a Conference at Honor Oak
Reading: Rev. 21 "The holy
city, new Jerusalem."
Heb. 12:22 "Ye are come... unto
the heavenly Jerusalem."
1. The City -
Its Essentially Spiritual Character
The City, as set forth in Rev.
21, is a whole system of Divine thoughts set forth in symbols -
the presentation in consummate form of all the working of God - a
spiritual state and position seen in a whole people
constituted according to His mind. It presents features that are
precious to God, i.e. features of Christ. These are foundation
factors (c.f. the precious stones of v. 19). In its
principles it is therefore not only future, but is operative now.
"Ye are come..." The background and basis of
everything that counts for God in our lives is spiritual.
The City is one of the several
designations in the Word of God (c.f. Body, House, Temple, etc.)
to describe the people of God, the Church. Each designation has
its particular significance. A city is a governmental centre.
(The number 12, the number of government, is much in evidence in
Rev. 21). The City therefore sets forth that which governs; first
in the lives of the Lord's people themselves, and then through
them in the universe. Government is entirely a spiritual
matter with God: it is spirituality that directs the course of
things (c.f. 2 Thess. 2:6,7 - "one that restraineth").
Whatever the exact significance of this, it is without doubt an
essentially spiritual factor that is already governing the course
of the age. Divine government is vested by predestination in the
Church. Our influence is the measure of our spirituality. Are we
seeking the increase of spiritual values?
2. The City -
A Corporate Expression of Divine Features
"The tabernacle of God is
with men" (v. 3) - fulfilled in Jesus Christ,
"Emmanuel" - similarly in the Church, in terms of
sonship; to be realised as a spiritual entity expressing God's
thoughts, judgments, etc. Details of the City are the varied expressions
of God - what He is like; e.g.:
(1) "Having the glory of
God" (v. 11) - Glory can be defined as the satisfaction of
God in expression. Whenever we know that God is well-pleased in
us we taste glory and "are come" to the City. (How well
we know that when God is not well pleased in us we taste the
reverse of glory!)
(2) "Light... clear as
crystal" (v. 11) - All cloudiness, duplicity, etc. gone. God
is effecting this in us now by child-training, "that we may
be partakers of his holiness" (Heb. 12:1-13). Sons are being
perfected. We "are come" to the City.
(3) "Walls" and
"Gates" (v. 12) - Features of discrimination and of
government as to what is according to God's mind and what is not,
to admit or to exclude. Spirituality alone can determine this.
The spiritually minded already thus function (1 Cor. 2:15) - they
"are come" to the City.
City - The Bride of the Lamb
first love - undividedness of heart, joyous devotion to the
Bridegroom's interests, jealousy for Him, realisation of the
tremendous cost and grace wherewith He, as the Lamb, has bought
her by sacrifice.
Ephesus was the climax of
Paul's ministry and love is specially associated with that
church. (Note the atmosphere of Acts 20:17-38, and Rev. 2:4).
Ephesus departed from her first love - the love of her espousals
Love is the climax of the
Lord's working. The City as the Bride suggests a corporate love -
a company in a spirit and atmosphere of a great love for the Lord
Jesus; a shared love, that finds expression in a life laid down
for His interests in other lives. Is there not need for us to
seek recovery of first love that we have lost?
City - The Cost of Experimental Apprehension
Men who have come into the
place of vision and true spiritual apprehension have invariably
had a 'prison' background, literal or otherwise - c.f. Jeremiah
(Jer. 32:1,2), Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:1), John (Rev. 1:9,10), Paul
(Eph. 3:1, etc.). Such men were locked up to the consequences of
the spiritual position they had taken up - c.f. Israel in the
wilderness; they had left Egypt and come out to the Lord. This
necessarily meant they no longer had the resources of the world
available to them and they were shut up to receiving everything
from Him: and how they murmured and rebelled and were sorry for
themselves! - All who seek to be spiritual will know a prison in
one form or other. Why? Firstly, because God is after something
in them of such spiritual value (to be the governing thing in His
universe), that He must shut them up to Himself for training; and
secondly, because all opposing spiritual forces will try to bring
under restraint so that expression and survival are rendered
impossible. But the Lord is sovereign over Satan's work and makes
the prison the very place of discipline, and enlargement. Every
bit of real spiritual knowledge is wrung out of suffering. We
shall never come to knowledge of the Lord without that knowledge
being necessary. - Are we wanting spiritual knowledge?
Then are we ready to pay for it? (c.f. Rev. 3:18). If so, let us
draw encouragement from our imprisonment.
But note: sufferings do not necessarily
enlarge us. What is the needed condition? Like John,
we must be "in the Spirit" as well as "in
Patmos", This means "in the Lord" and out of
ourselves. If we are wrapped up in ourselves, in the trials, etc.
of our "prison", we shall see nothing and make no
spiritual advance. We must let go to the Lord, in acceptance and
submission. Thus shall we be spiritually enlarged. The measure of
our capacity is the measure of our spirituality, not of our
intellectual attainment, etc.
5. The City -
Realised through Faith and Patience
Abraham ('Faith') first got a
glimpse of the City (Heb. 11:10). Once you have seen it, you need
intense faith to hold on for it and to accept nothing less.
Realisation may look hopeless, but the hopeless and the
impossible can come to pass (c.f. Gen. 18:14; Rom. 4:18).
God's City has never come into
view until Man's City has been judged and dismissed - c.f. Babel,
then Abraham and the City of God; Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon
overthrown, then Jerusalem restored; 'Babylon' (Rev. 18), then
the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21); the nominal 'Church', then the true
Church. While the earthly is having its day, those who are
waiting for the heavenly have need of patience. They may not see
much now, but their stand will count in the afterward.
Men of spiritual vision always
committed themselves by acts of faith to what they saw - c.f.
Jeremiah in the purchase of the field (Jer. 32). In the day of a
double imprisonment - shut up in the court of the guard in a city
which was itself surrounded by the army of the enemy - he staked
his reputation and his money upon a day of Divinely promised
Have we seen God's full thought
for His Church? If so, have we committed ourselves to it, to wait
for it in faith and patience, as Abraham did?
First published in "A Witness and A
Testimony" magazine, Nov-Dec 1943, Vol 21-6