Waiting for the Bridegroom. The Judgment of the righteous is over. Their redemption is accomplished. That "great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples and tongues," Rev. 7:9, is waiting for the Bridegroom. There is "silence in heaven about the space of half an hour," Rev. 8:1, about seven literal days, for all its inhabitants are coming with Christ, the Bridegroom, to receive His bride. "With power and great glory" "the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father," Matt. 24:30; 16:27, in His own glory, and in the glory of all the holy angels. Matt. 25.31. This is "the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." Titus 2:13.
Groups of loyal believers have fled from their homes because of the death decree issued by their persecuters, Rev. 13:15, and have found refuge in secluded places. Here with prayerful hearts they wait. "Soon they hear the voice of God . . . which gave. . . the day and hour of Jesus' coming." "The wicked could not understand the words," which to them "rolled through the earth like
peals of loudest thunder," but to the waiting saints, His voice "sounded like many musical instruments." EW 15,34,35; 1 T 181. Soon after this, they see "the sign of the Son of man in heaven" - a small black cloud which, as it comes nearer, becomes a great white cloud. Matt. 24:30; GC 640. Looking up, they exclaim "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation." Isa. 25:9.
About this time, the general resurrection of the righteous takes place. Rev. 20:6. Then "we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall be caught up together with them, to meet the Lord in the air." I Thess. 4:15-17. Christ sends "His angels . . . and they shall gather the elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Matt. 24:31. Wonderful deliverance!
The Lamb's Bride. Throughout the Scriptures, the relation of Christ.and His Church is described as that of husband and wife. A few texts will suffice to show this:
Isa. 54:5 - Thy Maker is thine Husband; the Lord of Hosts is His name. Her. 31:32 â I was an Husband unto them, saith the Lord.
II Cor. 11:2 - I have espoused you to one Husband.
Eph. 5:23-32 - After speaking somewhat at length of this relationship, Paul concludes by saying, "I speak concerning Christ and the Church."
When John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, decorated as it is with gold and precious stones, and shining with the glorious light of heaven, he said it was "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." Later, by a metaphorical figure of speech, in which the Bible abounds, the angel who talked with John said, "Come hither, I will show thee the bride, â the Lamb's wife.â And he showed him "the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God." Rev. 21:2,9,10. Again, speaking of the Lamb's wife, John says, "And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints . . . which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb." Rev. 19:7-9.
What, then, is the Lamb's bride or wife? Is it the city, the New Jerusalem, or is it the redeemed saints, or both? Commenting on these texts, Uriah Smith says, "By the figure of personification, which attributes life and action to inanimate objects," the City is called the bride, the Lamb's wife. "But" continues, "a city without inhabitants would be but a dreary and cheerless place. . . The goodly apparel of this city, so to speak, consists of the hosts of the redeemed" In their shining garments. D & R 733, Revised Edition. Thus, speaking non figuratively, the redeemed, arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, are the Lamb's wife. Thus arrayed they are called to the
marriage supper of the Lamb in the New Jerusalem. When the Bridegroom comes for His bride - the redeemed - He will take them to the New Jerusalem, where the wedding celebration follows. Would it not seem therefore, that strictly speaking, the redeemed are the bride, while the city adorned "as a bride" is called the bride only in an accomodated sense?
The Wedding "Guests." The parable of the marriage of the king's son, Matt. 22:2-13, represents the church during the time of the Judgment. The invitations are sent out but many slight them, and are pronounced "not worthy." Among those who accept the invitation there are "both bad and good." At that time all are called "guests." During the examination of the guests, which represents the Investigative Juegment, the bad who do not have on the wedding garment are cast out, because though invited guests who have accepted the invitation, they have not made the necessary preparation. The others, having made the required preparation, are accounted worthy. They are no longer invited "guests" - they are now the redeemed, the Lamb's bride. Thus, the "guests ... cannot be represented also as the bride." GC 427. The bride, the church of the Firstborn, has on the "wedding garment;" she is arrayed in fine linen, clean and white. Thus arrayed she is the âornamentâ of Zion, Isa. 49:18. Her beauty is not beauty of form or of complexion, but true beauty, the beauty of holiness, the beauty that adorns the New Jerusalem.
The Homeward Journey. All are now ready for the seven-day journey "unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem," Heb. 12:22, - unto the city toward which they have looked and longed, "which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Heb. 11:10. The Father and the Son are in Their chariot, "even thousands of angels." Ps. 68:17. "On each side of the cloudy chariot are wings, and beneath it are living wheels; and as the chariot rolls upward, the wheels cry, 'Holy', and the wings as they move cry, 'Holy', and the retinue of angels cry, 'Holy! holy! holy! Lord God Almighty! And the redeemed shout 'Allelula! as the chariot moves onward toward the New Jerusalem." GC 645.
Speaking of this grand journey, Uriah Smith says, "From our little world we pass out to our sun 93,000,000 miles away; on to its nearest neighboring sun, twenty-five million million miles away; on to the great double pole star, from which it takes light four hundred years to reach our world; on past systems, groups, constellations, till we reach the great star Rigel, in Orion, shining with the power of fifteen thousand suns like ours!" D & R 683; Revised Edition. (Is it any wonder that after such a journey, the great company of the redeemed break forth in that song of victory, saying, "Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty?" Rev. 15:13.
In this constellation of Orion, is a nebula or open space, which for centuries has fascinated the best astronomers. One astronomer said, "The creative power which made the universe lavished its richest gifts in and around Orion." Through this open space in the heavens is seen a brilliantly- lighted avenue of indescribable glory.
While astronomers have puzzled and wondered and studied this vast concealed mystery, they do not understand and cannot explain the existence of this aperture In the heavens. Herschel, the founder of modern astronomy, gave much study to this problem, which to astronomers still remains unsolved. But they have figured that this opening has a diameter of more than 16 trillion miles, its depth cannot be measured. Why not? This is abundantly large enough to permit Christ with all the inhabitants of heaven to descend to this earth at His second coming, Matt. 25:31, and also at His third coming to permit the descent of the Holy City to this earth, Rev. 21:2, where it will be permanently located as the capital of the universe. Down through this brilliantly lighted corridor the voice of Jehovah is heard proclaiming the day and the hour of Christ's coming. Mark 13:32.
The constellation Orion appears about midnight in November in the southeasterly heavens. And the Son of Man appears in the east at midnight. Matt. 24:27; 25:6. See EW 41; also Astronomy and the Bible, by L.A. Reed, chapter 23.
The Joyous Homecoming of the Redeemed. "The open space in Orion," EW 41, the avenue through which the Holy City will at last come down to this earth, and the avenue which
Christ, with the Father and all the inhabitants of heaven, come for the redeemed, is doubtless the avenue through which the bridal party moves onward and upward toward the City of God. This is the time of that wonderful homecoming, the re-union of God's "whole family in heaven and earth," Eph. 3:15, the "general assembly and church of the Firstborn, which are written in heaven." Heb. 12:23. And such a homecoming! As a sort of telescopic side light; we are told on good authority that as the victorious procession of the redeemed, accompanied by all the inhabitants of heaven, journeys forward, "representatives from all over God's universe will line the way on either side of the procession, eager to catch glimpses of the triumphant throng."
On at least two other special occasions, representatives from unfallen worlds have been present or have taken part: first, when the foundation of this earth was laid, "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy," Job 38:6,7; again, when Christ broke the fetters of the tomb, and came forth a victorious Conqueror, and ascended on high to begin His work in the holy place of the sanctuary above, "the sons of God, the representatives of the unfallen worlds" assembled with the angel hosts to honor the King of glory. "The heavenly council before which Lucifer had accused God and His Son, the representatives of those sinless realms. . all are there to welcome the Redeemer. They are eager to celebrate His triumph and to glorify their King." DA 833,834.
Ever since sin marred this fair creation, and the work of redemption began, its inhabitants have been "a spectacle (a theatre (margin)) to the world (the inhabited universe), the angels (who live in heaven), and to men," (those who live on this earth). 1 Cor. 4:9. During the centuries, these unfallen worlds; the "sons of God," have watched with unabated interest the working out of man's salvation. They have rejoiced over victories won and grieved over every defeat. Luke 15:7,10; GC 677. And now as the grand climax of redemption is about to be enacted, will they be less interested to join in the final celebration of the Redeemer? How could they? "The whole universe is looking with inexpressible interest to see the closing work of the great controversy between Christ and Satan." 6 T 145.
On the "Sea of Glass." At last, the bridal party reaches.the heavenly City, the New Jerusalem, having observed one Sabbath during the week's journey. Surrounding the city is a vast area like transparent glass. This area is evidently the "foundations" of the City, Heb. 11:10, extending far beyond the city walls. EW 17. Of this transparent platform, Uriah Smith says: "It may extend under and be the foundation. . . the City itself." D & R on Rev. 4:6, p. 411, 1944 edition. This is probably correct, as it corresponds with John's description of the City street, which is "as it were transparent glass." Rev. 21:21. These foundations, twelve in number, are "garnished (brilliantly lighted up) with all manner of precious stone," stones that emit flashes of light of different colors making, "as it were, a sea of glass (Greek: a glassy sea; i.e. transparent) mingled with fire.` Rev. 21:14,19,21; 15:2. Here in these precious stones are portrayed "the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." Rev. 21:14. On this magnificent broad expanse, which surrounds on all sides the city foursquare, Rev. 21:16, stands the innumerable multitude of the redeemed. Over this platform they march to the twelve gates (three on each side) of the city. EW 16,17,12. Here they pause. As in the type, the twelve tribes, arranged in four groups of three tribes each, formed a hollow square around the earthly sanctuary, so in the antitype, the redeemed stand on the sea of glass in "a hollow square" around the City. GC 645,646.
Before the Jasper Wall. Before the redeemed rises the magnificent wall of the city. It is built of jasper, "a stone most precious." Rev. 21:11,18. This precious stone is said to be wavy with the various colors of the rainbow, having a watery crystalline brightness: Being "clear as crystal," v. 11, the beauties of the city are not entirely hidden from the eyes of the redeemed.
The wall is "great and high," "huge and high," says Moffatt - huge probably indicating its thickness. The angel who measured it said it was 144 cubits, or about 216 feet. This may indicate its thickness as well as its height. Its length measured 12,000 furlongs, Rev. 21:12,16,17, or 1500 miles. Some commentators claim that this is the measure all round the city, 375 miles on each side;
others understand that each side is 1500 miles. Which is correct? We shall know when we reach our city home.
Let us compare this wall with the great wall of China, which, without question, is the most famous wall ever built by man. This wall varies in height from fifteen to thirty feet. (about one- tenth the height of the City wall,) with a thickness of twenty-five feet at its base and fifteen feet at its top. It is made of brick and mortar and filled in with common rock. After two thousand years, most of it still stands, while other famous walls have crumbled to the ground. Yet, though one of the greatest human achievements, how utterly inferior is it to the wall of the City made by God! As the redeemed stand before this magnificent wall of precious stone with its gates of shining pearl, how their hearts must thrill at the prospect of soon passing beyond it into the City!
At the Gates of Pearl. Each of the three massive gates on each side of the City wall is made of one immense pearl. Rev. 21:12,13,21. In Psalms 24:7,9 where these gates are called doors, seems to indicate that they are two-leaved gates. Why are the gates made of pearl? The pearl is the result of pain and suffering caused by some foreign substance, perhaps only a tiny grain of sand, getting within the shell of the oyster. The oyster cannot expel the substance; if it should try to do so, its tender body would become torn and lacerated in the vain effort. So it quietly submits, and the cruel substance is covered with a secretion from its own body. This secretion gradually develops into the beautiful, polished, costly gem. Likewise, the redeemed have passed through trials, disappointments, suffering, and sorrow, caused by the grain of sin, but they have "fought a good fight," II Tim. 4:7, not with carnal weapons of warfare, but through the mighty power of God. II Cor. 10:4. Having submitted themselves to God, He has transformed the sin within them into the "pearl of great price." Matt. 13:46. Through Christ their "warfare is accomplished;" Isa. 40:2; and at last they have reached the gates of pearl, which are wide open to receive them. "The gates . . . shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there." Rev. 21:25.
"Before entering the City the Saviour bestows upon His followers the emblem of victory, and invests them with the insignia of their royal state . . . For each there is a crown, bearing his own "new name," Rev. 2:17, and like the inscription .on the crown of the earthly high priest, Holiness to the Lord. In every hand is placed the victor's palm and the shining harp." GC 645,646; Rev. 7:9; 15:2.
On the Streets of Gold. The City foursquare corresponds to the most holy place of the earthly sanctuary, which was a perfect square. In its center is the throne of God, antitype of the ark in the center of the most holy place of the earthly sanctuary. From the four sides of the City, in perfect order the redeemed pass over the brilliantly lighted sea of glass, past the jasper wall, through the pearly gates, each long line passing through the gate on which is written the names of the tribes to which it belongs. Rev. 21:12. As these triumphant processions, twelve in number, enter the pearly portals, they are welcomed by the angel at the gate. Clothed with white robes of light, and waving the "palms (of victory) in their hands," Rev. 7:9, with their glittering crowns and shining harps enhanced by the glory streaming from the throne, this mighty, and glorious, and victorious procession moves forward. As they pass along the streets of transparent gold to the four sides of the throne, they make a sight wholly beyond human language to describe or even the most vivid imagination to picture - a sight that "eye hath not seen.. . neither have entered into the heart of man. " I Cor. 2:9.
As they approach the four sides of the throne, the redeemed "behold the Paradise of God, the home of Adam in his innocency." GC 646. Here the two Adams meet - the first Adam who through transgression lost his dominion, and the last Adam "The Lord from heaven," I Cor. 15.45,47, who through infinite sacrifice redeemed it. GC 647. Then shall be fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: "In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in." Isa. 26:1,2.
"In a little while we're going home.
In a little while, in a little while. We shall cross the billow's foam; We shall meet at last,
When the stormy winds are past,-In a little while we're going home."
Welcome Home. As the earthly high priest at the close of the day of atonement came out of the sanctuary, and with his hands lifted to heaven pronounced a blessing on the forgiven children of Israel. so Jesus our heavenly High Priest, the "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last," Rev. 22:13, His mediatorial work being now closed, standing "in majesty high above saint and angel," His countenance beeming upon them "full of benignant love," GC 646, lifts His hands in blessing aver the redeemed multitude, saying, 'Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the City." Rev. 22:13,14. "That voice, richer than any music that ever fell on mortal ear, is heard saying. "Your conflict is ended." 'Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."' Matt. 25:34; GC 646. Never until we ourselves actually hear the voice of Jesus giving this blessed welcome home, never until we actually enter the gates of pearl, can we realize the wonderous thrill of this experience. "0 brother, be faithful, soon Jesus will come."
Where the tree of life is growing And the river softly flowing,
That's the place where we are going; And it fills our soul with song.
For it keeps the heart warm glowing, As the gospel seed we're sowing
For the debt of love we're owing To the One who bore our wrong.
Though the world is bent on killing, Man his brother's blood is spilling, Hearts with dreadful fear instilling, There is peace within our soul.
They are prophecies fulfilling Wonderous signs, momentous, thrilling When God's people shall be willing
As we press toward the goal.
Where the tree is blooming fragrant, Winds life's river gently vagrant; There with love forever fragrant,
We shall find our home, sweet home.
- Arthur Mountain, (Used by permission)