1. And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss, and a great chain in his hand. 2. And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years; 3. And cast him into the abyss, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should not seduce the nations any more, until the thousand years were finished; and after this he must be loosed a little time. 4. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them, and the souls of them that were beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and who had not adored the beast, nor his image, nor had received his mark upon their forehead, and upon their hand; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5. And the rest of the dead lived not again, until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6 Happy and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; upon these the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. 7. And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8. And shall go forth to seduce the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to war; the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 9. And they went up upon the breadth of the earth, and encompassed the camp of the saints and the beloved city; and fire came down from God out of heaven and consumed them. 10. And the Devil that seduced them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are; and shall be tormented day and night for ages of ages.
11 And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and no place was found for them. 12. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God; and the books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hell gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged everyone according to their works. 14. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15. And if anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.
Concerning the removal of those who are meant by “the dragon,”‘ (verses 1-3), and then concerning the ascent of those from the lower earth, who worshiped the Lord and shunned evils as sins (verses 4-6). The judgment upon those in whose worship there was nothing of religion (verses 7-9). The damnation of the dragon (verse 10). The universal judgment upon the rest (verses 11-15).
Verse 1. “And I saw an angel coming down from heaven having the key of the abyss, and a great chain in his hand,”
The Lord’s Divine operation into lower things, from His Divine power of shutting and opening, and of binding and loosing.
Verse 2. “And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan,”
They were withheld who are meant by the dragon, who, because they think sensually and not spiritually of matters of faith, are called “the old serpent,” and because they are in evils as to life, are called the Devil, and because they are in falsities as to doctrine, are called Satan.
“And bound him a thousand years,”
They who are here meant by the dragon, were withdrawn and torn away from the rest in the world of spirits, that for a short time there might be no communication with them.
Verse 3. “And cast him into the abyss, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should not seduce the nations any more,”
The Lord entirely removed those who were in faith alone, and took away all communication between them and the rest, lest they should inspire into those who were to be taken up into heaven anything of their heresy.
“Until the thousand years were finished; and after this he must be loosed a little time,”
This only a little while, or for a short time, until they are taken up by the Lord into heaven who were in truths from good; after which they who are meant by “the dragon,” were to be loosed for a short time, and a communication opened between them and the rest.
Verse 4. “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them,”
The truths of the Word, according to which all are judged, were opened, and that then they were taken up from the lower earth, who had been concealed by the Lord, that they might not be seduced by the dragon and his beasts.
“And the souls of them that were beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the Word of God,”
They were rejected by those who were in falsities from their own intelligence, because they worshiped the Lord, and lived according to the truths of His Word.
“And who had not adored the beast, nor his image, nor had received his mark upon their forehead, and upon their hand,”
Who did not acknowledge and receive the doctrine of faith alone.
“And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years,”
Who have been already for some time in conjunction with the Lord and in His kingdom.
Verse 5. “And the rest of the dead lived not again, until the thousand years were finished,”
Besides these, now spoken of, none were taken up into heaven, till after the dragon was loosed, and that they were then proved and explored as to their quality.
“This is the first resurrection,”
Salvation and life eternal primarily consist in worshiping the Lord and living according to His commandments in the Word, because by them conjunction is effected with the Lord and consociation with the angels of heaven.
Verse 6. “Happy and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection,”
They who come into heaven have the felicity of life eternal, and enlightenment, by conjunction with the Lord.
“Upon these the second death hath no power,”
They have not damnation:
“But they shall be priests of God and of Christ,”
Because they are kept by the Lord in the good of love and thence in the truths of wisdom.
“And shall reign with Him a thousand years,”
They were already in heaven, when the rest who had not revived, that is, as yet received heavenly life, were in the world of spirits.
Verse 7. “And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,”
After they who had before been concealed and guarded in the lower earth, were taken up by the Lord into heaven, and the New Heaven increased by them, all those who had confirmed themselves in falsities of faith, were to be let loose.
Ver. 8. “And shall go forth to seduce the nations, which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to war,”
They who are here meant by the dragon, would draw to their party all those who were from the earths in the whole world of spirits, and lived there only in external natural worship and in no internal spiritual worship, and would stir them up against those who worshiped the Lord, and lived according to His commandments in the Word.
“The number of whom is as the sand of the sea,”
The multitude of such.
Verse 9. “And they went up upon the breadth of the earth, and encompassed the camp of the saints, and the beloved city,”
Being stirred up by the dragonists, they spurned every truth of the church, and endeavored to destroy all things of the New Church, and even its doctrine concerning the Lord and concerning life.
“And fire came down from God out of heaven and consumed them,”
They were destroyed by the lusts of infernal love.
Verse 10. “And the Devil that seduced them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ages of ages,”
They who were in evils as to life, and in falsities as to doctrine, were cast into hell.
Verse 11. “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away,”
The universal judgment executed by the Lord upon all the former heavens that were occupied by such as were in civil and moral good, but in no spiritual good, thus who simulated Christians in externals, but in internals were devils, which heavens, with their earth, were totally dissipated, so that nothing of them appeared any more.
Verse 12. “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God,”
All who had died from the earth, and were now among those who were in the world of spirits, of whatever condition and quality, gathered together by the Lord for judgment.
“And the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life,”
The interiors of the minds of them all were laid open, and by the influx of light and heat from heaven, their quality was seen and perceived as to the affections which are of the love or the will, and thence as to the thoughts which are of faith or the understanding, as well the evil as the good.
“And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works,”
All were judged according to their internal life in externals.
Verse 13. “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it,”
The external and natural men of the church called to judgment.
“And death and hell gave up the dead which were in them,”
The men of the church who were wicked in heart, who in themselves were devils and satans, called to judgment.
“And they were judged everyone according to their works,”
Here as before.
Verse 14. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire,”
The wicked in heart, who in themselves were devils and satans, and yet in externals like men of the church, were cast into hell among those who were in the love of evil and thence in the love of falsity agreeing with evil.
“This is the second death,”
With these there is damnation itself.
Verse 15. “And if anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire,”
They who had not lived according to the Lord’s commandments in the Word, and had not believed in the Lord, were condemned.
Author: Emanuel Swedenborg (Apocalypse Revealed)
THE JUDGMENT, AND THE OPENING OF THE BOOKS.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their words (Rev. xx. 12).
WE have frequently, in former discourses, shewn that the great subjects of the Divine Book of Revelation are not to be interpreted of political changes or literal circumstances, but of spiritual things, and the states and circumstances of the Church. It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ unto the Churches concerning the Churches, and how it would be hereafter with His Church universal.
The scenes were spiritual, and, as the Apostle said, the Holy Spirit teacheth to compare spiritual things with spiritual. It is quite palpable to the thoughtful mind that here, more than elsewhere, It is the spirit that giveth life (2 Cor. iii. 6). Here, surely, the Saviors saying must be applied, My words, they are spirit and they are life (John vi. 63).
Yet great numbers of pious and excellent people have perplexed themselves by taking the descriptions of this chapter in a most strangely literal way. They have supposed two bodily resurrections to be taught, and a thousand years, or, as some say, three hundred and sixty-five thousand years between them.
During this intermediate time the devil shall be bound with a great literal chain, and sealed up that he could deceive the nations no more; but yet at the end of the time he should go forth, and find nations in number like the sand of the sea, whom he could bring up to destroy the camp of the saints, and which must therefore be evil nations.
A whole library of books has been written on these and kindred subjects by those who have indulged in this literalizing and sensualizing the Divine scenes which are intended to give us Divine disclosures of spiritual and eternal things.
We ought always to remember that judgment takes place in the eternal world after death, not in the outer world at all. It is appointed to men once to die, said the Apostle, but after this (death) the Judgment (Heb. ix. 27).
A THOUSAND, in spiritual things, is a number that only expresses fullness and completeness, rounding off, as it were, the subject. To the Lord a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years.
Hence, in this book, we have the tribes which were sealed, each one twelve thousand (Rev. vii.); the one hundred and forty-four thousand who stood on Mount Zion with the Lamb (Rev xiv.); the measure of the New Jerusalem, each way twelve thousand furlongs.
Surely, it is not difficult to perceive that thousands in these cases do not specify exact literal numbers, but express the fullness and completeness of the numbers of the saved, and of the fullness and completeness of the truths which form the walls of the Holy City, the Church. Instead of the Scriptures teaching two separate bodily resurrections with a very long time between, they do most positively teach that earthly bodies are no part whatever of mans resurrection. It is the soul, the real man, that rises, not in any case the material body. The body thou sowest is not the body that shall be (1 Cor. xv. 37). Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption (1 Cor. xv. 50). There is a natural body, and there, is a spiritual body (1 Cor. xv. 44). It is raised a spiritual body (1 Cor. xv. 44).
In perfect harmony with this St. John says, I saw the souls of them that were beheaded (literally; smitten with the axe) for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God.
It was the souls of these people, not their bodies, which the Apostle says he saw, and who constituted the: FIRST RESURRECTION.
The Divine Judge was, in fact, preparing in the World of Spirits for one of those great judgments by which one age or dispensation is closed, and another begun.
When a Church has, through ambition and worldliness, corrupted the grand simple principles of Divine Truth, and set up their own traditions, pious, humble, devout people, come to embrace and obstinately cling to these traditions, however puerile and mischievous, as if they were eternal truths.
The Fakeers of India, who become stiff with standing on one leg, in honor of their god; the religious of the middle ages, whose macerations, self-torments, and endless repetitions of prayer, and whose dirt, they supposed were most pleasing to the Divine Being; the rigidly righteous of the present day, who regard with bitterness such as do not think of Gods anger as they do, and who seek to become regenerate by the Lords help, while they keep the commandments of God, are not fit for heaven. Vast numbers of these are inwardly good, but they have been misled by their education, and surrounding circumstances.
For hundreds of years, when a Church is declining, multitudes pass into the world of spirits, and cannot enter heaven, until they are instructed, and their fallacies, which they have been taught and devoutly cherished, have thus been removed. Some are very tender and heavenly-minded in their ends and purposes, and when Judgment is preparing they are elevated first. Theirs is the First Resurrection.
These heavenly-minded ones, detained by cherished errors, are those who are mentioned in chap. vi. 9-11: I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth. And white robes (pure truths) were given unto every one of them, and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season; that is, until judgment could be fully entered upon, and a new dispensation commenced.
The evil ones who had to some extent infested them, because of the errors and fallacies still remaining with them, and who are called the devil and satan, are, by the power of Divine Providence; represented by a chain removed and cast down, until they were safely and triumphantly raised to heaven.
The same thing was done at the Lords first advent. Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the Prince of this world be cast out (John xii. 31). Again, I beheld Satan like lightning fall from heaven (Luke x. 18). When He ascended up on high He led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. Now that He (Christ) ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things (Eph. iv. 8-10).
This complete protection and raising of the truly spiritually minded, who had endured persecution in the world, may be physical, or may be spiritual, or both, is the first resurrection in the inner world. Their enemies cannot come near. They are bound completely, and for them for ever, for a thousand years.
These heavenly-minded ones are raised and freed for ever, for them also for a thousand years.
But when these have been fully provided for, and are externally safe, blessed, and holy, in the first, the BEST resurrection, they live in love, and reign with the Lord Jesus, governing every thought, feeling, and desire in the little kingdom of their own souls (1 Cor iv. 8, Rev. i. 6), never fearing the second death, there are others whose states are to be investigated.
The rest of the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened.
The rest of the dead are those who are not the interiorly spiritually-minded, but external men, and yet they are not all alike.
They are not sons of God, but some of them can be hired servants in the kingdom of our Father.
Some are very dead. To be carnally-minded is death (Rom. viii. 6). The books must be opened, but what are these books?
Human minds are wonderfully endowed, and men are created upon earth that they may all be engaged in writing books. What is written in these books is absolutely accurate as a sun-written photograph, and according as the character written is heavenly or the reverse, so the minds are fit for heaven, or unhappily are unfitted for entering there.
That human minds thus are books, and that they are books of the most perfect and extraordinary kind, a very little reflection on our own experience will enable us to understand.
Every one knows that his memory is a record; and this is not only the teaching of human experience, but is also constantly recognized in Holy Writ. We have said that human minds are books, and that the Divine intelligence and wisdom are exhibited in their construction. Their arrangement is immeasurably above all human manufactured books, as Gods works in all other respects are superior to human doings.
For, in the first place, if we think for a moment upon the perfection in which those books are written, as compared with all human volumes, we cannot fail to be astonished. Books were originally made by the slow process of writing. Many very beautiful things were done in this way, and in ancient times no doubt people found that books of this construction were most wonderful and remarkable advantages and helps to human progress–and so they were.
After a while, about the time of the Reformation, we know that a great march was made in the construction of books, and printing came to the worlds help. By its means not only were books multiplied and cheapened, but in every way a most admirable advancement was made. Very lately, when we had the three hundredth; anniversary of the discovery of printing, you probably recollect the remarkable performance was announced of manufacturing a book in the Oxford Press, in the most beautiful style, in twenty-four hours, reckoning from the time when the first types were placed up to the time when the volume in question was exhibited–within twenty-four hours beautifully bound, and a most beautiful specimen of printing. This was indeed a remarkable thing. And then came the manufacturing of books by photography. This is still more astonishing, the sun being the printer, and instantaneous and exact impressions being made. This would seem almost to be the last step of perfection in human production in relation to books. But this last is in reality the way in which the impressions on those wonderful books, HUMAN MINDS, have always been produced. The book of the human mind is being fitted up by knowledge, and by heavenly principles, from the very first. The work begins when the babe is lying upon its mothers lap.
Its dawning mind is impressed by the different changes of the mothers countenance. Each smile and each tender aspect of the mothers love affects the childs little learning heart. These impressions have been taking place ever since there was a little child–and all done, you perceive, by the most perfect photography.
How Divine skill surpasses human science is illustrated by this first operation of baby life, and what has to be carried out by the photographer now. What a pity it would be if a little baby had to commence by having an outward photographic chamber, and be required to manage all the chemicals and all the rest of the paraphernalia which in a round-about way are used by photographers to take their wonderful pictures. And not only so: but these books do what all the photographers in the world cannot accomplish to this moment–they take colors, and they at once so seize them as to retain them. They get impressions through the ears as well as through the eyes. The whole person takes impressions by the five senses, and is storing them up in the wonderful library called the memory.
The whole world is thus made to minister to the formation of the human book, and not the outer world alone, but the inner world of emotion, of imagination, and rational and irrational thoughts. The wonderful book of the human mind is obtaining a grand store of instruction every day.
We can form but little conception how much a child learns to know, unless we reflect upon all the small details of human life.
But not only so. There are laws in connection with those wonders in the formation of the books of human character that are of a most remarkable kind. How wonderfully is the knowledge stored; how orderly is it arranged. How aptly it comes when we want it. Each soul is his own book-keeper, and that unerringly, and without trouble. Here again we observe how Divine skill infinitely surpasses human ingenuity. If an impression has been taken by a photographer, he has to go back into a dark chamber, and there be engaged for some time in endeavoring to fix the impression, and make it so that it will not pass off.
The mind has got all the appliances, and they are carried about without any difficulty; and it is not only a book that is being completed–it is a library.
The mind of a child has been said to be like a sheet of black paper; but it is not so. Ordinary philosophers have said that the human mind is like a sheet of white paper, with nothing at all on it. It is a mistake. It is like a sheet of colored paper, some colored in one way and some in another; but there is a certain hereditary character and tendency which form the basis of the human mind, and upon which the after impressions have to be made. It is not simply a book, it is a library–a library of such wonderful arrangement, that it is amazing not only in quantity but in quality. It is most astonishing to think of its faculties in every way.
The more knowledge is stored up in the mind, the more room there is.
Life is short, but art is long. See how any art or science opens out to one who cultivates it; but no one is ever oppressed, by the increased extent of his knowledge.
Then there is the reproductive power of thought by reflection. All that exists in society around us, from the stick to the steam-engine; houses, palaces, ships, all are formed first in the mind, and then are produced in outside life. These thoughts are formed, and stored, and carried, without the least difficulty. Here, again, we pause to notice the superiority of Divine works over human skill. If all our information were written in outward volumes, only got down when they were wanted, what an obstruction it would be! Where these thoughts and words go to, what becomes of them, how they are arranged in the human system, is one of the wonders of Divine Wisdom. No one can thoroughly and clearly understand it; but that it is so, every one knows. And not only so, but there are plenty of persons who, in knowing one of the copious languages, know forty thousand words, besides the immense number of things they know, and these are carried with ease; they are no burden.
Some persons can arrange twenty languages in their minds quite well, and carry them without the least trouble. These are some of the wonders of the human books of Divine arrangement in the mind and character of man. How can we do otherwise than say: The Lord is infinite in wisdom. The perfection of His Divine Majesty is beyond all thought. Not only are there all these arrangements for an abundant supply of the matters out of which thought and progression are to be formed, but there are the godlike faculties of free thought and free determination, so as to use all the knowledge we possess into a thousand different forms of manly service.
Although no one can explain precisely how or where the treasures of human intelligence are exactly arranged, they are so possessed that when they are wanted they appear. What a magnificent thing it would be if, in the library of the British Museum, when a person went in order to elaborate and illustrate his particular views, and to get a clear apprehension of his subject, the books came down from one shelf and down from another, without any trouble, and without any people to fetch the volumes. This is the character of the mental library. These are the books spoken of in our text.
There is another important particular I will mention. Not only do we take full notice of the impressions which are thus afforded us in every way, but secret things are the plainest and most distinct. The more schemingly any work is set about, the more palpably does it make its impressions on the human character. The character also is being built up, the book is being written, as much from within as from without–our reasonings and resolutions, our purposes, aims, and determinations. Our daily efforts, feeble or strong, our mental conquests or defeats, our deeds, and words–for words also are deeds–these are constantly writing our book, unerringly, and we ARE THE BOOK-KEEPERS.
In building up a mans character it is essential that he should be free, or it would not be his character. Hence we live in a world of coverings. Everything in this stage of being is covered up. The corn is in its sheath, the pea in its pod, the tree in its bark, man in his body, and his inner mind in his outer mind.
If it were not so, a human being would always live as if under the eye of a policeman, or of thousands of policemen, and never be himself. Hence to exercise the godlike quality of freedom, the very center of humanity and progress, each man must have the shelter of keeping himself from inspection as to his real character, as long as he desires it, for the protection of his liberty of thought, feeling, and action.
People thus have, and must have, a sort of every-day countenance, and often a fair and polite expression. This is often very different from the inward purposes of the heart and soul, and therefore it is that these books are covered up; and hence the necessity of having them opened in the eternal world.
The great multitude of human beings are some more and some less of this class, concealed by a smooth and agreeable exterior.
There are two extremes which are in a different category–the extremely bad and the extremely good. There are souls so full of malice, cunning, and shamelessness, they do not care to pretend to be good. There are also rough, bad, bold souls, who daringly defy both God and man. They proclaim their own judgment, and at death these go direct to the infernal kingdom. There needs no hesitation about them they judge themselves. These had hell within them. They were hells in miniature. There are others again of whom the Apostle remarks that their good works go beforehand. Those are persons of such genuine sincerity of character, of such real heavenly goodness, of such inner conjunction with the Lord Jesus Christ in the regenerate life, that they too are judged already. They are angels in the house. They are known by the works they love, and the virtues of a heavenly discipleship. Their good works go beforehand.
They were clothed with the white raiment of a virtuous life long before they passed from the world. They are such as are described when the Apostle says, as you will find in Phill. iv. 3, Whose names are written in the Book of Life. The manifestation of such is of heavenly love shown in a heavenly life. These belong to the other book which was opened, and which is THE BOOK OF LIFE. The Book of Life means the BOOK OF LOVE. I have frequently pointed out that love and life are interchangeable in Scripture. Life does not mean mere existence. To be spiritually-minded, says the Apostle, is life and peace. Hence, because our Lord is love itself, He is said to be life itself. I am the resurrection and the life. God is love, and God is life. Ye will not come unto Me, the Lord Jesus says, that ye may have life, because the love of God is not in you.
It is said of certain persons that their names are written in the Lambs Book of Life, which means their nature is written therein. Theirs is a spirit of heavenly life. If a person, from love to the Lord Jesus Christ, will turn against all that is selfish, unholy, and base, keeping the Lords commandments, he is entering more and more into life.
He that overcometh, says the Lord Jesus, in the 5th verse of the third chapter of this Book, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels. The more the disciple of the Lord Jesus overcomes, the more life comes into him. The Lord Jesus is the tree of life. His kingdom is the kingdom of life, and as we receive His nature into ours, as we eat His flesh, and drink His blood, we Have ETERNAL LIFE; that is, eternal love. All heaven is a grand Book of Life. Each angel there is a WORD in that Book, and all heaven testifies that the spirit of the Book is, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men. That is the great Book of Life. The other books that are spoken of here are the books written by each being for himself. Whosoever is not live with love for the Lord Jesus Christ is forming a book of death. The other books were opened, because, as we said, the vast mass of human beings are not what they seem. They are books that must needs be opened. They have spent their lives of moderation and conformity to the demands of order and the demands of the world, by means of which they keep themselves without blame it may be, or without any very serious blame in human life. But what is their inner spirit? Do they know themselves?
There are others that march about with an air of sanctimonious hypocrisy, with a pretentious exhibition of the sacred character–whited sepulchers, beautiful without, perhaps standing in very high places, but alas! far different within. Many strange exhibitions of this kind have seen presented in history, in which there have been souls belted with fold upon fold of hypocrisy; pretending to be all on fire for patriotism when it meant pelf, all on fire for religion when it meant greed–men of order, decency, and propriety in appearance, but inwardly prompted by nothing but their own selfishness. This is the class, those who are externally decent and orderly, whose books have to be opened, so that it may be seen what the inward heart, mind, and life are, that they may be arranged for eternity, in the grand humanity of the universe. Bear well in mind that this world is not the world of judgment. It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Heb. ix. 27). And I saw (in the world of spirits) the dead, small and great, stand before God.
There have been plenty of persons in the dark ages who, having no idea of the real age of the world, or the thousands of millions who have inhabited it, supposed the little valley of Jehoshaphat to be the assize court of judgment to hold everybody who had been in the world. The millions of each generation were all to be crammed in there, which would not contain all the people of London, and the judgment was to take effect at that spot. But this arose from the grossest ignorance in relation to judgment, spiritual existence, and everything of the kind That He may clear away the clouds of falsity, and enable man to see the way of life, the Lord effects a judgment at the end of every dispensation, which is called the end of the world. Now is the judgment of this world, He said; now shall the Prince of this world be cast out (St. John xii. 31). This was at the end of the Jewish world. lit the end of every dispensation there is a great judgment held in the inner sphere of things, providing for a new dispensation being commenced.
Daniel says (7 chap. 9-10), I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment has white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool; his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the judgment was set, and the books were opened. The fiery stream is the Divine spirit, flowing from the Lord, and opening out the characters of those who have not been altogether pure and good, and of those outwardly good and inwardly bad, so that every one may see their ruling love, their master passion, their real character.
These are they upon whom judgment takes place. Their minds are the books which are opened, when the Divine stream of love and wisdom flowing touches them from God, before Whom they are judged. For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad (2 Cor. v. 10). In Daniel, the Judge is said to be the Ancient of Days; in the New Testament Christ, because Jehovah of the Old Testament is Jesus of the New. It is not only whether we have done good things or bad things, but it is whether the things that we did were really good, or the things which appear bad are really bad things. This is what the judgment has to ascertain, and it ascertains it.
We often see, as life goes on, certain propensities of character acquire such overwhelming influence in the soul, that the least opposition excites a storm of rage. A word, a look, construed to be against the darling object, when the feelings are in this agonized tension, and the most fiery rage is excited.
This will help us to conceive the operation of the Spirit of the Lord on such as are not written in the Book of Life.
They whose names were not written in the Lambs Book of Life were cast into a name of fire; and whosoever was not written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. That is to say, they were brought into such states of horror, of hatred, that their whole spirits were full of rage and displeasure–a fierce hatred takes possession of them.
Just as the owl flies from the sunlight, wicked souls cannot bear upon them the operation of the Divine stream.
God never desires the pain or suffering of a single human soul. Our Lord Himself describes the abode of the unhappy as where the fire is not quenched, and their worm dieth not. It is their worm and their fire, not His, but it is sure to kindle sooner or later. Behold all ye that kindle a fire, saith the Lord, and compass yourselves in the sparks thereof, ye shall lie down in sorrow; (Isa. ii. 11). The whole soul of a person who has been living in opposition to God becomes a furnace of infernal love and passion; and when such thoroughly defeated and exposed, they become a living hell, fiery with indignation, fury, and hate.
O then, let us co-operate with Him, so that when our books appear there will only be lines of the Book of Life, so that we may with loving trust say, like the celebrated Franklin, on his epitaph–
THE WORK ITSELF SHALL NOT BE LOST, FOR IT WILL, AS HE BELIEVED, APPEAR ONCE MORE IN A NEW AND MORE BEAUTIFUL EDITION, CORRECTED AND AMENDED BY THE AUTHOR.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY—– THE MAGNIFICENT SCENES IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION (1878)
THE SEA, AND DEATH AND HELL, GIVING UP THEIR DEAD.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works (Rev. xx. 13).
IN considering the Divine lesson of the previous verse, you will remember that on Sunday last the subject of our investigation was especially the Divine fact that is described as the books being opened, and we pointed out the wonderful character of those books. We said men mere born into the world endowed with capability of an astonishing kind to write these books, and that they were constantly doing it every day, whether willing or not. Each man is a spiritual book-keeper, and is implanting in his mind and memory all the things which occur in his life, according to fixed and definite laws. This book, when written, is each mans character, and fits him either for a home amongst the happy, or unhappily unfits him for the kingdom of heaven.
Out of these, as out of the pictures of a magic lantern, will the surroundings of the soul come in the eternal world.
We ought, as far as possible, to describe the wonderful means, the astonishing facilities both of observation, of the memory, and the recollection of internal impressions in all the ways by which these marvelous books are constructed; and we wish now to carry our attention a little further.
We are happy that the opportunity has fallen upon this remarkable portion of the year, its last Sunday evening, the time when people usually take stock of their affairs in other respects. We would wish to turn attention to the importance of taking stock in this respect, seeing how these books, of ours give an account of our condition for the year that has passed, and how we stand for enduring the opening of the books described in our text, and which assuredly will come to pass when we quit this outer world, which may be soon, and is undoubtedly certain.
Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours,
And ask them what report they bore to heaven.
We pointed out, in passing, that judgment takes place in the spiritual world in that region of it into which we enter immediately after death, and therefore you perceive it is said, I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God. It was a mistake in the dark ages, when they fancied that judgment would take place in this outer world. This is the world of work, the world of preparation, of growth. The eternal is the world of judgment. We cited the Apostles words, that some mens good works go beforehand, and they are judged of themselves. They evidently are heavenly men, and go at once to heaven. They carry heaven with them. They lived in heaven while they were here upon the earth, and took their own heaven in their own minds to join the grand heaven–the good, the true, and the happy in their eternal home.
These, we pointed out, are meant by those who written in the Lambs Book of Life, mentioned in the previous verse. That is to say, they form part of the grand boot of love. Love and life are interchangeable and synonymous in the Divine Word. God is love and God is life. Every real follower of the Savior HATH everlasting life. The Lord says: I am come that ye may have life, and that ye may have it more abundantly. Mans spiritual life is at first that of a babe in Christ, and he goes on increasing his life until it fills the whole man, and forms a living world in Gods glorious Book of Life. Ye are our epistles, said the Apostle, seen and read of all men.
But besides the Book of Life, there are those other books where, alas! each man has been writing selfishness in his heart, where each has been writing carnal states, defiled pleasures, impressions of envy, covetousness, greediness.
You remember our Lord drew attention to these states. In fact, it is called, both in the Old Testament and the New, man writing himself in the earth. All that forsake Me, says the Lord in Jeremiah shall be written in the earth. When our Lord sought to display the earthly, selfish, and sensual character of the persons who wished to magnify their own virtue by bringing the poor unfortunate woman before the Lord to be condemned, as if to intimate how far they mere above this poor creature, the Lord, who knew their hearts, sat down and wrote upon the earth an indication to them which they felt, that they were moved only by earthly, sensual, sanctimonious feelings. They retired one after the other, and then the Lord shewed His mode of treating the unfortunate by saying Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin more. This was the spirit of heaven–that the spirit of earth.
Now it is in this way that Divine lessons of the highest interest are unfolded, as we see in this description of writing books.
And allow me now to ask you to attend while we carry the subject a little further, while we inquire whence the dead are said to come, and whither they are said to go. In the dark ages people took it for granted that dead bodies would be wanted in heaven and hell some time, and that therefore, when people came up to judgment, they would rise from the earth, and there would be previously a great coming together of bones and dust, filling the air in all directions.
Yet there is nothing of this in Scripture. The earthly body is our house, made of atoms, changing with every breath, with constant perspiration every hour. We have many bodies in a long life, but they serve for this world only, and are dissolved at death. He that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more (Job 9). When our earthly tabernacle is dissolved we have another house, our spiritual body, in which we can live eternal in the heavens (2 Cor. v. 1).
To such it was a great perplexity to find that there is no account here of the dead coming from the earth. It is said the sea gave up its dead; but comparatively few bodies sink into the sea. If earthly bodies were to rise, it would be a very perplexing thing that the text should speak of the dead coming up out of the sea, and not a word be said about dead bodies coming out of the earth.
These had overlooked the apostolic teaching that flesh and blood do not inherit the kingdom of God, and that corruption doth not inherit incorruption (1 Cor. xv. 50).
Death and hell also delivered up the dead which were in them. Here, again, those who have not thought a little deeper than the surface have been greatly puzzled to know what dead could come out of death. Hell gave up the dead which were in it. Could it be dead bodies which were in hell? How could dead bodies come out of hell, and what became of them?
These questions have very sorely puzzled those who have taken a superficial view of Divine words, and are not acquainted with the real nature of eternal things.
Sea and land in Scripture are used as symbols of spiritual things. Land represents the mind as to its capabilities for producing good affections and good works, the good fruits of the soul. Sea represents the world of knowledge and thought. Just as in nature we can travel by two general modes, by land or by sea, so in spiritual things we can advance in the way of thought, and this is like travelling on the sea; and in the advancement of virtue and good, this journeying by land. We can pass from thought to thought as fish move about in the water, and we can pass from one state of good things to another. This is life traveling on the land. The Israelitish journey from Egypt to Canaan, as is well known, represents the pilgrimage of spiritual life. The sea is a grand symbol of the world of thought, both good and bad. The world of good thought is frequently represented in Scripture by this sublime and most magnificent of all grand images. Who can stand on the coast of the sea, and not behold mirrored there the vast canopy above, with its clouds and stars, and vast and varied life, and say with the poet,
Roll on, thou great and grand wide ocean, roll,
Ten thousand fleets pass over thee in vain.
That the world of human thought is mirrored in its ordinary and peaceable modes by the sea in calm, and the way in which Almighty Wisdom governs it by the movement of the tides. But when great catastrophes and trials come, and there are storms in the ocean of mind, just as troubled as the tumults in the ocean of matter, you can remember the words in Isaiah lvii. 20:
The wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. It is on this account that you find the sea used as representing this general mass of thought.
Ideas and sentiments floating about, as it were, from thought to thought, from view to view, are in the Scripture represented as fishes. Some, keen and crafty, are like sharks in the sea; others are like the gold and silver fishes.
Our Lord Himself says, in Matt. xiii. 47, The kingdom of heaven is like unto the net that was cast into the sea. He said His disciples, I will make you fishers of men; that is, they should take men out of mere earthly knowledge and worldly turmoil, into the peaceable ways of the Gospel. Being entirely taken up with worldly affairs is a very poor life compared with real heavenly life–the grand life of higher aims and hopes. It is the life of a fish, instead of the life of a man. A man thus incessantly engaged in temporal concerns can as little enter into the spiritual abodes of heaven as a fish would enter into repose in the atmosphere and enjoy it. A man who never gets a yearning and an appetite for heavenly things here, can never enjoy them in the other life. He would gasp in the atmosphere of heaven, like a fish out of water. Hence, it is important to lay this grand symbol to heart.
Just let us for a moment think. Are we going to be fish, or do we mean to be men? The thought that lifts a person up to celestial things is described by the flight of a bird; They that wait upon the Lord shall mount upon wings like eagles; they shall renew their strength; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and never faint. To soar into the region of intellectual thought, is to have a higher life than that of a fish; but a person who rarely concerns himself about anything but simply earthly objects, and the concerns of this world, merely for the gratification of the love of wealth, and power, and fame amongst men, and so on, is just swimming about, realizing a low, external condition like the state of a fish, compared with that of a bird, or a man.
The flowing of Gospel truth amongst such is described by the sacred river descending into the sea. Then said he unto me, These waters issue out towards the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea, which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed (Ezek. xlvii. 8).
Of the same sea it is written: Wast thou wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thy horses and thy chariot of salvation?
This common mass of humanity must be tested. All of these are not alike. All are external, but all are not evil. Many are in low forms of good. They can become hired servants in their Fathers household, although they will not be sons and daughters. These are they who are meant by the words, And the sea gave up the dead which were in it. There is a very large class of those that are in the sea. They have made no great demonstration either for or against religion. They have gone on in the ordinary way, attending to the usual duties of their class, paying their way, minding their business, yet who never endeavored to rise up to real heavenly states of mind and feeling. Their number is vast, but they are not all alike; therefore, they have to be judged. There are those who never enter very definitely into heavenly states, because unhappily they have been brought up in families where training for heaven was unknown. Many of these, when opportunity is offered, can be led to higher and better states of mind.
There are those who were kept from religion because they were led to believe it inconsistent with a good business character–a thing to be left to sickness and old age.
There are those who have been deterred from religion because they have been told its doctrines were all mysterious, and there could be neither satisfaction nor delight in their study.
There are those who have been repelled from religion by unhappy cases of hypocrisy, religious dissensions, and sectarian bitterness in some of its professors.
There are those who have shunned religion because they were told it condemned even the innocent pleasures of life, and was morbid and melancholy.
There are those who have done evils, and lived in professions unworthy of them and injurious to society, but partly from ignorance, partly from custom, partly from circumstances, they have been little awakened to the real nature of their habits of life.
There are those who sin unto death, and those who sin not unto death, but they all so belong to the sea of mere external thought, that they have seldom aimed at anything higher.
Many of these have much in them that is truly excellent in many of the relations of life; much of humanity, of public spirit, of self-sacrifice, of devotion to the good of others. Many of these can have their ignorance removed, their failings removed. They are such as are spoken of when it is said the rest of the dead live not until the thousand years are finished. Some of such dead can be brought into spiritual and heavenly life, though not of an exalted nature. The Lord will make the best of them.
We all shall be tried by our motives and ends,
And judgment be passed by the greatest of friends.
Yet they are not a high class of minds that are much governed by circumstances. Many persons who are born and brought up under the most unfavorable circumstances present the most notable, the most glorious instances of heavenly characters known amongst men. A noble mind creates circumstances.
All, however, have not great strength, and fervor, and determination. If there be deep and earnest real life in a person, although he has much to hamper him, he will persevere, remove his difficulties, and triumph over every obstacle to success. We must not expect this in every one.
Strange disclosures and changes of position will doubtless take place. Many poor creatures who have been looked down upon here, but who have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the Sick, stinted themselves to feed their children or help a neighbor, will be owned by Him Who looks on the heart when the proud priest is abased and condemned. I remember once, in a time of great distress in the country, visiting a range of cottages of very poor people, who made little profession of religion, but who were helping each other. I found two families had adopted the orphan children of deceased poor friends. They had denied themselves in many respects to bring up those children, educate them, and preserve them in states of comfort until they could provide for themselves. Those things will not be forgotten in the eternal world. The Lord looks upon the heart, and many who have professed little, but had done much without profession, will come out in the eternal world far higher than those who have cried Believe! believe! but have not done the duties and charities required by the Lord. A little faith, if united to charity, justice, and self-denial–the grain of mustard seed–has really heaven in it, and will bring the dead right out of the sea, and plant them in the Setter land.
To one of these abodes of rest,
O Lord, my longing spirit lead;
The lowest mansions of the blest
Will all desert of mine exceed.
It is not being in darkness that constitutes condemnation, but loving it. Bad men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.
In the sea-state there are both good and bad, but only death and hell are cast into the lake of fire. What, then, is death? It is described in many ways. It is not death in the sense of non-existence, it is death in the sense of opposition to heavenly life.
Death in Scripture seldom means cessation of existence, even in this world, for in reality nothing dies at what we commonly call death. The soul does not die, it leaves the body to enter upon a fuller existence. The body does not die, it never lived, it only appeared to live, by being closely associated with the living man, the soul.
What then, is death? The Apostle answers, To be carnally minded is death (Rom. viii. 6).
To be so absorbed in selfishness, as to be heedless of all the nobler affections. This is death.
To be dead to generosity, humanity, truth, justice, virtue, pity, sympathy, the love of country, the love of God and the love of man. This is death.
All the lower passions unbridled, vivid and intensified, all the nobler sentiments repelled or crushed out. This is death.
This terrible condition is the hereditary state, of every one to a certain extent; but with a divine germ of a better life, and divine truths by revelation, to raise the spiritually dead to life.
Just think, what a strange phenomenon a body would be if its nervous system were so paralyzed that it could only see ugly objects, only hear coarse and hideous sounds, only walk in defiled and loathsome places; was dead to sweet odors, entrancing sounds, lovely scenes, and all noble, manly, beautiful, useful and benevolent operations. This living death of the body would be universally lamented; and if there were just faint means of medical cure, no money would be spared by loving parents to rescue their children from such a hideous curse.
This precisely illustrates what is meant in Scripture, and thoughtful experience, by the DEATH OF THE SOUL. It is its living death.
The first time dying is mentioned in the Bible, it is this death that is meant. In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (or dying–thou wilt die) (Gen. ii. 17). Man ate, but he did not cease to exist. He died, however, to goodness and to God. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live; that thou mayest love the Lord thy God, that thou mayest obey His voice, and cleave unto Him (Deut. xxx. 19).
Again, Jehovah says by the prophet, Why will ye die, O house of Israel? (Ezek. xviii. 31).
Our Lord and His Apostles constantly use death in this sense.
The hour cometh, and now is, when the death shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live (John v. 25). My son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found (Luke xv. 24).
The Apostle says, Thou hath He quickened, who were DEAD in trespasses and sins (Eph. ii. 1). Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the DEAD, and Christ shall give thee light (Eph. v. 14). She that liveth in pleasure is DEAD while she liveth (1 Tim. v. 6).
Death, then, the death of the soul, is the lower nature, in which selfishness is Lord, so strengthened, brutalized, and fixed in sin, that the voice of truth is hushed, conscience is seared, and the soul settled firmly in the insanity of acting upon the principle of Evil, be thou my good.
Such are the dead, of whom the text says, Death gave up the dead. that were in it.
Hell gave up the dead that were in it.
Death, as we have seen, means a state of fixed and triumphant self-love. Hell means the false, self-satisfied, infernal ideas, by which the unhappy possessor of such a state supports, defends, and confirms his miserable delusions.
Death in the will, makes hell in the intellect. It is death perverting and polluting all the grand faculties of the intellect, to carry itself out, and confirm its foul phantasies.
In the human breast there dwell
Warring passions, fierce and dark,
Making of their home a hell–
Of the soul, a driving bark.
Hell first exists in the soul, and then spreads itself around. When the Psalmist is expressing the good mans gratitude for his salvation, he says, Great is Thy mercy towards me; and Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell (Ps. lxxxvi. 13).
When a man is delivered, by repentance and faith in the Lord, from hell in this life, there is no danger for him in the next.
It has been well said by an American clergyman, The great thing is not to keep the people out of hell, but to keep hell out of the people.
Not those who were in the sea were cast into the lake of fire, but only such of them as were in death and hell, or, in other words, had death and hell in them.
Many of these had displayed in the world names that they lived, but were found to be dead. They were judged not by their profession, much less by their creed; they were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
They had kept the account themselves, they were their own book-keepers, and according as their works really were, such was their lot.
This was universal–they were judged every man according to his works.
The works stamp a man either for good or for evil. It is not mere sentiment, nor is it simply outside works. Works have two sides. There is the outside, that appertains to those who are concerned with the work. The good works must be good works–works that are useful, that are conformable to what is right and proper in society; in fact, the upright and rightful discharge of mans duty, in the sphere of life in which the Lord has placed him, and doing it according to Gods commandments.
Good works may in this respect be very good to society; but a work depends upon the inner motive, whether it is really good or not. To do good works, a man must believe in God, and believe that He requires them to be done.
Good works are right in themselves, and it is right they should be done; but they are only good in the Divine sight when done from good motives, from heartfelt love to God and man.
One person will do kind things simply because he desires to appear amiable in the sight of others, and thus gratify one of the forms of selfishness. Good works of this kind are good, but, although good as to their objects and their recipients, are not good as to their real character.
Good works must flow from the Spirit of God. Hypocrites do good works to attain reputation, to carry out their selfish ends; and more extensive damage is done to society, in very many cases, by them, than from any of the crimes of downright rejectors of religion.
Good works are charity in feeling, and real faith, carried out in a virtuous life. Charity and faith are mere sentimentalities, not carried out in life. Charity, says the Apostle, rejoices in the truth, and carries out the truth into work. Charity, thus active, makes every work done under its influence a truly good work. It is good in the sight of God, and good in the sight of man, and according to those works it is that every man will be judged. You see at the end of this verse, and at the end of the previous one, the same language is repeated, and it is the doctrine of the whole Bible.
Many in the world just now go about promising salvation, by which they mean entrance into heaven, if a man only believes that Christ has paid his debts, whatever his works may have been. It is sad to declare that this error of good men is the denial of the whole Bible.
The Lord will receive a man now, whatever his life may have been, if he will repent and work out his salvation. He will enjoy the blessing of the Lord from the very beginning; he is in the right road, and if he continues in that from a loving motive, he is sure to go to heaven. He will be saved from his sins, because he rejects them. Salvation is deliverance from sin. He will receive heaven into himself, and he will enter heaven because he is prepared for it.
Religions path they never trod,
Who equity contemn;
Nor ever is he just to God
Who proves unjust to men.
A man may flatter himself that he believes a great many things, but he really does not believe them unless he does them. Belief of the heart goes into practice. Every true man, like St. James, shows his faith by his works. Works, as seen by the Lord from the inmost heart to their outside deed–it is these that determine a mans character either for happiness or misery, and there will be no question in the judgment what a man has believed. They know what he has believed by what he has done.
Let us, then, my beloved friends, this last Sabbath of the year, examine our books. Are they blotted by the sins of the past? Let us pray the adorable Jesus to help us to turn from our wickedness, and walk according to His blessed will. Let us work out our salvation by His holy aid, for He has said of the humble penitent: All his transgressions that he hath committed shall not be mentioned unto him (that book shall be for ever closed); in his righteousness that he hath done shall he live (Ezek. xviii. 22). Thus shall we become angel-minded; and if we have our temptations and trials, the Lord and His angels will help us to overcome them, and we shall sing the gracious song at last:
O grave, where is thy victory? O Death, where is thy sting?
To Jesus, our Lord and our Judge, be glory and dominion, for ever and ever.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY—– THE MAGNIFICENT SCENES IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION (1878)