HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
And there shall be no night there, and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign forever and ever. —Revelation 22:5
I venture to say that with this expression there creeps in a touch of unreality. It is difficult to associate thrones with the immortal life of our beloved dead. We can readily picture them as serving, for they loved to serve when they were here. Nor, remembering how they searched for it, is it hard to believe that they see His face. But to conceive of them as reigning and having crowns and sitting upon thrones introduces a note of unreality. For many of them that would not be heaven. It would be the last thing they would desire. For they were modest folk, given to self-effacement, haunting the shadowy avenues of life. And if individuality persists, they will carry over into another world those lowly graces that made us love them here. We can always think of an Augustine as reigning. But the saints we knew and loved were seldom Augustines. They were gentle souls, shrinking from publicity, perfectly happy in the lowest place. It is hard to see how natures such as that could ever be quite at home in heaven if in heaven their calling were to reign. But the Scripture cannot be broken. It is a revelation, not conjecture. If there is anything in it that offends the heart, we may be certain the error lies with us. So I believe that the difficulty here and the jarring note that grates upon the sensitive lie in our wrong ideas of reigning.
That there is something wrong with these popular ideas is demonstrated by one forgotten fact. It is that the saints do not begin to reign when they pass into the other world. If kingship were confined to heaven, the nature of it would lie beyond our understanding. It would be one of those things that eye had never seen, which God hath prepared for them who love Him. But kingship is not confined to heaven, according to the concept of the Scriptures. It is a present possession of the saints. We do not read that Christ will make us kings. We read that He hath made us kings (Revelation 1:5). Loosed from our sins in His own blood, we begin to reign in the moment of redemption. And the reign in glory, which troubles meek souls, is not something different from that, but that enlarged and expanded to its fullness. This harmonizes with the general mind of Scripture in the glimpses it affords of immortality. It pictures it as a completion rather than as a contradiction. It takes such human things as love and service and tells us that in the land beyond the river such beautiful graces are going to be perfect. In what sense, then, do the saints reign here? How is the humblest child of God a king? There is no throne here, nor any visible crown, nor any of the insignia of regality. If we can grasp the kingship of believers amid all the infirmities of time, we have the key to understand the mystery of their reign forever and forever.
Our Reign Will Not Be in the Earthly Sense
And it is just here that a word of Christ’s casts a flash of light upon our difficulty. “The kings of the Gentiles,” He says, “exercise lordship, but it shall not be so with you.” Are not all our common thoughts of kingship taken from the royalty of such monarchs? Does not their state and the insignia of it fill our minds when we meditate on reigning? And Jesus tells us that this whole concept, gathered from the facts of earthly lordship, is alien now and alien forever from the lordship and dominion of His own. He that would be greatest must be least. The monarch is the servant. Kingship is not an irresponsible authority: it is love that gives itself in glad abandonment. It is love that goes to the uttermost in service just as He went to the uttermost in service and so reigns forever from the cross. It is thus a Christian mother reign amid the restless rebellions of her children. It is thus that many a lowly toiler reigns over the hearts and lives of everyone around him. It is thus the Salvation Army lassie queens it over the rough and reckless slum though she carries no sceptre in her hand and her only crown is the familiar bonnet. The kingship of believers here has nothing whatever to do with pagan lordship. At the command of the Lord Jesus, we must banish such concepts from our mind. The only kingship of the saints on earth is that of the glad abandonment of love in an unceasing and undefeated service.
Now it seems to me that all our trouble vanishes when we carry that thought into the other world. If this be reigning, then in the life of heaven our dear ones will be perfectly at home. We would not have them other than we knew them when they were with us here amid the shadows. The thought of heaven would be too dearly purchased if it robbed us of their lowly, quiet gentleness. But if the sway they won over our hearts on earth, perfected, be their eternal reigning, then they can still reign and be the same. Reigning will not alter them. It will not render them recognizable. It will not touch that lowly loving service which made them so inexpressibly dear. It will only expand it into fullest kingliness, setting a crown of gold upon its head. They shall reign forever and forever.