The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
The Concordant Version
THE BRIDE OF THE LAMBKIN
THE faithful in Israel are often found under covenant relationship with Yahweh. In the realm of feeling and affection this is figured by the marriage bond. Israel was the wife of Yahweh. Those who receive the Messiah are the bride of the Lambkin. As God's supreme aim is to unite His creatures to Himself by links of love, this may be considered as the highest aspect of Israel's relationship to their God. He uses the transient experience of earth's highest bliss to figure the permanent felicity of His people.
Not only was Israel brought into the bondage of the law at Sinai, but she also was bound to Yahweh as His wife. He became her Husband (Jer.31:32). Then it was that He put upon her His comeliness (Ezek.16:8-14). Not only did they break the law in minor matters, but they failed in the very first commandment. Instead of loving Him with all their hearts and souls, they forsook Him and sought solace with His enemies (Hosea 2:6-13). This is what led to the divorce (Deut.24:1-4) which caused them to go into captivity. According to the law, they forfeited all right to be His again. But the law of love is higher than the law of Sinai. That was given partly because of the hardness of their hearts. Yahweh's heart is not hardened by the failure of His people. Even though divorced, He invites her to return to Him (Jer.3:1).
He not only gave His word to wait for her, but promises to do far more than that. In her inconstancy, she is liable to be drawn after anyone who will comfort her sorrowing soul. So He engages to keep her for Himself until she becomes His again in the latter days. Yahweh will not marry another, nor will He allow Israel to do so. They are betrothed from of old. "Thou shalt not be for another man, so will I also be for thee" (Hosea 3). This troth, plighted by Yahweh, not only for Himself, but also for her, must find fulfillment. He will not break His word. He cannot take a wife to Himself from the nations. To make them the bride would be a breach of promise more dreadful far than the defection of His people. His character would suffer beyond repair. His word would be worthless. The nations do not usurp the place of faithful Israel. We have no part in the new Jerusalem.
When our Lord came, the nation as a whole was faithless. They were not only a wicked but an adulterous generation, for they had forsaken Yahweh. Only those who received Him were restored to their former relationship. They became, not merely the wife of Yahweh, but the bride of the Lambkin. It is not a renewal of the old legal bonds, a sad reunion in old age of those who have been long estranged, but a new and fresh relationship, with youth regained. John the baptist introduced the bride to her Bridegroom when he told his disciples, "He Who has the bride is the Bridegroom." The twelve apostles were the nucleus of that goodly company of faithful Israelites, who, with all her saints of former times, will be united with the Lambkin in the coming eons, under the figure of the marriage covenant.
THE WEDDING OF THE LAMBKIN
In the Unveiling, this glorious company of the saints of the Circumcision, who have eonian salvation, and who are made alive in the former resurrection or are saved through the great affliction, comes before us under the figure of a marriage feast. In Israel, a wedding was celebrated seven days. The nuptials of the Lambkin will last a thousand years. Just as at Cana of Galilee, where He first showed forth His glory, the water for cleansing will be transformed into inexhaustible joy. There will be a ceaseless celebration throughout the millennium. This enduring felicity is brought before us in the Unveiling in connection with the fall of false Babylon. The luxurious pleasures of the apostate Jews are short lived and are ended by the awful outpouring of Yahweh's jealous rage. With this lurid background, we read of the wedding of the Lambkin.
The hallelujah chorus which follows the judgment of the apostates will merge into the marriage march of the faithful. John heard as it were a vast throng, as the sound of voluminous waters, as the rolling of heavy thunder, saying, "Hallelujah! for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns! We may be rejoicing and exulting and will be giving glory to Him, seeing that the wedding of the Lambkin came, and Its bride makes herself ready" (Rev.19: 6,7).
"And to her, it was granted that she should be clothed in clean, resplendent cambric, for the cambric is the just awards of the saints." Hitherto all of Israel's special dispensations of blessing have been spoiled by her subsequent conduct. The nation never lived up to her privileges. Now, however, with a new heart, with God's law inscribed within (Jer.31:33), they will walk in His ways and respond to His love. Moreover, these are the faithful in Israel, who will be rewarded for their acts, and decorated for their devotion to Yahweh when the mass of the nation was apostate.
"And he is saying to me, 'Write, "Happy are they who have been invited to the wedding dinner of the Lambkin"'" (Rev.19:9). The other nations, who otherwise appear as subjects of the kingdom, are here presented in the appropriate role of guests at the wedding banquets. In the literal feasts, the hospitality was most generous. At Cana, where our Lord was one of those invited, the guests drank all the wine there was, and did not hesitate to taste the new supply. So will be the joys of the kingdom. Israel will not, as in the past, jealously withhold all for herself. Her joy will overflow and the nations will be happy, indeed, who share her millennial bliss.
Our Lord is called the Lamb of God in the first chapter of John's gospel (verses 29 and 36). He is compared to a lamb in Acts 8:32 and 1 Peter 1:19. Why did not the spirit of God use this word in the Unveiling? Because it fails to convey the full thought. Amnos, or areen is a lamb, but arnion is a little lamb, or lambkin. It is only as we see the corresponding rejuvenation--from wife to bride--that we can fully enjoy the preciousness of this diminutive. In the usual course of nature, the wife of Yahweh should grow old and discrepant, and look back with regret to the days of her youth. God reverses this with Israel. The future holds more of youthful exultation than the past. The wife becomes the bride. And so the Lamb also becomes the Lambkin. It is a precious truth exquisitely expressed.
Submission and sacrifice are associated with Him as the Lamb. These are not uppermost in this scroll. It is gentleness, weakness, utter defenselessness and youth which is suggested by the Lambkin. How sublime is the contrast between the powers of evil and the power of God! A monstrous dragon leads the hosts of darkness to defeat. A little Lambkin leads the legions of light to victory. The weakness of God is stronger than the most powerful confederacy of His creatures.
THE NEW JERUSALEM
Much is made of the millennium, and it will doubtless surpass our highest expectations. Yet it is surprising to note how little is said in the Unveiling of Israel's millennial marriage feast compared with the sumptuous description of the new Jerusalem, the bride of the Lambkin, in the succeeding eon on the new earth. The thousand years seem to be but the prelude to the more glorious splendors of that concluding era. It is the climax of all the prophetic promises. It fulfills all that God has in store for His beloved nation.
When John perceived the new heaven and the new earth his attention seems to have been immediately taken by the sight of the holy city descending out of heaven and coming to rest upon the earth. Like all the blessings of Israel, the city is heavenly in character but not in location. Abraham, the beginning of the Hebrew nation, waited for a city having the foundations, whose Artisan and Architect is God (Heb.11:10). His faith is not fulfilled until the consummation of Israel's highest destiny in the new earth. Since David's day, they have had Jerusalem, the city of the great King. It has been dearer to them than the promised land. It has been the symbol of their fortunes. It will be their eonian home.
Again we are powerfully impressed by the figure of marriage. The city is as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev.21:2). Before this they have been married for more than a thousand years. Is it not time to leave the wedding festivities for the sober and serious and sordid service of life? Is it not time to lay aside the bridal robes for the dress of duty? Is it not time to put by her ornaments? Not so! The new Jerusalem is permanently dressed and adorned with the supreme symbols of youth and happiness. She shall never grow old! Her marriage festivities were prolonged for the thousand years. Now her wedding day is lengthened for the eon of the eons. Literally, there will be no night. Figuratively, the joy and exultation of her union with the Lambkin will continue to the consummation.
A second time we are reminded of the awful contrast between the fate of the faithless in Babylon and the felicity of the faithful in the new Jerusalem. One of the seven messengers who have the seven bowls brimming with the last seven calamities is chosen to show John the holy city. We are strongly inclined to think that he is the seventh messenger, who pours out his bowl on the air, for under this visitation the cities of the nations fall and great Babylon is brought to remembrance before God (Rev.16:17-19). This messenger carries John, in spirit, to a high mountain to show him "the bride, the wife of the Lambkin." How insistent is the asseveration of the perpetual youth and continued felicity of these two, the antitype of all happy lovers!
The sense of permanence and glorious beauty is confirmed by the actual constitution of the city. It is a jeweled masterpiece of enduring gems, flashing with loveliness and radiant with light. The latest experiments with radio-active substances seem to point back to a time when the earth was luminous and composed of minerals of much higher grade than at present. But this energy has been dissipated without being replenished. The earth is disintegrating and very little of its outward mass is still luminous in the dark. The holy city is not only set with the most precious gems and is itself translucent gold, but these are refulgent with God's glory, luminous with divine light.
A LUMINOUS JASPER
The ancients gave the name jashpeh (Hebrew) or iaspis (Greek) to a considerable variety of precious stones. Pliny mentions fourteen kinds of jasper, from sea-green to sky-blue in color. The green stones, which were the most common, were sometimes transparent. They resemble the emerald, but are not so bright and are more opaque. The crystalline jasper of the Unveiling is doubtless the same as the modern plasma, a translucent, green chalcedony, the most valuable variety of jasper. This was also the twelfth stone in the breastplate of the high priest (Ex.28:20) and forms the buttress and adorns the first course of the foundations of the holy city (Rev.21:18,19).
As we are told that the city has no need of luminaries, such as the sun and moon (Rev.21:23), we are constrained to translate phoosteer, which usually means luminary, luminosity (Rev.21:11). The city has the glory of God. Her luminosity is like a stone most precious, as a crystalline jasper gem. We are reminded that the Enthroned One looked like a jasper stone and a carnelian (Rev.4:3). The city glows with the very glory of God. Though scintillating with many colored gems, as a whole it is suffused with a verdant light, the hue of peace and of repose. It shimmers like a star, blessing the beholder with its beams.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE CITY
We are distinctly told that the Architect of this city is God Himself. Jerusalem has had samples of His skill in the past. The tabernacle in the wilderness was the most marvelous portable building ever constructed. It was not only splendid with gold and silver and richly colored curtains, but the design of its walls made it the most rigid structure possible, yet very light to carry. The three walls were shaped like slim inverted V's, the inner boards leaning against the outer, locked together by the bars, one of which ran through the rings of both where they met in the hollow space between them. This has been recently rediscovered by an accurate concordant study of the Hebrew. Here we have the first hint of the pyramidal form which we find in the new Jerusalem. Solomon's marvelous structure was of divine design. In the future, the temple revealed to Ezekiel will be built in the holy oblation. But the city of that day will be constructed in accord with human plans. Hence it never is a permanent city. The faithful will still look forward to a future one (Heb.13:14). No human architect could design a city suited to the needs of a nation for many millenniums. No mortal mind could conceive a home for myriads on a scale so impossible or a cost so unattainable. Indeed, who would house them in a city? Under present conditions, they would almost need the whole earth to themselves.
But the great Architect is not baffled by the stupendous problem. Its shape, its size, its materials, are all beyond mortal imagination. The city, with its square, is made of gold (Rev.21:18,21). This is so staggering that it stuns our imaginations. Yet this statement falls far short of giving us a true idea of its appearance. Gold, such as we know it, is opaque and yellow. The gold of the new Jerusalem will be, translucent and iridescent. I once held my breath in admiration as I observed a button of gold fresh from the furnace. I could see right through it. Instead of being a solid yellow, it seemed alive with all the colors of the rainbow. I was told that it could be made so permanently by means of tremendous heat. It looked like a translucent pearl in a shimmering golden mist. What marvelous material for making a metropolis!
Gold is bright and lustrous, but I cannot say that a city of such yellow metal reaches the highest flights of my imagination. But a city of glass-like gold, with delicate tints of every hue discovering themselves in pearly iridescence, luminous with its own light, is far beyond the most daring dreams of mortals. The other colors modify the gold, so that the city does not appear yellow, but has a greenish glow. This is the material of which the city is built. Yet, as if this were but common stuff, the foundation of its walls are inlaid with costly gems, its buttresses are jasper, and its portals, each a single pearl. What bride was ever jeweled with such gems?
THE PLAN OF THE CITY
The striking feature of the new Jerusalem is its height. This is the same as its length and its breadth, which are equal. It cannot be a cube, because the wall which surrounds it is exceedingly low in comparison with the city's elevation. The only geometrical figure which seems possible under the specifications is a pyramid. Its height may be as great as its base, and yet it may be surrounded by a low wall (Rev.21:16,17). No other shape seems to satisfy the description. This greatly enhances its grandeur and beauty. It will be like that city, set on a hill, which cannot be hid. We may be sure that it is not intended to be concealed, but to impress all creation with God's love for His earthly people, Israel.
The size of this city is in full accord with its purpose. It will be the home of all the faithful in the chosen nation. It would need a tremendous city to do this even if the thousand years did not multiply the saints in Israel into an innumerable host. Then they will be crowded into the land given to Abraham, from the Mediterranean to the Persian gulf, from Asia Minor to the river of Egypt. The new Jerusalem will have an area much greater than the whole land in the millennium. Its possibilities are so stupendous that it will provide for the increasing population throughout the eon of the eons.
The messenger measured the city with a golden measuring reed. All of its dimensions are multiples of twelve, the number of divine administration, for this city is earth's capital as well as its metropolis. It is twelve thousand stadia on each side. At eight stadia to each mile, this is fifteen hundred Roman miles. These are somewhat shorter than English miles, making each side of the city about one thousand three hundred and seventy-nine miles. Supposing that the messenger measures its height on the surface, rather than its geometrical perpendicular, we have four triangles with this base and height. This gives the city just twice as much area as if it were flat. This supplies a surface of nearly four million (3,803,282) square miles.
As compared with the former cities we find the same factors, roughly multiples or powers of twelve. The millennial city will be about twelve times as large on each side as the Jerusalem of the past. That is, it will be one hundred and forty-four times as great. And the new Jerusalem, because of its shape, will be more than 144xl44 times as great as the city of Ezekiel's vision. As this is beyond our mathematical power to perceive, we must seek other means to impress its size on our intellects.
To bring this home to our minds, let us compare it with some dimensions with which we are familiar. The Amazon, the largest of earth's rivers, drains a basin not much larger than the holy city. The Mississippi basin is only half as large. Perhaps the nearest well-known equivalent is the United States. Yet the holy city will be considerably larger even than that great country. Only those who have explored some of its vast open spaces realize how far it is from being crowded with inhabitants. If it were all a city, like congested New York, or even like open Los Angeles, the number of inhabitants might be computed in figures, but they would be beyond our apprehensions. The mass of the mountain on which it stands would be about the same as that of the moon.
THE CITY WALL
Does it not seem strange, at first, to find this city surrounded by a high wall? It is not a temple wall to shut the nations from God's presence, as of old, for God is outside, tabernacling with them (Rev.21:3). It is a city wall, which, in olden time, shut out enemies and protected its inhabitants. But it has no battlements and is not needed for defense. Its portals are never closed. This was always done at night in fortified cities hitherto. But there is no night on this luminous mountain. What need is there for a wall?
The city wall is the symbol of the sovereignty of the favored nation. They live within, and enjoy its splendors. The nations are without, and count it a rare privilege to enter its pearly portals. They bring their glory and honor into it, as a tribute to its power and a pledge of fealty to its people. Israel's priestly work is past, but the kingly reign continues to the close of the eons. The wall marks the boundary between a sovereign city and its alien subjects. The throne of God and the Lambkin will be in it. Glorious as it is, this is not the "final state." There is still insubordination sufficient to call for the reign of the saints. Only when all rule is abrogated will the consummation come.
THE TWELVE FOUNDATIONS
Usually, the foundations of a city wall are sunk beneath the surface, where no adornment is wasted on them. The foundations of this wall are not only visible, but resplendent with gems of every kind. It is only recently that we are beginning to arrive at clear ideas as to the precious stones fitted into this foundation. A brief note on each will help us to visualize the appalling richness and splendor lavished on the substructure of the city's walls. How high the foundation will be, or how arranged, we do not know. Above it towers the wall to the height of a hundred and forty-four cubits.
The first foundation is adorned with jasper, the prevailing tone of the city as a whole (Rev.21:11). This, as we have already seen, may be that precious variety of jasper now called plasma.
II. LAPIS LAZULI
The second foundation is adorned with a stone called sappir in Hebrew and sappheiros in Greek. From all the evidence, however, it appears that the name sapphire is now applied to quite a different stone. Now it is a blue corundum, then it was used of a stone "having the dust of gold" (Job 28:6). This is the characteristic feature of blue stone, or lapis lazuli. Its color is ultramarine, and it is sprinkled with metal specks which look like gold.
The third foundation is adorned with chalcedony. The name is the same in the Greek, and occurs only here in the Scriptures. Pliny, in his Natural History, is one of the chief sources of information on this subject. He describes it as wax-like and translucent, varying from white to bluish-grey.
The third stone on the breastplate of the high priest was probably an emerald. It and the carbuncle have been transposed in our public versions. The Hebrew name refers to its flashing. It is such a vivid, velvet tone, that its name is used for its special shade of green. This was used to decorate the fourth foundation.
The gems in the fifth foundation were probably similar to the sixth for both are called sard in the Greek. This is our carnelian. Oynx means claw, and tells us that streaks in this stone had the color of a claw, or a fingernail. It consists of alternate layers of light-colored onyx and deeper red carnelian, giving a beautiful striped effect.
In ancient times the sard included the modern blood-red carnelian. The first stone in the breastplate of the high priest was called by a name which means red. It is probably the same stone that we find here in the sixth foundation. It was the color of bright blood.
True yellow topaz has a color and luster very close to burnished gold. It is probably the "gold-tone" of the ancients, rather than the modern stone of the same name. Chrysolite (Greek, gold-stone) is a light greenish yellow. The topaz would appear on the seventh foundation like inlaid gold.
At present the name beryl is applied to a family of stones of various colors, such as green, blue, yellow, pink, and white. Pliny says that it is a light green. This would make it similar to an emerald, but lighter in shade.
Late investigation seems to have shown that the ancient topazion was not the same as the modern stone so-called. Pliny says that the finest topazes are green and comparatively soft, while the modern gem is very hard. This describes our "evening emerald," or peridot. These stones nearly all come from an island in the Red sea. In ancient times they came from Ethiopia (Job 28:19). It is probable that this is the second stone in the high priest's breastplate, which the common versions transliterate from the Greek, topaz.
The chrysophrase, as its name implies, has the greenish tint of a leek with a golden cast. It adorned the tenth foundation.
The Greek name is hyacinth, and probably was anciently given to a purplish stone like the wild bloom. This seems to suit the modern amethyst.
Judging by its name, UN-DRUNK, the ancient amethyst was probably somewhat the color of wine. Pliny says that it was so-called because it did not come up to the color of wine. Another story is that it was the color of wine mixed with water, which would not cause drunkenness. The color of this and the preceding stone remind the student of the tapestry of the tabernacle, almost all of which was in shades of violet or purple. As the preceding stone is the modern amethyst, this one is probably the modern garnet.
The brilliant effect of these flashing gems can scarcely be imagined. Above the lower foundations, the stones seem to form a jeweled rainbow. We have almost all the colors of the spectrum, the red, the yellow, the green, and the purple in the same order as we see them in the sky. Only the blue is missing. Perhaps this is intended to symbolize the fact that this city is founded on the earthly promises of God. The blues are beneath this, and may intimate that these promises of immunity from further doom are heavenly. They come from the azure, celestial vault, whence the city itself had its origin. Some day we shall revel in the spiritual significance of these things as we now delight in the splendor of the sight.
Precious stones are imperishable permanent, but the names given to them are often vague and unstable. The ancient terms often included a variety of kinds as well as colors. This is true even today. This is what makes this list so difficult to determine. We have consulted the latest investigations and feel quite confident that it is sufficiently correct to give us a colorful and realistic vision of the splendors God has lavished on the holy city. May it help us to worship and adore our God whenever we behold these jewels and note their beauty, their rarity and their costliness. He is able to deck His bride as no earthly lover ever dreamed to do!
That this city is solely for the Circumcision saints is placed beyond all question by the names on its foundations. The twelve apostles have this high honor. None of the later apostles are recognized. Paul, the greatest of them all, is altogether outside of this scene. And it is well that he should be absent. Paul would make a poor foundation for a wall between the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision. He would wreck it all, for one of his most precious revelations is figured by the demolition of the temple wall that stood between them. Let us never associate his name with a wall that marks the barrier between Jew and gentile in any sense. He brings them into a new humanity where no such wall can be. The new Jerusalem is still in the old humanity.
THE PEARLY PORTALS
Perhaps pearl was the most precious substance known to the ancients. It cost the merchant all that he had to purchase one very precious pearl (Matt.13:46). It is used as a symbol of believing Israel, the most valuable of all God's treasures on the earth. A large pearl is almost priceless. The value of a pearl more than an inch in diameter is fabulous. How staggering is the statement that the portals of the new Jerusalem are each a single pearl! Each one represents the wealth of a world. Twelve of them, matched, stuns even our imagination.
The names of God's beloved earthly people are written on every approach to this magnificent metropolis. On every gate is inscribed the name of one of the tribes of the sons of Israel. Only these have a right to enter unbidden and unchallenged. The city is theirs. Its beauties are those of the bride of the Lambkin. The nations enter only at their invitation. As in Ezekiel's city, of the previous millennial era, there are three gates on each side. Then Reuben, Judah, and Levi are on the north; Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan are on the east; Simeon, Issacher, and Zebulon are on the south; and Gad, Asher, and Naphtali are on the west (Ezek.48:31-34). Some such order may apply to the portals of the new Jerusalem.
Doubtless, every detail in the description of the holy city has its spiritual significance. To interpret these aright requires unusual insight. Yet who would understand the interpretation? Hitherto, attempts to "spiritualize" this scene have changed it to a fable. All efforts to "apply" it to ourselves have made it into a myth. It is, first of all, a glorious reality. It is not heaven in any sense, for it comes down out of heaven to the earth. It is not the home of any gentile saints, much less those of today, whose destiny is that empyrean when this city will descend. It is literal, for it is the explanation of a figure. The bride of the Lambkin is the holy city, new Jerusalem.
When a bridegroom seeks to show his love, he lavishes rich gifts upon his bride. These are the tokens of his esteem and the evidence of his wealth. Only thus can he display to his beloved and to his friends how genuine is his regard, and how ardent is his affection. The jeweled city of the Apocalypse displays to all the nations of the earth how precious to Him is that holy nation which He has chosen for Himself out of all the peoples of the earth. As at the beginning, He puts His comeliness upon her and makes her His at last with the bond of unbreakable and time-defying love.
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