The Coming Glories of the Church of God.
Jottings From a Bible Reading.
OUR subject is so grand, so large, and so varied, that it is very difficult to know where to begin. It is impossible to bring out all the fulness of the glory which God is preparing for us, and we can only touch on a few leading thoughts.
First of all, we will look at some of the glories which are promised to every child of God—the absolute free gift of Jesus Christ our Lord to every sinner who trusts in His precious blood as the full atonement for sin—and then we will consider some of the extra glories which are promised as special rewards for obedience and devotedness. And, oh! I do hope that no one will be so mean and selfish as to say, “I shall be so satisfied with the collective and certain glories, that I shall not trouble to seek after the special ones.”
Surely it is a mean and despicable thing, to take all we can get from the Lord as a free gift, and not seek to yield Him some return. And these special and individual glories will not only be a reward for obedience and devotedness, but also a loving token from the Lord that we have been a praise and a joy to Him. Let us set our hearts upon this and seek after these eternal proofs that we have pleased Him well, while living here below.
Now let us turn to John xvii. 5, 24. These verses speak of the glory which Christ had with the Father before the world was----His own inherent glory as Son of God. He does not give us this glory, for it is incommunicable; but we shall behold it and delight ourselves for ever in His eternal power and Godhead. We shall always be finite beings, dependent upon Him, living because He lives, receiving all from Him; and He will always be the majestic, glorious One that we shall bow before and worship, owning Him as our Head, our Lord, our all in all.
But in verse 22 we read: “The glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them." This is not His inherent glory as God, but the glory which is given Him by His Father as the reward of His perfect obedience and faithfulness as the Son of Man; and in His matchless grace, He gives this glory as the collective and universal portion of every child of God.
Let us look at a few of the details of this given glory; and, oh! may the Spirit of God enlarge our hearts, that we may get some small conception of their amazing and abounding fulness.
In Phil. ii. 6-11 and Eph. i. 19-22, we read that God hath highly exalted Christ, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, &c., &c., &c.; and as the Bride, the Lamb’s wife, we shall share this glorious place of preeminence with Him.
“He will not wear His crown alone,
But all His royal Bride will sit
Beside Him on the throne."
Dear child of God, do ponder over this wonderful fact. You are an “heir of God, a joint-heir with Christ,” destined to reign with Him over the whole universe; and will you seek for honour or riches in this poor world? What is all its fancied glory, or tinsel show, compared to these grand realities? Oh, if you would only grasp this truth, you would tread the world beneath your feet, and heartily despise its fame and vanities; for “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
But power and glory alone would not satisfy us; we need love. Then listen: “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you.” And again, “The Father Himself loveth you.”
Yes! We are loved with a deep, fond, eternal love; and because He thus loves, He is purging, purifying, training, and beautifying. Wherefore? That He may make us worthy of Christ, a help-meet for Christ, a bride who will be suited for Him, one that will become Him, and gratify His heart—glorious, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. “The Kings daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold.”
Never mind the troubles, the aches, the pains, the distresses, the difficulties; they are all the needed discipline, to purge, and purify, and make us meet for Christ, so that we may become a special joy and glory to Him.
And what then? He will cleave to us with deep, intense delight and affection (Gen. ii. 24; Eph. v. 25-32). He will not merely put up with us because He is faithful to His promises, but He will cleave to us because He is satisfied with us. Yes! He will rejoice over us with joy, and rest in His love and joy over us with singing. Thus, we shall not only have a place of pre-eminent glory, but also of deep, intense satisfaction because of the love wherewith we are loved.
Now another fact. in Phil. iii. 20, 21, we read that these bodies of humiliation will be fashioned like unto His body of glory. Oh, what intense humiliation it must have been for the Lord of glory, the omnipotent, omnipresent God, to have been made in the likeness of men, and to have veiled Himself in a body of flesh and blood!
But God has raised Him from the dead and given Him a body of glory, a body which befits Him as God----which is worthy of Him, and in no way impedes His actions or movements as God. Eyes! wonderful eyes, that can see to the end of the universe! Ears! wonderful ears, that can hear the gentlest and most distant sound, and listen to millions of voices at once! Surely His body of glory is God's masterpiece of creative power. Imagination fades away when we attempt to describe its powers! No walls or bolts or bars can hinder His ingress! He makes the clouds His chariot and walks upon the wings of the wind! Who can measure the rapidity of His movements? Surely, they are swifter than the lightnings! And we, poor sinners saved through His precious blood, will have bodies like His!
Yes! in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, our God will put forth the exceeding greatness of His power, and the dead in Christ will be raised, and we who are alive will suddenly be changed into His likeness and be clothed upon with bodies of glory.
Surely, then, we need not trouble so much about these poor bodies; they will soon pass away; and our one care should be to use them for Him and seek to be good stewards of the time and strength committed to us.
Now let us turn to Rev. xxi. We there read of that great city, the holy Jerusalem. I do like Mr. Newberry’s thought, that this city is not a real city, but figurative of the Bride, the eternal habitation of God and the Lamb. A city is a collection of houses; and as every believer will be clothed upon with a house from Heaven, these millions of houses are represented collectively forming that holy city, New Jerusalem.
The city will have a wall great and high, and twelve gates----separated, but not isolated. The houses will be our bodies of glory, with a wall round about us—never amalgamated with others but retaining our own distinctive and special glory as the holy dwelling-place of the Most High. The twelve gates speak of intercourse with others; and all who have washed their robes—the millions saved in the Millennium, the angels, and all undefiled beings will have a right to “enter in through the gates into the city.”
“Having the glory of God” (verse 11). Moses prayed, “I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory;” and God said, “I will make all My goodness pass before thee.” His goodness is His greatest glory, and His goodness will fill us and flow from us. His gentleness, His grace, His lovingkindness, His mercy! Oh, the unspeakable joy of being filled with His goodness, and pouring it out and shedding it abroad for the blessing of others!
“Her light like unto a stone most precious.” “The glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved, shall walk in the light of it” (verses 11, 23, 24. Yes! God and the Lamb will be in the midst of the city, and we all around Him with brilliant, shining bodies. The glory of God will rest upon us and radiate from us, with all its warm and invigorating power. It will be no cold moonlight, but like the light of the sun, spreading warmth and light and fruitfulness around; and thus, in fellowship with Christ, we shall become the light of the universe.
Oh, then, let us seek to shine now—to shine in this dark world, and show forth the praises of Christ; to shine in our homes; to shine in the little circle where God has placed us.
“A pure river of water of life” (Rev. xxii. 1). “Yes! We shall be the channels through which this river of life, and love, and comfort, and peace will pour forth its treasures. Oh, the joy of thus dispensing the unsearchable riches of Christ!
“The throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it" (verse 3). He will always retain His rightful place of pre-eminence, and we shall delight to adore and worship Him.
“And they shall see His face.” We could not bear it now; His effulgent glory would consume these mortal bodies; but when we are like Christ, we shall be able to gaze upon our Father’s face; we shall be presented to Him, and fall at His feet and worship Him (Jude 24).
All these amazing glories are the collective portion of every child of God; the free gift of Christ to His whole Church; the joint inheritance which we shall all enjoy with Him. Surely, they are enough to fill our hearts with gratitude and love and should constrain us to yield ourselves as a living sacrifice to Him.
But above and beyond all this, He holds out to us a wonderful group of special joys, rewards, and glories for those who are faithful and loving and true. We need not do some great thing in order to obtain them. Ah, no! not even a cup of cold water will lose its reward.
Our Lord Jesus is so gentle, so gracious, that He notes every right thought and feeling, and every effort we make to please Him; He gathers up all our obedience and devotedness and remembers every word we speak for Him. No act of self-denial or self-sacrifice is forgotten; and every grain of love, kindness, patience, meekness, lowliness, faithfulness, or godliness is treasured up, and will be richly and abundantly rewarded at the Judgment-Seat of Christ. Thus, every one of us may obtain an exceeding and eternal recompense of reward.
Now turn to Zech. iii. Joshua is a true picture of ourselves. His filthy garments are taken away, and he is cleansed, and clothed, and arrayed in a priestly garment, and then the Lord. says to him, “If thou wilt walk in My ways," &c.
There is no if to the poor sinner who comes to Christ. He receives us just as we are, and meets all our need out of His own abundant fulness; but after we have been cleansed, clothed, and equipped for service, He says, “If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then thou shalt also judge My house, and shalt also keep My courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by” (verse 7).
Here are three distinct special rewards promised to those who will be obedient and walk in the Lord's ways and keep His charge.
First, we shall judge His house—a place of special power, honour, and glory. Not collective reigning; but an individual position of glory, as a reward for obedience. The disciples said to the Lord, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?” They had only left their boats and fishing-nets, but Jesus answered, “Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” A rich reward indeed for their small sacrifice for Him!
Again, in Luke xix., we hear the Lord say to one, “Have thou authority over ten cities” and to another, “Be thou over five cities.” Why this difference? Because the reward will be according to diligence, obedience, and faithfulness. The disobedient or careless Christian will have no reward; and the worldly, half-hearted one will only share the collective glories.
The if is repeated in 2 Tim. ii. 12: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him;” and, again, in Rom. viii. 17: “If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.”
But some of you may say, “I cannot suffer with Christ, for no one persecutes me because I am a Christian.” Yes, indeed, you can; for whenever you are spoken against, or treated mockingly, you have an opportunity of suffering with Christ. If you are misunderstood, or maligned, or oppressed, and bear it meekly and well, the Lord looks down from Heaven and says, “I was ill-treated, and misunderstood, and maligned, and you are going through it as I did, and you shall reign with Me."
Oh, what a halo of glory this truth sheds over the stinging trials which so often make life miserable! Surely, if we grasped this truth, we should gladly seize these opportunities of suffering with Christ, instead of fretting and fuming over them; and be rather ready to thank those who try us, instead of complaining of them. Lay hold of it, dear child of God, and thus all the trials of life will become precious opportunities of securing an exceeding and eternal recompense. Your Lord is looking on, and He well knows what each victory costs you; He measures it rightly, and He values and will reward it accordingly.
One more passage about suffering. In 2 Cor. iv. 16-18 we read of “light affliction” and “an exceeding weight of glory.” Whatever the affliction be----“bodily pain, privations, difficulties, trials, or what not----if we bear it as the Lord would have us, it “worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” The affliction may seem very heavy; but when weighed against the eternal weight of glory, we can count it light; our courage rises, and the bright light of our Father's smile dispels the gloom of unbelief and fear.
Now turn back to Zech. iii. 7: “Thou shalt also keep My courts." This implies a place of responsibility and trust. We do love to be trusted and valued. It is pleasant to know that we are a comfort and blessing to others. And if we walk in His ways, and keep His charge, He will make us pillars in His temple (Rev. iii. 12), so that we shall be an eternal strength and comfort to many. Who would not rather be a pillar----an integral and important part of that glorious building----than a small and insignificant and yet necessary, stone? Then let us gird our loins, and walk humbly with our God, and thus we shall become fitted to fill some important place of trust forever.
Again, “I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.” Oh, this is sweeter still! A place of special nearness to Jesus! Would you like it? Does not your heart bound within you at the very thought? Well then, keep close to Him now; press into His presence; seek His company; sit at His feet and talk much with Him.
He will reward everyone according to their works; and surely it is right and fair that those who give up all for Christ, should have a place of special nearness to Him.
Rev. iii. 4: “They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy." Oh, the joy of being specially chosen to walk with Him! Would you not like it? Then keep yourself unspotted from the world. You will lose it if you are a world borderer and go into places or pleasures which the Lord forbids, or dress in costly or showy attire. You would still have white garments----for all the redeemed will be clothed in white—but you would not have the joy of walking with Him as His chosen companion.
Dear child of God, will you not seek so to walk that Christ may be able to say of you, “She is worthy; she is My loving, obedient child; she is cleansing herself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and seeking to please Me well in all things?" and then He will joyously add, “She shall walk with Me in white, for she is worthy.”
Now turn to Luke xvi. 9-12. These verses speak of present and future stewardship and prove that our stewardship in Heaven depends upon the measure of our faithfulness now. Oh, that the Lord would indeed grave this truth upon our hearts!
True, we shall all share alike in the riches and glories of our Father's house; we shall all feast at His table, and our personal need will be abundantly met in every way. But would you not like to be entrusted with the true riches? Oh, the joy of going forth as the dispenser of the unsearchable riches of Christ, and of being empowered by Him to scatter blessings on every hand! And this privilege will be measured out, with the most perfect evenness, as a reward for our present faithfulness in little things.
Dear child of God, what are you doing with your money? How much do you spend upon your dress, how much upon your house, your furniture, your eating, and drinking? The Lord does not wish you to become an ascetic. He would have you spend all that is needed to keep your body in health; but if you are not faithful in the unrighteous mammon, the true riches will not he committed to your trust.
Oh, “lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth,” but "be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;” “not grudgingly, nor of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver.” Could you not spare a little more? Are you sending up to Heaven all you can? Oh, may the Lord enlarge our hearts, so that we may delight to pour out what we possess upon Him; and the mean and pitiful thought, “How little need I give?” may he completely slain.
Rev. ii. 17: “To him that overcometh, will I give . . . a white stone”----a secret token of fond approval,----secret whispers of praise and love, not spoken to everyone, but whispered into the heart and ear of the one who puts Christ first, and uses time, talents, money, everything, for Him. Oh, with what ecstasy such words will thrill the heart!
Think of Mary Magdalene! How often do you think the Lord has thrilled her heart with ecstatic joy by thanking her for standing near His Cross? You cannot stand there as she did; but you can “do well, suffer for it, and take it patiently”----and this also “is thankworthy"----and will receive secret whispered words of praise from the Lord.
Rev. ii. 7: “To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the tree of life”----something delicious,----some special enjoyment given by Christ Himself,—some special outgush of loving approval,----some tender proof of fond affection! Well may we ask, For whom? for whom? For the one who keeps her love bright and warm; and if it grows cold, goes back to the fountain of love and gets her love revived.
Again, verse 17: “To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the hidden manna." Manna is not so delicious as fruit; but it is more substantial, and also sweet and pleasant. It is hidden manna, and therefore speaks of secret and personal intercourse with Christ; and implies that He will tell us His hidden thoughts and plans and purposes. But to whom? to whom? To those who refuse to eat of things offered to idols, or, in other words, who will not turn aside to forbidden pleasures, or indulge in foolish books, or form worldly friendships, or disobey the Lord for the sake of some earthly or present gain.
Oh, think of the joy of this special fellowship with Christ! How delightful to be thus confided in as His friend and told the secrets of His heart! Then let us gird our loins and deny ourselves for His sake; for world-borderers and self-indulgent Christians will lose this glorious privilege.
Now turn to Rev. xix. 8: We there read of “fine linen” which is "the righteousness (or righteous acts) of the saints.” The Church collectively will be clothed with the righteousness of God—“her clothing of wrought gold” (Ps. xlv. 13). But individually, we shall be arrayed in the righteous acts which have marked our lives below; and the beauty of our garments will depend upon our present personal obedience and faithfulness. “She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework” (Ps. xlv. 14)----embroidered work, wrought out stitch by stitch by the Holy Ghost in our present lives. Thus, everyone will see what manner of persons we have been.
And, then, above and beyond all this, the Lord holds out five crowns as rewards for varied service and obedience----
The “incorruptible crown,” for the earnest runner (1 Cor. ix. 25).
The “crown of rejoicing,” for the faithful evangelist (1 Thess. ii. 19).
The “crown of glory,” for the faithful shepherd (1 Pet. v. 4).
The “crown of life,” for the one who endures temptation, and is faithful unto death (James i. 12; Rev. ii. 10).
And the “crown of righteousness," for the one who so walks in uprightness and godliness that he longs for the Lord’s appearing (2 Tim. iv. 8).
Do ponder these truths, dear children of God, and see how rich, how full, how glorious a portion the Lord holds out to us, our eternal recompense for present faithfulness. Special power, special positions of responsibility and trust, special nearness to Himself, special riches, special tokens of fond approval and affection, special enjoyments, and special garments and crowns of glory and beauty! What could you wish for more? And yet the half is not told.
Oh, may these precious truths arouse our ambition and stir our affections, so that we may present ourselves to Christ, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, and count it our reasonable service!
[Published also as a penny book by J. E. Hawkins, 17 Paternoster Row.]
"Footsteps of Truth" 1890