Repent; or else I will come to you quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
The Christian life is often compared in Scripture to "a warfare." It is not enough to put on the armour and to commence the battle. He that overcometh, and he alone, will receive the salutation, "Well done, good and faithful servant." But we are not left to fight without encouragement. As generals before a battle go in front of their troops to stimulate them to valour, so Christ, the Captain of our salvation, leads on the consecrated hosts of His elect.
I. THE PROMISE.
1. The promise of the hidden manna. God fed the Israelites in the wilderness with manna. A portion of this was laid by in the ark, and thus was hidden from public view. Christ, speaking of the manna as a type of Himself, said, "I am the Bread which came down from heaven." Jesus is the food of our faith, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." He is the food of our love, "We love Him because He first loved us." He is the food of our obedience, "The love of Christ constraineth us." He is the food of our peace, for when "justified by faith, we have peace with God." He is the food of our joy, for if "we joy in God" it is "through Jesus Christ our Lord." He is the food of our hope, "that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ." The manna which sustained the Israelites was evidently the gift of God. And so this "hidden manna" is from heaven. It is no contrivance of man, no philosophy of human invention. "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son." It is spoken of as the "hidden manna." Such is the Christian's life. "Our life is hid with Christ in God." The outward effects of it may be seen, but the inner life is invisible. So is the nourishing of the life. You may see the Christian on his knees, you may hear the words which he utters, but you cannot see the streams of Divine influence which are poured into his spirit; nor hear the sweet whispers of Divine love which fill him with joy; nor comprehend the peace passing all understanding which he is permitted to experience. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." Were this promise merely the reward of final victory, that victory itself would never be gained. We need to eat this manna during our pilgrimage. We cannot live without it. Every act of overcoming will be followed by a verification of the promise, "I will give him to eat of the hidden manna." Yet we must look beyond the present life for its full accomplishment. As the manna was hidden in the ark, and that ark was hidden behind the curtain of the holy of holies, so the Christian's hope "as an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, enters into that which is within the veil." Those joys we cannot yet conjecture; their splendour is too intense.
2. The promise of the white stone. At a time when houses of public entertainment were less common, private hospitality was the more necessary. When one person was received kindly by another, or contract of friendship was entered into, the tessera was given. It was so named from its shape, being four-sided; it was sometimes of wood, sometimes of stone; it was divided into two by the contracting parties; each wrote his own name on half of the tessera; then they exchanged pieces, and therefore the name or device on the piece of the tessera which each received was the name the other person had written upon it, and which no one else knew but him who received it. It was carefully prized, and entitled the bearer to protection and hospitality. Plautus, in one of his plays, refers to this custom. Hanno inquires of a stranger where he may find Agorastoclcs, and discovers to his surprise that he is addressing the object of his search. "If so," he says, "compare, if you please, this hospitable tessera; here it is; I have it with me." Agorastocles replies, "It is the exact counterpart; I have the other part at home." Hanno responds, "O my friend, I rejoice to meet thee; thy father was my friend, my guest; I divided with him this hospitable tessera." "Therefore," said Agorastocles, "thou shalt have a home with me, for I reverence hospitality." Beautiful illustration of gospel truth! The Saviour visits the sinner's heart, and being received as a guest, bestows the white stone, the token of His unchanging love. He who chooses the sinner's heart as His banqueting chamber, spreads there His choicest gifts — His exceeding great and precious promises, His finished sacrifice, His human sympathy, His perfect example, His pure precepts, His all-prevailing intercession, the various developments of His infinite love. He enrols our name among His friends. "He makes an everlasting covenant with us, ordered in all things and sure." He promises never to leave nor forsake us. He tells us we "shall never perish." He gives us the tessera, the white stone! Is not this "the witness of the Spirit," the "earnest of the promised possession"? Does not His voice in our heart echo to His voice in the written Word? On this white stone is inscribed a "new name." The part of the tessera which each of the contracting parties received contained the name of the other. And therefore the "new name" on the "white stone" which he that overcometh receives is that of Him who gives it. By the unbeliever God is known Power, as Majesty, as Justice. The Christian alone knows Him as "Love." He was once Ruler — now He is Friend; He was once Judge — now He is Father. Do you know God by His "new name"? Do you so know Him as to wish no longer to hide from Him, but to hide in Him, as the only home in which you can be Bale and happy? Then, everywhere, in every city and every village, on the desert and on the ocean, in the solitude of secrecy and in the solitude of a crowd, in the bustle of business and in the sick chamber, a Friend is at hand who will always recognise the white stone He gave us as a token of His love. We have only to present it to claim the fulfilment of His promise. What Divine entertainment we shall receive! What safety from peril! What succour in difficulty! What comfort in trouble! What white raiment! What heavenly food! What exalted fellowship! What secure repose! A day is coming when we must leave the homes of earth, however endeared, and embrace for the last time the friends united to us as our own souls. What kind roof will receive us? What loving friend will welcome us? We shall not have left our best treasure behind! No! we shall carry the white stone with us; and looking for no inferior abode, shall advance at once right up to the palace of the Great King. We present the tessera; the "new name" is legible upon it; the angelic guards recognise the symbol; the everlasting gates lift up their heads; and the voice of Jesus Himself invites us to enter!
II. THE CONDITION ANNEXED. A great war is being waged. It is not merely between the Church as a whole and the powers of darkness as a whole; it is not merely an affair of strategy between two vast armies, wherein skilful manoeuvres determine the issue, many on either side never coming into actual combat; but it is also a duel, for every Christian has to fight hand to hand with the enemy. God, as our Creator and Redeemer, justly demands our obedience and love. Whatever interferes with these claims is an enemy summoning us to battle. The world, the flesh, and the devil, draw up their battalions in imposing array. If we would possess the promise, we must "overcome" them. A mere profession of religion is of no avail. We must devote ourselves entirely and unreservedly to this great daily battle of life. It is a warfare until death. While we are in the body it will be always true, "We wrestle." The oldest Christian cannot lay aside his weapons. The whole of the way, up to the very gate of heaven, is beset with foes, and we must fight to the last if we would overcome and enter in. Ah, it is no soft flowery meadow along which we may languidly stroll, but a rough, craggy cliff that we must climb. "To him that overcometh!" It is no smooth, placid stream along which we may dreamily float, but a tempestuous ocean we must stem. "To him that overcometh!" It is no lazy lolling in a cushioned chariot that bears us on without fatigue and peril, but plodding painfully in heavy marching order up the long and weary and beleagured road of self-sacrifice. "To him that overcometh!" It is not a time of listless repose, of careless mirth, as if no danger threatened, no foe were near. We fight in good company. The truly wise of all ages are on our side. We have the assured hope of victory.
(Newman Hall, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.