There is a land of pure delight,
where saints immortal reign,
Infinite day excludes the night,
and pleasures banish pain.
There everlasting spring abides,
and never-withering flowers;
Death, like a narrow sea, divides
this heavenly land from ours.
(First two verses of a hymn written by Isaac Watts, 1674 – 1748.)
“And the Gates of the City shall not be shut at all by day, for there shall be no night there.” (Rev.21:25)
“And the City has no need of the sun or the moon to shine in it, because the glory of God enlightens it, and the Lamb is its lamp.” (Rev.21:23)
“And there shall no longer be any night, and they shall have no need of lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will shed light upon them, and they shall reign unto the ages of the ages.” (Rev.22:5)
“Blessed are those who have a right to the Tree of Life, and may enter in through the Gates of the City.” (Rev.22:14)
In this chapter we shall turn our attention to the Gates once again, noticing in particular that they shall never be shut. There is an important lesson to be learned in this single statement, which when coupled with the other statements listed in the references above, throws open our minds to the wonderful final work of God.
“The Gates shall not be shut at all by day.” In the Greek there is a double negative, which is always used to emphasise some important fact. We might translate as follows – “The Gates shall by no means ever be shut by day.” It is as though the Lord wanted us to know that He would never, ever, shut His gates. And why is this? The answer may be found in 22:17. “Let him who is thirsty, come, and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” There will never be a time when the Lord closes His gates to the City. As long as there is someone out there who despairs of his own way, and turns his eyes to heaven, there will be a guiding hand ready and willing to take him into the City, there to drink of the King’s Fountain of Life, be forgiven, restored, cleansed, and reconciled. Such is the lovingkindness of our God.
It is necessary to realise that when the Holy City is complete, (which means that the Lord has obtained His “special treasure”) the “City” then becomes the instrument in the Lord’s hands for the restoration of the rest of the world. The Bride becomes God’s evangelist-in-resurrection to seek out “the residue of men.” (Acts 15:17) We are told that “the nations shall walk about by means of the light of the City, and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it.” (Rev.21:24) Isaiah had the same message long before the days of the Apostle John. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples, but the Lord will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you, and nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isa.60:1-2)
All this sounds very wonderful, and we get a distinct glorious and swelling impression that there will be“multitudes in the valley of decision in that day”, (Joel 3:14) even a “great multitude that no man can number”(Rev.7:9) who turn to the Lord and “wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb”, (Rev.7:14) as they pass through His fires of tribulation. Yes, the beginning of the Millennial Day of Judgment will be a time of painful realisation to earth’s sons of men. No longer will there be any place to hide. No longer will the world’s wise men be able to twist God’s words into meaningless nonsense, and pour scorn on all those who put their trust in the Almighty. Once again, we say emphatically that the only way to understand the final chapters of Revelation is to focus on theprimary purpose of God in His Age-plan. This purpose is to seek out, and obtain a response from the nations of the world, that men and woman may be saved by the precious blood of Christ, be restored and forgiven, and enter into the joy of the Lord.
We shall now seek to answer those who always seem to dwell on the negative side of things, and who point fingers at verses which seem on the surface to point to an everlasting fire, into which all the wicked will be consigned. Yes, these verses are to be found within the very chapters we are focusing on in this series. They need to be addressed. It is no good turning one’s back on them as though they don’t exist. They need to be faced, and properly understood. Let’s have a look at them.
“Outside [the City] are the dogs, sorcerers, fornicators, idolaters, and all who love and practise falsehood.” (Rev.22:15) Yes, and all such will have to remain “outside the City” until they repent, and turn to the Lord. Only then will they be able to enter the City and be saved. These words do not suggest a permanent life sentence, but merely point out that “nothing by any means may enter into the City that defiles, or causes abomination, or falsehood.” (Rev.21:27) The angels who guard the Gates will work together with all those who constitute the Walls and Gates, to prevent the entrance of anyone who comes within the categories mentioned.
A similar exclusion operates today, according to Paul’s words in 1 Cor.6:9-10) “The unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God [i.e. be part of the Holy City]. Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, shall inherit the Kingdom of God. Such were some of you, but you have been washed, you have been sanctified, you have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” God knows the weakness of man. He does not condemn, but rather brings His wayward sons to repentance and new life. These things still apply today, before the Lord “makes up His jewels,” and so by comparison, those “outside the City Gates” will likewise be received within as soon as they repent, are washed clean, and receive God’s forgiveness. Of this we can be sure. To say otherwise would impugn the righteousness and lovingkindness of God.
But there is a further dire warning to be observed. “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the abominable, the murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, and idolaters, and all those are false, shall have their part in the Lake, burning with Fire and Sulphur, which is the Second Death.” (Rev.21:8) And because elsewhere we are told that the Lake of Fire burns “forever and ever”, the average English reader of the A.V. concludes that this class of wicked people will be consigned to a fiery future from which there is no escape, no mercy, no chance of reprieve. How do we approach such an impasse?
One of the verses I quoted at the start of this chapter said of the inhabitants of the Holy City, that “they shall reign unto the ages of the ages.” (Rev.22:5) What does this mean? The “ages of the ages” (translated “forever and ever”) is used for both the Lake of Fire and the Kingdom Reign. If indeed the words mean “everlasting” it suggests that God’s Kingdom is never-ending. But Paul defines this in the following way. “He must reign UNTIL He has put all enemies under His feet.” (1 Cor.15:25) Hence there is a moment of time, however future it may be, when He shall have accomplished His great work of reconciliation to ALL His creation.
We are to understand that the saints of the Holy City will continue their ministry UNTIL they have seen “every knee bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [of their lives]” (Phil.2:10) Even if the wicked have to endure what John is required to call “the Lake of Fire and Sulphur”, they will eventually turn their evil minds away from every form of God hating, and seek cleansing. Only then will they be pulled from the fierce fires of divine cleansing, and be ready to join others who are “thirsting for the water of life.” (Rev.22:17)
I would like to pursue this theme by referring to Psalms 9 & 10, which are a unit, connected together by an irregular acrostic. (The first verses of Ps.9 begin with the letter Aleph, and the last verses of Ps.10 begin with the letter Tau.) These two Psalms may be called the “The Antichrist Psalms” because they deal with the works and the final end of all evil. In particular we may concentrate on Ps.10:15. “O Lord, break the arm of the Lawless One, and the Evil One, seek out his wickedness UNTIL YOU FIND NONE.” This is one of the most wonderful verses in the Bible. It shows that even the Antichrist, the Man of Lawlessness, and all evil men, will ultimately be so purged of their evil ways, that the Lord is unable to find any left within them ! Just think of that. They will say, with the Psalmist, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes.” (Psa.119:71)
The Lord will “seek out” the wickedness of these men. The Hebrew word is DERESH, and it occurred within this Psalm in verse 4. “The Lawless One, through the pride of his countenance, will not SEEK after God.” It may be possible for the incorrigibly wicked man to keep his face turned away from the Lord for a very long time, but “the Hound of Heaven” will “seek out his wickedness” and continue doing so until he can no longer withstand the call of Divine Love.
Just think about it. The Great God of the Universe, not only the “Creator of the rolling spheres” but the One who made man “fearfully and wonderfully” (Ps.139:14) and whose glory seen within “the lilies of the field” surpasses Solomon in all his glory, can never be conquered by puny fallen man in all his boasted pride, no matter how great his evil empire grows. It is the surpassing greatness of our God that He is able, patiently, and with great longsuffering, to reach the most obdurate of hearts, and turn them unto Himself. That is His glory, and we proclaim His glory with all our being, for we have been persuaded of it for many years, and it fills us with deep joy, fearful contemplation, and reverential awe. Such is the wonderful story of the “Open Gates.”
There were ninety and nine that safely lay
in the shelter of the fold,
But one was out on the hills away,
far off from the gates of gold;
Away on the mountains wild and bare,
away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine.
Are they not enough for Thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer:
“This of Mine has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.”
But none of the ransomed ever knew
how deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night which the Lord passed through
ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the bleak desert He heard its cry—
sick and helpless, and ready to die.
“Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way
that mark out the mountain’s track?”
“They were shed for one who had gone astray
ere the Shepherd could bring him back.”
“Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?”
“They’re pierced tonight by many a thorn.”
And all through the mountains, thunder-riven,
and up from the rocky steep,
There arose a cry to the gate of heaven,
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!”
Words by Elizabeth Cecilia Clephane, 1830 – 1869, also the author of “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”, written in 1868. A frail Scottish Presbyterian woman, known throughout her community for her helpful cheery nature. She was one of three sisters, but was always the delicate retiring member of the family. Yet within the limits of her strength she served the poor and sick of her community in Melrose. The townspeople of her area affectionately knew her as “the sunbeam.” She was a serious Bible student, and her two hymns bear that out. She died at the early age of 39.