“The measure of a man, that is, of the angel.” – Revelation 21:17
The world has made so much progress in external things that this marvelous development tends to absorb all of man’s attention. Think of the immense increase of the mechanical aids to life, of the improved means of transportation on land, sea, and air; think of the telephone, telegraph, and wireless, and of the almost innumerable conveniences for home and farm. Think of free schools, of the flood of literature from the presses, of the theatres and moving pictures. Ease and comfort are supplied with little or no effort or thought on our part. Amusement and recreation are enjoyed with little cost of personal exertion. The family may sit at home around the fireside and listen to plays, concerts, public discussions, sermons and addresses thousands of miles away in a far-off city. And now we are to have educational TV. Do we realize that in this answers will have to be given, and so the necessity of original thinking will be taken away? The result of all this is that the average man becomes a victim of sensations and ideas, never developing the habit of independent thinking and sustained effort. The wide and easy distribution of knowledge and opinion makes men susceptible to literary, scientific, political, and religious propaganda.
In this atmosphere materialistic standards are easily set up, and the achievements of men made paramount. In some cases the name of God is used and religious terms are employed, but the meaning has gone out of them.
When in exile on the Isle of Patmos, his eyes being opened in vision, the apostle John saw the Holy City New Jerusalem descending out of heaven bright with the glory of God. This city, in which the Lord dwells and of which He is the light and life, presents to us in symbol language the truth that there is one standard and source of good, and that this source is the Lord. And it is said of this holy city that it is “the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.”
All things in this world must have a measure. Time is measured by the hour, distance by the yard, area by the square mile, liquids by the gallon, solids by the pound, velocity by feet per second, the angle by degrees. Then we have atomic weights, specific gravity, and so on. There are measures for tensile strength, malleability, a measure for force – the horsepower, a measure for pressure – the atmosphere. If a new element or force is discovered, a standard of measurement has to be established before it can be made of service to us. The practical application of electricity began with the fixing of its units of measure, the watt, the volt, the ohm.
Spiritual elements and forces likewise must have their standards of measure. Honesty has such a standard; so have justice, liberty, faith, and all the virtues. We recognize this when we say that a man “does not measure up to standard.” And yet, though men have different standards, there is but one universal true standard – the Holy City, which is the measure of a man.
The city was four-square. We know what we mean when we say that a man is “square,” and it is a searching commentary on the conditions we have allowed to develop among our young people that with many of them today “a square” is a term of disapproval. A square has four sides, looking equally to the four quarters. When without prejudice or favor we look equally at all sides of a question, we act justly. We use these same forms of measurement when we say that a man has a long head, or that he is narrow-minded or short-sighted. Of the Holy City the length, breadth, and height were equal.
In men love, truth, and act must be equal. We can have really no more of truth than of love or of love than of truth. Truth is the measure of our love because we can do no more good than we know how to do. Efforts to do good without adequate knowledge often result in positive harm.
There are two great principles by which all our acts should be measured, the principle of love to the Lord and the principle of love to the neighbor. In the eleventh chapter of Revelation we are told of the two witnesses that were slain and their dead bodies exposed “in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”
Today, the day of the opened Word and of increase in knowledge, it is granted to see more deeply into laws and principles. There is but one true standard: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” This seems to be setting before us the unattainable, something impossible of realization by finite man. But the Word is for angels as well as for men, and for eternity as well as for time; so the standard must be no less than perfection, a goal which we can work toward eternally. In the book of Revelation, as the seals were successively opened, resistance increased as the deeper evils were exposed and condemned, but it was promised that “he that overcometh shall inherit all things.”
The Lord said plainly, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” The testimony of the Word is that God created man and that Jehovah of the Old Testament is Christ of the New. This is one major principle. The other is the testimony of the Word concerning man – that he has no light or power in himself, but must learn and keep the commandments.
To many today religion is considered to be merely a natural development of human life. So we hear it said that service to man is service to God. It is true that service to man from love of God is service to God, but this witness is slain when the measure of human love and affection is used in place of the measure of Divine love. There is no faith in the Lord without love to Him. We cannot love the neighbor and at the same time love the Lord if we have no knowledge or thought of the Lord. Self-love is the ruling passion of the natural man, no matter how that self-love may be disguised by external love of the family, children, and the neighbor. The slaying of the second witness is the worship of man, the setting up of the precepts of men in place of the precepts of the Word as the standard for life. And how common this is! How prone many are to look to the wisdom of man for light rather than to the truths of revelation!
“And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” Jerusalem was literally where the Lord was crucified, but the spiritual place of His crucifixion is called Sodom and Egypt – the denial of His true character, the substitution of natural affections and natural learning for the Divine love and the Divine wisdom.
And it is recorded, “And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.” They rejoice over the death of the witnesses because they are relieved of a troublesome power which disturbs them with warnings. When truth is silenced and good is laid to sleep, these tormentors of conscience cease to trouble and leave men free to indulge in the delights of the love of self and the world.
This is not “the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.” The only angels who are created are men. Interiorly we are now in the spiritual world. When we are taken to heaven, we shall be the same persons that we have been here, with our inner nature brought forth. We are placed here to learn the Lord’s will and do it. It is His will that we form our lives according to His Word and express His love in our dealings with our fellow men.
The prophet Isaiah writes, “O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.” What are the things that make men really to live? We need to go to the Word to get this information. Each one of us is putting his life with its hopes into his work of today, and with many it seems that the idea is first to get ahead, to become big in the eyes of the world, and then there will be time to think about another world. But we should not put off thinking in terms of eternal life. If from day to day there is no thought in our minds other than that of present satisfaction and advancement in the eyes of the world, the effect of all our labors will not last.
The Lord’s life is our example. He saw men laboring for that bread which satisfieth not, and said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” From our earliest beginning we should learn what life is for, what is real happiness and abundant life. We recall that Martha was cumbered about much serving, but of Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet and heard His word it was said that she had chosen the good part. Our day to day thinking must be based on spiritual rather than on worldly concepts.
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.”