And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:…
And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: and the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, etc. I do not know that I can turn these words to a more legitimate and practical use than by using them as an illustration of genuine soul discipline. In this light they suggest to us the source, the ministers, and the indispensability of genuine soul discipline.
I. THE SOURCE OF GENUINE SOUL DISCIPLINE. "After that [these things] I looked [saw], and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened" (ver. 5). The discipline, as we have seen, was of a painful character. It involved "seven angels" with "seven plagues." Whence did it proceed? Not from secondary instrumentalities, fortuitous circumstances, or a heartless, rigorous fatality, but direct from the presence of the Infinite. The language here points to the inner compartment of the old Jewish tabernacle, known as the "holy of holies." There the Jew regarded Jehovah as especially revealing himself to them, and as communicating to them his ideas and plans. To a genuinely disciplined soul all influences from heaven tending to purify and ennoble are regarded as coming direct from the presence of the great Father. Its inner eye, so to speak, is so opened and quickened that it glances into the very shrine of the Almighty. It feels that "every good and perfect gift cometh down from the Father of lights," etc. It is a characteristic, or rather a law, of true religiousness that it bears the soul away through nature, churches, and chapels, right up into the very presence of God, to the very fontal Source of all good, the mighty Mainspring that works the universe. God is its all in all. It can truly say, "I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened" (ver. 5). The grand difference between a spurious and a genuine religiousness of soul is this - the one busies itself about the fussy doings and foggy dogmas of little sects, and the other is so absorbed with the Supreme Good, that it feels with the old Hebrew, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and whom on earth do I desire but thee?"
II. THE MINISTERS OF GENUINE SOUL DISCIPLINE. "And the seven angels came out of the temple, having [that had] the seven plagues" (ver. 6). The great Father who makes his children "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light," carries on his sublime educational work by angels or ministers. Concerning those ministers, observe:
1. They are complete in number and qualification. "Seven angels" and "seven plagues."
2. They go forth direct from his presence. "Came out of the temple," etc.
3. They are divinely marked and attired as God's priests. "Clothed [arrayed] in pure and white linen [precious stones pure and bright], and having their breasts girded [girt about the breasts] with golden girdles" (ver. 6).
4. They have a commission of severity. "And one of the four beasts [living creatures] gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials [bowls] full of the wrath of God, who liveth forever and ever" (ver. 7). (The wrath of God is his antagonism to sin.) In the great moral school of humanity there has always been, as in all schools, not a little severity. True soul education involves pain. The very severity is a blessing. "What son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" "Our light afflictions, which are but for a moment," etc. Whilst the majority of men regard this life as a market, or a banquet, or a playground, he who regards it as a great moral school has the only true idea - as a school in which every object is a lesson, every agent a teacher, and every teacher coming forth directly from God.
III. THE INDISPENSABILITY OF GENUINE SOUL DISCIPLINE. "No man [no one] was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled [should be finished]" (ver. 8). The idea suggested is that no man could enter into the shrine or into the immediate presence of God until the discipline had been fully accomplished. Here is a commentary on this: "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart, who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity." Cleanness in hands and heart means having conduct void of offence towards God and man. Freedom from vanity means moral reality. These two things, moral cleanness and moral reality, are the qualifications for ascending to the "holy hill," or fellowship with God. "It is not," says Luther, "he who sings so well or so many psalms, nor he who fasts or watches so many days, nor he who divides his own among the poor, nor he who preaches to others, nor he who lives quietly, kindly, and friendly, nor, in fine, is it he who knows all sciences and languages, nor he who works all virtuous and all good works that ever any man spoke or read of; but it is he alone who is pure within and without." - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: