WHO ARE the “Cloud of Witnesses”? “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, LOOKING UNTO JESUS the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Primarily, “the cloud” would include all those mentioned in the previous chapter of Hebrews, where the witness and life of departed saints was described by the phrase “by faith.” It is those whose lives were lived by the faith of God’s elect, living on the promises of God, even the promise of salvation in Christ Jesus, who, to them, was yet in the future. But it could also include all those departed saints who died in the faith after Christ came. The list in Hebrews 11 contains saints who looked forward in faith, but the departed saints after the coming of Christ looked BACK in faith. It is all the same faith of God.
I suppose we would be safe to say the “cloud” bespeaks of DEPARTED saints, maybe not living saints, but I would not be too dogmatic on that. Living or dead, all are witnesses of the same faith.
Whether living or dead, we ARE surrounded by WITNESSES, those living by and testifying to their faith in Christ Jesus, and who by that life and testimony they edify us, instruct us and encourage us not only with comfort but with warnings.
Maybe “the cloud” bespeaks” only of departed saints, but in addition we can say that we also are surrounded by living witnesses as well who are presently still living out that same faith. “The just shall live by faith.” “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Verse 1 of Hebrew 11, “the faith chapter,” says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for [a lively expectation], the evidence of things NOT seen.”
Note this glorious verse: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”
Now I say to you, if you can get daily visits from such a “cloud of witnesses,” would not that be super great, a tremendous blessing indeed, the best way to start your day with beauty and strength? Would it not be marvelous and glorious, a thing to be desired and also to be relished? I should say so!
Well you CAN! This “cloud” of departed laborers are now resting from their labors, BUT THEIR WORKS DO FOLLOW THEM.
So I invite them into my home daily so that I might partake of their labors, to be instructed and to be taught and encouraged in my own “walk of faith.” And what glorious visits they are with such holy visitors, this “cloud of witnesses.” And I might add, it would be a grave mistake to leave out in the cold the LIVING witnesses who have a story to tell as well!
Let me warn you, though, don’t invite only those who carry the tag name of your denomination. You will miss out on a lot of truth if you insist that your visitor not enter unless he has the same tag name YOU have, if you have one at all. In my visits, I care not what their tag name was when living, if they even had a tag name other than “Christian.” I have found with the living or the dead, the gifted and holy saints “of every stripe” as long as they believed the true gospel, have much truth to share, maybe even in areas we not used to hearing. If God gifted them, then it is for the reason that His living saints learn from those gifts. The truth of God is so vast that it takes all the gifts even to “to scratch the surface.” So if you want to be sectarian and exclusive with a party spirit—YOUR party—then you will miss out on much of the very truth of God!
One thing that bothers me is that even this great “cloud of witnesses” is so large that I do not even know who all to invite in! I am kept very busy even by inviting just a few of them. Yet there are so many MORE!
Remember, when they come into my home for a visit, all conversation is about the Lord Jesus, and is directed to the things of God and His Christ. We don’t bother with the mundane, or worldly conversation. In their coming, it is that their “works do follow them.” In fact, their works or labors may even be more appreciated NOW than when they lived on earth. Such is typically the case. Just as the Bible speaks of those who honored the prophets of God after they were gone, but killed them when they were living! Often a minister had his antagonists and enemies while he was alive, but some of the same people turn and honor him after he is dead.
Men like Charles Spurgeon and A. W. Pink have been read and appreciated by more people after they died than they saw when alive. They are DEAD now, and their works “do follow them.”
So I invite them into my home every morning. There is no better way to start the day. And it is also “redeeming the time,” for the days are evil. It is “drawing near to God.” And oh how I love these visits!
Who are some of these daily visitors among the “cloud of witnesses”? Here is a short list, a VERY short list:
The Bible writers
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
J. C. Philpot
Arthur W. Pink
Robert Murray M’Cheyne
J. C. Ryle
There just is no good reason for people to fail to benefit from such holy visits.