it for thee?"
Taking with Your Life.
But—ah! listen, there's a wonderful "but" to put in here. But, while waiting He puts all His limitless power at our disposal. If that simple sentence could be put into letters of living flame, its tremendous meaning might burn into our hearts. When Paul piled up phrase on phrase in his eager attempt to have his Asiatic friends in and around Ephesus take in the limitless power of the ascended Christ, he added the significant words, "to the Church." All that power is for the use, and at the disposal, of the Church.
The Church was meant to be a unit in spirit in loyalty to her absent Lord, wholly under the dominating touch of the Holy Spirit, not only in her official actions, but in the lives of the individual members. If she were so, no human imagination could take in the startling, revolutionary power, softly, subtly, but with resistless sweep, flowing down from the crowned Christ, among grateful men.
Not being such a unit it is not possible that that power shall be as great in manifestation as was planned and meant. For no individual nor group can ever take the place in action of the whole unified body of believers, acting as a channel for the power of the crowned Christ. That power shall be realized on the earth only when the Church is so unified, and at work, under the reigning Christ, from the new headquarters up in the heavens.
But meanwhile all of that power is at the disposal of any disciple of Christ—the humblest—who will simply live in full-faced touch with Christ, and who will take of that power as the need comes, and as the sovereign Holy Spirit leads.
It is of this, this personal taking, that Paul is speaking when he piles up that intense sentence: "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us." The great bother in Paul's day and ever since, and now, is to get people to take. The power is fairly a-tremble in the air at our very finger-tips. And we go limping, crutching along both bodily and mentally and in our spiritual leanness.
Those tremendous words of Jesus, "because I go unto the Father," with the whole passage in which they occur, must be read in the light shining from the throne. Only so can they be understood. But then, so read, they begin to grip us, and grip us hard, as we see what He really meant and means.
He who has the warm, child-like touch of heart with Jesus, that the word "believeth" stands for, shall—as the Holy Spirit has full control—do the same works as Jesus did, same in kind and in degree, and then shall do even greater than Jesus ever did. Because it is now the glorified crowned Christ who is doing them through some child of His, simple-hearted enough to let Him have full control.
And the means through which He will do them is simple, child-like, trusting, humble prayer. The man using the power is on his knees. The lower down he gets the more and more freely the power flows down and out among men.
As one learns to keep in touch—learns it slowly, stumblingly, with many a stupid fall, and many a tremble and quiver—as he learns to keep in simple touch with the crowned Christ he will find all the power of that Christ coming with a soft surging throb of life wherever needed. We may have all we can take. But the taking must be with one's very life. No mere earnest repeating of a creed in Church service will avail here. The repeating must be, syllable by syllable, with feet and will, with hands and life, in the daily tread where each step is stubbornly contested.
This is the bit of truth for the waiting time. This is the song to be singing in this present "not-yet" interval. And the song will help cut down the length of that "not-yet," until the friction of our lived faith shall wear off the "not" and wipe out the "yet," and we shall find the crowned Christ a reigning Christ.
For some day this patient waiting crowned Man will rise up from His seat at the Father's right hand. He will step directly into the action of earth once again. Man will have had his fullest opportunity lengthened out to the last notch of his possible use of it. Then we shall see the crowned Christ quietly stepping in, taking matters wholly into His own hands, and acting in all the affairs of earth as the Crowned One. Then He shall reign from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates out to where the ends of the earth become a common line on the other side. The Kingdom will have come, for the King will be reigning.
The night will be gone. The day has come. The shadows flee. He has come, whose presence puts the new day at dawn, with the East all aflame, and the fragrant dew glistening gladly on every tender green blade. This time of expectancy is over; the time of making real has come. Then comes the restoration of the old original love plan to earth and beast and man.
"Thou art coming, O my Saviour! Thou art coming, O my King! In thy glory all-transcendent; In thy beauty all resplendent; Well may we rejoice and sing! Coming! In the opening east, Herald brightness slowly swells; Coming, O my glorious Priest, Hear we not thy golden bells?
"Thou art coming, Thou art coming! We shall meet Thee on Thy way, We shall see Thee, we shall know Thee, We shall bless Thee, we shall show Thee All our hearts could never say! What an anthem that will be, Ringing out our love to Thee; Pouring out our rapture sweet At Thine own all-glorious feet!
"Thou art coming! Rays of glory, Through the veil Thy death has rent, Touch the mountain and the river With a golden glowing quiver, Thrill of light and music blent. Earth is brightened when this gleam Falls on flower, rock, and stream; Life is brightened when this ray Falls upon its darkest day.
"Not a cloud and not a shadow, Not a mist and not a tear, Not a sin and not a sorrow, Not a dim and veiled to-morrow, For that sunrise grand and clear! Jesus, Saviour, once with Thee, Nothing else seems worth a thought! Oh, how marvellous will be All the bliss Thy pain hath bought!
"Thou art coming! At Thy table, We are witnesses of this, While remembering hearts Thou meetest, In communion clearest, sweetest, Earnest of our coming bliss. Showing not Thy death alone, And Thy love exceeding great, But Thy coming and Thy throne, All for which we long and wait.
"Thou art coming! We are waiting With a hope that cannot fail; Asking not the day or hour, Resting on Thy word of power Anchored safe within the veil, Time appointed may be long, But the vision must be sure; Certainty shall make us strong, Joyful patience can endure!
"O the joy to see Thee reigning, Thee, my own beloved Lord! Every tongue Thy name confessing, Worship, honor, glory, blessing, Brought to Thee with glad accord! Thee, my Master and my Friend, Vindicated and enthroned! Unto earth's remotest end Glorified, adored, and owned!"
Working by the Light of the Throne.
But we are still in the "not-yet" interval. We see not yet all things subject to Him. This is still the waiting time. It is the pleading time for Him. He pleads for the personal crowning of Himself in our lives, that He may reign there and He alone. This is our great opportunity. We shall never see its like again, nor anywhere else than on this earth.
In the reigning time that's coming this peculiar opportunity of crowning Christ while He still is absent and despised, this will be gone. In the upper world they have no such opportunity. There is no opposition there. Now and here is the rarest opportunity to put this great waiting patient Man on the throne of heart and life, with possessions and ambitions and plans all in subjection under His feet.
Every woman knows the name of Brussels lace. The old capital of the low countries of Europe has long been famous for its lace. It is of great interest to note the conditions under which it is sometimes made. They are conditions studiously prepared after long experience. In one of the famous lace factories in Brussels there are a number of small rooms devoted to the making of some of the most delicate patterns.
Each room is just large enough for a single worker, and is quite dark except for one narrow window. The worker sits so that the stream of light falls from above directly upon the threads, while he himself sits in the darkness. The darkness aids the workman's eyes to see better, and to work more skilfully in the narrow line of clear light centred on the delicate task. He weaves in the upper light intensified by the surrounding gloom, and does exquisite work.
There is a clear line of light from a throne shining down into the darkness in which we sit and move. It shines from the face of a crowned Man. In the light of that light we can see clearly to do a difficult bit of crowning work,—to crown the Christ in our lives and to keep Him crowned.
As our eyes follow that line of upper light we may catch glimpses of His wondrous Face up there in the glory. So we shall be steadied and cheered in the darkness as we stick to our glad crowning work. And so we shall move forward on the calendar the day when that thin line of light seen now only by watching eyes shall become a burst of glory light seen by all eyes.
And this is the thing the crowned Christ is asking of us during this waiting time, this "not-yet" interval. He is counting on each of us being faithful to Him, our absent Lord, in this.
"He is counting on you. He has need of your life In the thick of the strife: For that weak one may fall If you fail at His call. He is counting on you, If you fail Him— What then?
"He is counting on you. On your silver and gold, On that treasure you hold; On that treasure still kept, Though the doubt o'er you swept 'Is this gold not all mine? (Lord, I knew it was Thine.') He is counting on you, If you fail Him— What then?
"He is counting on you. On a love that will share In His burden of prayer, For the souls He has bought With His life-blood; and sought Through His sorrow and pain To win 'Home' yet again. He is counting on you, If you fail Him— What then?
"He is counting on you. On life, money, and prayer; And 'the day shall declare' If you let Him have all In response to His call; Or if He in that day To your sorrow must say, 'I had counted on you, But you failed me'— What then?
"He is counting on you. Oh! the wonder and grace, To look Christ in the face And not be ashamed; For you gave what He claimed, And you laid down your all For His sake—at His call. He had counted on you, And you failed not. What then?"
Ah! Please God, by His grace, we shall not fail in the ruling purpose of our lives. We may crown Him Lord of all. We can. He asks it. We surely will.
"With all my powers Him I greet, All subject to His call; And bowing low at His pierced feet Now crown him Lord of all."
 Joseph Addison Richards.
 Mark xvi. 19.
 Matthew xxvi. 64.
 Acts ii. 33; iii. 13-16; v. 31-32; vii. 55, 56.
 Psalm lxviii. 18; Ephesians iv. 8; Acts ii. 33.
 Romans viii. 34; Ephesians i. 20-22; Philippians ii. 9-11; Colossians iii. 1.
 I Peter iii. 22.
 Hebrews i. 3; ii. 8-9; viii. 1; x. 12; xii. 2.
 Revelation iii. 21.
 Acts ii. 36.
 Romans x. 9.
 I Samuel xvi. 6; xxiv. 6, 10; II Samuel i. 14-16; xix. 21, and elsewhere; Psalm xviii. 50, and frequently in Psalms.
 John i. 20, 25; Luke iii. 15.
 Philippians ii. 10; I Corinthians xv. 24-26.
 John xvii. 5; i. 1-3; Colossians i. 15-17.
 Matthew xxvi. 64; Acts ii. 22-24, 32-36; Philippians ii. 9-11; Hebrews ii. 9.
 Hebrews ii. 5-18.
 Romans vii. 19-22; Jeremiah ix. 10; xii. 4, 11; xxiii. 10; Genesis iii. 17-19; Acts iii. 21.
 Ephesians i. 20-22; Hebrews ii. 6-8.
 Philippians ii. 9-11.
 Ephesians vi. 12; Colossians ii. 15.
 Colossians ii. 10; Ephesians iii. 10; iv. 8-10; I Corinthians xv. 24.
 Hebrews ii. 8.
 II Peter iii. 8-9; Romans ii. 4; ix. 22; Revelation ii. 21; I Peter iii. 20; II Peter iii. 15; Exodus xxxiv. 6-7.
 James v. 7.
 F. M. N.
 Ephesians i. 20-22.
 Ephesians iii. 20.
 John xiv. 12-14.
 Hebrews x. 13.
 Acts iii. 21.
 Frances Ridley Havergal.
 Mrs. Bessie Porter Head.
II.—THE CROWN BOOK
"All hail the power of Jesus' Name! Let angels prostrate fall: Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown Him Lord of all.
"O that with yonder sacred throng We at His feet may fall, Join in the everlasting song And crown Him Lord of all!
"With all my powers Him I greet, All subject to His call; And bowing low at His pierced feet, Now crown Him Lord of all.
"I hail the power of Jesus' Name, Before Him gladly fall, Bring Him my own heart's diadem And crown Him Lord of all!"
The Crowning Book.
There is a crown book in this old Book of God,—the Revelation of John. It is the crown book, the only one. It is the crown book of the sixty-six in two senses. It is the capping climax of the whole revelation of God's Word. It gathers up into itself in a peculiar way the dominant characteristics of both the Hebrew Old and the Greek New Testaments.
And it is the book of the Crown. The King is in action. He Himself gives the message of the book to John. He is seen stepping forward to take possession of His realm. Then He takes possession. He dispossesses the pretender. He reigns over the earth. The Revelation of John is the Crown book.
This is the peculiarity of the Revelation in comparison with all the other books. Only here is Christ seen exercising His crown rights. From end to end of the Old Testament pages, His coming is looked forward to, with an eager longing that grows in intensity as the national failure grows ever worse.
In the Gospels He comes, but not as He was expected. He is heralded as King, and claims to be King. He has all the graciousness of a King in ministering to the needs of the people, and all the power of a King in His personal touch. But He is rejected by the nation, and goes to the Cross, yet still as a King,—a humiliated, crucified King.
In the Acts He is the risen, glorified King seated at the Father's right hand in glory, and at work through His followers among men on the earth. But it is always in the midst of sharp, bitter opposition. In the Epistles He is seen crowned at the Father's right hand, guiding and teaching His followers who are still suffering persecution.
But in the Revelation of John all this is changed. There's a sharp, decided, advance step. Here He is not only crowned, but stepping directly and decisively into the action of the earth in the full exercise of His crowned rights and power. It is peculiarly the book of the Crown, the royal book, the enthroned Christ exercising fully and freely at will His crown rights.
Jesus' Bosom Friend.
The book was written by John the disciple and apostle. This is our same old friend John, whom we met first that ever-memorable afternoon, down by the Jordan River road, when he was introduced to Jesus by the John of the deserts, and had his first long, quiet talk with Him. The friendship began that day, grew steadily, and never flagged. It was one of the few friendships that Jesus had that never knew any lapse nor eclipse.
He became, in an outstanding sense, the bosom friend of Jesus. Probably it was not because of any special gentleness or amiability on John's part, though he may have had something of these traits. It was more likely because of the deep, intelligent sympathy between the two, a sympathy not only of personality, but deeper and stronger because of a mental and spirit likeness growing up between them. It would seem likely that John developed a mental grasp, a spirit insight, a student thoughtfulness, a steadiness of temperament, and with these, a growing understanding of much—at the least—much of Jesus' spirit and ideals and vision.
It may quite be that all this came slowly, and grew up out of the constant contact with Jesus, and out of the warm personal love between the two men; quite likely. Who could live so close to Jesus as he and not bear the marks on mind and spirit? The fire that burned so fiercely in early years grew into a steady, unflickering flame under the influence of that personal friendship.
It seems not unlikely that John belonged to a good family, and had his home in Jerusalem. He was clearly on terms of easy intimacy at the palace of the High Priest, which in itself would suggest his social standing in the city. It was to this man that Jesus, on the Cross, committed the care of His mother. And John accepted the trust as a tender token of friendship, and took Mary at once to his own home. And as Mary remained in Jerusalem at least some time, and John clearly for a long time, the home was likely there.
John was one of the chief leaders in Jerusalem during the Pentecost days, and after. Peter was the chief spokesman, but John was always close by his side. The friendship between the two seems to have been close and of long standing. They were sent together by the Master to arrange for the supper that memorable betrayal night, and they are seen together in the activities in Jerusalem for many years.
It would seem that in later years John left Jerusalem, and made his home for the remainder of his life in Ephesus. Doubtless he was led, after the years of leadership in the mother Church, to leave the great Jew centre, and devote his strength to missionary service in the outside Gentile world.
Ephesus was the chief city of the province of Asia, and the natural centre of the population and life of the province. John probably worked out from Ephesus, preaching throughout the whole district; teaching, advising, praying with, and visiting the groups of little Churches scattered throughout the province, perhaps founding some, and strengthening all. For his work seems to have been, not so much evangelizing, but the much more difficult work of teaching, patiently, carefully, teaching; a work so essential to the life of any Church. So he would be quite familiar with the Churches to which the Revelation letters are sent, and would be well known by these people and loved and revered by them as a father in the faith.
This personal bit about John is of intensest interest in studying this book of his. It was to this man that Jesus could entrust the writing of this special message. John could take in what the Master was showing him as few, if any others, could. The close, sympathetic friendship made him able to take in what his old Friend and Master is now telling him in the glory. And he could give it out too, simply, fully, clearly, just as it was given to him.
Love can see and grasp, and can obey simply, where mere mental keenness fails. There is no tonic for the brain like love in the heart. No brain ever does its best work, nor can, until the heart is fired by some tender, noble passion. It was to Mary Magdalene who had such reason to love tenderly that Jesus showed Himself first after the resurrection.
And it is to John, the bosom friend, whose friendship stood the severest test where all others failed, that He now shows Himself in glory, and entrusts this pleading message, and vision of coming events, and of the after glory. He that willeth to do the Master's will shall know surely and clearly what that will is. And he that goeth farther yet, and willeth to give the tenderest love of his heart, ever kept at summer heat, shall know the Master Himself, in present personal touch, and in clear and clearing understanding of His coming victorious action and crowning glory.
John wrote a Gospel; one chief Epistle, besides the two very brief personal letters; and this book of the Revelation. The Gospel and Epistles were quite likely written while in Ephesus.
The Gospel was his plea to all men to whom it might come to accept Jesus as their personal Saviour. Its characteristic word is "believe." And the plan of it is a simple array of incidents about Jesus that would lead men to a warm, intelligent belief in Him.
The chief Epistle is written to the little groups of believers scattered throughout Asia Minor, and doubtless in the old home district of Judea, too. Its characteristic word is "abide." It is an intense plea, by a personal friend to abide, steadily, fully, in Christ, in spite of the growing defections and difficulties pressing in so close.
The Revelation was written, quite likely, on the island of Patmos while all was yet fresh in his mind; or possibly in Ephesus after his release from his island prison; or perhaps begun in Patmos and put into its final shape in Ephesus. It is written to the little groups of believers in and near Ephesus. It is a most intense plea to be personally true to the Lord Jesus in the midst of subtle compromise and of bitter persecution.
Its characteristic word is "overcome." It speaks much of the opposition to be encountered, and tells of greater opposition yet to come, the greatest ever known. And it pleads, with every possible promise, and every warning of danger, that the true believer set himself against the evil tide, at every risk, and every possible personal loss, and so that he "overcome" in the Name of the Lord Jesus.
Old and New Woven Together.
The language in which the book is written is of intense interest. It is so unusual. It combines Hebrew thought and Greek speech. It is as though a Hebrew soul were living in a Greek body, and the soul has so dominated the body as to make decided changes in it. The thought and imagery, and the very words are largely taken over from the Old Testament, much of it not being found elsewhere in the New Testament. It is as though the Old Testament reaches clear over the intervening space and writes the last book of the New as an additional book of the Old, but with distinct additions. But all these additions are outgrowths of what is already in the Old.
But while the thought and imagery are Hebrew, the language is Greek. But scholars note that John's Greek here is different from that of his Gospel, and is indeed peculiar to itself, with new grammatical adjustments, as though better to express his Hebrew thought. Yet, like the Gospel, it is an easy Greek to learn and to understand. It is as though the Old Testament were the warp of a new bit of fabric, with the New as the shuttle-threads, and yet with such additions as makes the pattern stand out much more definite and clear, and the colours in it more pronounced. Thus this end-book is a weaving of both Old and New into a new bit of fabric, but with a more distinct pattern than either.
This explains the use of the symbolism which is so marked here. The picture language of John's Revelation has seemed very puzzling. It has seemed like a new language, to which we had neither grammar nor dictionary, and the intended meaning of which we could only guess at. But this is because we are Westerners and a bit set in our western way. And possibly, too, though we dislike to confess it, because we have not gotten a clear, simple grasp of this old Book of God as a whole. The Bible is an Oriental book, written in the characteristic picture language of the Orient.
The truth is that the symbol or picture language is meant to make the book easier of understanding. We simply need to learn how to read picture language, not whimsically, but sensibly according to the laws of picture language. The symbolism or picture sees things as they look at the moment the picture is taken. The picture is meant to give one general distinct impression of the thing being presented, the details of the picture being of value only as they give coloring to that one general impression. It is concerned, not at all, or only in the most incidental way, with the process by which the thing came to the point pictured.
There is a rare wisdom in the use of this picture language. It is really the common language not of the Orient merely, but of all the world. In our western half of the globe it is the language of the street, the common crowd, the common exchange of life, and of children. It is the language of the primitive peoples of all parts of the world. Everywhere the conventionalized book-language is spoken by the few. The picture, with its companion, the story, is the universal, the original, the natural language of the race.
On the mere human side here is one secret of the freshness of the Bible. It is the oldest book in some of its parts, but admitted to be the freshest and most modern in its adaptation to modern life. And the reason is simple. The pictures give principles. Principles don't change with the changing of centuries. Rules change. Principles abide. Details alter with every generation. Principles of action are as unchangeable as human nature, which is ever the same, east and west, below the equator, and above.
John's Revelation is naturally full of this picture language, for it is a gathering up of the chief threads of the old Oriental Hebrew fabric. It will help us understand the meaning if we keep in mind the simple rules of this Hebrew picture language.
John, of course, was a Hebrew, born and bred in a Hebrew home, and immersed in the old Hebrew Bible from the time of his mother's milk. What Greek language and culture had come was a bit of the outer world come into his Hebrew home and life. Now in his old age the early memory is asserting itself.
Then too it is quite likely that in his imprisonment he had been brooding anew over the old prophecies, reviewing afresh events since the resurrection of Jesus,—the growth of the Church, and now the severe persecution, with himself a prisoner. And while he in no way doubts the unseen overruling Hand, yet he is seeking to get a fresh outlook into the future from the old prophetic writings.
And through all of this without doubt the Holy Spirit was brooding in unusual measure over this man, reviving early memory, bringing to his remembrance all things of other days, deepening impressions, bringing old facts into new perspective, giving clearer vision, mellowing and maturing both mind and heart into fresh plastic openness to further truth. And so we have this little book with its Hebrew soul and its Greek body.
The meaning of all this is very simple, and yet a meaning of intense significance. Here is summed up the whole of the revelation of God's Word. Here all the lines of Revelation meet. Almost two thousand years of inspiration come to a climax in this little end-book. Psalmist and prophet, historian and law-giver, Gospel and Epistle come to a final focus point in one simple intense message. The purpose of the book is intensely and only practical. Here is the message of the whole Bible to Christ's people for this present interval between the Ascension and the next great step in our Lord's world-plan.
Jesus' Plea to His Friends.
And the message is simply this: put to us with all the intensity of the One who gave His very life for us, it is this,—that we be personally true to our Lord Jesus during His present absence. This comes as His personal request, that, in sweet, stern purity of life, in full glad obedience of spirit, in tender freshness of personal devotion, in holding absolutely everything, of talents and position and possession, subject to His call, and in keeping our eye ever open forward and upward for His return, we be true to Him.
He is the Lamb slain. Only through His blood is there salvation for any one. He is now allowing man fullest opportunity before He comes to set things right. This is the in-between time, much lengthened out. In the midst of formalism and subtle compromise, the tangling of ideas and issues, and the blurring of vision within His Church, He calls to His own blood-bought ones to be true to Himself.
There's a terrific moral storm coming. Wickedness will wax to a worst never yet known. Evil will be so aggressive, compromise so radical, temptations so subtle and coming with such a rush, and ideals of right so blurred and dimmed in the glare of the lower lights, that even those of the inner circle will be sorely tried, and many will be deceived. Just at the bursting of the worst of the storm the crowned Christ will appear. He will come on the clouds before all eyes, take away His own out of the storm, then clear the storm by His own touch, and begin the new order of things.
The test coming will be terrific. He knows it. And his knowledge makes His plea intense that we be true to Himself, our beloved, crucified, crowned Lord, utterly regardless of consequences to ourselves. So we shall "overcome by the blood of the Lamb," and be joined with Him in closest intimacy during His coming reign over the earth.
There is a striking thing told us at the very outset of the book;—it is a revelation. That is, it is something revealed directly by God. It is the only book of the Bible of which we are told plainly and directly that it is a revelation.
It is not that the other books do not have the same inspirational characteristic. But our attention is explicitly called to the fact that this one is, in its entirety, a direct revelation; and not only so, but it is a revelation given directly by God to the Lord Jesus, and given in person by Him to John. This is significant. It marks out the message of the book as of the utmost meaning and importance.
This suggests a need. And the need of something of the sort is plain enough, if one think into it. Already in John's day there was a distinct break-away from the simplicity and purity of the Gospel, both in the Church and in the lives of professed Christians. The messages to the Churches of Pergamum and Thyatira and Sardis show clearly that there had already begun a rubbing out of the sharp line of distinction between the Church and the world. The world spirit was—not creeping in, but—walking boldly into the life of the Church.
It is striking to note the thing that leads John to write his First Epistle, that is, the alarming conditions among Christ's followers. The spirit of compromise seems seeping in at every crevice. And worse yet, the spirit of Antichrist, that makes such a savage attack on Jesus, on the deity of His person, and the atoning significance of His death, this was openly at work among them. These conditions, so familiar to those who first read his little Epistle, are the continual underscoring of His intense plea for abiding.
It is most significant that Jude's intense flame-like Epistle talks entirely about conditions within Church circles. Run through it again with this fact fresh in mind, and the significance of it stands out in a startling way. Peter's Second Epistle reveals the same sort of an atmosphere seeping in among the groups of disciples to whom he writes. Not only was there doubt and confusion about the meaning of the prophetic teachings, but even a sneering and mocking at the teaching about the second coming of our Lord.
These are a few indications of how things were in the Church generally before the first century had closed. It was a time of confusion and compromise. The air was tense. The need was critical. It would seem that if ever our Lord would give a simple direct revelation afresh, to His people, it would be in just such circumstances. And it reveals to us at once how grave things looked to His eyes, and how much depended on His followers having a clear understanding of how things would work out, that our Lord Jesus does do just this thing,—send a direct revelation that would meet just such a need.
More Alike than Different.
It is most striking that the conditions of the Church then and to-day are so much alike. The line between Church and world is either badly blurred, or quite wiped out. And this one fact throws a flood of light upon Church conditions. Within the Church, when it comes to the matter of what its real purpose of being is, and what the essentials of faith, the lines are hopelessly crossed and tangled, even though the surface shows so much striving toward at least a seeming unity, and so much aggressiveness in action. The common absence of real spiritual power, that unmistakable moving, like a breath, of the Spirit of God, is freely admitted.
It is a painful fact that membership in a Church no longer gives any clue to a man's vital belief, nor even to his moral conduct. There is utter confusion about the practical meaning of God's prophetic Word, and what the actual outcome of the present order will be; that is, where such things are not quite dismissed from consideration. And, stranger yet, indifference, or an actual repugnance, to any mention of the Lord's return is the common thing. It is not surprising that earnest people are bewildered as to just what should be the attitude of one who would ring true to the absent Jesus. It hurts to remember that all this is the freely admitted commonplace, where such things are seriously spoken of.
Indeed it is of intense interest to note that just this sort of thing has marked the whole interval since these early Church days. Broadly the same characteristics have marked both world movement and the Church movement in this long interval. There is a unity characterizing the age since our Lord ascended. There have been differences, very sharp and marked, but always they have been differences in degree, now more intense, now less. The general characteristics have been the same in kind.
The need of the Church in the end of the first century is its need in the beginning of the twentieth. Surely the thing of all things needed is a simple, clear, understandable revelation direct from our Lord Jesus Himself. It was needed then. Clearly it has been needed in every generation since then. And one whose pulse is at all sensitive to spirit conditions to-day feels that surely it is the thing needed now.
And here it is, a revelation of Himself, crowned in the upper world, keeping in closest touch with things down in this world, telling us what the outcome is to be, and especially speaking of our attitude toward Himself in this present in-between interval.
Usually God's method with man is to give him enough of a revelation of Himself in nature, and in His Word, to start him straight, and guide him as he goes to school with himself as chief pupil, with all of nature to find out and develop, and so to get mastery both of himself and of nature and its forces. We recognize this as the best school-teacher method for good self-development.
But here something more seems needed. The situation down on the earth has gotten badly mixed up. Even though Jesus has been on the earth, and has died, and has sent down the Holy Spirit in such irresistible power, the situation in the world, and among His disciples, has gotten so subtly tangled and intense, the enemy is so viciously and cunningly at work, that only one thing will meet the need,—a revelation, a simple, direct, warm revelation given us personally by the Lord Jesus Himself. And here it is in this little end-book, with its vision of the glorified Jesus, its pleading heart-cry to His followers, and its simple but tremendous outlook into the future.
It would not be surprising if such a book should be made the subject of special attack by the evil one. It is not surprising, though it is deeply grievous, that the common idea about this book among Christian people is that it is a sort of a puzzle, that it is impossible to get a simple, clear, workable understanding of its message. Parts of it are conned over tenderly and loved, a paragraph here, a verse there, and so on, but a grasp of the one simple message of the book seems not common, to put it mildly. No book of the sixty-six has seemed so much like a riddle to which no one knew the answer. And without doubt the full meaning of much will be quite clear only as events work themselves out. Events will be the best exposition of certain parts. But these parts, be it keenly noted, are not essential to the grasp of the whole message. God is intensely practical. Jesus was too intent on helping people to be otherwise than practical. He hasn't changed. He is too tremendously wrapped up in the outworking of His plans. The Bible is wholly a practical book. And this crowning end of it is intensely and only practical. It is with the clear conviction that it is entirely possible to get the simple grasp of it that shall steady our steps, and clear our understanding, and feed our personal devotion to the absent Jesus, our blessed Lord, that these few simple quiet talks have been put together.
Doing Leads to Understanding.
The outline of the book is very simple. After the brief introduction and personal greeting, there comes the wondrous vision of the glorified Jesus, and His personal message to John. He is the Living One, who became dead for a great purpose, and is now living, never to die again. He is seen walking quietly among the groups of his followers, with eyes of flame, and heart of love, keeping watch over these, His empowered witnesses on earth.
And He tells John that he is to write to the groups of his followers a threefold message, a description of Himself as just now seen by John, a description of affairs in these Churches as seen by His own eyes, and an account of the things that are going to happen on the earth.
Then follows this description of the Churches. It is in a sevenfold personal message to His followers on the earth. Then the vision of Himself in heaven as He steps directly into the action of the earth to take possession of His crown domain. Then comes the account of coming happenings. It is a sevenfold view of a terrific moral storm on the earth, that will follow this advance step of His in the heavens. It is so terrific and includes so much, that it is possible to get a clear view of it and its sweep only by looking, now at this feature of it, and now at this; now from this angle of vision, and now from this other.
It is the final contesting of Christ's crown claim as He steps forward to assert it; the final outburst of evil unrestrainedly storming itself out. And it is the clearing-up storm, too. There is ever the shining of a clear light just beyond the outer rim of the terrible blackness of the storm clouds. This takes up the greater part of the little book, including chapter six, to the close of chapter eighteen.
And then there is given briefly the actual coming to earth in glory of the crowned Christ; the new order of things under His personal reign; a final crisis; and then in a vision of wondrous winsomeness, God and men are seen dwelling together as one reunited family, though still with a sad burning reminder of the old sin-rebellion as part of the picture. And the book closes with personal paragraphs to John and to the groups of Churches.
Another of the striking things peculiar to this book is the personal plea that it be read and lived up to. At the very front-door step as one starts in he is met full in the face with this: "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear, (or give careful heed to) the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein."
Here at the very outset is a plea, made to each one into whose hands the little book may come, for a reading, and a careful thinking into, and then, yet more, a bringing of the whole life up to the line of what is found here. The blessing of God will rest peculiarly upon him who heeds this threefold plea. That man is moving in the line of the plan of God.
A little past the midway line of the book, all at once, abruptly, in the thick of terrible happenings being told, an unexpected voice comes. Clearly it is the Lord Jesus Himself speaking. It is as though He were standing by all the time throughout all these pages, watching with a sleepless concern. Now He speaks out. Listen: "Blessed is he that watcheth," that keepeth ever on the alert against the subtle temptations, and the compromise that fills the very air, "and keepeth his garments;" sleeplessly, kneefully, takes care that no breath of evil get into his heart, no taint of compromise stain his life, no suspicion of lukewarmness cool his personal devotion to the absent Jesus.
And again, doing sentinel duty at the rear-end, is the same plea. "Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book." Reading, heeding, obeying, watching, living up to, this is the earnest plea peculiar to this book. Clearly our Lord Jesus desires earnestly that it be read. And He expects us to understand it. And He pleads with us to live in the light of what He tells us here.
He that willeth to do shall know what he ought to do. He that doeth the thing he does know will know more. And that more done will open the door yet wider into all the fragrance of a strongly obedient life, and into a clear and clearing understanding of the Lord Jesus Himself.
He that brings his life bit by bit up to the level of the earnest plea of this special revelation, as bit by bit it opens to him, will find his understanding of it wonderfully clearing. Obedience is the organ of understanding. Through it there comes clear grasp of the truth.
A single recent illustration of this comes from Korea, that land that gives us so much of the romance of missions, as well as so much of its pathos. Dr. James S. Gale, of Seoul, tells of a Korean who had travelled some hundred miles to confer with him about Christian things. He recited to Dr. Gale the whole of the Sermon on the Mount without slip or error. After this surprising feat of memory, the missionary said gently that memorizing was not enough; the truth must be practised in daily life.
To his surprise the Korean quietly said: "That's the way I learned to memorize. I tried to memorize, but it wouldn't stick. So I hit upon this plan; I would memorize a verse, then find a heathen neighbour and practise the verse on him. Then I found it would stick."
That's the rule for understanding this revelation of Jesus through John, as well as all of this inspired Word of God. This rule simply, faithfully, followed will open up this little end-book which to many has seemed a sealed book. He that "keepeth the things" that are written here will find these pages opening to his eyes. He that liveth the truth he does understand will understand more and better, and so live in the wondrous power of it, and in the sweet presence of Him who gives it to us.
 John i. 35-42.
 Luke ix. 54.
 John xviii. 15-16.
 Luke xxii. 8.
 Acts iii. 1, 3, 4, 11; iv. 13, 19; viii. 14, 25; Galatians ii. 9.
 Mark xvi. 9; John xx. 1, 11-18.
 I John ii. 18-29; iv. 1-6.
 Revelation i. 1-3.
 Revelation i. 4-8.
 i. 9-20.
 Chapters ii. and iii.
 Chapters iv. and v.
 xix. i-xx. 3.
 xx. 4-6.
 xx. 7-15.
 xxi. i-xxii. 5.
 xxii. 6-21.
 i. 3.
 xvi. 15.
 xxii. 7.
III.—A SIGHT OF THE CROWNED CHRIST
(Revelation, Chapter i.)
"Since mine eyes were fixed on Jesus, I've lost sight of all beside, So enchained my spirit's vision, Looking at the Crucified."
"The Lord Christ passed my humble cot: I knew him, yet I knew him not; But as I oft had done before, I hurried through my narrow door To touch His garment's hem.
"He drew me to a place apart From curious crowd and noisy mart; And as I sat there at His feet I caught the thrill of His heart-beat Beyond His garment's hem.
"Rare was the bread He broke for me, As wine the words He spoke to me— New life surged in, the old life died.... I cannot now be satisfied To touch His garment's hem."
Transfigured by a Look.
No one ever had a sight of Christ's face and forgot. No one ever gets a sight of Him and gets over it. He is never the same man after that. He doesn't want to be the same.
A look into the face of Christ is transforming. You see Him; and you can never be the man you have been and be content. A change comes. You want a change. You must have it. This longing is the beginning of the deeper change. You can never be content again with being the man you have been.
It has always been so. It always will be so. For this is the natural thing. In the dawning twilight of Eden God looked into the face of the man he had fashioned. He drew very close to him, close enough to breathe his own breath into his face. And the man looked out into God's face, and took on God's likeness. So he became his own real self, as originally planned.
But while man was yet young, sin looked him in the face. And the man looked at sin with an evil longing look. And in that look he took in some of what he saw. He was marred. The God image was hurt. He was not the same man. And he knew it. He felt it. His eyes were never the same after that exchange of looks with sin.
But God helped him. He didn't go away. He came closer for the sake of the sin-hurt eyes. And whenever man has looked into that wondrous God-face, even though seeing dimly and indistinctly, something within him makes a great bound. He recognizes the original of his own natural self. And he catches fire at the sight. A holy discontent springs up within.
"Couldst thou in vision see Thyself the man God meant, Thou never more couldst be The man thou art—content."
But you have to see Jesus as He was in His humanity to see yourself the man God meant. And you have to see Jesus as He is now to see the God who meant you to be like Himself.
It has always been so. This has been God's simple method with men He would use. He has wooed and then wooed more, and a bit longer, gently, persistently, up and away and apart until at last the man's eyes were trained away from the lower glare enough to see the real things.
Then in some vision of the night, whose darkness helped hold back the lower earth lights, God has looked a man in the face once again. Or, perhaps in open day there came to him that which he could not describe. But in his inner spirit he knew there was One with him whom yet his outer eyes could not see, but who could not be more real if his outer eyes did see.
And in that presence there was a mingling of exquisite tenderness and of limitless power that was overawing. Inconceivable purity and yet such an unspeakable graciousness seemed blended in this presence. And the man seeing was melted in his innermost being with the sense of tenderness, and bowed in awe to the lowest dust in the sense of overwhelming power. Those who have seen will understand how poor the words are to tell the story. And those who have not may wonder a bit until they, too, have seen.
Some Transfigured Men.
This it was that transformed that man of the early dawnlight named Enoch, the seventh from Adam. He was the head of the leading family of the race, the racial leader. He had lived well on into the seventh decade of his life.
Then the change came. He recognized a Presence with him, one day. That One unseen by unseeing eyes became real to him and then more real. He yielded to His wooing. He companioned with Him daily. This came to be the realest thing. And he was transformed by it. He grew constantly less like what he had been, and more like what he was originally meant to be, like his Companion. Constant contact restored the original likeness. He was transformed before men's eyes, changed over from within.
Then one day the transforming forces had gone so far that he was transferred to the upper levels, where all see His face, and his likeness shines out of all faces. He never got over the sight that came to him that early day.
It was this that wooed the man of Ur away from his ancestral home to be a lonely pilgrim, a stranger among strangers. Nothing less or else could have broken the early attachments, the strongest of the East. That winsome wooing Presence became to him stronger than the strongest human attachments of his family and home land.
This it was that steadied him through the loneliness, the homelessness, the disappointments, the long delays, until it was the image of a new man, a transformed man, a faith-begotten man, that at length looked at him out of the eyes of his only begotten. This it was that steadied him through the hardest test of all with that only begotten, the fire test on Moriah. And that made the transformation yet fuller. For so he grew the liker him to whose presence he insisted on yielding as each test came.
So it was with that rare student of Egypt and Arabia. Trained in the best that man could give in the University of the Nile, and then further trained by absence from man in the University of the Desert, alone with sheep and stars, shifting sand and immovable rock, he wasn't ready for his task yet. He was well trained but not yet transformed.
The fires had to be kindled, purifying, melting, fusing fires. And only fire kindles fire. The fire of the unburnt bush told him first of a new kind of fire, uncatalogued on the Nile. The fire of a Presence burned daily, not consuming him, but only the dross in him, as he led his race from Egypt to Sinai, out from the slavery of men up to the freedom of the presence of God. And then for six weeks, twice over, he was in the Presence of Flame on the Mount.
This it was that utterly changed him into the strongly gentle, patient, tender-hearted, wise man who taught and trained, lived with and led, the immature men and women whom God would weld into a nation, a God-nation. He never got over those two long visits to the Mount, nor has the world.
It was nothing else than this, long years later, that made the rugged man of the deserts brave the traitorous Ahab in his luxurious, licentious court. Without it, the sight obscured, the vision lost, he is a coward fleeing like a whipped dog before a bad woman, thinking only of saving his own skin. It showed himself, his weak, cowardly self, to himself.
A fresh vision that early morning in the mouth of the desert cave made the yet deeper more radical transformation. That unutterably gentle sound of stillness, too exquisite to be told, only to be felt by a spirit in tune, that left him not a whit less willing to brave danger than before, but made over now into another sort, like him whose Presence in the cave so melted him down.
This new, gentled, mellowed, strengthened Elijah reappears in the man who received the birthright portion of his spirit. We know the new Elijah by the spirit that swayed Elisha. The old spirit, fiercely denouncing, calling down fire, slaying the priests, but with no grief-broken heart under these stern needful things,—this we think of familiarly as the Elijah spirit.
The new spirit, healing, teaching, sympathizing, leading, feeding, fathering, the greatness of gentleness and patience, these characteristics of Elijah's prophetic heir tell of the deep radical transformation by the wondrous unseen Presence that early morning in the mouth of the cave. This is the birthright gift of Elijah to Elisha. Elijah had a spirit-sight of God, and he never got over it. He became like Him into whose face he looked.
Heart Stimulant for the Brain.
But time fails, and words fail immensely more, to tell this thing. Let him who would know that transforming sight get quietly alone with Isaiah in the temple, and on bent knees linger unhurriedly, and listen, and watch, and breathe out his prayer, and strongly wait until something of the same brooding Presence be discerned that transformed this young Hebrew messenger of God.
Then let him get alone with the Moses of the New Testament. For there is no man who was so utterly transformed, and so quickly, as the man on the Damascus road. The whole course of his character and life was radically changed as by a lightning touch. This is the most striking illustration of all. No man so reveals in himself the tremendous transforming power there is in the sight of the Christ as does this high-strung son of the Hebrew race.
But—words are such lame things. They cannot tell the story here. They are all one has to use. Yet they'll never be understood except as the light of experience shines upon them. When any one attempts to talk of such a thing as this of seeing God or Christ, his words seem so poor and lame and under the mark by the man who has had something of the vision. And they either are meaningless and uninteresting, or else they seem overstated, and quite beyond the mark to one who has had no inkling in experience of the thing itself.
I recall distinctly the experience of a Danish friend in Copenhagen. She had been trying to read in English a certain devotional book, but said she couldn't seem to grasp the meaning of the English words. They eluded her, and so the book didn't help her much.
Then she went through a time of sore stress of spirit in the sickness and death of her mother. A new experience of the nearness of God came to her. And then happening—as it seemed—to pick up the English book again she was amazed and delighted to find how much better and more quickly she knew the words and sensed the meaning.
It is only as the heart is fired that the brain awakens. Experience gives the meaning to language. Without experience it is a dead language in meaning even though it be one's own mother tongue. Only the man who has caught something of the vision of Christ's face can understand the strong words used in talking of such a vision.
It is most striking to notice that even when the glory of God's presence was hidden beneath human wrappings in Jesus it still could be felt. Men felt that presence though they knew not just what it was they felt, nor why. When the glory came yet closer in the coming of Jesus, it must be well covered up for the sake of men's eyes, that they might not go blind at once; but its power of attraction could not be wholly hid.
So really human was Jesus in the outer circumstance of His life that His brothers of the home couldn't believe he was essentially different from themselves. But the attraction of that presence was felt constantly even through the human hiding of it.
John of the Wilderness instinctively recognized that here was more than the man he saw, and so obeyed His word. The crowds gathered eagerly in the Jordan bottoms in even greater numbers than to hear John, drawn by a power they felt they must yield to, and did yield to gladly.
From the first the crowds gathered thick about Him, Jewish aristocrat, Samaritan half-breed and sinful outcast jostling elbows in their eagerness to hear, drawn by a power they could feel, but could not understand any more than they could withstand it. The children loved his presence and touch.
The bad in life were as resistlessly drawn up to a new life as the Greeks were drawn from clear beyond the blue waters of the Hellespont into His presence. The crowds were irresistibly drawn to follow on that last eventful journey to Jerusalem even while they felt "afraid."
It was the sight of the glory on the Mount that drew faithful John in with Jesus, and held him steady that awful night in palace and courtyard, and that later brought poor blasphemous Peter back for forgiveness. The two walking to Emmaus found their hearts all aflame, though they supposed it was only the chance stranger of the roadway they listened to.
Even those who hated Him were compelled to recognize the wondrous power of His presence. The Nazareth hands that itched to seize Him were restrained by His presence as He passed through their midst. Ten times did the Jerusalem crowds attempt his life, and ten times were they restrained by a power in Him that they could neither understand nor withstand.
The men officially empowered to arrest Him return empty-handed, confessing the overawing power of His words. That last week the leaders that were hotly plotting His death felt the strange restraint of His presence while He quietly sat in their very midst, and swayed the crowds.
In the garden soldiers and priests alike were felled to the ground by the power of His presence. So it always has been. No one has ever had a sight of that Face, and gotten used to it, or gotten over it.
A Fresh Vision Needed.
But the thing we are specially needing to-day is a sight of Christ as He is now. It seems a bit strange that we don't get this more. One historic Church has Him fastened to a cross, never freed from the old fastenings. Another has Him set in picture frame, behind glass. And the multitudes prostrate themselves and reverently kiss the glass.
In widely differing Churches He seems quite covered up out of sight by classical ritual, beautiful music, and impressive stately service. The crowds gather and listen and bow low in hushed stillness. But, apparently, Him they see not, else how different their conduct as they come out, and their lives.
And yet as I have mingled with the worshippers in Catholic Churches in the south of Europe, in Greek Churches in Russia, and in congregations of the Church of England classed as "high," I have been caught by faces here and there in the crowd that clearly were reaching out hungrily for Him, and were having some sort, some real sort, of touch with Him, too. Yet it seemed to be in spite of surroundings. The insistence of their hunger pierces through these to Him. He seems hidden from the crowd by them.
Scholarly orthodox theologians talk learnedly about Him, but Himself as He walked among us and as He is now, Him it would seem that they see not, at least not enough to burn through and burn out and burn up and send men out aflame with the Jesus-passion. Philosophies about Him that are classed as "liberal" and put attractively, yet have nothing of the burn in them that reveals Himself.
The more modern Church of the more western world seems to have gotten a new lease of aggressiveness in service, a new intensity in activities so numerous as to be a bit bewildering sometimes. The wheels whir busily and noisily. You feel them. But Him, the unseen presence that makes you reverently wrap your face up out of sight, and stand with awed heart to listen, Him we seem not to see.
The wondrous quiet Voice that makes your heart burn within you with a burning that cleanses and mellows and melts down, that we seem to hear only by getting away from the noise of the whirring wheels into some quiet corner.
There are in every Church and nation those who seem to have the close personal touch with Himself. Their faces and daily lives show the marks. Their lips may not say so much, for they who see most can say least of what they see. But the marks in the life are unmistakable.
Yet even here the sight of Christ emphasizes chiefly the personal side, what He is personally to them. And what a blessed side that is only they who know it know. They think of Him as a personal Saviour, and the heart glows. They see Him at the Father's right hand interceding, and gratefully remember that He will forget no name where there is a trusting heart. They think of the Holy Spirit, the other Jesus, Jesus' other self, always "alongside to help," alongside inside. And they practise letting Him work out the Christ-likeness within themselves.
And all this is blessed, only blessed. They see Him in His personal relation to themselves. But there's something more than this. No one knew more of this blessed personal part than John. But John saw more than this on Patmos. He saw Christ as He is now.
This is clearly a new sight of Christ. It was new to John. It would seem to be new to us. It is new in the pages of this book. It is something different from any sight seen before. In the Gospels we see Jesus the Man. In carpenter shop and little whitewashed stone cottage, in the ministering life clear from the Jordan bottoms to the healing touch at Gethsemane's gate, and in the suffering clear up to the ninth hour of that fateful day He is the Man, one of ourselves, though clearly more even in His humanity than the humanity we are.
On the Transfiguration Mount the favoured inner three, the leaders, see the glory within shining out through the Man. So bewildered are they that the chief impression that remains is of a blinding brightness. Yet this is up on a high mountain far away from the crowd, and from the haunts of men.
As Stephen is being stoned his eyes are opened to see the Son of Man standing in glory up at the Father's right hand. The Damascus traveller sees an overpowering burst of glory out of the blue and hears a voice speaking. In the epistles Paul pictures Him seated at the Father's right hand with an authority greater than any other. All the power He has is placed at the disposal of His followers on the earth. He Himself is above in the glory.
But in this very end of the Book John is given a new sight of Christ. He sees Him as He is now. That is to say, this is the sight of Christ as He is now characteristically. It is the distinctive sight that stands out above all these others.
He is at one's right hand in closest personal relation, through His Holy Spirit. He is at the Father's right hand in glory waiting expectantly till the time is ripe for the next direct move on the earth. But there's more than these. There's a sight of Him that overshadows these. It is the characteristic sight that lets us see Him as He is peculiarly now in His relation to affairs on the earth.
Christ as He Is Now.
This new sight of Christ is the heart and soul of this crowning book, this end-book of the Book.
It was out of this sight that this end-book grew. It is written wholly under the spell of this new sight of Christ. It is a revelation both of Jesus Christ and by Jesus Christ; first of, then by.
John begins his story by telling that he had gotten such a revelation, and of the special blessing attached to reading and fitting one's life to it. Then follows his salutation to those for whom the revelation was given, and the book written. It is peculiarly a Church book. Its message is not peculiarly for individual followers, but for groups of believers gathered together as Churches.
The salutation is absorbed with the One whom he has seen in the vision, what He has done for us in shedding His blood, and that He is actually coming again. "Behold He cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they that pierced Him." The Jew is specifically designated: the coming has special significance for the Jewish nation. And all the people of the earth shall penitently mourn as they see Him. And then like an endorsing signature from the One of whom he is writing comes the sentence: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God, who is and who was, and who cometh, the Almighty One."
Then comes the new sight of the crowned Christ. It was on a Lord's day. John was on the lonely sea-girt isle of Patmos. He was alone, brooding probably over some bit of the Word of God, and about the Jesus of whom he had been so earnestly testifying. It was these that had brought him to his lonely island prison. These ever burned within him, the wondrous written Word, the immensely more wondrous Word made flesh, of whom he had written, the Word that was God and became a Man and walked the will of God.
And as he brooded he became conscious of the Spirit of God overshadowing him, gentle as the soft breeze, noiseless as the fragrant dew, mighty as an enveloping presence that filled his being and had possession of him.
Then a voice spake and the tone of authority in it was unmistakable. "What thou seest, write." He was to see something. He was to tell what he saw. There's a delightful touch of the simplicity of natural speech here. He turned to see the voice. And he saw Him who was the voice of God to him. Then the sight is told in the same simplicity of speech.
There is a group of candlesticks, light-holders, made of gold. And in the midst of the group there is some One standing. He is in outer form like a man. But there is such an overpowering sense of divine glory that John falls on his face as one dead. Yet through all this overwhelming experience the impression of a man stands unmistakably out.
With keen, quick glance John takes in head and hair, eyes and feet, voice and hands, mouth and face. A simple, natural man in every outer particular like himself, a brother man, wearing man's garb and girdle. This is the first impression indelibly stamped on John's mind.