HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. —Revelation 7:17
The first words which John ever heard of Jesus were words that described Him as a Lamb. When John was a disciple of the Baptist’s, drinking in inspiration from that stern teacher, he had heard these words fall from the Baptist’s lips, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” The apostle was a young man then, aflame with eager hope, and the words of the Baptist sank deep into his heart–so deep that through all his after years he loved to think of Jesus as the Lamb. What experiences John had had and what a vast deal he had suffered when he came to write this book of Revelation! Life and the world were different to him now from what they had been in the desert with the Baptist. Yet in Revelation, some twenty-seven times John repeats the sweet expression “Lamb of God”–the first words he had ever heard of Christ. How blessed is a life when from its first stage to its last there runs through it one regulating thought! What concentration it bestows on the character! What vividness it gives to the perceptions! There are men who are everything by turns and nothing long–unstable as water, they shall not excel. New ideas seize on them powerfully today, and other ideas as powerfully tomorrow. But men like John, grasping some great truth early, hold to it through storm and sunshine, through Babylon and Patmos, till it expands and breaks into a thousand meanings and becomes a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
The Unchangeableness of the Lamb of God
Various thoughts are at once suggested to me by the beautiful and musical message of our text and the first is that Christ in heaven today is the very Christ who walked by the banks of Jordan. “Behold the Lamb of God,” said the Baptist there; and “in the midst of the throne, a Lamb as it had been slain.” In the opening chapter of this book of Revelation there is a strange and wonderful vision of the Lord: His head and His hairs were white as snow, and His eyes were as fire, and His feet were like fine brass as if they burned in a furnace. There is deep meaning in every line of that description, but perhaps the first thought to arise in us when we read it is that this is not the Jesus whom we knew in Galilee. It is August and terrible–a vision of light and splendour–and John when he saw it fell at His feet as dead, but it is not like Him who agonized in Gethsemane and whose tears fell beside the grave of Lazarus. But here it is the Lamb in the midst of the throne, as in the desert it had been the Lamb of God. Here, in the glory, it is the Lamb slain, as in Isaiah it had been a lamb led to the slaughter. And we feel at once that not all the height of heaven, nor all the inconceivable grandeurs of God’s throne, have changed the nature of the love of Him who was pointed to beside the Jordan.
I think we all need to be assured of that, for we are very prone to disbelieve it. Somehow, we think, our Saviour in the glory must be different from what He was long ago. We know that He is no longer rejected and despised, and we know that the body of His humiliation has been glorified until insensibly we transfer these changes from His outward nature to His heart as though death and resurrection had altered that. So we conceive Christ as far away from us, separated from the beating of the human heart; glorious, yet not so full of tender brotherhood as in the days of Capernaum and Bethany. That error is combated by the vision of the Lamb in heaven. Purity, gentleness, and sacrifice are there. The wrath of the Lamb grows terrible just as we remember that that wrath is love rejected and despised. And in the Last Judgment when the Lamb shall be our judge it will not be the majesty of God that will overwhelm us; it will be that we are face to face, at last, with the love and with the sacrifice of Christ.
Our Need of Christ in Heaven
Another thought which our text suggests is this, that we shall need Christ in heaven as much as we do here. The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them–even in heaven there shall be no feeding without Christ. I ask you to note how carefully in these verses John distinguishes between Jesus and His Father. Who shall feed the redeemed? The Lamb in the midst of the throne. Who shall wipe away their tears? Not the Lamb, but God. Now I cannot dwell here on the reasons–the deep reasons–why the consoling of heaven is named as the Father’s work; what I ask you to note is that the satisfaction of glory is not a thing of course, that comes inevitably–it is entirely dependent on Christ Jesus. The Lamb which is in the throne shall feed them. On the Lamb depends the satisfaction of eternity. Heaven might be heaven, and God might still be there in His eternal splendour; but even in heaven the redeemed would starve, save for the Lamb in the midst of the throne.
We all know in some measure how great and how constant is our need of Christ on earth. There are moments–often moments of distress and darkness–when every true follower can truly say, “Thou, O Christ, art all I want.” In the soberest senses, it is the Lamb who feeds us here–it is on Him we are dependent for everything that nourishes us–without His love and His sacrifice and His revelation of God, there would be no spiritual pasturage on earth. But do we not sometimes think that death will change all that? Are we not prone to imagine that in the world beyond, the need of being nourished by Christ Jesus will be less? Have we not some dim idea that heaven is like a garden–so fair, so fragrant, and so beautiful in itself, that only to open our eyes there will be rest, and only to wander in its sunshine will be peace? However, such an idea may arise within us, remember that it is not the concept of the Bible. The Lamb which is in the throne shall feed them; the need of Christ in heaven is supreme. Every tie that binds us to Him here is strengthened there; all feelings of dependence are infinitely deepened. All that we owe to Him on earth is but a tithe of what we shall owe to Him when we awake.
It is suggested, too, by the words of the original that this feeding shall be a perpetual process. Not once nor for a day shall the Lamb feed the flock; He shall feed them continually and forever. As John looked back on his discipleship in Galilee, one feature of it impressed him very powerfully. It was that the Lamb of God, whom the Baptist had directed him to follow, had taught him everything gradually and slowly. One truth today, one miracle tomorrow, and always and only as the disciples could bear it; little by little, with perfect adaptation, had the Lamb led them into ever deeper knowledge. That was one mark of the feeding of the Lamb, and every year that he lived, John grew more grateful for it. He saw the patience and the gentle constancy with which he had been led into all truth.
Spiritual Progress in Heaven
And now in Patmos John lifts his eyes to heaven, and there are they who came out of great tribulation; and the Lamb is there–a Lamb as it had been slain–and the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them. What did that mean to John? What did it recall to him? It spoke to him of quiet perseverance. There was progress and ever-growing reception of the truth in heaven for John, and there was all that because the Lamb was there.
Have you incorporated that thought into your view of glory? It is bound up with the true thought of Christ. Just because He is the same yesterday and forever, there will be gradual unfoldings of joy through all eternity. It is true we shall hunger no more, and we shall thirst no more. We shall be satisfied when we awake. Yet John had been satisfied in his first hour with Jesus, but what great and lofty truths had he still to learn! Not all at once shall the mysteries be solved and every truth we have longed to know be taught us. Not all at once shall the full and glorious secret be flashed in its splendour on our awakened eyes. Through all eternity we shall go on to serve. Through all eternity we shall go on to learn. The love of God will expand and deepen endlessly so that every fresh hour will have its sweet surprise. Not God in the first person, but the Lamb–the gradual and patient teacher of the Twelve–the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them.
The Position of the Lamb
Lastly, and most significant of all, will you note the position in which the Lamb is standing. Be sure it is no chance that the saints are fed in glory by a Lamb who stands, where?–in the midst of the throne. Not in the confines of heaven, not on its distant borders, does the Lamb stand who shall pasture the redeemed. In the very centre and seat of power, He has His place: He is the Lamb in the midst of the throne. There are few grander pictures in the Bible than John’s conception of the heavenly kingdom. It is like one of those drawings by Dore of the Paradise of Dante in which there is a circle within the circle of wheeling angels. That is the kind of vision which John had of glory as if from its utmost and dim verge it were filled with ranks and choirs; and as the circles drew nearer and nearer to the centre, they were composed of nobler and more glorious beings. In the very centre of that mighty confluence was a throne–it was the throne of the immortal and eternal God. And in the very centre of the throne, standing in front of it, there was a Lamb. And not any angel from distant rank or choir, not even the flaming cherubim or glowing seraphim–not these, but the Lamb in the midst of the throne shall feed them. That means that the redeemed shall be fed not only gently, but by One who stands in the place of sovereign power. None can gainsay Him there; none can withstand Him; none can contest His access to green pastures. The Lamb who feeds them is in the midst of the throne–the sceptre of universal power is His now.
In this present world of shadows and of sorrow, have we not often longed for an authoritative voice? Are there not mysteries on every hand that press upon us with a terrible insistence on our hearts? And men try to explain these things to us, and such men may be taught of God, yet the noblest explanation leaves a ring of cloud so vast that we can only bow the head and say, Now we know in part and see in part. It is true that God does not leave us in the darkness–His word is a light unto our feet. When we trust Him there is always light for the next step, and it is the next step that is the road to glory. Still, there remains much doubt and much uncertainty, baffling us and sometimes overwhelming us, and there always will remain till one who knows us thoroughly speaks to us from the very centre of authority. That is the meaning of the Lamb in the midst of the throne. Before the mountains were created or the hills were formed, that throne was there. From it the worlds were created; from it, the nations were fashioned; from it has gone forth the plan of every life. Every shadow was foreseen there, every tear and every grave–and from the midst of that throne, the Lamb shall feed them. Does not that illuminate the joy that cometh in the morning? Does it not assure us that we shall be satisfied?