The Final Consolation
It is a picture, but not a fancy. It is beautiful, but not a fable. It is ravishing to the imagination, and yet the presentment of truth as practical and actual and tangible as any sight to be seen at any time in the humdrum street of a modern city. It comes direct to us on the guarantee of Him who holds heaven and earth in His hand — who, having cursed, can bless: who, having smitten, can heal; who, having caused us to know the misery of His withdrawn countenance from the earth, and the consequent prevalence of disorder and death, can gladden our eyes by the spectacle of the tabernacle of God with men, and human life a beautiful and holy and joyful thing for ever.
Come to the land of promise in the day of its glory — not as you are now — burdened with infirmity, with a nature easily fatigued, eye soon dimmed, power soon spent, and having but scant capacity to rise to the surrounding sublimities of the universe, or to apprehend sympathetically the subtle glories of the Spirit. Come, when it has been said to you, as to Joshua, "Take away the filthy garments from him. . . . I will clothe thee with a change of raiment." Come when mortality no longer weighs you to the earth, and when you know the new experience of having "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Come when you can step lightly and joyously abroad upon the earth in the freedom and power of spirit nature; when the cup of life mantles full and sparkling to the brim; when the strong, penetrating eye looks out of a glad heart to hehold in all things the unfolded love, and wisdom, and glory of God; when every thought is a joy, every movement a pleasure; every breath the inspiration of an ecstacy that can only find fit expression in praise to Him that sits upon the throne.
In such a state, any land, any configuration of country, would furnish suitable sphere. But God puts His jewels in fit settings. He hath called and glorified His children, and "He hath prepared for them a city" — a city having foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. Abraham sojourned in the geographical area of this city — in the land of promise — as in a strange country: but that is now long past. Forsaken and hated for ages, the land, at that time not far ahead, is now "an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations." God has fulfilled His promise, and has made "her wilderness like Eden — her desert like the garden of the Lord."
"Come and see” We go: we stand on the hills of Judea, now no longer sterile and wild. They are clad with glorious vegetation, of every form and fragrance. The hills are clothed with pleasant woods, and the valleys rejoice in the smiling beauties of a rich cultivation — field and vineyard, fruits and flowers, corn and wine. The air is clear and warm, and laden with pleasant odour. The view on all sides is magnificent and far-reaching. No smoke obscures the landscape, no fog on the valleys, no mist on the hills. The sky is cloudless, and the sun pours his healing flood of light on rejoicing land and ocean. The whirr of pleasant insect; the musical song of bird helps the sense of gladness that fills the air. Near are pleasant homesteads, standing each in its own plot or portion, neatly trimmed, well kept. Below in the valley, towns and hamlets, peopled by righteous Israelites are visible in the far receding distance, clearly visible in this transparent atmosphere in which everything appears nearer than it is. Jerusalem is faintly visible on our northern horizon.
Let us hasten in that direction. Where we are is only the profane portion of the land — a scene of peace and righteousness and plenty, truly, but not comparable to "the holy portion of the land." Come to the holy portion of the land — the land given as an oblation to the Lord. We approach Jerusalem, or rather Yahweh Shammah (the new name of the new city) from the south. Tt stands in the southernmost section of the holy portion. It is an immense city, built upon a plan of perfect symmetry and proportion. It is very unlike the huddled clusters of human dwellings called towns with which we have been familiar. The general plan is an exact square, marked by an outer wall. The square is of enormous extent measuring nine miles through at any point. The wall is of bright stone, and adorned with towers at regular distances. We only see the south wall, It stretches away right and left further than the eye can follow. It is over nine miles long on the south side, and on all the other sides the same. There are lofty ornamental gates at regular distances. We descend from the overlooking hill and enter by one of these gates. We notice at a glance the stately character of the city. The streets are straight and wide, and shaded with trees, and, at regular distances, open out into squares and crescents. The houses are not high, and stand apart in gardens except where here and there, palatial blocks of buildings spring from the midst of the squares. We asked what these are, and are informal that they are reception houses, for the accommodation of the visitors who daily come in crowds from all parts.
There is an immense number of the people in the city, but the city is so vast that they do not appear numerous, except at certain points, as we pass along. Their aspect is such as we never saw in any city crowd before — so quiet, yet so cheerful; so brightly interested in everything, yet so orderly and respectful; so apparently cultured and well-to-do, yet having none of the fussiness and arrogance usually associated with prosperity. All are well clad, cleanly, intelligent, good, righteous and happy — no boisterous merrymaking — no foolish banter — no unseemly utterance. They are a few of the happy subjects of the kingdom of God. They have come from all parts of the earth to do homage to the king — wives and families with them, leaving behind them prosperous homesteads and occupations to which they will return in a little season.
We hasten in a straight line along our nine-mile avenue of picturesque and happy human habitation — (we could take the help of an electric tram if we liked; for such has been provided in all the thoroughfares for the use of the people: but, in our new state, we prefer to walk; we can quicken our pace, when we want to do so, by gliding along in the air, skimming the surface of the road, as we dreamt of in our mortal days). We get out at the gate of Judah; opposite which, after crossing an ornamental common of about half a mile in breadth that runs round the entire city, there opens a magnificent highway running in a straight line in a northern direction towards the temple which is distant about 30 miles.
Along this highway we proceed. It is very broad, and of noble aspect. A line of tall trees in a broad band of turf divides it in the centre, and again in the middle of each side, giving four spacious roadways running side by side, lined with trees and bordered with turf and flowers. The country on each side is laid out in fields and estates, which are in the occupation of the Levites of the second order who serve the temple, whose lands, however, are accessible to visitors at all times.
The country becomes more magnificent at every step. At certain points, side roads strike off and return in many turnings and windings to the main road again. These side roads lead through woody solitudes of paradisaic beauty.
Let us go down one of these roads, and behold the fulfilment of the promise that Yahweh would make the place of His feet glorious. All is quiet, comforting, and beautiful. There is no dankness, but only a sense of bracing relief in the shade they give: no wetness on the ground, but only a pleasant soft hardness. There are no walls or fences at the side of the road. You may walk straight off the road on to velvet turf under the trees and among the shrubs. Here you find all kinds of fruit growing — all kinds of flowers in bloom. You are at liberty to put forth your hand and do as you will. How delicious the odour everywhere! We stroll and stroll. We come upon a break in the wood
where the ground descends into a gorge. We see clear out to the side of an opposite hill. A brook murmurs past where we stand. The sun streams over all. What a delicious hush! What a sense of joy in every fibre of being. We enjoy the scene for a few moments, when hark! there is a burst of music! It comes rolling towards us from the top of the opposite hill. What is it? It is a mixture of voices and instruments — stringed instruments. How beautiful! The voices so musical, so full and correct — the instruments so adapted to the voices. There must be at least 100 people. It is beautiful! It is ravishing! We stand and listen. We do not know the piece yet it seems familiar. It is a psalm of praise to God. We hear it out and then all falls quiet. We would like to make the acquaintance of the company. We direct our steps towards the top of the hill. Going along an upward leading path, we see people coming towards us. As we go forward, we approach them. They look enquiringly and smilingly at us: we look enquiringly and smilingly at them. We are not in the least embarrassed:
only we were silent. Then the foremost of their company — a fresh elderly [* The indications of Scripture are that the faithful will shed their age in the immortal state, and appear in all the vigor of the prime of life. The angels appeared on earth as "young men" (Mark 16:5), and Isaiah predicts: "They that wait upon Yahweh shall renew their strength . . . they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint" (Isa. 40:31). They will show in their appearance a strength of body that will match their intellectual strength of mind.] man with noble look — so majestic, yet so friendly — with such exquisite tenderness of manner, and yet such kingliness of carriage — breaks the silence. He speaks in Hebrew, but we seemed to understand it quite naturally. He [** There is what we might style a poetical licence taken by Brother Roberts in this imaginary conversation, for in reality, there will be a general gathering of immortal saints, and fraternisation together at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Doubtless, at that time, all the approved will have seen the Lord and his more intimate friends, and therefore will not need the introductions suggested in this imaginary picture. Nevertheless, at some time or other, we must be introduced to such as Abraham and David says—
"You are friends, I know."
"Friends of God?"
"Praise God, yes."
"You have come in a happy time — the time of favour of Zion."
"Yes, it is a time we have long waited for."
"So have we all. God's word is sure, and has come to pass."
"Whither hail ye from?"
"Oh Britain — Tarshish — yes; the most celebrated of the isles of the Gentiles. God has made great use of her in bringing about Israel's deliverance. We have just been indulging in a psalm on the subject."
"Yes, we heard you; we were greatly delighted. We should like to hear it again."
"Should you? Well, there is nothing to hinder. There is an open space at the foot of this gorge where it would be convenient."
We cannot express the indefinable pleasure we feel as we walk together down the hillside towards the spot indicated. As we walk, we say — "Might we be so bold as to ask who your company are?"
"They are a small band of the Lord's people, settled now in these parts, who have come out for an evening stroll. You ought to know who we are. You look as if you belonged to the Lord's people yourselves."
"Well in truth, we do; and we instinctively felt that you were a company of the saints — the immortal saints. Yet we felt fain not to presume on this our first visit to this most blessed realm."
"Have you been among the dead, then, my friends?"
"No: we belong to the current generation. We were alive at the coming of the Lord."
"Ah! you have been favoured not to see corruption."
"We do not feel it has been a greater favour than that enjoyed by those who, by a momentary wink as it were, escaped from the vanity of human life, as it was in the Lord's absence, into the glory
revealed at his return."
"Well, there is something to be said on that score. For one, I should not have liked to live all the days that divided my mortal life from resurrection."
"How long might the interval have been?"
"Nigh three thousand years."
"Whom may we have the honour of speaking to?"
The old man (looking so young in his hoary hairs) paused. Those near him who had gathered close to us, and
were eagerly enjoying our conversation, said, "Who do you think?" We looked enquiringly.
"Who wrote most of the Psalms?"
We bowed with unspeakable pleasure.
"King David? Oh! Happy day!"
Our majestic interlocutor said, "Even so: a morning without clouds, as the Lord promised."
Arrived at the bottom of the glade, we stood together and sang the anthem we had heard them sing on the top of the hill — David leading. Oh, such voices! Oh, such blending of liquid melodies! Oh, such fervent pouring of the soul into the meaning of the words. The delight was unutterable. Preparing to resume the journey, we are asked whither bound.
"We had thought of it."
"Put it off till tomorrow. Come with us. We spend the night at Abraham's palace. There we shall introduce you to a number of friends."
That proposal is overpoweringly good. But we are not embarrassed. We would have been so in the old mortal. In the new man to which we have attained, we are simply at home in a perfect satisfaction. We express our pure pleasure at the prospect, and start off with our company, numbering about 200 persons —- men and women — all so lovely to look at and so bright to talk to. We find they comprise Jonathan, Asaph, Nathan, Uriah, Bathsheba, and a number who were David's intimates in the days of his flesh. Others we do not know. We ascertain that they form David's personal circle in the new order of things.
Abraham's palace to which we are bent is some distance off. It stands within seven miles of the temple, and we are still 20 miles away. There is need for speed, as the softening light warns us of the approach of the shades of evening. So, at a signal from our leader, we resort to the angelic mode of locomotion, and by a simple act of the will, are able to propel ourselves through the air by a slight motion of the limbs at a short distance from the ground. We went at a rapid pace, but it was not at all fatiguing, and there was no sense of chill from rushing through the air. On the contrary, it was a delightful exercise. We seemed to get along like a company on very fleet bicycles, but without their violent contortions.
The air was balmy; and our progress through it only seemed to give us a higher sense of its exhilarating power, and bring out more distinctly the sweetness of the odours exhaling from the paradisaic vegetation clothing hill and dale.
In an hour's time we arrive at Abraham's palace — a magnificent pile, standing in a wooded seclusion. He has evidently a large company at home. They are waiting us expectantly. We are announced while yet a good way off, and they all come out on the balconies and corridors in
front of the spacious building, and salute us as we pass within the grounds in front. Ornamental tables are arranged for a repast. There is a pleasant mingling on the green sward — much brilliant talking and silvery laughter — everyone so bright and well. Then they all sit down — about 600 people. A venerable figure rises — not bent or aged, but noble in the air of ripe maturity — hair and
flowing beard of pure white: a countenance full of gravity and kindly repose, but having no sign of weakness. He calls upon every glorified son and daughter of the Lord God Almighty to give thanks to the Possessor of Heaven and earth for the overflowing bounty of His goodness in Christ Jesus. In few meet and sonorous words, he presents the offering of thanksgiving. Then the other kingly old man stands also and says, "It is a good and pleasant thing to give thanks to the Lord."
..."Let us praise the Lord!" and the whole company rise with a readiness that seems like an elastic bound, and all eyes on David, who raises his hand to lead, they break forth into a psalm with such fervour of shout, such emphatic enunciation of words and such beauty of musical utterance, that the mere exercise seems to rouse them into a fresh glow of the heavenly arbour that is normal with
them all. They then sit down, and partake of grapes and various fruits. There are cooked dishes of various kinds for those who prefer. All is partaken of with perfect gastronomic relish.
There is much pleasant talk and interchange of animated glances between persons at different parts of the table. All eat heartily, but not heavily. [* The partaking of food by immortals, though possible (the risen Christ ate the food given him) will not be at all necessary as it is today. In fact, in the change to which all will be subjected who attain unto the state of incorruptibility (1 Cor. 15:53), the
body itself will be altered. Paul declared: "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them" (1 Cor. 6:13). Thus the internal organs of the body will be completely changed. They are there today, to make provision for digestion and absorption of food; such as will be entirely unnecessary then. Food may be partaken of by immortals in the Kingdom
for pleasure (they will feast at Jerusalem, before Christ, and elsewhere) but will not be necessary for the sustaining of life. Of course Brother Roberts recognised this, and we merely add this footnote for the guidance of others. We do not think that the normal eating habits of breakfast, lunch and dinner will be practised by the saints in the future.] There are no heavinesses or indigestions afterwards. It is not possible. The food partaken of becomes the subject of a slow, spiritual combustion, which assimilates every atom of it to the energy of the spiritual body; and the process of this combustion is a source of pleasure to the eaters.
The repast finished, there is a breaking up of the company into groups, and an indiscriminate commingling, affording the opportunity of private snatches of conversation with any who may choose. In this way, we approach Abraham, who stands in the centre of a group, conversing in a
deliberate, cordial, but stately manner. We listen, and do not presume to take part, though having many questions we would like to put. We know there will be plenty of time afterwards.
After two hours spent in this way, we unite in another song, after which we are all shown to separate apartments for the night. We are not tired. We had no inclination to go to sleep. We feel quite as bright as mortals usually do in the morning, and a little brighter, I fancy. Still it was an
acceptable change to enter a cool, lightly-constructed, pleasant chamber, with slight and elegant furnishings, to spend the night alone. There was no darkness. There was a glorious moon overhead, showing a brightness rarely visible in western countries. The chamber was lit electrically; and, in addition to this, we felt in ourselves a light that made us feel as if darkness could not be. The night
quickly passes: sometimes we pace the room in reflection: sometimes recline on the top of an elegant couch (no need for getting under the clothes); sometimes get up and read, and sometimes sing. When morning arrives, the sun pours her golden flood in at the windows, and we are ready for a new day without any sense of fatigue such as we should be sure to experience after such a night in mortal days.
Looking out at the windows, the eye takes in a noble stretch of country, looking away behind the beautiful grounds of the palace, just in front. The country descends towards the Jordan in the distance, beyond which rises a rampart of purple hills running north and south. To the right and left, in the near neighbourhood of the palace, are distinctly marked spurs of the ridge on which the palace itself stands covered with wood. It is a picture of seclusion and peace in the morning brightness and the balmy air, yet without loneliness. Pleasant sounds and the occasional sight of a visitor stepping out to enjoy the scene, remind us that we are in the habitation of intelligence and love — in one of the abiding places of the Father's house now set up on earth.
Descending to a great hall on the ground floor, we find a large company mustered, joyous, bright and gay. I observe there is none of the quiet fatigue that mortals experience after an evening's social exertion such as we had had. All are fresh and lively. Exchanging hearty greetings with those next us, we sit down and wait the progress of events, our uppermost desire being an early departure to see the temple.
Shortly, a psalm is proposed, in which all take part in the effective manner of the previous evening. Then the God of Abraham is addressed by Abraham, the father of us all, in simple, earnest words, that take us all with him to the throne of the Eternal. Shortly after, we are summoned to another room for the morning meal. Out we throng in pleasant crowds, and are conducted to a large banqueting hall, with skylight dome roof and walls largely constructed of glass, on which vines are trained, and which are adorned with various ornamental plants. Bright tables occupying the hall from end to end groan under the load of all good things, interspersed with flowers. Abraham calls on David, who gives thanks with a fervour that thrills us all, and evokes a loud "Amen" from every mouth. We asked if Isaac and Jacob were present, and are told they are not; that they had palaces of their own not a great distance away, and that though frequent visitors, they had more often to act the part of host to the numbers that came to see them from all points. We might see them in the course of the day at the Temple, as there was to be a special gathering of all the saints.
"Shall we see Moses?"
"Very likely; he is always prominent on such occasions."
"And the prophet like unto Moses?"
"We are nothing without Him. In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily."
We feel almost overpowered at the prospect of seeing the Lord Jesus in all his glory.
Breakfast being over, we discover there will be no delay in getting our desire gratified. The whole company are shortly ready, and on the road that lies in the direction of the Temple, going south and west from Abraham's palace. The road lies through a mountainous district, exuberant with the choicest vegetation, and the morning air is rich with the odour of flowers.
We are not long in accomplishing the distance at a moderate walk. The intercourse we enjoy with first one and then another in that superb company would quickly while away a desert journey. What is its goodness in the holy ground of Zion whom the Lord had comforted, as it is written "He will make the wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord?" Truly joy and gladness were found therein — thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
At last the temple bursts upon our view as we round the corner of a hill on which we stand at a considerable elevation. How shall I describe it? It is about a mile off from where we stand. It looks like a square-set symmetrical city of palaces. It is not what we have always understood by a temple: that is, it is not a building, an edifice, however large, but an immense open structure of light and airy parts, all of enormous size, yet all resembling one another, and covering such an area that they do not look so large as they are. What we see from where we stand is, of course, the outer wall; but it is a very different thing from what is suggested to us by a wall. It is in reality a long line of arches standing upon a solid basement, and stretched from east to west for a distance of over a mile. There must be nearly 200 arches in the line. Between every dozen arches or so is an entrance gate, towering considerably above the arches; and at each end of the line is an enormous tower, giving a well-marked finish to the wall. We can see inside through the arches, but what we see seems simply like a forest of palace-like structures, with a hill top shooting through the centre, and crowned with what looks like a shrine. We advance towards the splendid structure — the tabernacle of the Most High — the place of the soles of his feet where he dwells in the midst of the children of Israel for ever.
Shortly, we come upon a bridgeless stream of crystal water that comes flowing from under the house, and runs due east towards the Dead Sea, flanked with trees along its banks. This we cross with a graceful movement, passed gently through the air from one bank to the other. We are now near "the house," and see of what an immense size the arches are — about 120 feet high. Through open arches, they are latticed, and plants which look like vines are trained among the lattice work.
We enter by one of the gates, and find ourselves in the first court, open to the air. Here are thousands upon thousands of people who have come for the special day mentioned at the breakfast table. It strikes me as peculiar that the country we had come through was so lacking of people in view of this multitude. It is explained to me that the public access to the temple is from the south only, by the highway we had traversed the day before, and that to the north, and east, and west, of the temple is private to those who have to do with the service of the temple. As we pass in, the people made an avenue, and bow themselves in sincere reverence to a company of the Sons of God.
Crossing the outer court (a breadth of 200 feet), we enter a gate of the inner range of arch-building which resembles the outer wall, but stands a little higher; passing through, we are in the inner court, of similar dimensions to the outer court (also open to the sky). Before us, about 200 feet further on, stands the temple proper — not a square building, but an immense circle of arch building, three miles in circumference. This circle of building fills the whole view from right to left, gradually diminishing with the distance. We enter this circle by the gate opposite us, and passing through the building, find ourselves inside the inner and holiest precincts of the house, viz., an immense circle nearly a mile across, open to the sky. The floor of this circle was the ground, not flat, however, but rising gradually on all sides to the centre.
At the time of our arrival this interior space was nearly empty; but by-and-by, companies like our own began to arrive from all sides of the circle. As they arrive, they enter the circle, and take up a position which apparently had been assigned beforehand; for servitors, who
were in charge, all round the building, escort the new arrivals to their places. These servitors were graceful, pleasant mannered, agile, well-formed young men in loose robes. (One of our company whispers to me they are angels [* Again, a little touch of poetic licence. The fact that such
were angels would be perfectly obvious to an immortal. Further, whilst it is true that angels will be present at the inaugural opening ceremony of the Temple (Heb. 1:6 — RV); Rev. 5:11), their work,
in the age to come, will be taken over by immortalised saints (Heb. 2:5), who will thus act as Christ's servitors in all necessary appointments. Nor will it be necessary for one immortal saint to ask of another that he point out Christ to him, for all must first appear before the Lord. Once again, we emphasise, that Brother Roberts recognised all that we here state, but desire to bring the picture
within the scope of humble men and women of this age.] ). As the time wears on, the arrivals became more numerous, until there is one continual stream from all sides. There is on all hands a pleasant hum, as of a multitude conversing. Presently, the circle is full, and the inflow ceased. Quiet
and order settle down. The assembly presents an imposing appearance, packed together in a picturesque and living mass as far as the eye could reach. The prevailing costume is white with gold fittings. I have not asked who they are. I instinctively feel they are the assembled body of Christ;
and my rapturous interest in them is only held in check by the greater thought that Christ is presently to be introduced.
Where was he? I ask my companion. He is not yet arrived. His palace is some 30 miles off in a straight line east of the temple, standing in the paradisaic glories of "the prince's portion," overlooking the Jordan valley. The prince's portion is an extensive tract of country flanking the temple district, east and west. In both portions, the prince is surrounded by special friends, to whom he has assigned seats of residence and honour. The portion to the west is a sea-board, looking out on the Mediterranean, where also the prince has a palace; but on state occasions, his arrival is from the palace on the east.
This I learn in the interval while we are waiting. — Presently, a hush falls on the assembly: then a brightness seems to break out simultaneously from all parts of it, as if hidden electric footlights had been suddenly turned on all over the building. Every face glows with light: every garment becomes lustrous and shining. It is not an oppressive brightness, but an atmosphere of subdued light and
warmth that seems to diffuse a sense of unspeakable comfort and joy.
In a few moments more, the air over our heads becomes alive with light and life. A multitude of the
heavenly host became visible; the brightness grows to glory:
The Lord Jesus advances to the midst of the assembly. All eyes are on him; his demeanour is royal, yet simple and loving. He passes, there is silence. Then he lifts his eyes and looks gravely round, not all round; and in a voice that is gentle, kind, strong and exultant all in one, in tones rich, but not strong, and yet as distinctly audible as if spoken in a small room to one person, he said, "I have been to my Father and your Father. It was needful that I should go away; but I have come again as I said, in the glory of my Father and his holy angels. Ye have had sorrow; but now ye rejoice, and your joy no man any more taketh from you. It is written, in the midst of my brethren will I sing praise. Now, praise our God, all ye His servants."
Then an electric spasm of joy seems to pass through the assembly. There is a rustle, and a preparation, and a fixing of attention to Christ. He lifts his hand, and, as if by an inspiration, the whole assembly takes the lead from him, and breaks into a transport of tumultuous and glorious
sound. Every energy is strained to the utmost. Mortal nerves could not stand it; but the assembly of the immortals seem to revel and gather increasing strength with every higher and higher effort of musical strain. "Blessing and honour and glory be unto him that sits upon the throne and
unto the lamb for ever. Worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, and wisdom, and honour and glory, and blessing. Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, and hast made us unto our God, kings and priests and we shall reign with thee upon the earth. The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of Our Lord and of His Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever. Amen."