By Horatius Bonar
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth--for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away--and there was no more sea."--Revelation 21:1.
Of these two last glorious chapters, we could say, 'You have kept the good wine until now!' They take us into the shrine of shrines--into the very heart of the glory--into the paradise of God; into the royal banqueting-house--into the very splendor of eternity! What a summing up of God's purposes is here! What a conclusion of the divine oracles! What a termination to the long, long desert-journey of the Church of God, calling forth from us the exulting shout which broke from the lips of the Crusaders, when first from the neighboring height they caught sight of the holy city, 'Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
The first book of Scripture--and the last--fit well into each other; the first two chapters of Genesis and the last two of Revelation fit together like the two halves of a golden clasp set in gems. Enclosed between the two is the history of six thousand years. And what a history! What a beginning, and what an ending! It began with the new, and it ended with the new--the strange checkered 'old' lying mysteriously between.
'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.'
'I saw new heavens and a new earth.'
Of these Revelation visions, some were seen by John on earth, and some in heaven, according as the point of view suited best the vision and the prophet. His sight of Jesus in His priestly glory was from earth, Patmos itself. Jesus had come down to him and showed Himself face to face. The epistles to the seven Churches are written from Patmos also.
But after this John is called up to heaven, like Paul, to see and hear unspeakable things, which, however, unlike those which Paul saw, would be 'lawful for a man to utter;' and most of the subsequent visions are from this heavenly standing-place. What eyes must his have been--to look upon such terrors and such glories unmoved and undazzled!
Let us notice a few of the many things regarding which he says, 'I saw'--while standing in these heavenly places. We cannot cite even one half. 'I saw twenty-four elders sitting,' 4:4. 'I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice,' 5:2. 'I saw under the altar the souls of those who were slain,' 6:9. 'I saw, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands,' 7:9. 'I saw, another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud,' 10:1. 'I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire,' 15:2. 'I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored best,' 17:3. 'I saw the woman drunken with the blood of saints,' 17:6. 'I saw an angel standing in the sun,' 19:17. 'I saw thrones, and those who sat upon them,' 20:4. 'I saw a great white throne, and Him who sat on it,' 20:2. 'I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God,' 20:12. 'I saw a new heaven and a new earth,' 21:1. 'I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven!' 21:2.
This new heaven and earth which John saw were still future. He saw the future as if it were the present. Yet this new creation shall not be shadowy, but real--as real as that described in Genesis. The former creation passes away, and the new creation comes--new heavens, new earth, new sea. The old creation is not annihilated but only purged and renewed. It passes away as the gold passes into the furnace--to come out purified. It passes away as this 'vile body' does into the grave, to come forth glorious and immortal, yet the same body. The 'restitution of all things' is to do for earth and heaven what resurrection is to do for the body. What a change! What a perfection! What a holy blessedness! Oh when shall the day break, and the shadows flee away!
This first verse most significantly brings before us such things as these--all of them blessed.
I. Here is the end of SIN. The world has lain in wickedness--but it shall do so no more! The overflowing flood of evil shall then be dried up, and sin be known no more upon this earth and under these heavens. What an ending shall be the ending of sin! For six thousand years it has triumphed--then its triumph ends. Not the 'shadow' of sin or evil in any form shall pass over this fair globe. It shall, even more than at the first, be very good!
II. The end of the SERPENT and his seed. How many ages had run out from the time that the serpent seduced Eve and ruined our world--from the hour when God said, 'You are cursed above all cattle--I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed!' The seducer's triumph is now over--he himself is cast out of this earth and bound--the terrible battle of so many ages has been fought, and the battlefield cleared forever--earth is now no longer at Satan's mercy--and no trace of his long dominion over it remains. The creation that he marred, rises from its ruin and sorrow more glorious than at first. His reign is ended--his legions are in chains--his spell is dissolved--his work of disfigurement all undone!
III. The end of the CURSE. From this time there shall be 'no more curse.' He who was made a curse for us, has cancelled earth's curse forever! No cursed thing in any shape shall again be seen--only that which is blessed and holy. The earth and its fullness shall then be the Lord's, in a way until now unknown. Blessed kingdom, and blessed King! From every particle of dust--from air and earth and sea--shall the curse be expelled forever! O fair and spotless creation, great paradise of God! The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose!
IV. The end of CORRUPTION and MORTALITY. These are the FRUIT of the curse--and with the curse they disappear. Death is no more. The grave is emptied. Disease is abolished. The inhabitant shall no more say, I am sick. Feebleness and weariness are unknown. The head aches not, nor the heart. The eye grows not dim, nor the ear dull. All is immortality and incorruption--and beauty and eternal health.
V. The end of SORROW. Into this new creation no grief shall ever enter. The days of mourning shall be ended. Sorrow and sighing shall flee away. God Himself shall wipe away all tears. There shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying. There shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun--for it is written, 'The Lord shall be the everlasting light, and your God your glory!' 'You shall weep no more.' Everlasting joy shall be upon our heads. The valley of tears, shall then be the land of song!
And with the end of these things, shall come the beginning of the glorious and the blessed. The old passes away, and the new comes up like the sun in its strength. Winter is over and gone. It is sweet spring and perpetual summer now. It is the kingdom which cannot be moved--the undefiled inheritance--the reign of righteousness--the reign of the righteous King. Into this nothing that defiles shall enter--nothing unworthy of the presence of the glorious King!
All this for those who once were sinners--the lost and worthless! Blood has brought it. The cross has done it all. Through death, life has come. The crucified Christ has opened the gate for us--and all may go in. The same Jesus who has brought the glory for us, bids us come. Far and wide go out the messages of invitation--Come in, Come in! At each gate waves the blessed hand afar, beckoning us with all urgency to enter. Echoing amid earth's valleys and hills, through every land, the trumpet sounds that summons the wanderer, and assures him of most loving welcome. Will you hesitate, O men, or neglect, or scoff, or refuse? All this glory waiting you! These open gates inviting you! And this poor, dark, death-stricken earth speaking to you each hour, and saying, "This is not your rest--I have nothing for you but sorrow, and pain, and despair!" O men of earth, will you miss the prize thus placed within your reach? Will you despise the love that yearns and weeps over you in your folly? Will you not listen and live? Will you not listen, and go in, and become heirs of the glory and the joy?