No. 8

Rev 19 8

No. 8 [1]

Revelation 19:11

[1st sermon on this text]

And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses,
clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
We have hitherto considered the Captain of Salvation as going forth conquering and to conquer, and are from these words to take a view of his followers.  In the great work of redemption, he entered the lists [2] and trod the winepress alone.  And in all his wars it is his own right hand and his holy arm that gets himself the victory.  Creatures cannot help him, but rather must derive and receive from him that strength whereby they serve or follow him.  But he is pleased to be attended with his armies for the greater manifestation of his glory, and because much of what he is pleased to perform for the destruction of his enemies, and bringing down their kingdom and power, he performs by instruments, for all things serve him.
1. Enquire what are we to understand by heaven here.
2. Consider the armies of heaven.
3. Their appearance: [3]
  • on white horses
  • clothed in fine white linen
1. Concerning heaven
  We read Revelation 12:7, Then there was war in heaven.  The word cannot there mean that state of perfect blessed prepared for the righteous, for there violence and the noise of war cannot be heard.  I apprehend that both there and here it signifies the Gospel kingdom, or kingdom of Christ, as it stands distinguished from the kingdoms of this world.  The spiritual state, in which all believers have union and communion with him, both before and after death.  Heaven in this sense extends to earth, and the Lord's people are admitted even while in the body, to the privileges and intercourse of a world to which the rest of mankind are entirely strangers.  Not only the state of the saints in glory, but of the saints upon earth is called the kingdom of heaven.  While here their citizenship is in heaven and they as certainly belong to the city of God in glory, as those who are already entered into rest.  For:
  1.1 Their names are written in heaven
    Rev 19 8 purpose
    They belong to the one family who are named after the Lord Jesus.  All their names are in the book of God's eternal purpose, and therefore they appear in their successful generations and ages, and wherever their lot is cast, because he has loved them with an everlasting love, he will break through all disadvantages that may seem to obstruct his purpose and will find ways and means to draw them with loving kindness to himself.  He will send his salvation to them; though blind and deaf and dead, they shall see and hear and live.  Neither sin, ignorance, nor Satan, shall hide or detain them from the all-searching eye of the Great Shepherd when his hour of love arrives, and he comes to seek his sheep and find them out wherever they are scattered.
  1.2 They are already in heaven by representation, for Jesus is there as their head and forerunner and has taken possession in their name and behalf.  Therefore believers are said to be risen and ascended with him, and to sit with him in the heavenlies. [4]  There is their treasure, their heart and their hope.
  1.3 As I hinted before, they have real intercourse with heaven.  So it is declared (Hebrews 12 [5]).  We not only shall come, but we are already come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, to Jesus the Mediator and to God the Judge.  This is the honour of Gospel worship: his people, though poor and despised, though they meet in dens and caves of the earth, have the presence of the glory of God in the midst of them, in a far more excellent manner, than when he revealed himself by a visible glory in Solomon's Temple.  Unbelief often hides these things from our view but they are certain, and often they are manifest.  Yea, when a poor believer approaches the throne of grace, which is everywhere, in every room, in every field, under every hedge, where there is a praying heart and faith in exercise, then heaven is found upon earth; every such place, is for the time, holy ground, and the Lord causes his goodness to pass by, as he did to Moses at the bush, [6] or in the cleft of the rock. [7]
  These thoughts prepare our way to the second point:
2. What are the armies of heaven?
  Jesus is the Lord of Hosts, and in a large sense all the instruments whom the Lord employs are his armies.  The armies which chastised rebellious Israel were his.  He raised them, put them in motion, directed their march and ensured their success.  He represents himself as lifting up an ensign to the nations from afar, calling to them and hissing for them from the ends of the earth. [8]  And he paid Nebuchadnezzar['s] army for their service, and gave them the spoil of Egypt as their wages (Isa. 5:26; [9] Ezek. 29:18[ff] [10]).  So he styles [11] the swarms of locusts and caterpillars which invaded Judah, My great army (Joel 2:11,25 [12]).  

But the armies of heaven in my text, must be retrained to his servants who love him, and are willingly engaged in his cause.  These are:
  2.1 Angels
    These are obedient to his will, active in his service, attentive to his goings forth, attendants on his chariot, and ministering spirits to his people.  How far he employs them, how much they mingle with the affairs of men, in what ways they are instrumental in the preservation and consolation of his afflicted and assaulted members upon earth, we shall more clearly know when we are admitted into the world of light.  The Scripture intimates that they are near our persons, about our dwellings, present in our assemblies.  Certainly if our eyes were opened to perceive them, it would have the like effect as it had upon Elisha's servant – we should not be so often afraid of man, and cry out upon every difficulty, Alas, what shall we do? for there are more with us than with them. [13] They have a lively zeal for the glory of God, and would at his command readily plead his cause against the arrogance and wickedness of men as one of them smote Herod in the midst of his pomp and guards, for affronting their Lord, by being pleased with those who said, It is the voice of a god not of a man. [14]  They attend upon the Redeemer in his wars, and join in the chorus of praise which celebrates his conquests.
    Yet the latter part of the verse seems more peculiarly applicable to another army.  I mean:
  2.2 The saints
    And these likewise are armies, a company of two armies:
    2.2.1 The saints in glory or church triumphant
      We are not to think that they are unmindful of their Lord's concerns upon earth.  I doubt not but they have ways of knowing what passes here beyond our conception, and possibly are often nearer to us than we are aware.  I take it for granted that their attention to the wisdom and power of the Redeemer in enlarging his kingdom, and defeating the power and policy of Satan, forms a considerable part of their happiness.  Yea, they have so distinct and certain a knowledge of what passes below, that our Lord assures us, there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.  If it be but one it is known in heaven and adds to their joy. [15]  From whence I am almost ready to infer that they know the Lord's own people from the beginning of their profession.  If they were not better judges or better informed than we are, they might be disappointed.  For alas! how often is our joy of this kind, turned into mourning, when we see those of whom we once hoped well, giving up their profession, and walking no more with us.  The departed saints are called a cloud of witnesses with which we are surrounded [16] and it is a part of their privilege that they follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, and therefore when he goes forth to war, they are in his train.
    2.2.2 The saints upon earth, the church militant
      These are his soldiers actually on the field of battle, and called to endure hardship for his sake.  They are to confess his name and fight manfully for the truth, but the weapons of their warfare are not carnal.  They fight for him against the powers of darkness: some by preaching his gospel, the rest by holding it forth in their conversation, all by their prayers.  This latter is indeed their chief weapon, by which they do great things.  In this way they are hasting on the day of their Lord's power and the downfall of his enemies, and are terrible as an army with banners for nothing can finally withstand the prayers of God's people.
  But alas we may take up a lamentation, that through the workings of indwelling sin, and the temptations of Satan, the members of this army who, if they were closely united, would carry everything before them, should be so often and so sadly divided, and fighting amongst themselves, instead of joining in the common cause.  Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Ask yourselves, my friends, Who is on the Lord's side? [17]  If you love and live the Gospel, say not with Elijah, you are left to serve God alone [18] – all the praying souls on earth, all the saints in glory, all the holy angels are engaged for you.  Yea the Lord of hosts himself is with you, the God of Jacob is your refuge[19] and nothing can separate you from his love. [20]  If it be otherwise, tremble.  The armies of heaven are against you, and the Lord will shortly come with thousands of his saints, to execute the fierceness of his wrath upon you.  He has bent his bow and made ready his arrows.  O fall before him and seek his mercy before the day of his wrath come.

[1] This past week Newton had ‘a large company’. Timothy Priestley (1734-1814) (brother of Joseph, and later pastor of the Independent church in Jewin Street) arrived from Manchester – ‘a lively, active spirit… How different from his brother. It is thy grace makes us to differ. O may I daily praise thee for visiting and saving me. For surely so far as years and opportunity would permit, no one ever opposed thy name and cause with a fiercer malice. Yet I obtain mercy! Grace indeed!’ At the weekly students’ tutorial, ‘Lectured again upon the same subject as last week, sanctification, as engagements had prevented their writing, and they had lost much of what then passed.’ They requested ‘an extra lecture on predestination, chiefly on Mr Wilkinson's account who desired to hear me on that subject. I would thank thee for enabling me to see a little of the great mysteries of thy Gospel, and to speak of them with any pertinence. O that thy sovereignty and the freeness of thy salvation, might have a due impression upon my heart.’ On Friday he drank tea with Thomas Scott, and ‘was rejoiced to see how thy goodness has confirmed the hopes I conceived two years ago when we corresponded for some months. Though his views were then very dark, and he objected to almost every point proposed, yet I could perceive that thou hadst given him a sincerity which I looked upon as a token of thy farther favour. And now he seems enlightened and established in the most important points of thy Gospel, and will I trust prove an Instrument of Usefulness in thy hand.’ Scott became the finest Bible commentator of his day. His preaching would be a great help to William Wilberforce at a crucial time in his life.
On Sunday 14 September 1777 after preaching this first sermon on Revelation 19:14, Newton recorded: ‘Last night and this morning in a poor frame; my private walk and retired hour for prayer, left me dry and confused. Yet thou didst support and furnish me through the day. O thy goodness is wonderful – enabling me still to draw from the treasury of thy Word, things both new and old. May thy blessing apply the word.’ His hymn that evening was ‘The Borrowed Axe’, 2 Kings 6:5-6, The prophet's sons in times of old, Olney Hymns, Book 1, Hymn 39. See here for the week’s diary quotes and a link to his hymn in manuscript form.
[2] ‘entered the lists’ – ‘signed up for the battle’– ‘entered the area of conflict’
[3] This 3rd point is taken up in the next sermon, No. 9, as Points 2 and 3.
[4] e.g. Colossians 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
[5] Hebrews 12:1 ff Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us
[6] Exodus 3:4 ff And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I…
[7] Exodus 33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
[8] Isaiah 5:26 And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:
[9] Isaiah 5:26 as above
[10] Ezekiel 29:18 [ff] Son of man, Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus: every head was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled: yet had he no wages, nor his army, for Tyrus, for the service that he had served against it:
[11] Newton initially wrote ‘So he speaks of’ but replaced ‘speaks of’ with ‘stiles’.
[12] Joel 2:11,25 And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? and And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.
[13] 2 Kings 6:16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
[14] Acts 12:22 And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.
[15] Luke 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
[16] Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
[17] Exodus 32:26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
[18] e.g. 1 Kings 18:22 Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
See also Newton’s hymn on 1 Kings 17:6, ‘Elijah fed by ravens’, Elijah's example declares , Olney Hymns, Book 1, Hymn 35
[19] Psalm 46:7, 11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
[20] Romans 8:38,39 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Cowper & Newton Museum, Olney

Marylynn Rouse, 09/08/2016