Reading: Rev. 21:2-3,9-12,19,21,27; 22:1.
"Thou desirest truth in the inward parts" (Psa. 51:6).
At this time we are being brought back to the matter of how the divine end governs everything and how everything has to be considered and taken account of, in the light of the divine end, the end towards which God is working.
The Divine End
Here in the chapters from which we have read, we have unveiled the divine end. We stand here in these portions of Scripture with the Lord in the unveiling, disclosing, of the end. This whole book is called "the revelation or the unveiling of Jesus Christ which God gave to Him" - the revelation of Jesus Christ. And there is a very real and strong sense in which all that is in this book is a revelation of Jesus Christ, a revelation of Him in various ways, from different standpoints: at the beginning, as fulfilling the Scripture "judgment must begin at the house of God" (1 Pet. 4:17), judging the churches and the whole church; and then dealing with wider matters. It is a revelation of Jesus Christ in action; it is the day of the Lord. And it is no less true when you come to the closing chapters, 21 and 22, that it is a revelation of Jesus Christ. There at the end we are given to see that revelation in the form of the New Jerusalem, the holy city, fairly fully described. It is still a revelation of Jesus Christ, but of course here it is a corporate and inclusive revelation of Him, not only in His Person and individual being, but also in a related way. The Lamb and the Bride are both gathered into one under the title of the New Jerusalem, the holy city, the tabernacle of God. You cannot split the two up. He is the tabernacle of God, and His own with Him constitute in a corporate way the tabernacle of God. And now it is all the consummation of processes, mighty activities. It is the consummate realization of what God has been doing over a very long time in a deep way, very largely in a hidden way. No one has seen this quite in this way before. They have known of it; Paul probably had a fairly full knowledge of this. He was caught up to the third heaven and shown unspeakable things (2 Cor. 12:2); and then in his letter to the Galatians, he speaks of the Jerusalem which is above which is the mother of us all (4:26). He had evidently seen something about this heavenly Jerusalem, but now it is revealed as something which has been in the making, proceeding towards this glorious unveiling. It is Christ and His own.
Let us at once re-impress our own minds with a fact which is not unfamiliar - that whatever there may be of place, location, geography, about our hereafter, about the holy city, the New Jerusalem and the heavenly country, it is pre-eminently and predominantly a spiritual state far more than it is a geographical location. It would be very difficult to say exactly where the saints of this dispensation are going to be absolutely located hereafter. They may have a very much wider scope of movement than they have now. If the Lord Jesus in resurrection is a type of resurrection saints, then movement is going to be on a very different basis from what it is with us at this present time. Location becomes quite a problem for our minds, these present minds, and we are therefore compelled to realize that the New Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem, far more than any fixed abode, is a condition of things spiritually: a heavenly nature and order towards which God is now working, and that in a spiritual way.
What is the final thing, then, about it all? If what we have just said is true, that God is working towards a condition which will be revealed, a condition which has numerous, perhaps countless, details and aspects, a very comprehensive spiritual state, what is the sum of it all when it is finally consummately unveiled? It is all gathered up in one little fragment - "having the glory of God". The end, the goal, the object which God has always before Him and towards which God is working in every detail now is the glory of God, the glory of God which will be revealed in us in and through Christ Jesus because we are in Him and He in us. The end, the all-governing end, is the glory of God.
And the end has to govern everything with us now. It has to become a present concern, a matter for our immediate and constant regard. Everything has to be looked at in the light of this - is it to the glory of God? How does it work out to the glory of God? How does it contribute to the glory of God? Is this matter, is this situation, is this line of things, is this order, glorifying God? If not, then for those who are the Lord's and who look forward to the day of the unveiling, such things are of altogether no account. They do not count if they are not working out to the glory of God, "Having the glory of God".
I want to suggest to you that that is a matter which should be brought immediately and fully into our lives and allowed to judge and determine the value of everything for us. Is this to the glory of God? Well, that is the inclusive, comprehensive object. That is the thing which is governing God in His dealings with us. And what is the glory of God?
The Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ
We are to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and when we look into the face of Jesus Christ for the glory of God, what do we see? We begin at once to take account of the features of the Lord Jesus. We look into His face for those spiritual features, then look right away to the great inclusive corporate unveiling of Him in terms of the holy city, the bride, the tabernacle of God, that full-orbed revelation, Christ in corporate expression, and we see those features of the Lord Jesus there brought out in fulness and perfection. And what are they?
Christ the Truth
We have, in our Bible quotations, underlined one of them. I do not know whether we shall find ourselves free to go beyond this one, but if the Lord could just write this deeply and powerfully enough in our hearts to bring about a conformity to the image of His Son on this point, I am quite sure it will carry us a long way towards the divine end. Did you note, then, the emphasis of the fragments read? "Her light was like unto a stone most precious, a jasper stone" (Rev. 21:11). The first of the foundations of the wall, a jasper. The street of the city pure gold, as it were, transparent glass. The river of the water of life, clear as crystal. What is all that? I suggest to you that that is the feature of the Lord Jesus of which He spoke when He said, "I am the truth" (John 14:6); or again, "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth" (John 4:23). "Thou desirest truth in the inward parts."
That is not truth of doctrine, because doctrine can be on the outside. It is not merely truth of practice, practice can be on the outside; truth of form - that can all be on the outside. It is "truth in the inward parts".
Satan the Liar
Now you recognize that this is an end-time matter particularly. Finally the issue is brought out at the end of the book of the Revelation, but it is on that very matter that the Lord takes up His judgment with the churches and the whole church comprehensively. It is this matter of truth in the inward parts, and is it not very clear and very patent that the opposite of this in an extreme way is also characteristic of the end-time? If there is one thing which will come out to full revelation, full apocalypse at the end, it will be that essential feature of Satan in the antichrist, which is the lie. "He is a liar", said our Lord (John 8:44), "and the father thereof." And, as we get towards the end, the world will be controlled in an extreme and mighty way by the spirit of untruth, the lie. We are seeing something of it now. It has become a philosophy to this world that you never succeed until you can tell the greatest lie and have it believed as the truth. You see that at work; I need not dwell upon that. It is a dark and terrible state of things. It is the spirit of antichrist coming to its consummate fulness for its own unveiling. And antichrist is that which runs alongside and counter to the Christ.
The movement of God towards the end is to intensify His side of this: truth, transparency, reality, an unmixed state of things with no contradictions or inconsistencies - "Pure gold, as it were transparent glass". That is what God is doing.
Satan's Work in Man
Now we must just step back a bit. Beloved, you and I may believe with all our hearts that we are genuine, we are real, we are honest, we are sincere, and that the way that we are taking, seeking, pursuing, is the way of truth. We believe that about ourselves. I suppose not one of us would say otherwise than that they are before God honest, sincere, seeking to be true, after reality. Yes, we say that of ourselves and we believe that of ourselves. It is not for me to say that you are dishonest, and it is not for you to say that I am dishonest, but this we can say about ourselves and about all of us, that we do not know ourselves. You see, a horrible mix-up took place at the beginning when Adam sinned. The liar gained access; he not only told a lie and not only persuaded the others to accept his lie and to act upon it, no, something more than a merely external thing happened. What he was after was to get a begetting by his word. You see, God begets by His word. We are begotten by the Word of God, and Satan seeks to get a begetting, a kind of being, a type of person, by his word. Whenever you and I accept a word from Satan, a suggestion from Satan, we have not only accepted something that is not true that we can easily turn from, something has gained access into our beings which changes us and makes us another kind of being. That is what happened at the beginning. Adam was changed from the being that he was and became another kind of being. The word which stands over man's heart forever since then is that his heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick, "exceedingly corrupt" (ASV), "desperately wicked" (KJV) (Jer. 17:9). Something has happened in us that we in our very beings, our very souls, are mixed, confused, deceived and deceitful. We do not know ourselves even when we think that we are most genuine, most sincere, but God knows us, and the only way of dealing with this matter is to get the fires of purging to work, and when you and I come into those divine fires of purging and refining, we begin to discover things about ourselves that we would never have believed. We begin to see the deceitfulness of our own hearts and we begin to lose all confidence in ourselves, in our judgments, in our abilities, in our understanding. That is the negative side.
God's Undoing of the Work of Satan
On the other side, we come more and ever more to the realization that unless God does the work in us and makes things clear to us and leads us Himself and becomes our wisdom, our understanding, our strength, our ability, we are indeed hopeless. One of the marks of real growth in grace is the loss of self-assurance, the gaining of a deep meekness and humility, a sense of dependence upon the Lord. You may say, "Surely, if we are growing in grace and walking with the Lord, we ought to be very assured." Well, in some sense it may be that we are gaining assurance along certain lines, but not self-assurance. There is an awful undoing of a mixed-up state under the hand of God. How is God going to get the people that He wants at the end who form that bride, that city, that tabernacle of God? How is He going to do it?
He is going to do it along the line of creating and intensifying a quest for reality, and that means losing a great deal of satisfaction and contentment with things that are merely formal, external, and which are mixed and inconsistent and contradictory. It is a work to be done in us, an intense work of the Spirit of God. He sets up in us a quest for utter and downright reality; a transparent state; purity. It begins with ourselves, not with other people and not with other things. The question which will arise continually under this operation of God's Spirit will be as to whether, after all, we in our own experience, in our own spiritual position, are true to what we know in a doctrinal way as to the revealed will of God. Yes, it will be like that. It is a real work of the Spirit of God when that is brought about.
A young man once came to me after a meeting and he tried to persuade me very strongly along a certain line of doctrine and teaching about sinless perfection and the root of sin being taken out, and that sort of thing, and he was very strong about it and I could not say anything, he was so strong. Then we went on to the next meeting and the Lord spoke strongly in that meeting about the word of the Cross, and that young man came to me again and he was changed, and he said, "Mr. Sparks, supposing you do trip up, supposing you do make mistakes, what do you do?" I looked at him and said, "Are you admitting after all, that you do trip up, you do make a mistake?" Well, with a solemn talk together, it came out that he was the victim of a very evil habit and he had been trying to browbeat me into this doctrine, and the Spirit of God nailed him down on this question of truth in the inward parts. (That is not said to criticize any teaching.)
The point is that God is not going to let us off if we really mean business with Him. Towards the end He is going to intensify this matter. You hold certain truths, but does your life represent those truths? You believe certain things, how do you stand up to your beliefs? The Lord Jesus is the plummet and up against Him we have got to stand and all our bulges and our 'unstraightness' are going to be manifested because we have got to be conformed to His image and this is not done externally and mechanically. It is going to be experimental and inward with our knowledge. We have to come to the point where we hand over to the Lord, where we see this thing boldly and clearly and say, "Yes, there is a kink, there is a twist, there is something inconsistent and not straight. Lord, you have got to deal with that - straighten it out or get rid of it!" The Lord is dealing with that sort of thing in His people.
It is true of many of His children today the world over. It may be the thing that the Lord is doing with His people today, while they are wanting Him to do some big public thing, to come out in some great new movement, revival or something like that. Perhaps He is doing something just as big as that, but hidden, secret, not public, not a movement, not a piece of organized work - something deep, and it may be that this is what He is doing the world over today through various kinds of fires. Sometimes it may be the fires of world conditions, the sufferings into which His children are plunged by the conditions in this world, the new situations into which they are thrust; sometimes by the sufferings of inaction, a wilderness, desert situation. Oh, many may be the forms of these fiery trials, but whatever the form, the one thing that the Lord is doing with His people is to bring about a strong and intense desire for reality. Shall I put it another way - to get them out of false positions. You know, organized Christianity does put us into so many false positions. The system of things as it is puts us into false positions. There are many young men and women, who, while it was painful to have the eagle's nest stirred up and to be flung out on the wing, are saying today, "It was very difficult. It was not a pleasant experience to have to get out into these new conditions, but I thank God for it. It is saving me unto something more real; it is enabling me to prove God for myself; it is necessitating a knowledge of the Lord which I did not possess!" Yes, they are saying that, many young men and women in the Forces and in those branches of national service which are very difficult. It is all working towards this reality, to save them from a false position spiritually, inwardly and outwardly. God is doing that, and if He is (and perhaps you know something of that) well, the end is coming near. If this is intensifying on a large scale, then the end is near. God is after a company of people who really do follow the Lamb whithersoever He goes, who really are saved deep down in their being from every form of unreality and untruth, of mixture and contradiction and denial, because this spoils the divine work.
You know, when John Ruskin went to Italy and later wrote his "Seven Lamps of Architecture", writing on the lack of truth, he said of his visit to Florence and other parts that he went to see various places which had in them those things which ravished the eye of the artist and the architect, but he found in one place a priceless fresco, ruined because the builder had put lying stones in the roof. In another place he found a wonderful dome collapsed because the builder had put lying stones in the foundation. In another place he said he was filled with disgust as he saw that rain had come in through cracks and washed the marble off the pillars. He said - "A lie!" They had stood there holding a name for centuries as wonderful marble pillars and their lie had at last been found out, and he turned away with loathing. A lie in the roof, in the foundation, in the pillar, disclosed after many years, was at last revealed, and reputations collapsed, names which had been held in high regard were disgraced and things of priceless value were ruined by a lie. That is the work of the evil one, and the Lord is out against all that.
Now, beloved, what is the point of all this? It is no charge (if it is a charge, it is as much made against myself as you) the point is to know what God is after. Oh, let us stop thinking in merely objective terms of what God is after, something outward, some framework. No, what God is after mainly, pre-eminently, is a people of an inward state who will judge everything in the light of His glory.
This is very practical - to look at everything in the light of this. Our domestic situations - does this situation work out to the glory of God? If not, what am I doing about it? Are we taking responsibility? Are we saying that we want the glory of God, and this thing is not finding us really getting down to it and together getting it cleared up because it takes from the glory of God? What about those disruptive relationships between us and other Christians? That is not to the glory of God. Where two children of God are all the time at variance and there is strain, that situation is not to the glory of God. It is a lie for us to say that we want to live here for the glory of God if we are not doing anything about that. We are destroying something very precious to God. There is a lie in the foundation.
So every practical matter of our lives has got to be brought up to this point of judgment. What about the glory of God in this? How much glory to God is being veiled, being taken away or being brought to the Lord? Suffer the strength of the word that I feel in my heart. I can but say I believe the Lord is dealing with me very greatly on this very matter to make sure that with all the teaching and with all the knowledge in the head and with all that we say and stand for, we inwardly correspond. Our prayer will have to be very much that the Lord will see to it that He has, so far as we are concerned, truth in the inward parts - that we are not first interested in things at all, in movements, even in churches. No, we do not begin on the outside until God gets a people right down on the bedrock of reality, truth, and transparency. Well, what is the good of anything else? It will go to pieces. May the Lord burn it into our hearts and give us that feature of His Son - a zeal for the Father's glory.