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THOUGHTS ON REVELATIONS.
Is pursuing the present explanation of the Apocalypse, I shall endeavour to give all the light which I may have acquired; but with the fullest acknowledgment, that many parts remain obscure; and explaining, what I judge to be clear, without, in all things, teaching it as ascertained truth, as in many parts of Scripture the Christian ought to do. Further, I shall here consider the whole defined period to be one half week, not two. The facts and personages, in this point of view, remain unaltered ; it is merely the relationships of detail as to time, and the particular force of certain passages which are affected by it
. Many treatises have been published, viewing the Apocalypse as revealing the distinct events of two half weeks; the comparison the reader will be enabled to make of the explanation of the book after the two methods, will lead to a fuller judgment of the connection of the various parts of it.
Besides the direct blessed witness of God's love and of personal salvation, there are two subjects which Scripture presents to us as a whole. The government of this world; and the Church. The latter is now, through the Holy Ghost, the recipient and depository of divine
The Church's portion is heavenly: to be in heaven in spirit now, and when the fulness of times has brought in
• Those who are its members are the means of spreading it. The Church does not teach. Apostles and prophets first, and then teachers in their place, as evangelists in theirs, do that. The Church receives, holds fast, and professes, the truth. The state of the Church may be such as to cast the holding fast and professing the truth, on the fidelity of individuals;
but the Charch's duty, in her right and normal state, is to be the pillar and ground of the truth.
the accomplishment of God's purposes; to be there, in fact, associated with Christ in the government of the earth. Her own proper place is the bride and body of Christ. But the Church has also an outward and responsible existence on the earth. She ought to be the epistle of Christ, known and read of all men; and present thus the character of God before the world. In this respect, she is looked at as a responsible dispensation in the world. God's husbandry; God's building, where men may build badly, though the foundation may have been well laid. Christ will build His own work, through all phases of the Church's existence; and have the Church, as His house, of which He will be the light and glory, perfect in glory. Against this work on earth, or its result in heaven, no power of him who has the empire of death can prevail; but, as intrusted to man's responsible service on earth, the Church stands in the position of a dispensation: to be rejected and cast off, if it does not maintain its faithfulness and manifest the glory intrusted to it; it is like all the various ways and dealings of God with men; sinless man at first, the promises, the law, the priesthood, the Jewish royalty in obedience with the law, Gentile supremacy without any, , have respectively been trusted to men ; man has failed in them all. All will be set up in grace, in or under Christ. The second Adam will be there, of which the first was but an image; the promises fulfilled, the law written in the heart, priesthood in its excellency made good, Jewish royalty in the Son of David, supremacy over the Gentiles, in Him who shall rise to reign over them. The Church-though forming no part of this series of dealings, yet, as the sphere of the manifestation of Christ's heavenly glory, by man's faithfulness on the earth, as the house of God, through the Spirit—is subject to the same divine law, first of responsibility in man, failure, and divine accomplishment in grace and power. Local assemblies-candlesticks—come under the same rule. In their normal state, they locally represent the normal state of the Church, that which is manifested of Christ's body on earth; but, as is the case with the general assembly, they may be so corrupt as to
require that the candlestick should be removed. There is this difference, that the removal of the candlestick leaves the assembly in general subsisting on the earth; whereas, of course, the closing of the responsibility of the whole assembly removes it as the scene of God's dealings on earth. Hence, we are sure, that the latter never can take place, till the time for the bride and body of Christ to have a better place in heaven be come also.
The Apocalypse reveals to us Christ as Son of God, or Ancient of days, in His divine title of judgment; and it contemplates the judgment of the assembly, and the judgment of the world, particularly of the last apostate power. In this point of view we must read it, or we shall never understand it. Hence, the communications are prophetic in their character. The direct relationships of the father to his children, and of Christ to His bride and body, are not before us; though, at the close, the bride be spoken of in order to identify the city with her. The saints have the consciousness of the grace in which they stand, as also the Church at the end of its own relationship; but these are in no way the subject of the book, but distinguish themselves sharply from it. The book is prophetic, because it is occupied with government and the world; and the assembly itself is viewed in its responsibility on earth, in which character it will finally be rejected; not, surely, as the body of Christ united to the Head in heaven. It is all-important, not only in respect to the Apocalypse but as to truth in general, to enter clearly into this distinction. Without it, the Church will never be known; as the knowledge of the Church, on the other hand, makes it instantly and necessarily felt. All belonging to Christ, save His relationship to the Church, is found in the Old Testament, that could not be. All was open, publicly revealed, that concerned Himself. The Church could not be. It lay at the foundation of the Church's existence, that the middle wall should be broken down. It lay at the very foundation of the existence of Israel and the law, that it should be kept up. Indeed, the responsibility of the first man would not have been otherwise fully tried. The Church, and our relationship to God, repose on the fact, that that responsibility is closed by our being wholly lost, and a wholly new place taken by the second man risen from the dead; His work being accepted, and thereupon Himself also accepted and glorified, and we in and because of Him.
Our responsibility, even, is of another kind. It is to walk as he walked, not to live up to what Adam ought to have been, or what the law required; but to let this life of Jesus be manifested in our mortal body as dead to sin, the world, and the law; and living in that life which came down in the person of the Son from heaven. I must, however, add here, that the revelation of the Father by the Son, as dwelling eternally in His boson, is not to be looked for in the Old Testament. The relationship of son is, doubtless, found therein, so that the thought is not foreign to it; but it is sonship employed in a conventional way (I do not mean, of course
, not a true way), or viewed in time, and not founded in the nature of His Person in the Godhead; but as a relationship formed on earth. “He shall be to me a Son, , and I will declare the decree, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee." This is in time on the earth. The glorious and true title and character of Messiah. So, in the passage referred to, “I will be to Him & Father, and He shall be to me a Son. I will make him my first-born, higher than Agag, greater than the kings of the earth.” But in the New Testament we find the Son in His own proper relationship to the Father. No man hath seen God at any time, the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; He hath declared Him. He has declared, even when on earth, the Father's name. He came forth from the Father. By the Son God created all things. He puts us in this relationship of children and sons, adopted no doubt, but by becoming our life. So that life is never said to be in us, though we have it, and are said to have it. But God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the
b Compare here, 1 John, iv. 12, to see the unspeakable privilege of the Christian,
Son of God hath not life. This leads me to examine, more nearly, the nature and character of the Apocalypse ; because it is specially John who brings forward this last point of view, while speaking of the truths connected with our salvation, especially the presence of the Holy Ghost, and, in the epistle, of propitiation. In his gospel, it is the Son who is come as life; the life being the light of men. In the epistle, this is taken as the ground-work; and the life communicated to us, and its existence tested by its true character to guard us against deceivers. It is remarkable, that, save in a few passages coming in to complete the truth here and there -and they are very few and short—John never sees this life carried up to its ultimate result in the purpose of God; but manifested in this world, whether in Christ Himself or in us. The fact, that we shall go up on high to the Father's house, is blessedly stated in the beginning of chapter xiv., and desired in the end of xvii. ; but it is no where the general subject. Paul, who was born out of due time, between the first and second comings of Christ; who knew Christ only in the glory in which
He was in heaven, man glorified, the result with God of His accomplished work, who was not to know Christ after the flesh, Paul, who was especially apostle of the Church, the minister of the Church to complete the Word of God, who was converted by the revelation of the heavenly glory of Christ on one hand, and of the union of the saints, with Him so glorified, on the other. Paul puts us, perfectly accepted, in the glory in Christ, and sees this life in the
e Although this doctrine is found in many parts of Paul's writings, it may be interesting to remark, that though in God's plans (viii.) he sees us glorified, and Christ in heaven interceding-in doctrine, the Romans presents man as a sinner and Christ only risen so that the individual is justified—not the Church, save in relative duties. In Ephesians, on the contrary, he does not see Christ living on earth, nor us as living in sin, save, as alluding to it as a past history, when speaking of practice. Christ is first seen as dead, and God has raised Him and set Him above all: we, dead in sins, and God has raised us
with Him. Hence, it is wholly a new creation, absolute relation- ships, according to this. Hence, we have the Church, and our
place before God, as Christ now has it.