“This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this is the place of repose”—
“Do not be afraid.
I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Revelation 1:17, 18
John’s loving Lord had been lost from sight, ever since the hour when He was borne upwards to heaven from the heights of Olivet. How the orphaned Apostle must have mourned over the irreparable loss! How often in thought would he re-travel these days of earth’s holiest and most sacred friendship—when he had walked by his Lord’s side, or leaned on His bosom, or listened to His words of divinest comfort! How often may he not have breathed the fond wish, in words which have enshrined themselves in many a bereaved heart—
“Oh, for the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!”
And yet he would remember, too, the Christ of Nazareth and Galilee is no longer the lowly Man of sorrows, the Pilgrim of pilgrims. He is exalted in heavenly state—a name is given Him which is above every name! When, therefore, he had the first startling intimation of the Divine apparition in Patmos; when he heard the trumpet heralding his Lord’s approach, saw the bright blaze of glory projected from His path, and listened to the announcement in whose presence he was—”I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last”—he might have expected, on turning around, to gaze on some dazzling throne, gleaming with flashes of Truth, and Holiness, and Righteousness—tiers of attendant angels and burning seraphim lining the celestial pathway!
How different! He first sees a vision, and then hears a voice. Both are replete with comfort and consolation, and well fitted to dismiss and dispel all fear. The vision—It is the Lord holding a cluster of stars in His hand, and encircled with seven golden candlesticks; in gracious love moving in the midst of the Church militant; feeding each candlestick with the oil of His grace, and keeping every star in its sphere in the firmament. The voice—The vanished hand does touch, the stilled voice is once more heard: “He laid His right hand upon me, and said, Fear not.”
It would remind Him of that memorable morning descent, after the night of seraphic bliss on the Mount of Transfiguration, when the heavenly messengers had come and gone, and he and his companion-Apostles were returning back to the dull world again. “Alone!”—”yet not alone!” “When they lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.” Bereft they were of their celestial companions; but they had One compensating solace for all they had lost. The stars and satellites and moons had waxed and waned and departed—the candle-lights had been extinguished; but the great Sun still remained to illuminate their path, and perpetuate the bliss of that glorious hour. It was enough—they asked no more. With His love and presence to cheer them, they pursued the path, ready for duty, for trial, for suffering—animated by the sight of the crown, they descended more willing to bear the cross. So would it be now, in Patmos, as on Hermon.
We have, in this exquisitely tender dealing with John, an assurance of what Jesus still is. First, to His Church universal—”in the midst of it”—keeping the oil from decaying, and the gold from tarnishing, and the stars from abandoning their orbits. Then, also, what He is willing to be to every individual believer—the poorest, the humblest, the lowest, the most obscure—though his heart be a Patmos, lonely and desolate, and his home a desert rock, or a dungeon of captivity, or a hut of poverty, or a chamber of disease, or a bed of death—there He is, to lay His right hand of love on the trembling one, and say, “FEAR NOT!”
Fear not, poor sinner, trembling under the load of your guilt—’I am He who was dead;’ My death is your life, My blood your plea, My cross the passport to your crown. Fear not, weak and faint-hearted, borne down under your corruptions, the strength of your temptations, the weakness of your graces, the lukewarmness of your love—”I am alive for evermore;” My grace will be sufficient for you.
Fear not, suffering one—you are contending with a great fight of afflictions; trial after trial, like wave after wave, has been rolling in upon you; your house has been swept, ties have been broken, graves opened—the tears scarcely dry when made to flow again. Fear not! I have “the keys of the grave and of death.”
Not one deathbed has been ordered, not one grave dug, not one tear permitted, without My bidding. Are you not satisfied when a Living Redeemer has the Keys of Death suspended from His belt? In whose keeping could they be better than in His? Are you afraid to die? Is the thought of death, of your coming dissolution, fearful to you? “Fear not! I was dead!” I have sanctified that grave and that dark valley by crossing it all before you. I am the abolisher of death; and to all my people I have made the gate of Death and the gate of Heaven one!
JESUS LIVES—what a motto and watchword for us! Many of the most loving and beloved of human friends come only, like Moses and Elias on the mount of which we have spoken, upon angel visits—illuminating the night of earth with a passing yet blessed radiance—then leaving us, like the disciples, amid the chill, gray mists of solitude—our path moist with dewy tears, as we hurry back once more to a cold, unsympathizing world. But blessed antidote to all cares! blessed balm for all wounds! blessed compensation for all losses! blessed solace in all sorrows!—if we can descend from the mountain-heights of worldly bliss to the deepest valleys of humiliation and trial with Him still at our side. Jesus lives!—the Living among the dead—Faithful among the faithless—Changeless among the changeable—the only unfailing, unvarying Friend in a failing, varying world. Jesus lives! Then when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we shall also appear with Him in glory! Like John, we will fall down at His feet and exclaim, “THIS GOD SHALL BE OUR GOD FOREVER AND EVER!”
“I love to hear that voice of old
Which o’er Patmos’ rocky shore
Thus sweetly spoke, ‘I live; behold,
I am alive for evermore!’
“My Savior lives!—no mortal ears
Can listen to more joyous strains;
High above yonder rolling spheres
My God, and yet my Brother, reigns.
“My Savior lives! He intercedes
Still as the Lamb—the Crucified;
‘Father, I WILL’—’tis thus He pleads—
Ne’er was the boon He asked denied.
“My Savior lives!’—and still His heart
Responsive beats upon the throne
To every pang from which I smart;
He makes my tears and woes His own.
“My Savior lives!’—to see His face
My endless happiness will be;
Lord, independent of all place,
Wherever Thou art, is Heaven to me!”
“Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
by John Mac Duff, 1879 from “Paths of Elim” or “Rest and Refreshment in the Valley“, #22