And now for the seventh time in this last vision John says, "I saw." Bit by bit the view opens up before his eyes, from the coming of the Lord Jesus out of the opened heavens, on and on, until now the final view of all bursts in a winsome glory before his astonished, delighted eyes.
God's own ideal, that He has been carrying in His heart, is pictured. That ideal is that He and man shall dwell together as a family. The ideal is not a Church nor a Kingdom. These are merely great means to a greater end. The ideal is the family, all dwelling together in sweetest harmony and content, with a common board, and a common fireside in the twilight of the day, and all the sweet fellowship that these stand for.
John sees a new heaven and a new earth, the old heaven and earth gone, and with them the separation of the wide sea gone forever, too. He sees the holy city, Jerusalem, made over new, coming down out of the new heavens to man's new dwelling-place, the new earth. It presents a wondrous, joyous appearance as of a bride adorned for her husband.
Then a great voice out of the throne speaks of this ideal in the heart of God for Himself and His friend, man. "Look! God has pitched His tent down amongst men, and they shall be His peoples, and He will be their God." He will live with them as a Father-mother-God, personally caring for each one, Himself wiping away every tear from every eye. A single tear and a single pair of eyes will be enough to claim His personal attention at once.
His presence insures the absence forever of death, and mourning, and pain, and crying. The dirge music has sung its last song. The minor chords are gone. All the old things of a sorrowful sort are quite gone. And as John looks He that sitteth on the throne makes the glad announcement, "Behold, I make all things new." And John is bidden to write all this, for "these words are faithful and true."
And again the One on the throne seems to look eagerly forward to His ideal as already actually accomplished: "They are come to pass." And to let John feel the certainty of it all He says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end." The power that has done all from creation's morn will complete all clear to the end.
And then the tenderness of that highest love which finds expression in the personal touch comes out in the next words: "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of life freely." The smallest need of any one will have His personal thought and attention, and they shall have the best there is, and have it in abundance.
And the old pleading that runs like a strain of music throughout these pages comes again: "He that overcometh shall inherit these things. I will be His God, and he shall be my son," and so entitled to the inheritance.
Then plainly, clearly, with all the honesty of love, comes the warning of the terrible outcome for those who refuse His tender love. It is most significant that this most winsome picture at the end of the book contains the dark, black shadows, which remain in the picture at the end.
All this is spoken directly to John by God Himself. It is not sent by an angel, or by a redeemed human messenger. It comes to John direct with all the force and tenderness of a word spoken to him out of the very heart of God.
And now an angel carries John off to let him see this that is called both a bride and a city. And from the top of a high mountain John looks out and sees a most wonderful city, coming down out of heaven from God, filled and flooded with the glory of God.
And the best language that earth knows anything about is used in the attempt to describe this city ideal. Its dimensions are perfect in proportion and in their outer relations. Its foundations are adorned with the costliest, most precious stones, the walls are built of jasper, and each gate is one immense pearl; but the city itself is builded of a gold as transparent as pure glass. Israel and the Church are as sweet memories of past days, recalled now by gates and foundations.
But these are passed by in noting the outshining glory of the presence of God. In the simple language which has become so imbedded in the heart and imagination of the Church, "the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine on it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." And the winsome description goes on. The nations walk in this wondrous light of God's presence, and the kings of earth bring glad tribute of their glory into it. "And the gates thereof shall in no wise be shut by day, for there shall be no night there." "And there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that doeth an abomination and a lie, but only they that are written in the Lamb's book of life."
In the midst of the city is a river of water of life clear as sparkling crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb. On each side of the river is the tree of life yielding continual fruitage. And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
And the heart never fails to respond with a quickened beat to the lines: "His servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads;"—that is, His character shall shine out of their faces. "And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light. And they shall reign forever and ever."
Such is the heart-touching, heart-gripping tale of God's ideal for man, His creature and com panion and friend. All the best that the city stands for of human life, and all the best that the country, typified in the garden, stands for, are forever blessedly joined. And in the midst—Himself, and gathered about Him His redeemed ones, as children about a father, in a union and fellowship cemented by the heart's blood of God, never more to be put asunder.