THE men whom God has chosen as a means of communication between heaven and earth, form a galaxy of noted characters. The gift of prophecy is called the "best gift," and the church is exhorted to covet that "best gift." To be able to view scenes still future and to talk in the language of heaven, requires a closer walk with God than is attained by most men. But through all the ages, there have been those whose lives were so in unison with the laws of Jehovah that they became the channel of the Spirit of God.
It is not that such men have greater attainments than all others, but they are like the dense cloud with its falling rain drops, through which the sun shines to produce the rainbow in its glory.
One forgets the cloud while watching the bow of promise. So with the prophet; one loses sight of the instrument through whom God speaks, by beholding the glory of the scene which He portrays. But lest the Spirit should be lost in its transmission, the chosen instrument must be purified in the furnace of affliction. Those tests which bring the human soul in touch with the divine are necessary experience, before human eyes can see, or human tongues can speak of things yet future.
Genesis, -- that condensed treatise on the plan of salvation, -- the work which contains the Gospel in embryo, -- was written in the Midian desert, probably near Mount Horeb, while Moses watched the flocks of Jethro. Every other book in the Bible is but the unfolding of the truths of Genesis. It is the Alpha, and the book of Revelation is the Omega, of the Word of God to man.
As God prepared Moses, by a life of forty years in the solitudes of Midian, so He called the Apostle John from the society of men, and led him along a strange path upward, and still upward, until at last on the rocky coast of Patmos, heaven was opened to his wondering gaze, and the future history of the church was made known.
About six hundred years before the advent of Christ, there lived another seer, Daniel. To him God revealed the history of the nations of the world. From his own day, when Babylon bore universal sway, until nations should be no more, Daniel was shown the world's history. In connection with the account of the rise and fall of nations, Daniel saw the history of his own people, the Hebrew race, from their captivity in Babylon, until they rejected the Anointed of God.
Daniel was of the royal seed of Israel, and was prime minister in the Court of Babylon during the years when this history was revealed to him. He of all men was fitted by education and position to write the history of the world.
As foretold by ancient prophets, the Saviour came a servant of men. He was anointed at the very time predicted by the Prophet Daniel. "And Jesus when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Standing on the banks of the Jordan, a witness to this anointing, was a young man chosen of Heaven, to continue the history begun by Daniel.
The Hebrew prophet Daniel, was in the schools of Chaldea three years, during which time God revealed to the wise men of Babylon the superiority of the wisdom of God over all the learning of the world. While in that school, Daniel received the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. John the fisherman, the first of Christ's disciples, spent three years at the side of the Master Teacher, receiving such instruction as fitted him, in spiritual things to become a leader of nations. Daniel will stand in his lot in the latter days, by his prophecies revealing the time of the end. John, according to the words of Christ, will by his prophecies tarry until the coming of the Saviour in the clouds of heaven. For, when in answer to Peter's question concerning the future of the beloved disciple, Jesus said, "If I will that he tarry till I come," He revealed the prophetic mission of that disciple. The Saviour saw him on Patmos receiving the Revelation.
The prophecy as given to John is a revelation of Jesus Christ, and is the history of God's dealings with the church which bears the name, Christian. Daniel is a history of nations; the Revelation is ecclesiastical history, and into it, nations are introduced only when they affect the growth of the church.
The life of Daniel shows how God can work through men in high positions: the preparation of John for his work as a prophet is the story of the transformation wrought in the heart of a fisherman by the Spirit of God. The extremes of society were represented by these two men.
The story of each life is the narration of the events of a life in which love worked, and is an object lesson of the development of Christian character. In the town of Bethsaida, on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, lived the fisherman, Zebedee, with his wife, Salome, and two sons, James and John. The two young men were partners with their father in his business, and were accustomed to the toil and hardships of a fisherman's life. A spirit of piety characterized the home; for beneath the rough exterior, was a desire to understand the Word of God. The promise of the Messiah had been read, and when it was known that the Prophet of the Wilderness was preaching and baptizing at Enon, and proclaiming the advent of Christ, the younger son of Zebedee, in company with Andrew of Bethsaida, sought baptism. It was there that they witnessed the anointing, and heard the Baptist's words, "Behold the Lamb of God." John and Andrew were the two disciples who followed after Christ, and to whom He turned saying, "What seek ye?" They said unto Him, 'Rabbi ... where dwellest thou?" And when He led them to the place where He abode, they talked with Him, they believed, and the nucleus of the Christian church was formed.
Christ, the center, the life, drew John, and the young man's heart responding to the quickening touch. This was the beginning of a new life, -- a soul communion. Andrew, too, was convinced of the divinity of Christ, but Andrew represents those who accept because the mind is convinced of truth. He sought at once for his brother Peter, saying, "We have found the Messiah, ... the Christ, the Anointed." And when Peter came to Christ he was convinced of the divine nature of Jesus, because the Saviour read his character and gave him a name in accord with Peter's nature. But John represents those of the inner circle of discipleship. He was won by love, not argument. His heart was held by love, and the whole theme of all his writings is love. He saw only love in Christ, and he responded freely to that wondrous flowing from Christ, and John desired to be ever in the circuit. He kept close to Jesus, walked hand in hand with Him, sat next to Him at the table, lay on His bosom, -- he was "that disciple whom Jesus loved."
As long as John kept in touch with the divine life of the Master, there was nothing in his life out of harmony with the Saviour. That there were times when the harmony was broken, is true, and this was due to the fact that the human in John had not yet been subdued. The human channel through which the spirit flowed, sometimes arrested the flow. This was the case when James and John asked to sit, one on the left, and the other on the right, of the throne in the new kingdom. Christ recognized the desire as a result of more than human affection, and so in place of a rebuke, He attempted only to deepen and purify that love.
The entire life of John tended to cleanse the soul temple, and to prepare him for his final work. The union between the soul of Christ and John, is shown by numerous incidents. During the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, John sought Him out, longing to go with Him. But Christ bade John return, for He did not wish the young man to witness the fierce struggles with the prince of darkness. When not allowed to remain as companion in the wilderness, he sought out Mary of Nazareth, who was in doubt as to the whereabouts of her Son. Sitting by the side of the lonely mother, John related the story of Christ's baptism, and told her of His present condition. He won his way into the heart of Jesus. This explains why the Saviour, when hanging on the cross, gave directions for John to make a home for this same mother.
Such gentleness was not altogether natural with the sons of Zebedee; for when they first became Christ's followers, He called James and John "Boanerges," "Sons of Thunder." They possessed an ambitious, hasty, outspoken spirit, which was subdued by association with the Saviour. The natural inclinations were replaced by contrition, faith, and love. John especially yielded to that power of the Christ.
Every experience of this disciple pointed unmistakably to the crowning work of his life. When the Saviour had returned to heaven, John would become the medium of communication between God and man.
He was not the only prophet of the apostolic church, for sixteen others are named in the New Testament; but to him was given the most extended view of the future work of God in the earth. Bearing in mind that the eye of Heaven was upon John, and that he was in every act preparing for that noblest of callings, although he knew it not, the history of this disciple becomes a wonderful object lesson to those who live in the end of time. He yielded himself fully to the teachings of the Man of God; his mind met the mind of Christ; his soul touched the soul of the Divine One. Life flowed from Christ, begetting life in the disciples. This is Christian experience; this will be the experience of all who live to see the Saviour coming in the clouds of Heaven; and this experience enable John to say, "Of His fullness have we all received, and grace for grace."
The growth in grace was a gradual development, and, at times, an unholy zeal over-mastered the tenderness which Christ constantly sought to impart. There was one man who cast out devils, and John rebuked him because this man was not like the disciples a follower of the Saviour. This spirit of judging all others by a self-reared standard, was rebuked in the words of the Master, "Forbid them not." When the Samaritans offered insult to the Saviour, John was the one who wished to call down fire from heaven and destroy them. He was surprised when the Saviour revealed to him the fact that such a spirit was one of persecution, and that he, the Son of God, had not "come to destroy men’s' lives, but to save them."
Each correction was keenly felt, but it opened to the mind of John the principle of divine government, and revealed to him the depth of divine love. Near the close of Christ's ministry, the mother of James and John came to ask for her sons the place of honor in His kingdom. Salome herself was a follower of Christ, and the great love of the family for the Saviour, led them all to desire to be near Him. Love always draws us near the object of our love. Jesus saw what the granting of the request would imply, and in tones of sadness, answered that the place nearest the throne would be occupied by those who endured most, who sacrificed most, and who loved most. In later life John comprehended the meaning of the answer; for he was given a view of the redeemed as they will gather on the sea of glass about the throne.
These human desires came at times when the life current was partially broken. At other times its flow was steady and strong.
Thus it was when John stood with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, and heard the voices of Moses and Elijah, as they sought to strengthen the Saviour for His soon coming death. John sat at the Saviour's left hand at the Passion Supper, and as the little company of twelve walked in the moonlight toward Olivet on that last night, John pressed close to the Saviour's side. As they entered the Garden of Gethsemane, eight of the disciples remained without the gate; while Peter, James, and John went on a little farther. The Son of Man longed to have John sit beside Him during the bitter struggle; and although John had lived so near to Jesus, yet he failed to grasp that last opportunity which would have placed him next the throne. While the Saviour pleaded in agony, and finally fell fainting to the ground, John was sleeping. The flesh was weak although the spirit was willing. His love so fervent, was still weakened by the clay channel through which it flowed. Still more bitter trials were needed to burn out all the dross.
Having slept, he too fled when the mob came for the Saviour, but his love drew him back. Ashamed of his cowardice, he returned, and entered the judgment hall, keeping close to the man condemned as a criminal.
All night long he watched and prayed, and hoped soon to see a flash of divinity which would forever silence the accusers. He followed to Calvary. Every nail that was driven seemed to tear his own flesh. Faint, he turned away, but came back to support the mother of Jesus, who stood at the foot of the cross. That dying cry pierced to his very heart; the One whom he had loved was dead. Unable to comprehend the meaning of it all, yet he helped prepare the body for burial, and with the other sorrowing disciples passed a lonely Sabbath. Life seemed scarcely worth living; for He for whom they had believed to be the Son of God, was silent in death. The words which Christ had spoken concerning His own death, and which John should have understood, had fallen on deaf ears. Much as he loved his Lord he was dull of hearing.
On the morning of the resurrection John was the first of the twelve to reach the tomb; for he outran Peter, when Mary Magdalene reported that the body was gone. Seeing the folded napkin in the sepulchre, he recognized the familiar touch of a risen Saviour, and believed.
On the evening after the resurrection John received the benediction when Christ appeared; but since he could no longer see his Master with the physical eye, he returned to his fishing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. But Jesus sought him again, and bade him go forth a fisher of men. In the last recorded interview between Christ and His disciples, the Saviour prophetically gave the work of Peter and John, those two earnest followers, who had passed through so many clouds, and yet had seen such bright rays of sunlight.
Peter was told it would be his lot to follow his Lord to the cross. When he asked the fate of John, Christ replied, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"
The life of John is but briefly referred to after the ascension. He remained in Jerusalem for a number of years, and was known as one of the pillars of that church as late as A.D. 58. John's fervent love for the Saviour grew stronger as he suffered oppression and imprisonment. His own brother, James, was among the first martyrs to the cause of Christianity. Living as John did at the center of the work, he witnessed the spread of the truth, and knew of its triumphs as well as its vicissitudes.
Roman oppression became greater. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the army of Titus, and John was banished to the Isle of Patmos. He himself says that he was there for the "Word of God, and for the Testimony of Jesus Christ."
It is a beautiful thought that he whose heart was so bound up in Jerusalem and the Hebrew race, and who was always so true to both, should have been permitted to see the glories of the New Jerusalem, the city finally to take place of his own earthly Zion. To him was given the entire history of the church of God, which must do the work rejected by his own race.
The road from the Jordan to the rocky height of Patmos was a steep and stony way; but when he sat alone upon the mountain side overlooking the sea, the intense love, the soul union with Christ, which those previous years had developed, enabled that "disciple whom Jesus loved" to become the connecting link between heaven and earth. Gabriel, Christ's own angel, stood by the side of the last survivor of the chosen twelve, and opened to his vision the glories of the future. A nature less spiritual would have failed to grasp the picture of eternity; a mind less consecrated could not have been the channel for such a flood of divine enlightenment.
In the Midian desert, where none but God was near, Moses wrote Genesis, the Alpha of all things. John wrote Revelation -- the complete unfolding of that first book - the Omega -- when alone on an island in the midst of the sea. The pen of him who wrote the history of creation, was guided by the same angel who bore to John the heavenly message concerning the consummation of the plan of redemption.
Moses recorded the story of Creation and the Fall, and by faith he grasped the promise of a Redeemer. John lived with that Redeemer, and as he stood on Patmos, he looked back into the past to the place where Moses stood on Pisgah, and then forward to the City of God, which he saw descending on the Mount of Olives. The two mountain peaks from which all history can be viewed are Genesis and Revelation, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Page 11; 1 Peter 2:4; Hos. 12:13; Gen. 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:1; Jude 14; Gen. 5:24; 2 Cor. 12:1-5; Jas. 5:17; Amos 7:14, 15; Psa. 40:8.
Page 12; Gen. 9:14; Eze. 1:28; 1Cor. 1:25-28; Gen. 9:16; Psa. 63:12; Isa. 63:19; Isa. 48:10, 11; 1Peter 4:12; Mark 1:19, 20; Rev. 1:9; Dan. 1:1; Dan. 2:31-45; Dan. 7:17, 18; Dan. 1:3, 6.
Page 13; Luke 24:27; Prov. 4:18; Dan. 2:48; Dan. 5:11, 12; Dan. 1:17, 20; Heb. 12:6; Heb. 12:8; Rev. 1:19; Dan. 8:27; Gen. 3:15; Ex. 3:1; Gen. 1:1; Dan. 9:25; Ezra 7:9-26; John 1:41; Acts 10:38; Matt. 3:15-17.
Page 14; John 1:36-38; Rev. 1:19; Dan. 1:5, 6; Dan. 2:28; Luke 9:52-56; Mark 9:38-40; Dan. 12:13; John 21:22; Rev. 1:1; Acts 11:26; Rev. 2:1-29; Rev. 3:1-22; Rev. 6:1-17; Rev. 8:1-13; Rev. 9:1-21; Dan. 2:48; Dan. 6:1-3; Mark 1:19, 20.
Page 15; John 12:21; Mark 6:45; Matt. 4:21; Matt. 27:56; Matt. 4:21; Acts 15:21; John 3:23; John 1:35-40; John 12:32.
Page 16; 1John 5:11, 12; 1Tim. 3:16; John 1:41; John 1:42; John 4:29; Gen. 32:28; Gen. 25:30; 1John 4:6-12; 1John 3:1; 1Sam. 25:29; Luke 6:19; Mark 5:30; Luke 8:46; John 13:23; 1John 2:5; 1John 1:7; Gal. 5:16, 17; Mark 10:35-45.
Page 17; Isa. 52:11; Matt. 17:1; Mark 5:37; Mark 13:3; Luke 8:51; Luke 22:8; Matt. 4:10, 11; Luke 3:21, 22; John 19:26, 27; Mark 3:17; 1John 3:23; Gal. 2:20.
Page 18; NEW TESTAMENT PROPHETS: Acts 7:37. Jesus; Matt. 11:9-11. John the Baptist; 2Cor. 12:1-7. Paul; Rev. 1:10. John; Acts 10:27, 28. Agabus and one other; Acts 21:8, 9. Philip's four daughters; Acts 15:32. Judas and Silas; Luke 1:67. Zacharias; Luke 2:25-28. Simeon; Luke 2:36. Anna; James 5:1-5. James. --- James 5:10; 1John 1:3; John 17:2-4; 2Sam. 23:3, 4; Mark 9:38, 39; Rom. 2:1; Matt. 7:1; Rom. 14:3, 4; Luke 9:54, 55.
Page 19; Heb. 12:11; Matt. 20:20, 21; Sol. Songs 5:10; Matt. 20:23; Rev. 15:1-3; Isa. 43:24; Sol. Songs 4:7; Luke 9:28-36; Matt. 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-10.
Page 20; Matt. 26:36, 37; Matt. 26:40-43; Jas. 1:3; Mark 14:50; John 18:15, 16.
Page 21; Luke 23:49; John 19:26, 27; Matt. 27:46, 50; Luke 23:50-53; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:54-56; Matt. 16:21-23; Matt. 20:17-19; Mark 8:31-33; Mark 9:31, 32; Mark 10:32-34; Isa. 29:10; Luke 9:21, 22; Luke 18:31-34; John 20:4-9; John 21:1-3; John 21:18-22.
Page 22; Luke 7:47; Gal. 2:9; Dan. 9:26; Dan. 9:26.
Page 23; Rev. 1:9; Psa. 122:6; Rev. 21:2; Rom. 11:21; Sol. Songs 8:17; Num. 12:6; Dan. 10:21; Dan. 8:16; Rev. 1:1; 1Cor. 2:14; Luke 24:27; Rev. 22:8, 9; Deut. 18:18.
Page 24; Acts 3:22, 23; Deut. 34:1-4; Rev. 21:1, 2; Zech. 14:4, 5; Gen. 1:1; Rev. 22:10.
JOHN THE BELOVED
I'm growing very old. This weary head That hath so often leaned on Jesus' breast In days long past that seem almost a dream, Is bent and hoary with its weight of years. These limbs that followed Him -- my Master -- oft From Galilee to Judah, yea, that stood Beneath the cross, and trembled with His groans, Refuse to bear me even through the streets To preach unto my children. E'en my lips refuse to form the words my heart sends forth. My ears are dull, they scarcely hear the sobs Of my dear children gathered round my couch; God lays His hand upon me, -- yea, His hand And not His rod, --the gentle hand that I Felt, those three years, so often pressed in mine In friendship such as passeth woman’s love.
I'm old, -- so old I can not recollect the faces of my friends, and I forget The words and deeds that make my daily life; But that dear face and every word He spoke Grow more distinct as others fade away, So that I live with Him and holy dead More than with the living.
Some seventy years ago I was a fisher by the sacred sea. It was at sunset. How the tranquil tide Bathed dreamily the pebbles! How the light Crept up the distant hills, and in its wake Soft, purple shadows wrapped the dewy fields! And then He came and called me. Then I gazed, For the first time, on that sweet face. Those eyes, From out of which, as from a window, shone Divinity, looked on my inmost soul And lighted it forever. Then His works Broke on the silence of my heart, and made The whole world musical. Incarnate Love Took hold of me, and claimed me for its own. I followed in the twilight, holding fast His mantle.
O, what holy walks we had, Through harvest fields and desolate, dreary wastes! And oftentimes He leaned upon my arm, Wearied and way worn. I was young and strong, And so upbore Him. Lord, now I am weak, And old, and feeble! Let me rest on Thee! So, put Thine arm around me. Closer still! How strong Thou art! The twilight grows apace. Come, let us leave these noisy streets, and take The path to Bethany, for Mary's smile Awaits us at the gate, and Martha's hands Have long prepared the cheerful evening meal. Come, James, the Master waits; and Peter, see, Has gone some steps before.
What say you friends? That this is Ephesus, and Christ has gone Back to His kingdom? Ay, 'tis so, 'tis so. I know it all; and yet, just now I seemed To stand once more upon my native hills, And touch my Master. O, how oft I've seen The touching of His garment bring back strength To palsied limbs! I feel it has to mine.
UP! bear me once more to my church! Once more There let me tell them of a Saviour's love; For, by the sweetness of my Master's voice Just now, I think He must be very near, -- Coming, I trust, to break the veil, which time Has worn so thin that I can see beyond, And watch His footsteps.
So, raise my head. How dark it is! I can not seem to see The faces of my flock. Is that the sea That murmurs so, or is it weeping? Hush, My little children! God so loved the world He gave His Son. So love ye one another. Love God and man. Amen. Now bear me back. My legacy unto an angry world is this. I feel my work is finished. Are the streets so full? What call the folk my name, -- the Holy John? Nay, write me rather, Jesus Christ's beloved, And lover of my children.
Lay me down Once more upon my couch, and open wide The eastern window. See, there comes a light Like that which broke upon my soul at eve, When, in the dreary Isle of Patmos, Gabriel came and touched me on the shoulder. See, it grows As when we mounted toward the pearly gates. I know the way! I trod it once before. And hark! It is the song the ransomed sang Of glory to the Lamb! How loud it sounds! And that unwritten one! Methinks my soul Can join it now ... .... .... ... O my Lord, my Lord! How bright Thou art! and yet the very same I loved in Galilee. 'Tis worthy the hundred years To feel this bliss! So lift me up, dear Lord, Unto Thy bosom. There shall I abide. -- Selected.