"The Day of the Lord"
THE SEVENTH (AND LAST) VISION "ON EARTH."
We must get a complete view of these in order to embrace them all and view them as a whole.
The Structure shows their true sequence:
E7., 19:17㬐:15. The Seventh (and Last) Vision "on Earth."
From this Structure we see that these judgments are arranged alternately, as they affect Men and Satan: thus completing the 7th Seal, the 7th Trumpet, and the 7th Vial, finishing the "mystery" or secret purpose of God concerning Satan and Man; Jew and Gentile; Heaven and Earth.
These judgments embrace the setting right of what is wrong; the setting up of what is good; and the putting down and final destruction of all that is evil.
Each of these five Scriptures has its own peculiar Structure, which we propose to give in their due order.
The following is the Structure of
C, 19:17-. The Angel in the Sun.
17-. And I saw onean angel standing in the Sun;] And angel proclaimed the fall of Babylon, and now an angel proclaims the destruction of the Beast and his confederacy. From this grand and exalted position, unreachable by any earth-born being, goes forth the proclamation, and reaches all the earth.
D, 19:-17, 18. The Angel's Proclamation.
-17. And he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in mid-heaven,
So Ezekiel had been told to cry, chap. 39:17-22, where the cry is made concerning this or a subsequent* period, when the Prince of Rosh (Russia) and Meshech (Moscow) and Tubal (Tobolsk) will come against Israel in the days of the Antichrist.
The scene in Rev. 19:-17, 18 is occupied with the Beast and the False Prophet and their confederacy. Beasts of the earth are not summoned here, as they are in Ezekiel; for this cry goes forth from the sun, and is to be immediately and universally obeyed. This could be done only by flying creatures. The feast in Ezekiel is more local, and hence the beasts of the earth are summoned.
The issue of this battle is never in any doubt. It is fore-announced. The description is yet to be recorded. The call to devour the carcasses of the slain is given before the battle has begun. The marriage supper of the Lamb has just been celebrated in heaven, and now the great supper of God is furnished for the fowls of heaven and the beasts of prey on the earth.
C, 19:19. The Beast and his Confederacy.
19. And I saw the Beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war with Him that sitteth on the horse, and with His army.] Unclean spirits gather the kings of the earth to fight in 16:12-16. A holy angel summons the birds to devour them. "The kings of the earth," who opposed the Beast, now unite with him to fight against God. "Strong delusion" is upon them now, "that they should believe the lie, that they all might be damned..." (2 Thess. 2:9-12). Hence: with one accord, this vast confederacy, having subdued the earth, now prepares to resist all heaven. "The heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed." (Ps. 2:1-3). Here we see them gathered together to complete their subjugation of the earth and shut out its rightful owner.
But the issue is not kept long in suspense.
D. 19:20, 21. The fulfilment of the angel's cry.
20. And the Beast was taken, and with him the False Prophet who wrought the miracles before him (13:11-17), with which he deceived those that had received the mark of the Beast, and those who worshipped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire which burneth with brimstone. (21) And the rest were killed with the sword of him that sitteth upon the horse, which sword proceedeth out of his mouth: And all the birds were satiated with their flesh.] The Beast and the False prophet therefore are no mere systems, no mere companies of men. They are superhuman, but they are as truly men as Judas and Mahomet were men. They will be cast "alive" into the lake of fire. If these be not individual beings, then language is useless for the purposes of revelation.
They are real persons, as are those who will receive the mark of the Beast, and worship his image. They receive their punishment together. They cannot be slain, now, as mortals.
They will have come up from the Abyss; and they are still found alive in the lake of fire at the close of the thousand years (20:10). The armies being mortals are slain; and their dead bodies are eaten by the fowls of the air. There are none to bury them.
Thus ends the first of these final five judgments.
The outcome of the first of these final five judgments is the binding of Satan. The judgment of the Beast and the False Prophet and their Confederacy is not enough. He who was planned all, and used all for the accomplishment of his purposes, must now be dealt with. The chief instigator of all the evil must now be deprived of all further opportunity of attempting to frustrate the counsels and purposes of God. He has been cast out of heaven: he must now be cast out of the earth.
The structure of the passage which describes this judgment is as follows:
This Structure consists of three pairs. The first of each pair has to do with Satan and his binding; and the second with its duration.
20:1. And I saw an angel descending out of heaven, having the key of the Abyss, and a great chain in his hand. (2) And he laid hold of the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, (3) and cast him into the Abyss, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years be completed: Afterward he must be loosed a little season.] Who this angel is does not concern us. If it did, we should have been told. Speculation here is worse than useless. It is enough for us to know that it will indeed be a mighty angel to accomplish this business. Satan is a personality; a spirit-being. He can be seized, and will be bound; just as his subordinate angels have already been, and are now reserved for future judgment under "chains of darkness" and "everlasting chains" (2 Pet. 2:4. Jude 6). There are chains that can bind flesh and blood; and there are chains that can bind spirits. We are asked, with a triumphant air: "Do you really believe Satan will be bound with an iron chain?" Our answer is, that there is not a word said about an "iron chain"! Our imagination and knowledge are so limited, that when God says "a great chain," we can think only of an "iron" chain, because the chains that we know of are mostly iron. But we are having great and wondrous facts and realities revealed to us here; and it behoves us to believe, were we cannot understand. It becomes us, as the recipients of such a revelation, to humbly receive it, and not to criticise it.
The grand reality is, that Satan will one day be "bound"; and he will be bound with something that can bind him. He will be cast into the Abyss; and, in spite of his being a spirit-being, he will not be able to get out, or "walk about" (1 Pet. 5:8) as before. When this blessed fact is revealed to us, it is for us, not to reason about it, but to praise God for the wondrous news, and sing:
That is to be our attitude. We believe that the War is literal; the taking of the Beast and the False Prophet is literal; Satan is literal, and his binding is literal. It does not say he will be bound with a steel chain, or an iron chain; but it says "a great chain." It will be a chain of Divine make, and it will be suitable forand will effectually accomplishits great object.
How all this can be done we do not know; nor are we called upon to show. There are such things as Figures of Speech; but this is not one, nor is it what commentators call "figurative language," that cannot bind anyone, except themselves and others, to their false system of interpretation. In Rev. 14:14, 15 we read of a "Sickle"; but Matt. 13:30, 39-42 shows that it denotes a grand and dread reality. So the "great chain" does here.
The Abyss is literal; as is the lake of fire. Satan is to be cast into the Abyss (from whence the Beast came, 17:8), for 1,000 years, when he will join the Beast and the False Prophet in the lake of fire (20:10).
There is another place called "Tartarus" (2 Pet. 2:4) unless Tartarus is another name for the Abyss. This is where the fallen Angels are bound (1 Pet. 3:18, 19. 2 Pet. 2:4. Jude 6).*
In the face of all these great, solemn, and grand realities, it is sad to notice the fanciful interpretations put upon them.
Some maintain that this binding took place at the beginning of the Christian Dispensation. In that case the Millennium was over nearly 1,000 years ago, and we call that very period "the dark ages." In that case also Peter was inspired to say that Satan "walketh about" (1 Pet. 5:8) on earth, while he was bound in the Abyss!
Some assert that the binding took place at the conversion of Constantine. But that was the beginning of all that has led to the corruption and apostasy of the Church.
Others hold that whenever the binding took place, Satan is bound now. Such can never read the newspapers, which teem with little else than the most awful evidences to the contrary, both of crimes in the world and of corruption in the Church.
Others maintain that the 1,000 years are not literal but mean any prolonged period.
If the year-day theory is to be consistently held, then we have a period of at least 360,000 years during which Satan is bound.
After the 1,000 years Satan "must be loosed a little season." The consideration of why this "must be" we will defer till we come to verse 7. Meantime, the Structure binds us consider first the blessedness of the Millennial state on earth.
The third, or central judgment of the last five differs from the two that precede and follow it, in that it is a judgment of vindication and award, and not of condemnation and punishment.
Its subject are the Overcomers: and by its Structure it is divided into six members, grouped in three pairs: Persons alternating with the duration of Time, as in the previous Structure concerning Satan:
F1. 20:4-. Persons.
4-. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them:] If this refers to "the souls" mentioned in the second pair, then we have certain statements quite out of the natural order. Acts and actions are attributed to them before they are said to be risen again! Thrones, judges, and sentence are the subjects of this first pair; while martyrs, resurrection, and reigning are the subjects of the second pair. It seems, therefore, that we have, here, the setting-up of the tribunal to judge or vindicate those who shall have had part in the "first resurrection;" and to righteously and formally give them their position in glory. Dan. 7 is the key to this scene. In the 9th verse the word rendered "cast down" means to set or place. We see the one throne thus placed, in verse 22; while here (Rev. 20:4) we have the placing of the other thrones, and we see those who will sit "upon them." The war of the Beast against the saints is said to prevail (Dan. 7:21, 22) "until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom." The words, "judgment was given them," must be compared with Rev. 18:20: "God hath judged your judgment upon her (Babylon)." So the RV." and the AV. renders this, "God hath avenged you on her." The "judgment" here, therefore, means the right or power to exercise judgment which at length shall righteously, not only avenge the saints on their enemies, but vindicate them and award them their position in glory.
The plural, "they sat," must be taken as including God and Christ, and the seven angelic assessors (see Rev. 1:4 and 1 Tim. 5:21, where they are thus united, as well as in Matt. 25:31). "When the Son of Man shall come in his glory and all his holy angels with him, THEN shall he sit upon the throne of his glory." That throne is here seen placed for judgment immediately before the Millennium, and in connection with the "first resurrection." That throne is referred to in Joel 3:12, Jer. 3:17, Dan. 7:18, 22. Then will take place, not merely the judgment and vindication of the martyred saints of the Tribulation, but that of the living nations (or Gentiles), as described in the above Scriptures.
That throne, as well as the thrones of the twelve apostles, are seen here placed for judgment according to Matt. 19:28. Luke 22:30. Compare Ps. 122:5. Ezek. 43:7. Zech. 6:13. Isa. 31:8, 9. 32:1-4.
Christ will have come, not only to "make war," but to "judge"; for, "in righteousness He doth judge and make war" (19:11). If this be not the judgment of saints and living nations, then there is no place for it at all; for the only other judgment mentioned is that of the great white throne after the Millennium, at the end of this chapter. Of these final five judgments, one is that of living nations before the Millennium, and is connected with the first resurrection; while the other is after the Millennium, and is connected with the second resurrection.
The thrones are seen here placed. A tribunal is set up, and power and authority to execute judgment, and pronounce the sentence of vindication, and award "is given." Upon whom? That question is now to be answered. The words, "the souls," &c., are in the accusative case, and the AV. and RV. supply in italics, "I saw." But the Ellipsis is arbitrarily supplied. After the giving of authority to exercise judgment, the natural sequence of thought would be the exercise of it! So we supply
-4-. and [they judged, i.e., vindicated, 18:20] those that were beheaded (lit., the souls of those who were beheaded, but see below) on account of the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God,]
"The souls of those who were beheaded" are clearly those who had been mentioned in chap. 6:9. They at length enjoy their resurrection and receive their vindication there promised to them.
The expression "souls" in 6:9 is clearly the antecedent of verse 11, where we read "it was given to them." As in chap. 6:11, so here in 20:4 we must note that the word "them" is masculine, (...) (autois), and not feminine, (...) (autais), which is the gender of (...) (psuchas), souls. This proves that the expression, which consists of four words, "the souls of those who were beheaded," is a Pleonasm, and is to be treated as a figure, and not to be translated literally; but, being in the masculine gender, should be rendered without circumlocution "those who were beheaded" (compare Jer. 2:34; 46:15, &c). The promise made to them in chap. 6:11 is at length seen fulfilled in chap. 20:4.
But now another statement is made, and it begins with the words (...) (kai hoitines), which are rendered "and which" (AV), "and such as" (RV), "and those who" (Tregelles), as though the pronoun were in the accusative case and depended on the same verb as "souls": i.e., as though it read "I saw the souls... and I saw those which," &c. But the fact is that this pronoun, (...) (hoitines) is in the nominative case, and therefore does not depend on any verb, but is the subject of a new sentence altogether, of which the verb is "lived again." This is a grammatical fact that scientifically determines the matter for us, and prevents us from introducing our own opinions. Of one class of persons, viz., the beheaded martyrs, it is said that they were righteously judged and vindicated. The next statement of verse 4 goes on to say that not only these (who were beheaded), but all, including these who refused to worship the Beast, "lived again": i.e., had part in the first resurrection, which is presently described.
-4-. And whosoever* did not worship (i.e., had not worshipped) the Beast, nor yet his image, and did not receive the (his) mark (13:16) on their foreheads, and on their hands, both lived again and reigned with Christ] Here the point is resurrection. They "lived again." The verb means to come to life (see Luke 15:32. John 11:25. Rom. 14:9. Rev. 1:18; 2:8). Here we have the fulfilment of that repeated statement of the Lord Jesus. "He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (Matt. 10:39; 16:25, 26. Mark 8:35-37. Luke 9:24; 17:33. John 12:25).
If these refer to and include all who had lost their lives for faithful testimony, then the next clause includes those who had specially done so during the Tribulation; for all these "live again," in the first resurrection. It is not the extent of the first resurrection which is here in question, but a statement concerning some of those who shall have part in it. That there are and will be others is implied in verse 6. All these "both lived again and reigned with Christ."
G1. 20:-4. Time.
-4. A thousand years.] This is the duration of the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus; and this is the throne spoken of in Luke 1:32, 33: "He shall be great, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever." This is the throne the Lord refers to in Matt. 25:31. "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all his holy angels with him, THEN shall he sit upon the throne of his glory." In Rev. 19 we have the coming; and in chap. 20:4, we have the session upon that throne.
Psalm 2 points to the same throne, and Matt. 19:28 distinctly promises to the Twelve Apostles "a kingdom as the Father appointed" Him, that they may "eat and drink at his table in his kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve Tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:29, 30). This "judgment" consists of ruling; for "at that time shall they call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall be gathered into it" (Jer. 3:17). This is explained in Matt. 25 as the judging of the "nations." "I saw thrones." Hence there is not only "the throne of his glory," but the other thrones on which "they" also (who are mentioned in other scriptures) shall sit.
This is the day when "the Lord shall be king over all the earth" (Zech. 14:9); when "the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously" (Isa. 24:23; 9:7). See also Jer. 3:17; 23:5. Micah 4:7. Ezek. 43:7.
Many scriptures tell of the glories of that thousand years. We can only sum them up, and that briefly: Those years will be characterised by (1) the absence of Satan; (2) the restoration of the earth (Ps. 67:6): many physical marvels, converting its deserts into gardens, and causing its wildernesses to blossom as the rose; (3) changes in the sun, moon, and stars, which shall affect the climate and fruitfulness of the earth; (4) changes in the nature and habits of wild animals; (5) righteous government, which is to-day the world's greatest need (Is. 32:1; 29:18, 19; 33:6). (6) life prolonged and health improved (Is. 33:24; 65:20-23).
When the thousand years end, their blessedness does not end, but increase with the glory of the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21., 22). Men will not cease to live. The nations of the new Earth will "consist" and be upheld by the eternal power of the great Creator.
F2. 20:5-. Persons.
5-. *The rest of the dead lived not again] The verb means to live again in the sense of resurrection (see Rom. 14:9. Rev. 2:8). These words require not explanation. They are written to explain a great and solemn fact to us. "The rest of the dead" include all who have no part in the "first resurrection."
If they "lived not again" until they rise from the dead, in what sense can they be said to "live" now while they are dead? The one is the antithesis of the other. In like manner, if they are suffering punishment in purgatory or elsewhere, in what way does this differ from the punishment which is awarded to them when they shall have been judged (20:14, 15). Another question raised is, In what sense is the "second death" different from the first? The questions are easily asked; and, if we believe God and His Word instead of tradition or theology, they are easily answered. This Scripture is part of a Book where future, unseen, and otherwise unknown facts and truths are made known to us. Apart from revelation no one knows anything about death and judgment. But, thank God, the humblest student of His word, if he knows all that God has told us on these subjects, knows all that can be known, and is as wise as the wisest of his teachers.
But, alas, these teachers too often give heed to the teachings of lying spirits, through Spiritists and mediums who are themselves deceived; and, in consequence, find a difficulty in receiving and believing the simple but true revelations of the Word of God.
G2. 20:-5-. Time.
-5-. Until* the thousand years should be finished.] or completed: so that their condition, whatever it may be, runs on during the whole period of the reign of those who "have part in the first resurrection."
F3. 20:-5, 6-. Persons.
-5. This is the first resurrection. (6-) Blessed and holy is he who hath part in the first resurrection; over these the second death hath not power (or authority), but they shall be (and continue) priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him]
G3. 20:-6. Time.
-6. a* thousand years.] "This is the first resurrection"; or, this completes the first resurrection. There is an Ellipsis of the verb in this sentence; and we may supply completes, having in mind the several resurrections which shall before then have taken place. It is also a fact that, when two ordinal numbers are used in such a connection as this, they are used relatively. The one is first in relation to the second, which follows; and not to what may have occurred before. In like manner the second stands in relation to the first. Hence, in English we always say, in such cases, former and latter, where we have only two things thus related; and not first and second, unless there are more to follow in the series. It is the same in chap. 21:1, where we read of the new heavens and the new earth; "for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away."
Here, again, we have two things standing in related contrast, the "first" and the "new": i.e., the new, and the one that immediately precedes it; the former, and not the "first." For, the present "heavens and the earth which are now" (2 Pet. 3:7) are not the first. For Scripture tells us of three, of which the present is the second. In 2 Pet. 3:6, 7, 13, we read of the first the world that "then was" (Gen. 1:1); of the second "the heavens and the earth which are now"; and of the third "a new heavens and a new earth," for which we now look. This (second of three) is what is called in Rev. 21:1 the "first" of the latter two.
Hence this "first resurrection" is the former of the two mentioned in this verse: and not the calling on high of Phil. 3:14, or the resurrection of 1 Thess. 4:16, 17. This special resurrection (1 Thess. 4:16) must be carefully distinguished from that which is called the "first resurrection" in Rev. 20:6. The word "first" in 1 Thess. 4:16 does not refer to "the first resurrection" so called in Rev. 20:6, but merely records the order of events, and simply states that "the dead in Christ" will "rise first"; i.e., before the taking up of either them or the living saints.
The resurrection of 1 Thess. 4:16 is not the resurrection of Rev. 20:6. It was never revealed in the Old Testament; but was a special revelation made "by the word of the Lord" to Paul; and by Paul to the Thessalonian saints and to the Church of God.
The resurrection of Rev. 20:6 is the well-known "former" of two resurrections which had both been long the subject of revelation, and was the hope of Israel. The Holy Spirit spoke, by the Psalmist, of the righteous dead who should "have dominion" over the rest of the dead "in the morning" of this resurrection (Ps. 49:14). The Lord spoke of it when He called it "the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:14); "the resurrection from (among) the dead" (Luke 20:34-36); "the resurrection of life" (John 5:29). Paul spoke of it as "the resurrection of the just" (Acts 24:15), for which the twelve tribes hoped, according to "the promise made of God unto the fathers" (Acts 26:6-8). In Dan. 12:2 it is spoken of as a resurrection "to everlasting life," in which "many" (not all) have part, and "awake."
Martha expressed her belief in "the resurrection at the last day" (John 11:24); i.e., the last day, at the end of the present age, and immediately before the introduction of the new age of the thousand years. "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life." By this figure of Hendiadys the Lord distinguishes the resurrection for which Martha hoped, as the resurrection "to everlasting life." (Dan. 12:2). He refers not to two things, but to one. It is as though He had said, "I am the resurrectionyea, the one that is to eternal life; he that believeth on me, though he die, he shall live again; and everyone who thus liveth again in resurrection and believeth (again Hendiadys, every believer how lives again in resurrection), shall in no wise die again for ever" (John 11:25, 26). No! he shall rise again in the first resurrection, and shall by no means die "the second death." That shall have no power over such.
It was for this "first (or former resurrection") that the Old Testament Saints looked. It was the "better resurrection" of Heb. 11:35. It was God's revealed promise to them. It was no secret. Its revelation was given quite irrespective of the Church of God; and it will take place as though the Church had never existed at all.
But the Church of God, as the Body of Christ, was a "secret." All that concerned it was "hid in God": its calling, its standing, its hope, and its destiny. All were subjects of special revelation.
It was "by revelation" that it was made known to the apostle Paul, and to us through him (Eph. 3:3).
It was by a special and subsequent revelation that we know what God has made Christ to be unto His Church; and what He has made the Church to be in Christ (Eph. 1:17. Col:2:2, 3, etc.).
It was by special revelation we know that all will not die; that there is to be an exception to the Appointment of Heb. 9:27, "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord." This special prophetic revelation was necessary in order to make know the fact that a distinct company of believers should be "alive and remain," and not die at all, but be caught up to be for ever with the Lord, together with the dead in Christ, who shall first (i.e., before this) have been raised (1 Thess. 4:15-17). The living saints will not precede or get before "the dead in Christ."
Tradition, as represented in our Hymn-books and on our Tomb-stones, reverses all this, and assures us that "the dead in Christ" have already preceded or got there before those who are "alive and remain." But we believe God; and are assured that the Truth is exactly the opposite of Tradition; viz., that those who are "alive and remain" shall not precede "the dead in Christ," or be caught up to "be with the Lord," before "the dead in Christ" shall have been raised. These shall "rise first," and then be caught up, together with the living saints, "to be with the Lord."
To teach otherwise is to fall into the heresy of Hymenaeus and Philetus; to "overturn the faith"; and to say that "the resurrection is passed already (2 Tim. 2:17, 18).
This secret is again mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:51: "Behold I show you a mystery": i.e., "behold I tell you a secret: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed."
The great secret in 1 Tim. 3:16, to the still greater secret of Eph. and Phil. and Col., includes a special "calling on high," and being "received up into glory."
All this is quite independent of "the first resurrection" of Rev. 20:6. That was never a secret, but was revealed of old as the hope of Israel (Act 26:6, 7).
The hope of Israel is one thing, and is quite distinct from the hope of the Church, which is another thing. The Gentiles are "without hope." The Scriptures of truth which treat of "the Jews, the Gentile, and the Church of God" must be rightly divided, or we shall not get the truth. These resurrections must be divided according to the dispensations to which they respectively belong.
The resurrection in 1 Thess. 4 belongs to this present dispensation of grace; while the two in Rev. 20:belong to the time of the end, in the future dispensation of judgment.
We know not how long a time will elapse between the resurrection of believers (1 Thess. iv.), and the "first," or former of the two resurrections of Rev. 20: but we are told, and therefore know, that there will be a thousand years between these latter two.
1 Cor. 15 treats of the subject of Resurrection. This was the subject in dispute, and this is the scope of the chapter. It is the "gospel" (verse 1), not the "mystery." It is the "Kingdom" (verse 24), and not the Church of God. It is the fulfilment of the Old Testament promise of Isa. 25:8, and not the revelation of the Rapture of 1 Thess. 4. It is "them" and "they" (verses 20, 23, 29); and not "we." The moment it comes to "we" in verse 49, he proceeds, briefly, in a few words, to speak of the "mystery" in verses 51, 52*, but immediately returns, in verse 53 to the end, to speak of THE Resurrection. It is "the second man" (verse 47), "the last Adam" (verse 45), not the "Head" of the Body. It is the "firstfruits" in connection with the Harvest (Rev. 14:4); and not the "Head" in relation to the members. It is "all " in connection with mankind (verse 22), and not the elect members of the Body of Christ. It is of various "ranks," not of "one Body."
The ranks or corps* of the different bodies referred to shut out the thought of the "one body." The Church is a corps by itself, which will be caught away long before the "first resurrection." Christ is not the "firstfruits" of the Body, but its "Head." The first (...) (tagma) is Christ (Personal and Mystical). The Second Tagma is the first Resurrection at His Apocalypse or Revelation in glory. The Third Tagma is the last corps ((...), to telos) at the end of the Millennium. The church will, necessarily, have risen before these, so as to be able to "appear with Him in glory." When His Apocalypse or Revelation takes place, He will already have come for His Church and have been "glorified in His saints" (2 Thess. 1:10**). This really settles the whole question, and proves that the resurrection and ascension of the Church in 1 Thess. 4 are quite distinct in time, and order, and character, from the "first" resurrection of Rev. 20.
The latter is the subject we have before us now, and the first resurrection has special reference to the overcomers, according to the promise made to them in chap. 2:11: "he that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." In contrast with this is set the fact that they shall be priests of God and of Christ." This also is the realization of what is stated in chap. 1:6 and chap. 5:10, where the Zoa and the Elders say of those who were redeemed, Thou "hast made them kings and priests: and they shall reign on the earth." This is what was prophesied in Is. 61:6: "Ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord, and men shall call you the Ministers of our God" (compare Ex. 19:6).
It is again affirmed that those who have part in the "first resurrection" will have this blessedness for the thousand years. During that time they live and reign with Christ. How "principles" can do this (as some teach) we are at a loss to understand! How the "memory" and the "character" of the saints can reign over the Gentiles is a still greater mystery, and we must leave the difficulty with those who create it, and "give it up." Man may say they reign "as if they were martyrs raised from the dead." The Word says that they will be actually raised, and will actually reign. They do not "live again" "spiritually," or "in their successors." Those who were beheaded are the same as those who reign; and how "principles" or "character" can be beheaded we have yet to learn.
We come now to the fourth of these final five judgments. The thirdthe central one differs (as we have seen) in character from the others. It is a judgment which vindicates and rewards those who are the subjects of it. The others are all for condemnation and judgment.
H. 20:7. Satan loosed out of his prison.
7. And when the thousand years are completed, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,] In verse 3 it was stated that "he should deceive the nations no more until the thousand years should be finished; after this he MUST be loosed a little season." Here, in verse 7, we have the fact, the necessity of which is there declared.
But why "MUST" Satan be loosed, even for "a little season"? Wherein lies the reason for this mysterious necessity?
To understand the word "must" of verse 3, we shall have to discover something of the Divine purposes and counsels in ruling and overruling the course of this world. "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18).
At the beginning there was Satan's first rebellion; and now, at the end, we have this final rebellion. In Gen. 1:1, we have the primal creation of the heavens and the earth, in perfect order and beauty. In verse 2 we are told that they became a ruinempty, waste, and desolate. How, or why, or when, they thus became we are not told. We believe that it was on account of Satan's first rebellion. That he did rebel, we know. And we know also that it was through pride (1 Tim. 3:6, 7). It must have happened at that time, between the first and second verses of Gen. i, for in Gen. 3 he is introduced as a fallen angel, the enemy of God and man.
We know, also that God did not originally create the world as it is described in Gen. 1:2. It is there described as (...) (tohu) (...) (vabohu) i.e., empty, waste, and desolate*. Now, it does not matter what (...) (tohu) means, because it is expressly declared by the Creator in Isa. 45:18, that he did not create it tohu. And the expressions describing the Divine Creator are heaped together to impress us with the fact that He who made it ought to know. He says:
Therefore it must have become so at some time, and in some manner, and for some reason, which are not revealed. This is the very meaning of the Hebrew verb (...) (hayah) to come to be.* "And (or but) the earth BECAME wasteness and emptiness."
We submit that this catastrophe was brought about by the first rebellion of Satan.* Of no other than Satan could it be said at that time that he was the author of evil, and of "the lie."
If this be so, then we are able to see the order of all the various dispensations; and learn how all the evil is to be overcome; how the new heavens and the new earth are to be brought about; and how the curse is to be removed.
The following Structure of the Divine Plan of the Ages sets forth the correspondence between the steps of the Ruin and the Restoration; and shows that the Restoration is to be brought about in an inverse order to that of the Ruin. The eight steps roll back upon themselves, until the Primal blessedness is at length seen restored. In this Structure, which is seen to be an Introversion, the first member (A) corresponds with the last (A); the second (B) with the next to the last (B); and so throughout: that is to say, the Primal Creation (A) is placed in contrast with the New Heavens and the New Earth (A). Satan's first rebellion (B) stands in connection with his final rebellion (B). The Restored Earth of Gen. 1:2 (C) stands in correspondence with the Millennial Earth (C). Satan loose in Gen. 3. (D) is put in contrast with Satan bound in Rev. 20:1-3 (D). The dealing with mankind as a whole in Gen. iv.㬇:(E) is set in correspondence with similar dealing foretold in prophecy (E). The Calling of Israel in Gen. 11 (F) is placed in contrast with their Re-calling and promised blessing (F). The first Advent (G) is seen to stand in contrast with the second Advent (G), and to be quite a separate and distinct event from the "Calling on high of Phil. 3:14, or the Parousia of 1 Thess. iv. The second Advent was the subject of Old Testament prophecy, but the Pre-taking up of the Church was a special revelation given to Paul "by the Word of the Lord" in 1 Thess. 4:13:11.
The Dispensational Plan of the Bible
A | The Primal
Creation. The first heaven and the first earth. Gen. i.
1. ("The world that then was," 2 Pet. 3:6)
A careful study of this Structure will show that the several dispensations which form the great subject of the Word of God could not be otherwise divided. Jew, Gentile, and the Church of God are distinguished; and each has its own proper place. The two Advents are separated, and the second is distinguished from the Parousia and the "blessed hope" which are quite distinct and separate events. The Church occupies the central position; and its present standing is separated from its future destiny and hope. The two rebellions of Satan are also seen to be in direct correspondence, so that now we can see the necessity for this "must be" of verse 3; and for this loosing in Rev. 20:7-10.
But there is a deeper reason than that which appears on the surface of this Structure of the Divine Plan of the Ages.
All the counsels and purposes of God have Christ for their centre, their subject, and their object. Not only "by him were all things created" (Col. 1:16, &c.), but "by him all things consist" (Col. 1:17).
From this it follows that no created being, heavenly or earthly, can stand ("upright") or "consist," apart from Him. He is "upholding all things by the word of His power" (Heb. 1:3).
In Eph. 3:10 we are told that God is using the Mystery, i.e., the Church, as an object-lesson; and through (RV, i.e., by means of) it He is making known, NOW, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, something of His manifold wisdom.
What is the lesson that God is now teaching these heavenly beings?
It is simply this: that no created being can stand apart from Christ the Creator. It is this that is brought out by the Structure of the Dispensations.
B. Satan could not stand, though blessed with untold powers and dignities.
D. Man could not stand, though placed in the most favorable circumstances.
E. The Nations could not stand. They soon rebelled against God's commands; and set up Babel as the monument of their defiance.
F. The chosen nation (Israel) could not stand, though placed in a position as favourable (nationally) as man had been in Adam (individually). The nations having all failed: then, a new nation, a chosen nation, is formed out of one man, Abraham; and placed in a country which was as another Garden of the Lord; and blessed with national blessings such as no nation ever enjoyed before or since. But Israel failed, and instead of being a blessing became a curse. They forsook the Covenant of the Lord; despised His Law; threw down His altars, and slew His prophets with the sword (1 Kings 19:10). Then came
G. The First Advent. "Having yet one Son, his well-beloved, he sent him also last unto them." But those wicked husbandmen "took him and slew him, and cast him out" (Mark 12:6-8). Those husbandmen were "miserably destroyed." Their city was razed to the ground, their temple burnt, and their people scattered to the four winds of heaven. The Gospels and Acts set forth the terrible story. And now
H. After the rejection of the King and the Kingdom (Acts 3:19, 20 (RV), compared with 28:25, 26). We have in
H. The Kingdom in Abeyance? NOT YET "do we see all thing put under His feet" (Heb. 2:8); but we have "the mystery of Christ and His Church" revealed (Eph. 5:32), and not until this has been "received up in glory" (1 Tim. 3:16) will the time have come for Christ to sit upon His own throne.
It is not God's counsel to use the Church as the means by which He will bring in the New Heavens and the New Earth. That new creation will be full of physical marvels, which cannot be brought about by spiritual agencies. Cause must have come relation to effect. And God has appointed other means to remove the curse from the earth, and make an end of sin and of death. Physical means will be used to bring about physical changes and bring in physical blessings.
The Church is now waitingnot for the world's conversion, because it knows that its apostasy is foretold (2 Thess. 2:3). The Pauline Epistles tell of the Church's calling, and standing, and object, and hope. The members of the Church of God WILL STAND and stand for ever; because they are "in Christ," and are the members of that Body of which He is that glorious Head in heaven, and they the members of that Body on earth. In Him they will know "no condemnation." From Him there will be no separation (Rom. 8:1, 39). They will stand, for their standing is Christ's own standing. They stand for ever in Him.*
F. And Israel. What of Israel? Will Israel stand? Yes, for Jehovah has said:
Then shall be seen the only indefectible nation the world has ever known. Israel shall "no more go astray" (Ez. 14:11). "Thy people shall be all righteous, they shall inherit the land for ever" (Isa. 60:21). Their sins and their iniquities will be remembered no more (Jer. 31:33, 34. Zech. 13:2. Isa. 43:25). "I will no more make you a reproach" (Joel 2:19). "Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith Adonai Jehovah" (Ezek. 39:29).
Yes, Israel WILL STAND then, because, and only because, Israel shall be holden up by the infinite power of Jehovahtheir Almighty Creator and Covenant God.
E. And the Nations. What of them? They will have beheld and enjoyed for a thousand years the goodness of Jehovah. The knowledge of His glory shall have flooded the earth. All shall be taught of God. For a thousand years they shall have known a righteous and holy government, and enjoyed peace, prosperity and plenty. What of this? Will these things give a new heart? Will they be able to undo the enmity of the natural heart to God? (Rom. 8:7. Jas. 4:4). No! "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be." "That which is born of the flesh, is flesh," and remains flesh. And only "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," and remains spirit (John 3:6). The only safety for any Gentile will be Ex. 12:48.
The Nations did not stand in the midst of all the corruptions with which they corrupted their way in Gen. iv㬇:Neither will they stand in spite of all the manifestation of God's glory in the earth. Even in the midst of Millennial glory many will render only a feigned obedience (Ps. 66:3; 144:7, 11).
Zech. 14:16-19 reveals a disinclination on the part of some of the nations to make the long annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem; and Messiah's rule is with "a rod of iron" and "in the midst among enemies" (Ps 110:2).
When Satan shall be loosed they are at once, and apparently, easily "deceived" and ready to believe his lies, and to manifest the enmity of the natural heart by fighting under him against God.
To bring out this awful fact, and exhibit the true nature of man; and to manifest the grace of God; and to show that, apart from Christ, nothing can exist, or consist, or stand, Satan "MUST be loosed for a little season." The great lesson of the ages will not be fully manifested or seen till then; but even now it is being taught to angelic beings in heaven. The great object lesson can even now, but not till now, be taught them "by means of the church."
Now, saved sinners and rebels can be pointed to as "in Christ," and therefore for ever saved, safe, and secure. And all this is "according to the eternal purpose ("the purpose of the ages," RV. marg.) which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:11).
Now we see why Satan "must be loosed." Now we learn the secret of this mysterious necessity. It must be shown that time does not alter Satan's character; and that the goodness of God has no more effect upon the old nature than the judgments of God.
J. 20:8. The Nations deceived.
8. And will go out to deceive the Nations which are in the four corners of the earth, God and Magog, to gather them together to the (predicted) war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.] How, and with what lies, he will deceive them we are not told. But we are not without examples of how easily nations may be deceived by man, even in our own day. And Satan will find means to discredit God's dealings and misrepresent His words. As He deceived the angels, who, in consequence, "sinned," and shared his fall; and lied to our first parents in the garden (Gen. 3.); and made the nations rebel (Gen. 11.), so again will he succeed in his final rebellion. It is idle to give reins to our imagination. For us the solemn fact must be sufficient.
"Gog and Magog" denote the nations as a whole. Magog is mentioned as the first son of Japhet in Gen. 10:2. With him are associated his brethren, Gomer (Kimmerians), Madai (Medians), Meshech (Muscovites), etc. In Ezek. 38:5, are added Persians, and Ethiopians, and Libyans. Josephus renders the word Magog, Scythians (Ant. 1:6, 3). The two words combine the nations North and East of Palestine.
Ezek. 38 and 39 must be distinguished from Rev. 20. Ezekiel records the war referred to in Rev. 16:14; 17:14; 19:17-21, which takes place before the Millennium; while Rev. 20 takes place after it. This is clear from the fact that Israel's restoration is mentioned after the destruction of Gog and Magog. See Ezek. 39:25, "NOW will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel." This is conclusive, and should clear up many doubts on this vexed question.
The word "Magog" is found only in Gen. 10:2 as a son of Japhet; in Ezekiel, where it means a land or country, of which Gog is the prince; and in Rev. 20:8, where "Gog and Magog" appears to be an inclusive term for the Gentile nations.
It is absurd to talk about "John borrowing from Ezekiel," as so many say. There is no "borrowing" in the matter. Both prophecies are "given by inspiration of God," and refer to two distinct subjects. There is no confusion between them if we rightly divide the times to which they respectively belong.
J. 20:9. The Nations Devoured.
9. And they went up upon the breadth of the Land, and encompassed the citadel of the saints, and the beloved city: and there came down fire out of heaven,* and devoured them.] That the Land is meant here, and not the earth, seems clear from Isa. 8:8, where we have the same expression. (So Hab. 1:6) It denotes the whole extent of the Land.
There are no contending armies here. The issue of this invasion of the Land is speedily and finally terminated by a special Divine judgment. Fire comes down from Heaven and devours the mighty host. A special judgment is reserved for Satan.
H. 20:10. Satan Cast into the Lake of Fire.
10. And the Devil that deceived them was cast into a lake of fire and brimstone, where both* the Beast and the False Prophet are, and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever] Not now is Satan merely to be "bound." At length he receives his final doom.
This is reason of Satan's hatred of this book of the Revelation. It is the book which tells of his doom; as Genesis foretells it (Gen. 3:15). That lake of fire was prepared for him and his angels (Matt. 25:41). His dupes are devoured by fire from above; he is to be tormented by fire from beneath.
We now come to the last of these final five judgment scenesthat of the Great White Throne. This is not a "general judgment." That fact that there are five judgments recorded in this last Vision on Earth shows, not only that the expression "general" is foreign to Scripture, but that such a judgment is unknown. As to the Church, if it can be called a "judgment" at all, the Church has already passed through hers as to service and works (not as to standing, of course), according to 2 Cor. 5:10, and Rom. 14:10, where wrong service will be "made manifest," and rewards will be "received" at the Bema of Christ. The third of these five judgments is that of the Overcomers, who, like the Church, will be vindicated and rewarded.
This judgment is generally supposed to be identical with that of Matt. 25.: notwithstanding that the latter is not at all "general," but is confined to "living nations," and not one word is said of resurrection. Here, though only "the rest of the dead" are concerned, and there is not a word as to any except those who are raised from the dead, it is still taken to be "general," in spite of 1 Cor. 15., which speaks of the "order" of the resurrections; and Rev. 20:4, 5, which speaks of two others.
This is sufficient to show the confusion which must necessarily ensue if we are not careful in "rightly dividing the Word of truth."
The passage (20:11-15) which records this last of the five judgments is seen, by the Structure, to consist of four pairs, as follows:
First we have the Throne itself:
c1. 20:11-. The Great White Throne.
11-. And I saw a great white throne,] "great," is distinction from the other thrones mentioned in this book, and that of chap. 4:2-6. That was set "in heaven." This is seen in the last Vision "on earth"; as were also the throne in the fourth verse. It is not only "great," to indicate the greatness of the occasion, and of its power and authority: but "white," to indicate its purity, holiness, and righteousness. There are no threatenings here. No thunderings and lightnings: no voices. Nothing "around" it: nothing "before" it. Only
d1. 20:-11. The Judge who sat thereon.
-11. And him that sat thereon, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and no place was found for them.] No name is given. No form is described. Only an awful, mysterious presence. This is perhaps the moment of 2 Peter 3:10-12. It is the "day of God," as distinct from "the day of Christ" (Phil. 1:6; 2:16); and from "the day of the Lord."
It needs no human description nor interpretation. Heretics might say in Paul's day that "the resurrection is passed already" (2 Tim. 2:18). Swedenborg may tell his followers that this judgment scene took place in 1757, and that he saw it with is own eyes*. We sweep aside all human assertions and opinions, and listen to the solemn and weighty words which tell us of the solemnity of this last judgment scene.
c2. 20:12-. The Raised Dead (from the earth).
12-. And I saw the dead, the great and small, standing before the throne;* and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life:] "The dead" are "the rest of the dead," who "lived not again" (i.e., were not raised) till the thousand years were completed, as stated in verse 5.
This judgment is different from all the others. It differs from the first (19:11), in that that was a judicial act of summary retribution. And it differs from the others in that it is a deliberate session; a formal process of judgment deciding according to the evidence produced.
Nothing is said as to the contents of these books. In 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27 we read that "the book of life" contains "names," and probably names also fill these "books." In the Old Testament also, it is mentioned (Ex. 32:32. Ps. 69:28).
We need not speculate as to what is written in these books. Nor can we tell whether this other bookthe book of lifeis mentioned negatively, to exclude those not named in it; or positively, to embrace those who are. What we do know is that "the first resurrection" is specifically called "the resurrection of life"; and that those who have part in it will not be reckoned with "the rest of the dead which lived not again till the thousand years were finished." The words, "according to their works" looks as though there may be two classes of these "dead." But where the Word is silent, it is better for us to be silent also.
d2. 20:-12. Their Judgment.
-12. And the dead were judged out of the things written in the books, according to their works.] These books, as Alford says, seem "the vouchers for the Book of Life." If so, they contain the evidence to show cause why the names are not written therein. There is no account of any name being found in the Book of Life. One thing, however, is clear, and that is, that the church of God cannot be here; for the standing of its members is not of works at all; but is wholly of grace.
c3. 20:13-. The Raised Dead (from the Sea).
13-. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and Death and the Grave (Hades, 1:18; 6:8) gave up the dead that were in them:] It is a question there of resurrection; and the language used is meant to include the unburied as well as the buried. There is nothing said about "souls," but only of persons raised from the dead.
d3. 20:-13. Their Judgment.
-13. And they were judged, each one, according to their works.] The Sinaitic MS. reads condemned instead of judged, but the latter word implies the former, if that is "the resurrection of condemnation" spoken of in other scriptures.
c4. 20:14. Death and the Grave.
14. And Death and the Grave were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire.* (15) And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.] The reference to the Book of Life in this connection seems to imply one of two things. (1) Either it is opened for condemnation, the name not being there; or (2) it implies that the names have been "blotted out" (3:5).
In either case "the rest of the dead" would not include the Church, or Israel, or the Elect Remnant, nor the names of those who make up the superhuman wild Beasts of Rev. 13 and 17.
No one can say which of these two views is correct. Nor can it be necessary for us to know.
Thus ends the description of these five judgments which conclude the last Vision of things "on earth;" and which have to do with the earth "which now is."
The structure of this Seventh (and last) Vision "on Earth" has been given and its members expanded, showing the five final judgments, as to their order.
But there is a further inter-relation between these five, if we look at them as a whole; and have regard to the events themselves, rather than their connection with "Men" and "Satan." The first and second judgments form one member, thus making four members in all, arranged as a simple alternation:
The Seventh Vision "on Earth."
Thus we see one beautiful structure contained within the other; both perfect; showing how intimately these five members are related, and revealing a further hidden correspondence between them.
The next Vision introduces us to the eternal state of the New Heavens and the New Earth, and those who shall dwell therein.