And before the throne there was a sea of glass like to crystal: and in the middle of the throne, and round about the throne…
God has affixed certain peculiarities to our present state of being. It can be shown that there are portions even of the visible creation in which there can be no succession of day and night such as there is on earth — regions far removed in space from us, where clusters of suns must of necessity make perpetual sunshine. And we know from Scripture that the peculiar relation between rest and labour which is characteristic of earth, at all events as it is, is local, or temporary, or both; and that in another state of things the words of our text take the place of it, and "they rest not day and night."
I. IN EDEN THERE WAS REST WITHOUT LABOUR. Eden in its innocence gave no trouble to its inhabitants. They trimmed its roses, and trod its velvet lawns, and ate its fruits, and drank its transparent rivers, and enjoyed the tranquillity of unbroken rest. And this is the reason why, though man now cannot be really happy without employment, he naturally turns in imagination to such a state as one of perfect enjoyment. It was his primary condition before sin entered into the world.
II. WE TURN TO LABOUR AND REST — THE RELATION WHICH EXISTS ON EARTH AS IT IS. That in this state of things there should be labour is expressly declared after the fall. "In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread." That there must be rest is expressly taught: "Man goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening." And we know, in practice, that within certain limits there may be a change in the relation subsisting between the two, but that if these limits are exceeded either way, the result is ruin to man's moral and physical constitution. It degrades him to be without labour; it destroys him to be without rest. There is but one who has lived in this ruined world without sin. Christ, as man, is the model of what man ought to be in a world which is as it ought not to be. In Christ's example we see what ought to be man's state in the present world, as it respects labour and rest: that the two should interchange — that because it is paradise no longer there must be toil, and because it is still earth there must be rest — rest for bodily refreshment, rest for the friendly intercourse of one with another, rest for communion with Him whose presence alone can give the soul of man true rest.
III. There is another solution of the problem of the relation between labour and rest — LABOUR WITHOUT REST. And this is only to be found in hell. Satan himself is always represented as a being of restless activity: "going about," "walking up and down." There is a faint reflection of hell in the bosom of each unconverted man; and of such we read (Isaiah 57:20). And let me say that whatever makes earth approximate to a state of restlessness, so far makes it approach to a resemblance to the place of everlasting misery.
IV. We come to the last and best relation between rest and labour, THAT WHICH EXISTS IN HEAVEN, where they "rest not day and night," because they rest in labour. In heaven employment is unceasing — for those who are there are freed from the weariness of the flesh. Free from all infirmity, they rest not day and night. And employment is unceasing in heaven — for the employments of heaven are restoring instead of exhausting. They have life in them.
(S. Garratt, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.