Chap.  2. - 'The Great PREPARATIVES for the Saints' Rest.'

There are four things which principally prepare the way to enter into it; particularly: 

  1. The glorious appearing of Christ; 
  2. The general resurrection; 
  3. The last judgment; and, 
  4. The saints' coronation.

The passage of paradise is not now so blocked up as when the law and curse reigned. Finding a new and living way consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, the flesh of Christ, by which we may with boldness enter into the holiest — I shall draw near with fuller assurance. And, finding the flaming sword removed, I shall look again into the paradise of our God. And because I know that this is no forbidden fruit, and withal that it is good for food, and pleasant to the spiritual eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one truly wise and happy; I shall, through the assistance of the Spirit, take and eat thereof myself, and give to you, according to my power — that you may eat. The porch of this temple is exceeding glorious, and the gate of it is called Beautiful. Here are four things as the four corners of this porch.

1. The most glorious coming and appearing of the Son of God may well be reckoned in his people's glory. 

For their sake he came into the world, suffered, died, rose, ascended; and for their sake it is that he will return. To this end, will Christ come again to receive his people unto himself, that where he is, there they may be also. The bridegroom's departure was not upon divorce. He did not leave us with a purpose to return no more. He has left pledges enough to assure us to the contrary. We have his word, his many promises, his ordinances — which show forth his death until he come; and his Spirit, to direct, sanctify, and comfort until he return. We have frequent tokens of love from him, to show us he forgets not his promise, nor us. We daily behold the forerunners of his coming, foretold by himself. We see the fig-tree puts forth leaves, and therefore know that summer is near.

Though the riotous world say, My Lord delays his coming; yet let the saints lift up their heads, for their redemption draws near! Alas! fellow-Christians, what would we do if our Lord should not return? What a case are we here left in! What! leave us in the midst of wolves, and among lions, a generation of vipers — and here forget us! Did he buy us so dear, and then leave us sinning, suffering, groaning, dying daily; and will he come no more to us? It cannot be! This is like our unkind dealing with Christ, who, when we feel ourselves warm in the world, care not for coming to him; but this is not like Christ's dealing with us.

He who would come to suffer, will surely come to triumph. He who would come to purchase, will surely come to possess. Where else would all our hopes be? What would become of our faith, our prayers, our tears and our waiting? What would all the patience of the saints be worth to them? Would we not be of all men, the most miserable? Christians, has Christ made us forsake all the world, and to be forsaken of all the world? to hate all, and be hated of all? and all this for him — that we might have him instead of all? And will he, do you think, after all this, forget us and forsake us himself? Far be such a thought from our hearts!

But why did he not stay with his people while he was here? Why? Was not the work on earth done? Must he not take possession of glory in our behalf? Must he notintercede with the Father, plead his sufferings, be filled with the Spirit to send forth, receive authority, and subdue his enemies? Our abode here is short. If he had stayed on earth, what would it have been to enjoy him for a few days, and then die? He has more in Heaven to dwell among; even the souls of many generations. He will have us live by faith, and not by sight.

O fellow-Christians, what a day will that be, when we, who have been kept prisoners by sin, by sinners, by the grave — shall be brought out by the Lord himself! It will not be such a coming as his first was, in poverty and contempt — to be spit upon, and buffeted, and crucified again. He will not come, O careless world! to be slighted and neglected by you any more. Yet that coming lacked not its glory. If the heavenly host, for the celebration of his nativity, must praise God; with what shoutings will angels and saints at that day proclaim glory to God, peace and good-will toward men! If a star must lead men from remote parts, to come to worship the child in the manger; then how will the glory of his next appearing constrain all the world to acknowledge his sovereignty! If, riding on an donkey, he enter Jerusalem with hosannas; with what peace and glory will he come toward the New Jerusalem! If, when he was in the form of a servant, they cry out, "What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?" — then what will they say when they shall see him coming in his glory, and the heavens and the earth obey him?

To think and speak of that day with horror does well become the impenitent sinner — but ill the believing saint. Shall the wicked behold him, and cry, "Yonder is he whose blood we neglected, whose grace we resisted, whose counsel we refused, whose government we cast off!" And shall not the saints, with inconceivable gladness, cry, "Yonder is he whose blood redeemed us, whose Spirit cleansed us, whose law governed us; in whom we trusted, and he has not deceived our trust; for whom we long waited, and now we see that we have not waited in vain!

O cursed corruption! Which would have had us turn to the world and present things, and say — Why should we wait for the Lord any longer? Now we see, "Blessed are all those who wait for him." And now, Christians, should we not put up that petition heartily, "May Your kingdom come! The Spirit and the bride say, Come! and let him that hears," and reads, "say, Come!" Our Lord himself says, "Surely I come quickly! Amen! Even so, come! Lord Jesus."

2. Another thing that leads to paradise is that great work of Jesus Christ, in raising the body from the dust and uniting it again unto the soul. 

A wonderful effect of infinite power and love! "Yes wonderful indeed," says unbelief, "if it is true. What, shall all these scattered bones and dust, become a man?" Let me with reverence plead for God, for that power whereby I hope to arise. What sustains the massive body of the earth? What limits the vast ocean of the waters? Whence is that constant ebbing and flowing of the tides? How many times larger than all the earth is the sun, that glorious body of light? Is it not as easy to raise the dead — as to make Heaven and earth, and all of nothing? Look not on the dead bones, and dust, and difficulty — but at the promise. Contentedly commit these bodies to a prison that shall not long contain them. Let us lie down in peace and take our rest; it will not be an everlasting night, nor endless sleep. If unclothing be the thing you fear — it is only that you may have better clothing. If to be turned out of doors be the thing you fear, remember that, when "the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, you have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

Lay down cheerfully this lump of corruption; you shall undoubtedly receive it again in incorruption. Lay down freely this earthly, this natural body; you shall receive it again a celestial, a spiritual body. Though you lay it down with great dishonor — you shall receive it in glory! Though you are separated from it through weakness— it shall be raised again in mighty power; "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed!" "The dead in Christ shall rise first. Then those who are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air."

Triumph now, O Christian, in these promises; you shall shortly triumph in their performance. This is the day which the Lord will make; we shall rejoice and be glad in it. The grave that could not keep our Lord — cannot keep us. He arose for us — and by the same power will cause us to arise. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, those also who sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him." Let us never look at the grave — but let us see the resurrection beyond it! Yes, let us be "steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know our labor is not in vain in the Lord."

3. Part of this prologue to the saints' rest is the public and solemn process at their judgment, where they shall first themselves be acquitted and justified, and then with Christ judge the world. 

Young and old, of all estates and nations, who ever existed from the creation to that day, must here come and receive their doom. O terrible! O joyful day! Terrible to those that have forgotten the coming of their Lord! Joyful to the saints, whose waiting and hope was to see this day! Then shall the world behold the goodness and severity of God; on them who perish, severity; but to his chosen, goodness.

Every one must give an account of his stewardship. Every talent of time, health, abilities, mercies, afflictions, means, warnings — must be reckoned for. The sins ofyouth, those which they had forgotten, and their secret sins — shall all be laid open before angels and men. They shall see the Lord Jesus, whom they neglected, whose word they disobeyed, whose ministers they abused, whose servants they hated, now sitting to judge them. Their own consciences shall cry out against them, and call to their remembrance all their misdoings. Which way will the wretched sinner look? Who can conceive the dreadful thoughts of his heart?

Now the world cannot help him; his old companions cannot; the saints neither can nor will. Only the Lord Jesus can; but there is the misery — he will not! Time was, sinner, when Christ would — and you would not; now, gladly would you — and he will not. All in vain is it to "cry to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sits upon the throne!" for you have the Lord of mountains and rocks for your enemy, whose voice they will obey, and not yours. I charge you, therefore, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead at his appearing, and his kingdom — that you set yourself seriously to ponder these things.

But why tremble, O humble, gracious soul? He who would not lose one Noah in a common deluge, nor overlook one Lot in Sodom; nay, that could do nothing until he went forth — will he forget you at that day? "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment, to be punished." He knows how to make the same day — the greatest terror to his foes, and yet the greatest joy to his people. "There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh — but after the Spirit."

"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" Shall the law? "The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made them free from the law of sin and death." Or shall conscience? "The Spirit himself bears witness with their spirit, that they are the children of God. It is God who justifies, who is he who condemns?" If our Judge condemns us not — then who shall? He who said to the adulterous woman, Has no man condemned you? neither do I — will say to us, more faithfully than Peter to him, Though all men deny you, or condemn you — I will not. Having confessed me before men, you "will I also confess before my Father in Heaven."

What inexpressible joy, that our dear Lord, who loves our souls and whom our souls love — shall be our Judge! Will a man fear to be judged by his dearest friend? or a wife by her own husband? Christian, did Christ come down and suffer, and weep, and bleed, and die for you — and will he now condemn you? Was he judged, condemned, and executed in your stead — and now will he himself condemn you? Has he done most of the work already, in redeeming, regenerating, sanctifying and preserving you — and will he now undo it all?

Well then, let the terror of that day be never so great, surely our Lord can mean no ill to us in it all. Let it make the devils tremble, and the wicked tremble — but it shall make us leap for joy.

It must affect us deeply with the sense of our mercy and happiness — to see the most of the world tremble with terror — while we triumph with joy; to hear them doomed to everlasting flames — when we are proclaimed heirs of the kingdom; to see our neighbors, who lived in the same town, came to the same congregation, dwelt in the same houses, and were esteemed more honorable in the world than ourselves — now, by the Searcher of hearts, eternally separated. This, with the greatmagnificence and dreadfulness of the day, the apostle pathetically expresses: "It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to those who trouble you; and to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all those who believe, in that day."

Yet more — we shall be so far from the dread of that judgment, that we ourselves shall become the judges! Christ will take his people, as it were, into commission with himself, and they shall sit and approve his righteous judgment. "Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world?" Nay, "know you not that we shall judge angels?" Were it not for the word of Christ who speaks it — this advancement would seem incredible, and the language arrogant. Even Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied this, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodlily committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him."

Thus shall the saints be honored, and "the upright shall have dominion in the morning." O that the careless world "were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!" that they would be now of the same mind as they will be when they shall see the heavens pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat, and the earth also, and the works that are therein, burnt up! when all shall be on fire about them, and all earthly glory consumed. "For the heavens and the earth which are now, are reserved unto fire against the day of judgment, and perdition of ungodly men. Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved, what kind of people ought you to be in all holiness and godliness, looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?"

4. The last preparative for the saints' rest is their solemn coronation and receiving the kingdom

For as Christ, their head, is anointed both King and Priest — so under him are his people made unto God both kings and priests, to reign, and to offer praises forever. The crown of righteousness, which was laid up for them, shall by the Lord, the righteous Judge, be given them at that day. They have been faithful unto death, and therefore he will give them a crown of life. And according to the improvement of their talents here — so shall their rule and dignity be enlarged.

They are not dignified with empty titles — but real dominion. Christ will grant them to sit with him on his throne, and will give them power over the nations, even as he received of his Father; and he "will give them the morning star." The Lord himself will give them possession, with these applauding expressions: "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things; enter into the joy of your Lord!"

And with this solemn and blessed proclamation, shall he enthrone them: "Come, you who are blessed by my Father — inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Every word is full of life and joy.

"Come" — this is the holding forth of the golden scepter, to warrant our approach unto this glory. Come now as near as you will; fear not the Bethshemites' judgment; for the enmity is utterly abolished. This is not such a "Come" as we were accustomed to hear, "Come, take up your cross and follow me." Though that was sweet — yet this is much more.

"You who are blessed" — blessed indeed, when that mouth so pronounces us! For though the world has accounted us accursed, and we have been ready to account ourselves so; yet, certainly, those whom he blesses, are blessed; and those only whom he curses, are cursed; and his blessing cannot be reversed.

"By my Father" — blessed in the Father's love, as well as the Son's; for they are one. The Father has testified his love in their election, donation to Christ, and in the sending of Christ, and accepting his ransom, as the Son has also testified his.

"Inherit" — no longer slaves, nor servants only, nor children under age, who differ not in possession — but only in title, from servants; but now we are heirs of the kingdom, and joint-heirs with Christ.

"The kingdom" — no less than the kingdom! Indeed, to be King of kings and Lord of lords is our Lord's own proper title; but to be kings, and reign with him, is ours. The enjoyment of this kingdom is as the light of the sun; each has the whole — and the rest none the less.

"Prepared for you" — God is the Alpha as well as the Omega of our blessedness. Eternal love has laid the foundation. He prepared the kingdom for us — and then prepared us for the kingdom. This is the preparation of his counsel and decree, for the execution whereof Christ was yet to make a further preparation.

"For you" — not for believers only in general, who, without individuality, are nobody; but for you personally.

"From the foundation of the world" — not only from the promise after Adam's fall — but from all eternity.

Thus we have seen the Christian safely landed in paradise, and conveyed honourably to his rest. Now let us a little further, in the next chapter, view those mansions, consider their privileges, and see whether there is any glory like unto this glory.