ELDER BEEBE AND SON: – Please give your views on Revelation xxii. 19, and oblige a reader of the SIGNS, who is a friend to the Old School Baptist cause.
G. R. WAGGONER.
Fancy Hill, Ark., July 31, 1880
REPLY. – On this text, and the preceding verse, we have published our views in volume xxvii., No. 12, page 93, for June 15, 1859; but as our friend may not have access to that paper, we will endeavor to reply to his request.
The two verses referred to should be considered together, and in connection with their context. They read thus: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
This is a most solemn admonition, in which the fearful and inevitable consequence of tampering with the inspired record which God has given, either by adding to or taking from it, is clearly stated, and should be duly observed and reverently regarded by all unto whom it is addressed. Let us considered the admonition in the order in which it is presented.
First, the witness: “For I testify.” In the sixteenth verse it is written, “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.” The testimony of the book of this prophecy, which is to be thus sacredly regarded, is given by no less authority than that of him who as the Son of God is David’s root, and as the Son of man is David’s offspring. The eternal Word that was with God, and the Word which was and is God, and whose name is and shall be called “Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever.” – Isa. Ix. 6, 7. Into his hands, as the only and blessed Potentate and sole Arbiter, all judgment is committed, and from his decisions there is no appeal. He has sent his angel to testify these things in the churches. His angel we understand to be his spirit, which was in all his prophets, “who sought diligently what manner of time the spirit of Christ which was in them did signify when it testified beforehand of his sufferings, and of the glory that should follow;” the same angel by whom Jesus sent and signified the Revelation of God unto his servant John. – Rev. i. 1. This angel or spirit is unquestionably the same which he promised to send to his disciples after his resurrection from the dead and ascension to glory. “Even the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him.” “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send from the Father, he shall testify of me.” – John xv. 26. In verification of this promise the angel of his presence was sent down in the outpouring of his spirit upon the disciples on the day of pentecost. This is the Holy Spirit and Comforter that shall abide with the saints forever, bearing witness with their spirit that they are the children and heirs of God. This we understand is the angel or spirit which the risen, exalted and glorified Jesus has sent to testify in his name, by his authority, these things in the churches, and to every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book.
Three questions of importance are suggested: the book, the prophecy which it contains, and the men unto whom the words of the prophecy of the book are addressed. John was “in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia.” – Chapter i. 10, 11. John, “Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw,” said, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” – Chapter I, 2, 3. As the record of this book was the revelation of Jesus Christ, committed to him to show unto his servants, and contained the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of things signified by the vision which John saw, may it not be the same book which is held in the right hand of him that sat upon the throne, which was written within and on the back side, sealed with seven seals, of which it is said, “And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon?” Of this wonderful book we are told that “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Rood of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” – Chapter v. 1-5. The book, does not necessarily mean the parchment or paper on which earthly records are written; for this being the record and testimony of Jesus, and revelation of all things which are summed up in him, and must be the record of eternity, for he inhabits eternity, and his name is holy. This is the book in the volume of which it is written, “Lo! I come to do thy will, O God.” It being a perfect testimony and revelation of the Son of God, is the book in which all his members are written, and so perfectly sealed that none in heaven or earth can open the seals or make known its mystical records but the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Son of God, and only medium through whom the revelation of the secrets of eternity is by his angel or spirit made known to any of the children of men. What John wrote and sent as he was commanded to the seven churches of Asia was in significant metaphors, which Jesus by his angel sent and signified to him, of the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass. As this revelation related to things which were to come to pass, it was a prophecy of those things. God, who gave the words of the book of this prophecy, speaks of the things which are not yet accomplished with the same unerring certainty that he speaks of things which in the order of time are past.
We have noticed somewhat lengthily the book, and the prophecy or revelation of Jesus Christ which it contains, and from what we have written we may well infer the sacredness and inviolability with which it should be regarded. The solemn warning against adding to or taking from the testimony which God himself has given, and unto which the Root and Offspring of David has set his signature, in the words, “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify these in the churches,” gives warning of the fearful consequence of any mutilation, addition or diminution of what God has spoken. “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh; for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” – Heb. xii. 25-27. “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him?” – Heb. ii. 1-3. “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” – Heb. x. 26-31.
The admonition of our text is testified “unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book;” and as none hear the voice of the Shepherd but the sheep, and “they that hear shall live,” so we conclude that the living people of God are those who hear these words. They are forbidden to add to or take from the words which are spoken unto them. If they transgress, a sorer punishment than Moses could inflict on those that despised his law will surely be visited on them. Moses, as the minister of the law of a carnal commandment, could exclude the transgressors of his precepts from the congregation of the Hebrews, and for capital offenses could inflict on them the death penalty, but all of his inflictions were temporal; but, as we have shown, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” “For our God is a consuming fire;” and temporal death is far less to be dreaded by the children of God than the sorer punishment which the wayward children of God feel when he “visits their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.” “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” – Heb. xii. 6. The discipline of the children of God under the gospel dispensation was foreshadowed by the ministration of Moses to the carnal Israelites under the law, which is but as a shadow to a substance, to the discipline of the saints in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
The plagues which are written in the words of the book of this prophecy are fearfully sore and painful to the children of God when they rebel against him, and truly they shall be beaten with many stripes; but still he has assured them that they shall never perish, neither shall any be able to pluck them out of his hands. No plague written in the prophecy of this book can annul their vital relation to him as sons and heirs of God, or as joint heirs with our Lord Jesus Christ. He has written nowhere in this prophecy that he will in any case disinherit them, and plunge them into the perdition of the ungodly. “Once has he sworn by his holiness” unto David, that his seed shall endure forever. And with the inspired Paul, we “are persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.” Yet, if they add to the words of the prophecy of this book, plagues such as are written in this book are in store for them, and such plagues as they cannot escape. This has been known and sorely felt when we have been lured or tempted to add any of our own plausible traditions, or the doctrines or commandments of men, to the words which he has given. If we sow to the flesh, we shall of the flesh reap corruption. The churches of Galatia were induced by Judaizing teachers to add circumcision and the law of Moses to the perfect rule which Christ by his apostles had given them, and the plagues of disorder and witchcraft were added to them. The plagues which shall be added to those who add to the words of the prophecy of this book are all plainly written in the book, but among them there is no such plague as perdition. For their transgressions God’s children shall be beaten with many stripes; but his loving-kindness God will not utterly take away, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail.
The fearful consequences resulting from any departure from the perfect rule which God has given to his people as a standard for their faith and practice in the scriptures, either by adding to or taking from its perfect instructions, provisions, admonitions or decisions, have been terribly realized by the Baptists of the present century. About seventeen hundred years from the setting up of the gospel kingdom had elapsed before any such had appeared, or been taught or practiced religiously, as Sunday Schools, Missionary Societies, and their kindred institutions, as religious organizations, or any other organization distinct from and yet patronized by the Baptist church; but since these popular idols, which have come newly up, have been added, and the words of the book of this prophecy, which require a strict conformity to what is written in the scriptures, have been ignored by those who still claim to be the church of God, yet, like some of old, say, “We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel; only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach,” (Isa. iv. 1,) all the plagues written in the book as the certain consequence of their presumptuous apostasy have been visited upon them.
And those who have wantonly taken from the words of the prophecy, and made void the law of God by their traditions, and by teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, have been expelled from the communion and fellowship of the holy city, so that their names are no longer enrolled among the living in Jerusalem. The book of life, from which the disorderly are taken out, is the record of the church of those who are held in fellowship. In the thirteenth and fourteenth verses of this chapter the Alpha and Omega says, “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.” This is the holy city of our text, from which those who add to or diminish from the divine rule shall be expelled. They who do the commandments of Jesus have right to enter her gates and partake of the peculiar privileges of citizenship; and it follows of course that they who add to or take from his commandments have no such right. “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” &c. “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder [or OFF, in the margin], and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matt. xxiv. 45-52. As the entrance into the holy city to which the text alludes is restricted exclusively to those who keep the commandments, so those who are admitted to fellowship and communion in the church, or holy city, if they depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, they are likened to salt that has lost its savor, and is cast out and trodden under foot of men. While walking orderly in obedience to our Lord, they have part in the holy city, the church, and have right to the tree of life which is in the midst of the street of the city, and on either side of the river of water of life, which proceeds out of the throne, the place of the power and government of God and the Lamb; but “if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” – 2 Peter ii. 20, 21. “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” – Luke xii. 47, 48. We cannot more appropriately close this lengthy article than by copying the words of the apostle: “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter i. 5-11.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N. Y.
Signs of the Times
Volume 49, No. 8.
April 15, 1881.