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 The saints higher in glory than the angels. It is evident that the four and twenty elders in the Revelation do represent the church or company of glorified saints by their song, Chap. v. 9, 10. “ Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open
the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.” But these are represented from time to time as sitting in a state of honour, with white raiment and crowns of gold, and in seats of dignity, in thrones of glory, next to the throne of God and the Lamb, being nextly the most observable and conspicuous sight to God, and Christ, and the four living ones. Chap. iv. 4. “ And round about the throne were four and twenty seats, and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment, and they had on their heads crowns of gold.” So chap. v. 6. “And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne, and of the four living ones, and in the midst of the elders stood a Lamb, as it had been slain.” And the angels are represent. ed as further off from the throne than they being round about them, as they are round about the throne, and the beasts, and the elders, and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands. So chap. vii. 11. “ And all the angels stood round about the throne and about the elders, and fell down before the throne on their faces and worshipped God.” These things make the matter of the superiority of the privilege of the saints in heaven very plain.
(1281] Hades-Saints before the resurrection-saints in heaven have communion in the prosperity of the church on earth. There are three things very manifest from Heb. vi. 12; “ That ye be not slotkful, but followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
1. That the souls of the saints do go to a state of rewards and glorious happiness before the Resurrection. That although the resurrection be indeed the proper time of their reward, and their happiness before be small in comparison of what it will be afterwards, yet that they are received to such a degree of happiness before, that they may be said to be in possession of the promises of the covenant of grace.
Those whom the apostle has reference to, when he speaks of them that now inherit the promises, are the Old Testament saints, and particularly the patriarchs, as appears by the next words, where the apostle instances in Abraham, and the promise made to him, and of his patiently enduring, and then obtaining the promise.
Again : It is manifest the things promised to Abraham which the apostle speaks of, were things which were not fulâlled till
after his death; and it is manifest by what the apostle expressly declares in this epistle that he supposed that Abraham and the other Patriarchs did not obtain the promises while in this life, chap. xi. 13. Speaking there of these patriarchs in particular, he says, “ Those all died in faith, not having received the promises.” But here he speaks of them as now inheriting the promises. This word, as it is used every where in the New Testament, implies actual possession of the inheritance; and so as it is used in the Septuagint. It generally signifies the actual possessing of an inheritance, lot, estate, or portion, and that being now in actual possession of the promised happiness, is what the apostle means in this place, is beyond dispute, by what he says, as further explaining himself in the words immediately following; where he says that Abraham, after he had patiently endured, obtained the promise. He not only has the right of an heir to the promise, which he had while he lived, but he actually obtained it, though he died, not having received the promise. And that we should suppose this to be the meaning of the apostle, is agreeable to what he says, chap. x. 36. “ For ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” And that the apostle, when he speaks here of Abraham's having obtained the promise after patiently enduring, does not mean merely in a figurative sense, viz. that the promise of multiplying his natural posterity was fulfilled after his death, though he was dead, and his soul asleep, knowing nothing of the matter, for the word is in the present tense, inherit the promises, not only did obtain them, but continues still to possess and enjoy them, though Abraham's natural seed had been greatly diminished, and the promised land at that time under the dominion of the heathen, and the greater part of the people at that time broken off by unbelief, and rejected from being God's people, and their city, and land, and the bulk of the nation on the borders of the most dreadful destruction and desolation that ever befel any people.
2. If we compare this with what the apostle says elsewhere in this epistle, it is manifest that the saints he speaks of inherit the promises in heaven, and not in any other place in the bowels of the earth, or elsewhere called Hades. For it is evident that the promised inheritance which they looked for and sought after, and the promises of which they by faith were persuaded of and embraced, and the promise of wbich drew their hearts off from this world, was in heaven; this is manifest by chap. xi. 13, 14, 15, 16, “ These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were persuad
ed of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is an heavenly, wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city." And the heavenly inheritance in the heavenly Canaan, or land of rest, which Christ has entered into, is that which the apostle all along in this epistle speaks of as the great subject matter of God's promises which the saints obtain through faith and patience. Chap. iii. 11. 14, and chap. iv. 1.3. 9, 10, 11; viii. 6, and ix. 15, and x. 34, and xii. 1, 2. 16, to the end.
3. Another thing, which may be strongly argued from this, is, that the happiness of the separate souls of saints in heaven consists very much in beholding the works of God relating to man's redemption wrought here below, and the stages of infinite grace, wisdom, holiness, and power in establishing and building up the church of God on earth. For what was that promise which the apostle here has special reference to, and expressly speaks of, that Abraham obtained after he had patiently endured, which promise God confirmed with an oath, and in which we Christians and all the heirs of the promise partake with Abraham, and in the promises of which to be greatly confirmed, we have strong consolation and great hope? The apostle tells us, verses 13, 14, “ For, when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself; saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee." This promise is chiefly fulfilled in the great increase of the church of God by the Messiah, and particularly in the calling of the Gentiles, pursuant to the promise made to Abraham, that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed, Rom. iv. 11. 13. 16, 17; Heb. xi. 12.
When the apostle speaks of their inheriting the promises, he seems to have a special respect to the glorious accomplishment of the great promises made to the patriarchs concerning their seed row in those days of the gospel; as is greatly confirmed by chap. xi. 39, “ And these all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect ;” plainly signifying, that they received not the promise in their life-time; the promise having respect to that better thing that was to be accomplished in that age, in which the apostle and those he wrote to lived, and that the promise they relied upon was not completed, and their faith and hope in the promise not crowned, till they saw this better thing accomplished. Rev. xiv. 13. “ They rest from their labours, and their works do follow them;" follow with them, MET AUTWV, not to come many thousand years after them, as Mr. Baxter observes. Doddridge on Rev. xiv. 13.