The contemplation of the sublime themes which, in the preceding pages, have occupied our thoughts, would be incomplete, without adverting, however briefly, to the grandest and most glorious Rock-cleft of all--the confidence which the believer enjoys in the anticipation of the reign of the glorified redeemer in the midst of his triumphant church, throughout the ages of eternity.
In the preceding views of Christ's character and work, and of the official relation in which He stands to His people, He has been brought before us as "the shadow of a Great Rock in a weary land." During their wilderness travel, when the fierceness of the desert heat, the sirocco-breath of fiery temptation and trial, is beating on their unsheltered heads, they know the blessedness of journeying to these secure refuges, and of hiding themselves there "until the indignation be past." But when "the dry and thirsty land" is ended, and Canaan entered--when the twin foes, Sin and Death, have been finally conquered, and the ransomed multitudes are ushered amid the glories of a sinless, sorrowless, deathless immortality--is "the Great Rock," then, to become only a memory of the past--recalled only as a sheltering covert while sojourning among the mists and glooms of the Valley of Tears?
No; if we can with reverence use the simile; like that strange mass of rock, the Rock of the Sakrah, which the traveler to Jerusalem who has seen it, can never forget--rising in mysterious impressiveness in the very midst of the old Temple area--so shall the Rock of Ages remain conspicuous, through everlasting years, in the center of the glorified Temple of the true City of God--Yes, a Rock, with its sacred clefts and fissures standing in the midst of "the house not made with hands"--whose walls are salvation and its gates praise! Stripping it of metaphor, Jesus is to reign forever in the midst of His saints. His humanity will, in the future, be co-eternal with His divinity. Of His mediatorial kingdom and government there is to be no end.
We seem, indeed, to gather from various passages of sacred Scripture, that the regal sway which at present He exercises over His enemies, human and Satanic, is, at "the end of all things"--the winding up of the present dispensation--to cease. Now (adopting, the application of the words of the 8th Psalm made by an inspired writer), God has "put all things under His feet." To the Prophet of Patmos, we have seen Him represented in vision, not only walking in the midst of His Churches (symbolized by seven golden candlesticks), but holding the seven stars in His hands. Now, He is exalted not only to be Head of His Church, but Head over all things FOR the Church. As the adorable Guardian of her blood-bought rights and prerogatives, He sways the scepter of universal empire in her behalf. "Say among the heathen that the Lord reigns--the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved--he shall judge the people righteously." But this portion of His mediatorial sway, "the KINGDOM OF CHRIST over this world," is to be surrendered, so soon as the last member of His triumphant host has entered within the walls of the heavenly city--placed forever beyond the hostility alike of wicked men and of blaspheming devils.
The limits of His reign are defined alike in Old and New Testament Scripture. Listen to the language of ancient prophecy--"The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit at My right hand, UNTIL I make Your enemies Your footstool." Or hear the apostolic testimony claiming in Him the fulfillment of these same words--"He must reign UNTIL He has put all enemies under His feet." "THEN comes the end, when He shall have delivered up (this part of) the kingdom to God even the Father that is, when He shall have put down all (wicked, and impious, and oppressive) rule, and all authority and power."
Not only so, but when the triumph over His own and His people's enemies is complete, He gives over this subsidiary administration into the hands of the Father. The affairs of the universe are henceforth to be conducted as they were previous to the incarnation. Like a mighty river which has finished its course, and which mingles its waters in the everlasting volume and the rest of the ocean which gave it birth, that part of the mediatorial sovereignty, which extends beyond the pale of the ingathered and glorified Church, will be merged and absorbed in the sway of God absolute. "And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him who put all things under Him, that God" (in the only true Pantheistic sense, rescuing the word from its modern perverted meaning) "may be all in all."
On the other hand, (and this aspect of the subject which now concerns us), as the Mediator of His glorified Church in heaven, there are to be no limits set to the tenure and exercise of his Kingly and Priestly offices. As it is expressed in the prophetic Psalm, to which we have just alluded, with reference to His royal Priesthood--"You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek;" or in the emphatic comments on the same, given in the Epistle to the Hebrews--"Having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abides a priest continually. Made not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. This Man, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. He ever lives to make intercession--He is consecrated for evermore."
In the most impressive of His own parables, the Redeemer seems to speak as if "the end of the age" were thus to form the true commencement of His limitless reign. For then it is He calls Himself, for the first time, by the title of "the King,"--as He invites His blood-bought subjects to inherit the kingdom He had won.
Similarly, in the parable of 'the Pounds,' when, under the figure of the nobleman "returning from the far country," He is spoken of as "having received the kingdom;" so far from abdicating His mediatorial scepter, "His appearing and His kingdom" are spoken of as identical, dating from the hour when He shall judge both the quick and the dead. It is His coronation-day, "the day of His espousals, the day of the gladness of His heart." "Let us be glad and rejoice, for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready."
The title given to Him by the great Apostle, and upon which we have dwelt, as one of the most blessed of the believer's Rock-clefts, will have an eternal meaning and signification--"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and FOREVER." In that sublime figure in the Apocalypse, referred to also in a previous chapter, we behold the glorified Mediator under the emblem of a SLAIN LAMB, with the scars of earthly suffering still visible--(the impressive memorials of His anguish and bloody sweat--His cross and passion)--adored by a multitude which no man can number--even by "ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands." Their ascription indicates the duration of His sway--"Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever."
Similarly, in the still sublime passage and vision of the white-robed and palm-bearing multitude, that same Jesus, in His offices of immutable love--the same adorable Redeemer, under His suffering title, and designation of the "Lamb"--is represented, in the midst of the throne, as "feeding them," and "leading them to the living fountains of waters;" and with the identical hand that was nailed to the cross "wiping away all tears from their eyes;" as if Eternity's comment on the precious words of the old prophet, now so familiar to us, "A MAN shall be as…the shadow of a great Rock!"
At the sounding of the seventh angel, the voices in heaven which proclaimed His final conquest of the world-kingdoms, are heard proclaiming, "He shall reign forever and ever." And, not to dwell on other delineations of the future, given in the same inspired record, the sublime closing vision of "the Holy City, New Jerusalem "with its river, and trees of perennial fruit--attests alike the termination of the reign of evil--"the curse,"--and the perpetuity of the reign of Christ--the Author and Dispenser of all "blessing"--"There shall be no more curse but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him."
From these then, and other similar passages in holy Scripture, we gather the exalted truth, that, though the "subsidiary sway of the divine Redeemer over His foes, human and angelic," is to be terminated, He is to "reign over the house of Jacob forever"--that through the endless years of eternity, the Rock of Ages, with its glorious clefts and unscalable heights, is to remain bathed in the sunlight of heaven. His redeemed are still to love Him as Mediator, while they adore Him as God. "You set a crown of pure gold on His head. He asked life of You, and You gave it to Him, even length of days forever and ever." "His name shall endure forever. His name shall be continued as long as (yes, longer than) the sun." "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever." "If I go to prepare a place for you," was His own gracious declaration, "I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am there you may be also."
The perpetuity of that mediatorial office and reign over the Church of the First-born, we may regard in a twofold light. (1.) As the stipulated REWARD OF THE REDEEMER'S SUFFERINGS on the part of the Father--the fulfillment of glowing words spoken centuries before the Incarnation--"When You shall make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied."
(2.) The continuance of His official character and administration, is represented by Christ Himself as THE PLEDGE AND GUARANTEE FOR THE PERMANENCE OF HIS PEOPLE'S BLISS. "Because I live, you shall live also." Their lives are "hidden with Christ in God." They "shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." They "sit with Him upon His throne." His presence as Mediator constitutes the divine tenure, by which, as kings and priests they hold their crowns and censers. So that, if we dare use so strong a simile, that Rock of Ages must first crumble in pieces, before they can be divested of their inviolable bliss--their blood-bought privileges. The song of earth will thus be echoed and perpetuated by the Redeemed around the throne--made the never-ceasing anthem of heaven, "O come, let us sing unto the Lord--let us make a joyful noise to THE ROCK OF OUR SALVATION!"
Most blessed and elevating thought!--the whole redeemed Church--under the Psalmist's beautiful emblem of a dove--with its once soiled and ruffled plumage, now "covered with silver and its feathers with yellow gold," flashing back the glorious sunlight--delighting still, as on earth, to perch in these eternal Rock-clefts--no longer "hastening its escape from the windy storm and tempest," but folding its wings in the perfected bliss of everlasting rest and everlasting love!
Here on earth, the Church is represented as only seeing her Beloved "through the lattice,"--obtaining brief and passing glimpses of Him. Here the Rock of Ages is beheld often through looming mists, or at all events, gleams of sunshine alternate with obscuring clouds. Not so in that bright world! Nothing is there to dim, or darken, or blur the vision. "We shall see Him as He is."
In a nobler sense than that of present security, "we shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." The closing petition of His own priestly prayer will be everlastingly fulfilled--"Father, I will that those also whom You have given me be WITH ME where I am, that they may behold My glory." Who can tell but that in the revelation of that glory, it may be with the Church in heaven as with the Church on earth, that the Divine Being can only be discerned mediately; that no one (no, not even a glorified saint) can gaze on the unveiled lusters of Deity. The words may hold as true in a world of blessedness as in a valley of tears--"No man can see My face and live." How then shall the great Jehovah be most appropriately revealed to the eyes of adoring worshipers? Shall it not be through the same divine medium by which He was unfolded to His Church on earth--when as the Christ incarnate they beheld His glory--the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth; "the Image of the Invisible God?" Thus revealed as "the slain Lamb" with scars and blood-marks--thus revealed as "the smitten Rock" with its clefts and gashes--these will be, to the Church triumphant, EVERLASTING REMEMBRANCES ALIKE OF THE VILENESS OF SIN, AND OF THE VASTNESS OF JEHOVAH'S LOVE!
In closing these transcendent themes, let the solemn--all-important personal question press itself with ever-renewed and augmented earnestness; can we (each of us) with some good measure of humble yet triumphant confidence, appropriate Christ as OUR God and Savior? Are we able in any feeble degree to make the noble avowal of the great Apostle our own--"To me to live is Christ?" Are we cherishing, in any humble measure, as our life-long aspiration, that we "may win Christ, and be FOUND in Him." Found in the Rock-clefts now, are we able to make the challenge of an assured present acceptance and peace--"It is God who justifies, who is he that condemns?"
Found in the Rock-clefts in all the times of our present TRIBULATIONS, are we able, amid the fragile blessings and fleeting pleasures of earth--to claim a better and more enduring portion, and to say, "My flesh and my heart fails, but God is the Rock of my heart and my portion forever?"
Found in the Rock-clefts in all time of our present BLESSINGS; are we able to disown perishable refuges; and exulting in divine and more enduring confidences, to tell as the secret of true happiness--"In the Lord put I my trust, why do you say to my soul, flee as a bird to your mountain?"
Found in the Rock-clefts in the hour of DEATH; while the silver cord is fast loosing, and the golden bowl is in the act of being broken; as life, and those whose presence and smile have made life joyous, are fast dimming from sight, shall we be able thus to triumph in Him who alone is "without change"--"The Lord lives, and blessed be my Rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted?"
Found in the Rock-clefts on the Day of JUDGMENT--shall we be able then, as we look unawed on passing heavens, a dissolving earth, and burning worlds, to exclaim--"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
Found in the Rock-clefts through all ETERNITY; under the consciousness of their unassailable security, shall we be able to enter into the Apostle's words, when (conjuring up in his enumeration every possible form of antagonism and evil), among others, he defies "things to come"--the cycles of eternity--ever to separate from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?
"And now, all glory to God, who is able to keep you from stumbling, and who will bring you into his glorious presence innocent of sin and with great joy. All glory to him, who alone is God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Yes, glory, majesty, power, and authority belong to him, in the beginning, now, and forevermore. Amen." Jude 1:24-25
O ROCK OF AGES! swathed in clouds of light,
Whose heights unclimbed, never foot of angel trod–
Ancient of days--Almighty--Infinite!
Older than Nature's eldest-born--Great God–
We praise, we bless, we magnify Your name!
And as before the birth of Time were Thou,
So, through unending ages still the same,
Past, present, future, one eternal Now!
You did descend from everlasting bliss,
In manger born, to raise us up on high;
A woe-worn Pilgrim in earth's wilderness,
Wedding our finite dust with Deity.
Around Your path no blazoned banners wave;
No jeweled diadem Your brows adorned;
Your cradle borrowed, and a borrowed grave;
Servant of servants, poor, despised, and scorned!
The spotless Lamb is to the slaughter led,
The Son of man and Lord of Glory dies;
For us! for us! He bowed His thorn-wreathed head:
O mystery transcending mysteries!
The mighty triumph is at last complete,
Hell's myriad hosts are vanquished and uncrowned,
Death lays his scepter at the Victor's feet,
And captive millions rise with chains unbound.
Nor this alone--He left His Throne of light!
The secret hid from ages past to tell;
The Revelation of the Infinite,
The Image of the Great Invisible.
A Father's love disclosing unto all;
The poor, the lost, the burdened, the oppressed
Not one excluded from the gracious call–
"Come unto Me, you weary, and have rest!"
Peace for the guilty, stung with conscious sin;
Peace for bereaved ones wailing for their dead;
Peace amid waves without and storms within,
The troubled soothed, the mourner comforted.
O Savior God, ascended up on high,
You true High Priest within the Temple-veil,
To all that call upon You ever nigh,
"Prince who has power with God, and must prevail;"
You who do reign Your Church's Lord and Head,
With many crowns upon Your regal brow,
You who shall come to judge both quick and dead,
Great Rock of Ages! hide Your servant now–
That when archangel's trumpet is pealing loud,
"When every mountain shall a Sinai be"
When sun and moon shall wear their sackcloth shroud,
Creation in her final agony–
"Found" in Your clefts, and shielded by Your might,
From Your blest love and presence nothing may sever;
Earth's shadows merged in Heaven's unclouded light,