Dear Brother Beebe: - Will you gratify me, your unworthy brother, by giving your views on Rev. 22:14? "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." More particularly on the city. What city? Where is it? And when do we enter it?
Yours, as ever,
Brunswick, Maine, Oct. 31,1861.
REPLY: – The names and description of the city as given in the connection, leave no room to doubt that the city mentioned in our text, is the holy city, New Jerusalem, which descended from God out of heaven, and is a presentation of the church of the living God, which is also called the bride, the Lamb's wife. It is also called the tabernacle of God, with men, in which God dwells, owning the citizens as his people and manifesting himself to them as their God; wiping away the tears from their eyes, and shielding them from sorrow, crying, pain and death. In this case we have a singular combination and blending of figures. A city, a bride, a wife, a tabernacle, etc., all of which are elsewhere in the Scriptures used to represent the church of God in her union with and subjection to our Lord Jesus Christ. We should not forget that figures familiar to us are employed by the Spirit to set forth and illustrate to us things of a spiritual and heavenly character. The figure of a city presents the subjects of grace as a congregation of the Lord, in their congregational capacity, as fellow-citizens in the church or city of God, and of the household of faith, and all under the regulations of a well disciplined community, under the same government, protected by the same walls and bulwarks which fortify and defend all who have the privilege of citizenship. And in this city are the common provisions which are so amply provided, for meat and drink, for light and comfort, for protection and safety. In this city the laws of naturalization exclude dogs, sorcerers, whoremongers and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie; admitting only those who are blessed of the Lord, and who as a manifest evidence that they are blessed, cheerfully take Christ's yoke on them, and show their allegiance to him by doing his commandments. As he said, Then are ye my disciples indeed, if ye do whatsoever I command you: and for a more manifest token to all, if they obey his new commandment: for, By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another. As citizens they all have certain rights of citizenship, such as the right to the tree of life, which is in the midst of the street of the city, and on either side of the river, which bears twelve manner of fruits, and yields her fruit every month; the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations. Instead of being forbidden and kept back from the tree of life by the cherubim and flaming sword, which turneth every way to keep the way of the tree of life, as under the legal dispensation, in the earthly paradise, or in the Jerusalem which is in bondage with her children, in this New Jerusalem all who are written among the living in Jerusalem, whose names are registered in the book of life, have a right to the tree of life, and to the pure river of water of life, which is clear as crystal, which proceedeth out of the throne of God and the Lamb. For unto all such the Spirit and the bride saith, Come, and they have the privilege of taking of the water of life freely. While as citizens they are a multitude which no man can number, as the bride, the Lamb's wife, they all make but one bride, one church, one body. For ye are all one in Jesus Christ. There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling. Here then is identity, Christ himself is the Head of the body, the church, and the church is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. As the bride of Christ, her creation was in him, as the creation of Eve, in the figure, was in Adam. She is one with him, They twain shall be one. Bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh; and she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. She is not merely the bride, but the married wife of the Lamb. For thy Maker is thy Husband, the Lord of hosts is his name, and thy Redeemer is the holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called. The testimony of John the Baptist, when he identified and pointed out the Husband, saying, Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, was, He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom standeth and rejoiceth because of the bridegroom's voice; thus my joy is fulfilled. This city is the city of God, and Ezekiel says, (48:35) The name of the city shall be, The Lord is There. And God has said, by Isaiah, And they shall call them the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord. And thou shalt be called sought out, a city not forsaken (Isaiah 62:12).
From this last mentioned passage we learn that the city is composed of the redeemed of the Lord, whom the Lord has not only redeemed, but whom he has sought out; he found this people as he did Jacob, in a waste-howling wilderness, and led him about and instructed him, and kept him as the apple of his eye. These are redeemed from among men, out of every kindred and tribe of mankind, and they are redeemed to God, and made priests and kings, and they shall reign with Christ on the earth. They shall all of them come with singing to Zion, the holy city, and they shall sit down in the kingdom of God with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and they shall sing this song, We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and for bulwarks. God himself is a wall of fire round about, and the glory in her midst. This is the city of which God has said, Here will I dwell forever; for I have desired it for an habitation. He will abundantly bless her provisions, and fill her poor with bread. The Lord God is her Sun and her Shield; he will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved. God will help her, and that right early. Truly, glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God: not one of her stakes shall ever be removed, not one of her cords shall ever be broken.
"Her ancient walls appear to be
The workmanship of Deity.
Founded in grace, they still appear,
Without a flaw or chasm there.
Oft has this city's strength been tried
By mighty foes on every side;
But all in vain it yet hath been,
She baffles Satan, hell and sin.
Count ye her towers, how high they rise,
Her golden spires, they reach the skies;
Her golden streets are fair to view,
Her palaces and bulwarks, too.
Then round her walk, her turrets tell,
Mark all her brazen bulwarks well;
Spread far and wide her deathless fame,
Her pearly gates, and walls of flame."
Much more might be written in answer to the first inquiry of brother Campbell, What city? But we trust enough has been said to show that we understand the city mentioned (Rev. 22:14) to be the holy city, New Jerusalem, which John saw in his vision, coming down from God out of heaven, and which he describes in and throughout the last two chapters of the New Testament, and which is designed to describe her in her glory organization and primitive purity, as the spiritual kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Second. Where is it? We reply, it is where two or three are gathered together in Christ's name. It is in all places where God has revealed his name. It is in the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. Of her locality the psalmist has said, Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north. Her locality is marked by stakes that shall never be removed, and confined by cords that shall never be broken. The sacred records of eternity show that God has been her dwelling-place in all generations. She dwells in the secret place of the Most High, and abides under the shadow of the Almighty. Her life is hid with Christ in God. Her place of defence is the munitions of rocks. The eternal God is her refuge, and underneath her are the everlasting arms. We find her in the eternal, immutable love of God; she is found in his decrees, wrapped up in the bundle of eternal life, which is in his Son. She has her place in the eternal purpose of God, which he purposed in himself before the world began; which purpose shall unshaken remain when the world shall be no more. She is found in the election of grace, chosen of God in Christ before the foundation of the world. She has her standing in the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, and in his justifying righteousness she outshines the sun, is more fair than the moon, and terrible as an army with banners. She inhabits the Rock, is in the secret places of the stairs, and she sits in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
But in regard to the house of her pilgrimage, God has chosen her in the furnace of affliction. In this world she has tribulation, but in Christ she has peace. The place assigned her by the world is as the offscouring of all things, unto this day. Hated by the world, tried and tempted by the devil, opposed by the flesh, a jest and a byword to all the children of the bondwoman. But her home is in Jesus Christ, and in the earth she has no abiding place or continuing city. As to her sorrows, trials, persecutions, and her triumphs and victories, she is sometimes encompassed about by the armies of God and Magog; but sometimes she is seen upon Mount Zion, with the seal of God indelibly marked in her forehead, or on the sea of glass, which is mingled with fire, singing a song which none but the redeemed can learn or sing. She has had a place prepared for her in the wilderness, to be nourished and protected from the serpent. Whatever of sorrow, affliction, persecution or tribulation may be appointed for her here below, she has the assurance that she shall ultimately triumph through the blood of the Lamb and the word of his testimony. For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Third. When do we enter the city? As we view the whole church of God, existing in Christ, and chosen in him before the foundation of the world, according to Eph. 1:4, we regard the citizens as natives of the holy city. Sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Christ Jesus and called (Jude 1). Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling; not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Tim. 1:9). Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all (Gal. 4:26). And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her; and the Highest himself shall establish her. The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there (Psalms 87:5,6). Judicially the saints entered when they were quickened together with Christ, in his resurrection, when they were raised up together, and made to sit together in the heavenly places. For they are risen with Christ and are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:24-26).
But in what we regard as the immediate sense of the text proposed (Rev. 22:14), the saints come when they do his commandments; and thereby manifest that they are the blessed of the Lord. This coming in through the gates is an experimental matter. Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God; and, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5). The city in which the tree of life yields her fruits is a spiritual city, and can only be entered by the gates which are called Praise (Isa. 60:18). The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob (Psa. 87:2). David says, "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord." (Psa.122:1-4) As the tribes of Israel went up to the Old Jerusalem to worship, and entered the city by the gates of that city, so the tribes of the Lord go through the gates of the New Jerusalem, experimentally in their devotion, to worship the Lord in his holy temple in the spiritual Jerusalem. As the names of the tribes of Israel are written on the angels of the gates (Rev. 21:12), we learn that the ministry of praise, embracing gospel experience, gospel doctrine and ordinances, and all gospel privileges, belong to the tribes of the Lord, to the children of God, and to them exclusively. The gates of Zion which are called Praise, are used to signify wisdom, honor, power, counsel and peculiar privileges. And when the hearts of God's people are led by the Spirit in their heavenly exercises of worship and praise, they enter into the spiritual privileges of the kingdom, into the counsels of wisdom, and contemplate the glory of their Redeemer's kingdom, and talk of his power. "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) The gates of the holy city are only open to the righteous nation, for who else can enter by the gates of Praise? They are not accessible to those who love and make a lie, but to the righteous nation that keepeth the truth.
"Those holy gates forever bar
Pollution, sin and shame,
None shall obtain admittance there,
But followers of the Lamb."
"Blessed are they that do his commandments." The commandments of him who says in the preceding verse, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." Who also says, in verse sixteen, "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star." He is the King of Righteousness, the King eternal, and our only wise God and Savior. His commands are proclaimed from his throne in the holy city, and are applicable to all who are under law to Christ. Their faith and obedience are the evidences that they are his disciples, and that they have a right to the tree of life, and to enter into their peculiar privileges through the gates of the city; for the gates are open to the righteous continually, and his blessed people who know the joyful sound of his voice, shall go in and out and find pasture. They have right to the tree of life, and eat of its fruits freely, and live forever: for their right is a birthright, it is their inheritance, and it is their Father's good pleasure that they shall inherit the kingdom. There is a manifest entering into the holy city, by the gate of christian recognition and fellowship, not only when the new born babes in Christ declare in Zion what God has done for them, and when they publicly espouse his cause and take on them the profession of his name, and by the gate of baptism, declare their allegiance to Jesus as their King.
Finally, whenever the saints are enabled to worship God in the spirit, to rejoice in Christ Jesus, having no confidence in the flesh, in their social songs of praise, their prayers and supplications, in their love and fellowship, union and communion, in walking in the ordinances and order, the doctrine, discipline of the house of God, then we conclude they enter in through the gates, and enjoy their right to the tree of life.
We have been somewhat lengthy in our remarks, and perhaps have failed to meet the wishes of brother Campbell, but if any of our readers are edified or comforted in what we have written, our labor will not be in vain.
November 1, 1861
Elder Gilbert Beebe