These papers are written to show the error of the teaching that the church will go through the great tribulation and that only certain of the saints will have part in the Lord’s kingdom and glory.
I am thankful to be able to say that on the subject of the heavenly calling of the saints of the present dispensation of grace I have nothing new to which I may call the attention of the people of God, for it is not only plainly set before us in the Word of Truth, but it is a subject to which our consideration has often been called by faithful servants of our Lord Jesus Christ. My only reason for writing this paper has its foundation in my desire that the minds and hearts of believers should be kept in the simplicity of the Glad Tidings, which on every hand are being assailed by the powers of darkness, a miserable substitute for those life-giving verities being zealously and vigorously propounded.
This is a day in which the restless and lawless activities of the human mind under the influence of the devil are engaged in the invention of fables, which are foisted upon us with all the energy and force of him who never wearies in his warfare against the truth of the living God; and if texts of Scripture, perverted and torn from the setting in which they are placed by the Holy Spirit of God, can be found to give an apparent support to their accursed theories, so much the better. To bring the true light of God to bear upon the smoke that rises so darkening front the abyss of evil which as the dispensation draws nearer its close, increases in density, is the work of the true servant of the Lord. And first of all it might be well for us to look into that which is the great subject of the preaching.
What is Presented to Me in the Gospel?
Having accomplished the work of redemption, and just before He ascended up on high, our Lord tells His disciples of the necessity of His death and resurrection, “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47); and in the Acts of the Apostles we see how faithfully they carried out this mission. Peter says “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believes on Him shall receive forgiveness of sins”; and Paul “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him all that believe are justified from all things” (Acts 10:43; 13:38-39). To the Corinthians he says that the Gospel he had preached to them, and which had been the means of their salvation, was “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1-4). The coming of Christ to judge the world was also preached, as also the establishment of His kingdom here upon earth.
What, Then, is the Outlook of the Believer?
The immediate prospect placed before us is the kingdom, which shalt be established under the reign of the Son of Man when He shall appear in glory. In the Old Testament the coming of the Messiah, and the setting-up of this kingdom under His authority, were kept ever in view. His rejection and crucifixion set aside this kingdom, in the way in which it had been at all times viewed by the people of God; not thus for ever set aside, but for a time. Hence we have it at this present time as the result of the preaching of the Word, including within its compass all that call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord; that is, all who outwardly acknowledge His Lordship; I say “outwardly,” because both at this present time and during His reign there are to be found many who call Him Lord, to whom He shall say: “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:21-23).
Where His authority is owned on earth, there the kingdom is, although the King be hidden from the eyes of men. When it shall be established in the presence and power of Christ in the age to come its mystery character shall be over, and the subjects of Christ, who now suffer both with and for Him, shall share His glory and reign with Him. And all His true people suffer in both these ways. They suffer with Him, by the fact that they have His nature, and must feel the evil of the world as He felt it, not to the same measure, I need scarcely say, and not in a like measure do they all feel it together. Some perhaps feel it as Abraham felt the idolatry and evil deeds of those from whom he was called to maintain separation, and others as Lot felt the evil of those with whom, alas! he foolishly mingled, and whose righteous soul was daily vexed by their evil deeds (2 Peter 2:7-8). I fear there are many more Lots today than there are Abrahams. Still, all true believers suffer with Him, and therefore shall they reign with Him (Rom. 8:17; 2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:12). In these days not so many are called to suffer for Him, at least to any great extent.
This is the immediate prospect before us; for, whatever else may lie beyond the thousand years of the reign of Christ, the way into it all is through the kingdom. We are to “Walk worthy of God, who has called us to His kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12). This is not that which we read of in Revelation 21:1-4. For this new heaven and earth we look, and it is held up before us as light and encouragement for our hearts, but into this we pass through the kingdom to which we are called. We are called to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:14), and having been justified by faith we boast in hope of that glory (Rom. 5:1-2). “Waiting for the coming (apocalypse) of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7). “Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven” (1 Thess. 1:9-10). “Keep this commandment unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:14), “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13), “When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). This is the attitude in which the Gospel sets the believer, to wait for God’s Son from heaven, in whom we have found a deliverer from the coming wrath giving him the most perfect assurance that when He shall appear we shall also appear with Him in glory. Not a true believer shall in that day be wanting.
Let us now look at what is said about the wrath to come.
The Wrath to Come
The Scriptures set before us wrath both governmental and eternal, and it is well to be clear in our souls regarding this solemn subject. The wrath that fell upon the Israelites in the wilderness did not of necessity reach beyond the death of the body. It would be foolish to suppose that all who came out of Egypt of twenty years old and upward, and whose carcases fell in the wilderness, were for ever lost. What about Moses the man of God, and Aaron the saint of the Lord? (1 Chr. 23:14; Ps. 106:16). Yet He says: “I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest” (Psa. 95:11). This wrath was exclusion from the land of promise, and raised no question regarding their eternal relationships with God.
But of the wrath that is yet to come we have a great deal in the writings of the Prophets. See Isaiah 13:6-16; Zephaniah 1:15-18; Amos 5:16-20; Matthew 24; Luke 3:7. All these passages, and many others, speak of the preliminary judgments that shall introduce the appearing of Christ, which shall be the most terrible of all the woes that the evildoers of the earth have known. Of this wrath the nation of Israel shall be made to bear the brunt, but no nation shall altogether escape. It “shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10). From this hour of temptation the church shall be kept.
From this wrath believers have found a deliverer (1 Thess. 1:10), even Jesus: “Being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:9). The way in which Jesus would deliver the saints from this wrath had evidently not been told them. They had found a deliverer in Jesus, and this had set their hearts at rest, but how that deliverance was to be effected, we learn from the fourth chapter, they knew not. When the flood came upon the antediluvian world Enoch was not there, having been previously translated. Noah, who represents the Jew, has to go through the judgment, but is saved through it. Enoch was not there at all when it fell upon the world. In like manner the church shall be translated before the hour of judgment comes. It is not only that it shall not perish in the execution of that judgment, it shall not be here in the hour in which it falls. This hour ushers in the judgment of the living, which shall continue throughout the thousand years of His reign: “For He must reign, till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25-26). The judgment of the dead is the last judgment, and is after the thousand years are finished, and after the heavens and the earth have passed away. This is the day in which God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to the Gospel preached by Paul (Rom. 2:6).
The First Resurrection
I read in Scripture of two resurrections, and of only two; that of the just, and that of the unjust. The first is a resurrection from among the dead that is, the resurrection of a select number, leaving the rest of the dead undisturbed. The disciples could not understand what the Lord meant by the rising from among the dead (Mark 9:10). They had no doubt about the resurrection of the dead, but the resurrection from among the dead went far beyond their intelligence. Martha says of her brother Lazarus: “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). A general resurrection was held by the orthodox among the Jews, which was to take place when all should be raised together at the last day of this present age.
The first resurrection is from the dead, and it is “of life.” All who have received life by the quickening power of the Son of God shall be in this resurrection; the first and larger part, when He puts forth His power to gather up the Church to meet Him in the air. Then He shall raise all His own in incorruption, power, and glory, change the living, and call us up to meet Him in the air. But during the time between this event and His appearing to the world when He comes to reign many will have lost their lives for the truth under the reign of the Beast, and in the first resurrection they shall have part, in order to their reigning with Christ in His kingdom. When this takes place the statement is made: “This is the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:5). None are included, as raised at this time, but those who have been slain under the persecutions that will succeed the taking-up of the church.
But we are told by a well-known writer on this subject that this first resurrection “is a special reward for high attainments in Christian virtue,” and that Paul was not certain that he would be in it, but “to share in that he was straining every nerve.” Philippians 3 is referred to. What is it that is before the apostle’s mind? It is the great fact that he was called to be like Christ in glory; and having learned something of His moral excellency, his whole spiritual being pressed forward to reach the goal. He well knew that every saint of God would arrive there as soon as himself, but not in that fashion did he reason; he could not settle down in a leisurely mood, comforting himself with the thought that, whatever efforts he might make, he could not have the prize until everyone else had it as well as himself. If he had had the slightest doubt as to the final results, his energies would have been altogether paralysed.
He had been apprehended by Christ to be conformed to His image, and there was only one of two ways by which this could be accomplished—by remaining here until Christ came, or by death and resurrection; he chose the latter way, for his desire was that he might know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. The way that Christ took was the way he desired to take, as the means by which he would arrive at the resurrection from among the dead. This was the way he desired to reach the goal, conformity to Christ. By this means he would apprehend that for which he had been apprehended by Christ. Everyone that is taken up by God in grace, God has this end in view for him: “Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). And this is just that which Paul was after: “That I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” The path to this goal rises before his vision, a path his feet were already treading, the highway to that high calling; and not only is the goal itself a mighty power of attraction, but the highway to that goal, a highway that bears the impress of the feet of the One who was the object upon whom he had set his soul, was in his heart; and at all cost to himself, and by any means, he would tread that path, know the fellowship of His sufferings, become conformable unto His death, share in the resurrection from among the dead, and reach by this highway conformity to the Christ who had apprehended him for this very purpose.
There is not a word about the kingdom in the whole chapter, nor a thought of it either, nor indeed could one gather from the epistle that a kingdom was to be set up on earth under the reign of Christ. The subject of the epistle is Christ, and the goal before the believer is to apprehend that for which he has been apprehended by Him. In chapter 1 the subject is the preaching of Christ; in chapter 2, moral conformity to Him down here; in chapter 3, perfect conformity to Him in glory, which shall be reached when He changes these bodies of humiliation at His coming again, when we shall for ever bear His image; in chapter 4, Christ as Lord and administrator of God’s riches in glory, exhortations to the saints to be occupied with the things that are good, that the God of peace might be with them; also to be careful for nothing, but to make their wants known to God, and that with thanksgiving, that the peace of God might guard their hearts and thoughts by Christ Jesus. Of the kingdom we have no mention. It is another subject that is before the heart and mind of the apostle.
I take it that what we have in Revelation 20:4-5 is the completion of the first resurrection. We get the early part of it in 1 Corinthians 15:42-58, and these are said to sit upon the thrones, and to have judgment given to them. But the saints slain after the rapture of the church are not to lose the kingdom, but are to share in the first resurrection. Therefore I read: “And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” This is the first resurrection, and those who have part in it are said to be blessed and holy, and immune from the power of the second death.
There is one thing certain, whatever else may be supposed doubtful: no resurrection can be found in Scripture previous to that which we have spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15, and this in Revelation 20:4; and whatever else may be said about it, in both these places we have a resurrection from among the dead, and I know no other resurrection that could be said to be first, or from among the dead. In this first resurrection the dead rise, leaving the other dead undisturbed. If this in Revelation 20 takes in all that are in the first resurrection, not one of the apostles, prophets, or saints, from Abel down to the rapture of the church could be in it. This that is definitely called the first has none in it but those who have been martyred during the preliminary judgments through which the world is called to pass between the rapture and the kingdom. “On such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
The Resurrection of the Unjust
“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” Then, when the thousand years of the glorious reign of Christ and the saints with Him have been completed, “The rest of the dead” are raised. This is a resurrection of the dead, but not from the dead; none now being left behind. This is the resurrection of judgment, the resurrection of the unjust. In this there are none “Blessed and holy,” none over whom the second death has no power. These are “Clothed,” and yet “Naked”—destitute of righteousness, and exposed to the judgment of God (2 Cor. 5:3), a resurrection inglorious and hopeless. The voice of the Son of God shall bring these forth, but the sound of it shall be in the ear of every one of them as the roaring of the lion, more terrible indeed than the thunder of the lion of the forest. And for the first time in their whole history those who hear shall obey. Their doom is certain, and long have they known it, for in hades their utterly lost condition had been a continual torment to their unhappy spirits.
“And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.” Those inanimate and guiltless haunts of wicked spirits and men, rendered unclean by the presence and practices of rebels against the authority of God, cannot endure the look of righteous indignation cast upon them by the Lord of glory, and vainly seek a hiding place. Peter in his second epistle speaks of this day, and says that “The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which was the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things that were written in the books, according to their works.” The whole sphere in which man under the power of Satan pursued his wicked career of hatred and rebellion against God, and in which all that God is in His hatred of sin and in His unspeakable love to the creature who was dominated by it came into perfect manifestation (a manifestation that shall fill the vast universe of blessing with glory, and every redeemed heart with unspeakable joy), has passed away before the throne of eternal righteousness, and in its place a throne of spotless purity, before which are assembled for judgment the whole generation of the sons of disobedience, whose hatred of God was perfectly displayed in the cross of His only-begotten Son.
“The books were opened,” and out of these books the dead were judged according to their works. What the result of such a judgment must be, can anyone who knows his own sinfulness and the righteousness of God have a solitary question? “Every man” of them was judged according to his deeds. There was no escape for any soul. Every man must have his place in eternity according to that which his works merit. The man who has sinned under law shall be there, so shall the man who has sinned without law (Rom. 2:12); so shall the hypocritical servant of Christ, the false apostle, the reprobate disciple, the self-deceived miracle-worker, the corrupter of the truth, the modernist, the infidel, the Christless professor, the liar, the murderer, and the fornicator. And that which the works of every man merit, that shall he receive. For none of these was there anything settled at the cross; they chose to answer for themselves, and the desire of their heart has been granted. They shall have an eternity of woe in which to lament their folly.
“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.” Death and hades cease to exist by the casting into the lake of fire all that were in that condition. Not a soul saved out of that vast multitude! Over all in this judgment the second death has power. It has been asked: “Why then is the book of life said to be there?” My reply is, “What answer does Scripture give to your question?” “Oh! it does not say.” Well, if Scripture does not say, it is in vain to ask me. I should, however, gather from the little knowledge that I have of God’s Word, that it is there to show how thoroughly is reconciled the sovereign grace of God with the accountability of man. Only the works of men are their destruction; only sovereign grace saves. None in this judgment is the subject of electing grace. “They were judged every man according to their works.” Is there any soul who may read these words mad enough to suppose that, if his condition for all eternity was to be determined by his works, it would be anything but unspeakable misery? I would fain hope that the reader is well aware that his works merit nothing but eternal damnation. “In thy sight shall no man living be justified.”
No one could be found in this judgment whose name was in the book of life. Where would be the consistency in placing names in the book of life from the foundation of the world (Rev. 16:8), and in the end bringing them into judgment that they may receive eternal bliss or blame according to the merit of their deeds? Only the stupid mind of man could suppose such an absurdity. Jesus says: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears My word, and believes on Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). It must be either works or grace that save. There can be no mixture (Rom. 4:4-5). If a sinner turns to God through the cross of Christ, he there sees all his sins, and also the evil nature that produced the sins, condemned and set aside in Divine judgment (Rom. 4:25; 8:3). Not only that, but he now lives by the quickening power of God in a new and Divine nature incapable of sinning; and all he waits for is to have his body changed and fashioned like the body of Christ, that he may be ever with the Lord (John 5:25; Col. 2:13; 1 John 3:9; Phil. 3:21), and then neither in nor about him shall there be anything but the work of God; and this shall not be judged by God, for He shall not judge His own work. Man could not be either praised or blamed for that which is done by God.
The Judgment-Seat of Christ
Have believers not to give account to God? Surely: all must appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, “that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). And seeing the effect that this manifestation would have upon himself, the hopeless condition of the sinner is brought home to his soul in such power that he says: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” It had no terror for him, for “We have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). We have no reason to fear the disclosures of that judgment, for the love of God has sent the Son that He should be the propitiation for our sins, and that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9-10). And not only that, but that mighty love has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom. 5:5), and it will never leave us, nor will it have its perfect satisfaction until we are in the likeness of Christ. Therefore fear has been driven out of our hearts. “He that fears is not made perfect in love.” The love and the fear cannot both dwell together in the same heart. His perfect love drives out the fear. The judgment can be looked forward to with the utmost tranquillity. Indeed no true heart would wish to be without this manifestation, for there has been much in all our lives that we have little understood. Then we shall know as we are known. We shall see our failures in the light of infinite holiness and righteousness; and along with all the provocation with which we have vexed His Holy Spirit, we shall see the patient grace and boundless love that bore with us in our wanderings, and which kept us for Himself in spite of the evil nature that could be so easily wrought upon by the devil, and which we so sadly failed to keep in the place of death. Instead of being a terror to us, it is a real comfort and joy to contemplate.
When we appear before the judgment-seat we shall be glorified, for that which “is sown in dishonour is raised in glory” (1 Cor. 15:43), and we shall be like Christ. Not only that, but when we are raised, or caught up without dying, to meet the Lord in the air, it is said “So shall we ever be with the Lord.” Not for one instant shall we be absent from Him (1 Thess. 4:17). Wherever He is we shall ever be.
But it may now be said to me: “By this you seem to make it appear that every true believer shall reign with Christ.” Yes, this is just what I see the Scripture teaches. In that day there shall not be one bit of blame for any true saint of God. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ “hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”; and “in the dispensation of the fullness of times,” when everything is gathered under Christ, we are to be “to the praise of His glory”; and the earnest of that we have in the gift of the Spirit (Eph. 1:4, 9-14). We are also part of that building that is growing to a holy temple in the Lord. And if the Apostle has to warn the saints against the allowance of the fleshly will, he tells them that because of this the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience; that is, those that do not obey the Gospel. He does not say, it comes upon them (Eph. 5:3-8). The Colossians are said to have been reconciled in the body of Christ’s flesh through death to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight; if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel” (Col. 1:21-23). Continuance proves the reality of their faith. Again, he says: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). The day of the Lord that shall come on all the world as a thief shall not come thus upon believers. He says: “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of the darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. . . . And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calls you, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:4-11, 23, 24). Again: “We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth; whereunto He called you by the Gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:13-14). Now in hope of this glory we rejoice (Rom. 5:2). And 1 Corinthians 1:7-8, “Waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Again, “Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world?” “Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” (1 Cor. 6:2-3).
Now when shall the saints judge the world or angels, except at His appearing and kingdom? Perhaps you say, “It does not say all the saints.” Neither does it say all the world. It says “the saints” and it says “the world”, and that without any qualification whatever. And was Paul dreaming when he said that the Lord would confirm the saints blameless in that day? And was it not true that the Thessalonians were called to the obtaining of the glory that shall be revealed in that day? And was it a promise never to be fulfilled, that God would preserve them, spirit, soul and body, blameless against that day? And shall that day overtake the saints as a thief, though they be not in darkness, but are children of light and of the day? Are these encouragements held out to the saints of God in this hostile world nothing but a pack of lies?
We are told by certain teachers that Paul was not perfectly sure as to how he might stand at the judgment-seat of Christ. Do they really study the Scriptures? The truth is, that in contemplating that judgment it is not for himself he has the slightest fear. He was always confident. He says: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). When he views the searching character of that judgment, as it shall affect the works of believers, a powerful impression is conveyed to his mind of the terrible consequences to those who have to appear there in their sins; for whether it be designated the judgment-seat or the great white throne, it is the same righteous Person that shall judge, and where it is the judgment of persons the terror of its results for them is unspeakable. Hence he uses that judgment to get at the consciences of sinners and to wake them up. With Felix he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, until the Roman Governor trembled with fear. But as to himself, he had not the slightest fear. How could he have fear when the rest of us have boldness for the day of judgment, and just because the work that has been done for us is infinitely perfect, that our sins are as completely gone as though they never had existence, and our relation with God are the same as His own, “For as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). This judgment had no terrors for the Apostle, and, thank God, it has none for the writer of this paper.
Another thing I would refer my reader’s attention to: We are members of the body of Christ. He is our risen and exalted Head, and we are part of Himself. Yet these teachers tell us that we may be during the time of His kingdom in the lake of fire. Just think of a part of Christ in the torment of Gehenna! And yet these wild and wicked notions are foisted upon the saints of God, and, alas! are in some instances gladly accepted as most precious truth. We learn in the Word that He loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, and these men tell us that some of it shall be purged in the lake of fire.
But now, by the help of God, I will seek to turn the attention of the reader to the promises made to the “Father of the faithful,” that we may see the bearing of those promises upon others than himself. Abraham was made the father of all them that believe, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, and the promise made to him was, that he should be heir of the world. And this promise was on the principle of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all . . . before Him whom he believed, even God, who quickens the dead, and calls those things that be not as though they were (Rom, 4), and grace recognizes no merit in the recipient. Now these promises were established in Christ (Gal. 3:16), for all the promises are in Him (2 Cor. 1:20). Jew and Gentile are all “concluded under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” And therefore is it stated “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:22, 29).
Now none but sons inherit, and they inherit all things for they are heirs of God, and therefore, “All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21-23). And “How shall He not with Him freely give us all things” (Rom. 8:32). Need I quote more Scripture texts? If a man is not satisfied with the revelation given to us in the love of God, let him say so, and in the hand of God we can leave him. I have said servants do not inherit. It is only as sons that we are heirs of God (Gal. 4:30). In one way we are all servants of God, but not as servants are we heirs, but as sons. Nor have servants any security, except that which their faithfulness gives them. But no one who is not a son can be faithful, for only by love can God be served (1 Cor. 13:1-3). “The servant abides not in the house for ever, but the son abides ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:35-36). And the way in which He makes free is in sonship. And it is in this connection we have the exhortation “Stand therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free” (Gal. 5:1). The son is ever greater than the servant, for the son speaks of vital relationship, which the servant does not. A servant may be dismissed, and the master be done with him for ever, but not the son, he abides in the house for ever. This relationship cannot be broken. In grace God gives opportunity of serving Him, and we delight to accept the privilege, but we do so because we are sons, and because we stand in higher relationship with Him. We are sons, and by the Spirit of His Son call Him Father.
The Case of the Wicked Servant
Matthew 25:14-30 is adduced in this book to prove the assertion that not all true believers shall reign with Christ. It is admitted that the man who had five talents, and also the man that had two, shall reign with Him, but that the man who had received only one talent shall not, though the three are all servants of the Lord. Now this last-mentioned servant brought forth nothing for his Lord from the talent that was given to him, and we learn from the parable of the sower (Matt. 13), that where the seed of the Word fell into good ground it brought forth, some a hundred-fold, some sixty, and some thirty-fold. Every soul in whom there is a work of Divine grace brings forth fruit; there may be little, or there may be much, but where life is there is activity; and the activity of Divine life is the fruit spoken of, for the life the believer has received from Christ is in the power of the Holy Spirit. Love is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5-22), and where love is not, God is unknown (1 John 4:7-8). This wicked servant brought forth nothing and he knew not God. See the account he gives of Him: “I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed.” Is that what God is? His own confession proved the darkness in which he was. “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in wickedness” (I John 5:19). On “them that know not God” His vengeance shall fall at His appearing, and they shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power (2 Thess. 1:8-9). Such men as this wicked servant is shall meet their doom in that day.
We are also referred to “the faithful and wise servant” in Matthew 24:45-51, and also the evil servant in the same place, and we are told that both these servants are one. Now if they both were one person he must be maintained in life throughout the whole dispensation, and Methuselah when he died would be, compared with him, only an infant. Today he would be almost two thousand years old. The fact is, the whole dispensation is in view, and in the parable we are given to see the way in which the servants of the Lord have departed from Himself. The servants that had a charge in the household of God were at the beginning of the dispensation faithful and wise, for they were directly under the eye of the Apostles, and in most cases were appointed by them; but the profession did not long remain in its primitive freshness. Before the Apostle John had left the world the church had left its first love, and from that day until the present it has gone on from bad to worse. We see the progress of its departure in the seven churches of Revelation. There we get a better insight into the history of the church than we could get in all the books that ever were written on the subject. In the parable we see that which the servants of the Lord became while the church was running its course down through the centuries, from its establishment until it will become so nauseous to Christ that He says: “I will spue thee out of My mouth” (Rev. 2:3). It was not long until the servants had usurped the position of “lords over God’s heritage” (1 Pet, 5:3); and priests they styled themselves, as though all the saints of the Lord were not priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9). Next, the formation of sects and parties and everyone seeking to get as many disciples as he could after himself.
That all who take upon themselves the service of Christ must own Him as Lord need scarcely be said, for otherwise he would have no right to call himself a Christian. But not all that call Him Lord love either Him or His service. There are many reasons why people enter that service. It is taken up by some as a respectable way of earning a living; by others for the purpose of gaining ascendancy over the souls of men; not so many take it up out of pure devotedness to the interests of Christ. But those who take the place of His servants have the responsibility devolving upon the position, and may have a talent given to them to be used in their service for Him. “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name have done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:22-23). The fact of their being servants of His and gifted with power to serve Him does not prove them to be in vital relationship with Him. These certainly were not, for He says: “I never knew you.” That He is omniscient and knows all men is just what the Word says (John 2:24-25), But here it is knowledge involving intimacy in the Divine life and nature. Jesus says, “I know My sheep, and am known of Mine, as the Father knows Me and I know the Father (John 10:15). This is the intimacy that subsists between Him and all His own, and outside of this is every other human being. The wicked servants are not in this fellowship.
Apostles were specially called of God, and had their mission marked out for them by the Lord Himself. These or their delegates ordained elders in all the Gentile Churches (Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5). Others who were gifted by the Lord, evangelists and teachers, went forth in His service, and seemingly without any special call. But whether directly sent forth by the Lord Himself, or whether addicting themselves to the ministry, all were directly responsible to Him, with respect to the way in which they carried out the service they took up. Whatever they might be, they were His servants, and to Him bound to give account.
Nowadays we hear people talking about having a call to the ministry, and in association with this or that sect, and this call is supposed to be from the Lord, but really it is more often from a congregation of unconverted men, and the man called anything but a child of God. But seeing they take this place, the Lord holds them to the responsibility of the position. There were such in the past dispensation, and of them He says: “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings (Jer. 33:21-22). And Peter tells us that as there were false prophets among the people, so shall there be false teachers among you, who shall privily bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bringing upon themselves swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1). And Paul: “False apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13). Even Balaam, a servant of the devil, was taken up by God, and made to set forth the mind of God regarding His people Israel and that in the most glowing terms, yet was he judged on account of his wickedness (Num. 22-24; 31:8).
But yet another question is raised, and 1 Corinthians 3 is referred to, in which Paul speaks of the Assembly at Corinth as “God’s building,” and himself and Apollos as “God’s fellow-workmen,” Paul, as a wise master-builder, had laid the foundation of the Assembly at Corinth. The foundation was laid in the souls of the saints, and it was Jesus Christ. Later on the Apostle could say to these same saints, when he writes his second epistle to them, “Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates” (2 Cor. 13:5). The saints are the building, the servants are the workmen engaged on the building. These are not “master builders”; Paul was that, and the foundation was laid once for all. Those who follow in the work of the edifice need to be careful to build with material that will stand the test. The day of trial is sure to come; some day that shall test all that has been done, and the fire of that day shall destroy and bring to nothing everything that is inflammable, such as wood, hay, straw. There are many builders that build with bad material, turning saints and those that hear them to a sacramental system, the law, and a Christless ritual. These doctrines are worthless to produce or to build up believers, and the work of such builders shall be burned up, and they shall have no reward for their labour. But it does not necessarily follow that he shall be lost; his work shall be lost, but he himself shall be saved as by fire. The builder may be more than a builder, he may be a true saint of God, and in his life as a believer he may bring forth a good deal of fruit; but his service as a builder is lost. All saints are not builders in this sense, though in another sense all are, for we are exhorted to build up ourselves on our most holy faith (Jude 20); but the passage under consideration is the work of a teacher on the saints viewed as God’s Building. Paul tells the saints that they were his glory and joy, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 2:19). And John: “And now, little children, abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28). These faithful builders wrought so that they would find in the day of Christ the saints they sought to build up glorified with Christ. Lot lost everything that he possessed in Sodom, but his relationship with God remained uninjured. Scripture says of the bad builder: “He shall suffer loss,” and the loss is stated, and no one who fears God will add to His Word. There is also the destroyer, or defiler, of God’s temple, and him shall God destroy. The man who builds with good material shall have his reward. We are not told what his reward shall be. It will be reward enough for him, when he shall see those who have been built up by his faithful ministry in the glory with Christ. But let my reader keep in mind that the Scripture referred to has for its subject teachers of the Word, and not simply saints. A man might be a very godly saint, and yet very defective in the doctrine of Christ. Therefore he might be unintentionally building with material that in a day of trial would not stand. He might be a bad builder, but in his Christian life there might be produced much of the fruit of the Spirit: “Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23). I think I have seen such. But what about the Israelites who fell in the wilderness, and never reached the promised land? Are the things that happened to them not types of us? Certainly: the Scriptures say they are types of us. Well, they had been all sheltered by the blood of the lamb; they had been baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea; they had all eaten the same spiritual meat; they had all drunk the same spiritual drink; but not all entered Canaan. Why? Simply because they had no faith (Deut. 32:20; Heb. 3:10) and because they refused to go into the land (Num. 14:1-23).
But we are told that Israel was standing in grace. The people were brought out of Egypt in grace, and stood in grace up till they came to Sinai, but there they came under the covenant of works, and from that day all was changed. They were placed under law with a little grace added, or none of them had left Sinai alive (Ex. 19:4-8; 20:1-17; 34:6-7). Had they known the deceitfulness of their own hearts they would never have put their signature to that covenant. But they did sign it, saying, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” No one can inherit blessing on the ground of the fulfilment of their obligations.
But I am told: “Overthrown Israel are a type, either of the believer’s eternal destruction, or of his forfeited reward.” There are three ways in which Israelites are types of Christians. (1) As sheltered by blood in Egypt, but still in bondage, and viewing God as a Judge. This is a soul in whom there is a work of grace, the blood of Christ giving a righteous ground of passing over those who have turned to Him in faith (Rom. 3); but the soul not planted on the ground of redemption. (2) The profession of faith in Christ delivered for our offences, and raised again for justification (Rom. 4:24-25). This brings into the wilderness where the testing begins. If a soul has not genuine faith he will not go on in the face of difficulties, but in his heart he turns back into the world. This is eternal destruction. “We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip . . . for how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb. 2:1-4). In chapter 12:2 we are told there is no escape. Should one fall in the wilderness (and many fall there), his case is hopeless. “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 20:14). (3) The failure of the two and a half tribes to go over Jordan. The land given to them was from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates (Gen. 15:18), but their place of abode was on the west side of the Jordan. The territory on the east side was theirs, but they were not to have their home, but tribal inheritance in it. The two and a half tribes pleaded to be allowed to dwell in the land of Bashan, which was on the east of Jordan, and Moses allowed them to do this on the ground that they went across Jordan armed, and helped their brethren against the inhabitants of Canaan. Now this represents many true believers who refuse to take the ground of heavenly men, but are content to remain down here as justified through grace, and in hope of the glory of God. A large number of so-called evangelicals are in occupation of this ground. They are good men, and well able on certain occasions to contend for the faith and for the heavenly hopes of believers; but to take Ephesian ground, as risen with Christ, and seated in Him in the heavenlies—from this they shrink. Those in Egypt have not reached salvation, those in the wilderness may or may not have a vital link with Christ, those at home in Bashan have not accepted in any full measure the position into which they have been called by the Gospel. We are not only going to heaven, but we are now a heavenly people (1 Cor. 15:48). Unbelievers do not enter into the rest of God; we that have believed do (Heb. 4:3).
The Chastening of the Lord
Threading one’s way through a thicket of error is tiresome work. And such is the book that lies before me, written by a well-known man who is spoken of as “a Gospel stalwart,” and in it there is not one solitary truth of the Gospel in the setting in which it is found in Scripture. Had we not been well warned of the departure of professing Christians from the truth, we should certainly have been bewildered as we look abroad upon Christendom today. Yet is there a bright side to it all, for it is a witness of the near approach of our Lord and Saviour. This prospect, in the midst of sorrow, may well make our hearts rejoice.
It is asserted that the chastening of the Lord may in many cases continue after the Lord has come, and even throughout His millennial reign. It may even go the length of consigning some to the lake of fire for that period. Some, it is stated, return temporarily to corruption until the resurrection from death to the great white throne judgment. To have to return to corruption after having been raised in incorruption, power, and glory, and in spiritual bodies, would be a humiliation indeed. But, thank God, there is not a particle of truth in it, nor do I think that many real believers are likely to mistake such falsehoods for the truth of the Gospel.
But perhaps if we inquire into Scripture as to why we are chastened at all, it will help us to understand whether the chastening of the Lord is needful when we are raised from the dead. What light does Scripture furnish as to this? We are told, at any rate, that “When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor. 11:32). Now if a believer got his portion with the hypocrites, or was cast into outer darkness, where there were weeping and gnashing of teeth, or if he were cast into the lake of fire, would he be condemned with the world? Are outer darkness and lake of fire not the portion of impenitent sinners? Are these judgments punitive, or remedial? Chastening by God is always remedial, and there is not an element of punishment in it. The object of it is “For our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.” This is the object of it, and though no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness, to them which are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:10-11). Will a thousand years in “outer darkness,” or in “Gehenna,” yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness, or make a soul partaker of His holiness?
How Does He Address Us?
Again, how does He speak to us when He takes up the rod? Is it “Thou wicked servant,” or “Depart from Me: I never knew you?” Far from it. He says: “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:5-6). How different all this is from “Cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites “It is difficult to imagine such God-dishonouring thoughts being allowed to germinate in any heart that knows the love of God. It is astonishing how far even a saint of God can go in error, if not watchful to keep in dependence upon God. May both reader and writer take warning by the fall of so many strong men, and walk in self-judgment, and heart-reference to God, that he may be kept from the error of the wicked one.
No Chastening When Glorified
Chastening shall not be required when we are glorified, for the flesh will not be in us. The change of body will have delivered us from that. As far as the work of God in us is concerned we are incapable of sinning. In the one begotten of God His seed remains, and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God. At present sin has its seat in our members (Rom. 6:12-13), though we are not to allow it to reign there. We are to bring the cross to bear upon it: “Our old man has been crucified with Him,” and it is our privilege to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin, and alive to God. And in this God helps us by chastening, using various means to this end (2 Cor. 4:8-11; Heb. 12:3-4), for we might forget the reckoning, and that would be disastrous.
“Chastisement, but only in this life.” For this statement proofs are demanded. Would it not be more consistent for men advancing theories to which most believers are unaccustomed, to give us proofs that in our glorified state chastisement might be needful and administered? But proofs abundant have been advanced for the statement. We are chastised that we should not be condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:32). If a believer gets his portion with the hypocrites (Matt. 24:51), is that not being condemned with the world? If a believer be cast into the lake of fire, is that not being condemned with the world? (Rev. 21:8). If a believer has to hear from the lips of his Saviour those terrible words: “I never knew you,” is that not being condemned with the world? (John 10:14-15).
But I am informed that chastisement cannot “cancel unrepented offences during discipleship.” True: nor can repentance cancel repented offences, either during discipleship or during any other time, either in this life or the next, either in time or in eternity. Not one thing in earth or heaven can do that but the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:22). That chastening can and does purify the soul, is not to be denied. But when that is admitted another question has to be considered, and that is, What is the nature of the purification? It cannot improve the Divine nature, or the superstructure that may be raised upon it by the word of truth: nor can it make the flesh any better, for the flesh is incorrigibly wicked. The one that is born of God cannot sin. Of this I have already spoken. He that is bathed is every whit clean (John 13:10). He is born of water and the Spirit. And, as I have said, the flesh is unmendably bad (Rom. 8:5-8). What is it, then, that is purified? If the workmanship of God is spotlessly pure, and the old and fallen nature is hopelessly evil, what then? By the chastisement we are subject to death. It is rolled in upon us in such a way that this scene in which the flesh has its home becomes less an object to us, and that world of glory to which we have been called, and He who gave Himself for us, and who is the sun and centre of that world, becomes more precious to our hearts. Thus are our thoughts and affections purified, and our practical lives become more descriptive of Christ. The life of Jesus is more manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Cor. 4:7-11).
But supposing the old fleshly nature was not in us, and supposing we were that which we are by the work of God, where would the need of chastening come in? Will the Divine nature hanker after this world? The lust and pride that are in this world are both of the flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit cannot be contaminated with its evil. Our mortal bodies, in which only sin can reign, will be changed and fashioned like Christ’s body of glory, and we shall be conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29-30). Chastening therefore would be unnecessary.
We are told by a propagator of this doctrine that only those in the first resurrection are incapable of dying again. Of believers unworthy of being in the first resurrection “no such assertion of incorruptibility is made.” Who are these? I have not come across any hint of such in Scripture. I have already referred to this, and will therefore only remind the reader that the Word is plain on the subject, and that we are distinctly told; “We shall not all sleep, but we shall ALL be changed”: “The dead shall be raised incorruptible, and WE shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15); and all at the same moment “in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.” And in 1 Thessalonians 4: “The dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” There is no other passage in God’s holy Word that contradicts or modifies this blessed statement; “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” There is the resurrection of the wicked, who are subject to the second death, but these are not under consideration.
That chastisement will not end with the present life, the “many and plain proofs” given are proofs of nothing of the kind. Those denied by Christ, that are cast into hell fire, into outer darkness, cut asunder, have their portion with hypocrites, or to whom Christ says: “I never knew you,” are lost for ever. Wicked servants, fornicators, adulterers, idolaters, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, shall find their eternal portion in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone (Rev. 21:8). Let all who read these lines beware that they be not deceived with the soul-destroying falsehood, that only a few years, even in Gehenna, are all that they need fear, and in the end they shall come forth and reign for ever with the Son of God. These men may complain that they are assailed with hard words. No words that could be invented are hard enough to set forth the utter wickedness of such spiritual poison. I say to every soul, be he who he may, if any of these wickednesses characterize you, and you die as you have lived, not the loss of the kingdom only, but the loss of your soul for all eternity, shall be your unspeakably miserable reward. How good it is to know that even should you find yourself in this catalogue of sinners, there is in this day of grace the assurance for the penitent that: “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men. Such had been some of the Corinthians, but they were washed, sanctified, and justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). Do not for one moment suppose you can forfeit reigning with Christ, and be blest in the eternal state. I see no way into the eternal state except through the kingdom.
To Whom are the Epistles Written?
The answer to the question is this: They are written to all in every locality who have been gathered out of this world to the name of Christ by the preaching of the Gospel. The effect of the preaching we find in Matthew 13. There we have three classes of hearers those who hear, and pass on without any effect being produced. The devil takes the seed out of the heart, as the birds of the air pick up the seed that falls on the wayside. Then we have that which falls into stony hearts, in which there has been no ploughing up of the conscience; the Word is received at once with joy, but taking no root, when the sun rises it is scorched. Tribulation or persecution makes such abandon Christ. That which is sown among thorns is choked by the cares and riches of this world, and is without fruit. But he that received the Word into good ground, is he that hears the Word, and understands it; which also bears fruit, and brings forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. The last only are saved souls.
Now, people are received on their profession of faith in Christ, and as neither the apostles nor anyone else is omniscient, there cannot be but a mixture in the professing church. Hence all the warnings that are to be found in every epistle. I do not infer that these warnings are not really valuable to the saints, for they certainly are. People brought out of the darkness and degradation of heathenism, and Jews also brought into the true light, require to have set before them the truth as given to us of God, and to be well warned as to the consequence of walking in the darkness out of which they had been gathered. Also from the beginning there were evil teachers who swarmed over the assemblies, seeking to turn them away from the faith and corrupt their morals. And these were in the profession of Christ. Among the Corinthians there were those who denied the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15). Then in 2 Corinthians we find those who sought to turn the saints away from the apostle (chap. 10:10-11). The apostle also refers to very wicked men, “false apostles, deceitful workers,” servants of the devil, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ; and says that their end shall be according to their works (chap. 11:4-15). In all the epistles we have these warnings, to which we should take heed, for “By the Word of Thy lips have I kept me from the paths of the destroyer” (Ps. 17:4).
To return to Matthew 13, it is not only that there is a mixture on account of the way in which the Gospel is received, but the devil himself introduces tares among the wheat. Then there is the mustard tree, a monstrosity; the leaven, corruption. This is the external aspect of the kingdom at this present time. The treasure and the pearl; all that is precious to Christ is in it, but not so manifested to the natural eye as to be distinguished from the lifeless profession. But in the net cast into the sea we have a picture of the whole effect of the preaching during the dispensation of grace, and when the net is full the fishermen draw it to the shore, and the work of selection begins; they put the good into vessels, and cast the bad away. Now we have come near to the close of the dispensation, and we see that this work has begun. The Lord alone knows them that are His, but we can judge men by their fruit, not with absolute assurance as to His own, but we are to accept all that call on the Lord with a pure heart; and those who do not bear the characteristics of the children of God we reject. It does not seem that selection takes place until the net is full. If selection, which certainly is practised at the present time, is of God, then we rest assured that the end is near.
It is to the profession, viewed as the result of the sowing of the seed, that the epistles are written “All that call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:2), but viewed as the Assembly of God in the place, and addressed as saints; for this all are held to be, until otherwise manifested. Hence the warnings against the allowance of the flesh, the indulgence of the carnal appetite, the slipping away from the Word of salvation, and the possibility of apostasy from Christ. In 1 Corinthians they are warned against trusting to the ordinances of Christianity (chap. 10); having fellowship with idolaters, and going on with filthiness of flesh and spirit (2 Cor. 6-7). In Galatians we find they were going back to law, and to circumcision, and they are told that if they do this Christ shall profit them nothing (chap. 5:2). In Ephesians they are reminded that because of the allowance of the flesh the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience; also in Colossians we have the same thing, and a warning given them. Their presentation before the fullness of the Godhead, as holy and unblameable and unreprovable, depended upon their continuing in the faith, and not being moved away from the hope of the Gospel (Eph. 5:5-6; Col. 1:21-23; 3:5-6). But need I refer to more Scriptures? We get the same thing everywhere Timothy, 2 Peter, and Jude. By all these Scriptures are we warned, and in them our path is clearly marked out for us, while they serve as an alarming voice to the consciences of those who may be found trusting in the ordinances that, however precious they may be, cannot save the soul.
But in all this there is not one single text of Scripture to cause the faithful heart the least fear that he may not be a companion of the Christ in the day of His reign. Even the Corinthians are assured that our Lord Jesus Christ “shall confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8). Of the purchased possession we have already got the earnest of that inheritance, in being “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13-14). In Philippians 1:6 Paul speaks of being confident of this very thing: “That He that has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” As to Colossians, he says “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (chap. 3:4). Of this blessed hope we have everywhere the most blessed assurance, “We have boldness in the day of judgment, because as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). “Whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). Our Lord prays for “Them that believe on Me through their word,” and says, “The glory that Thou has given Me I have given them, that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me,” etc. (John 17:22-23).
There is a notion in the minds of those who come under the influence of these errors, that salvation and forgiveness may be taken as synonyms. Scripture, however, gives no support to such a thought. Forgiveness is simply that the Creditor no longer regards the debtor as liable for the debts he may have contracted. God releases the sinner from the consequences of his sins. But salvation is the emancipation of the sinner from every evil power that had captivated him, and held him as a slave. Reference is made to Israel in this book. At the Red Sea Israel was told to stand still and see the salvation of God. The people were delivered from the bondage under which they lay, and the dread power of the enemy was broken. If we should speak of the blood-sprinkled lintel as affording them salvation (I do not think it is ever called that), it would be salvation from God, for the blood was on the door-post to keep out His righteous Judgment, which was abroad in the land. Through the shed blood we have forgiveness (Eph. 1:7), and without shedding of blood is no remission (Heb. 9:22). At the Red Sea we have the salvation of God. This is Christ delivered for our offence; and raised again for our justification. Romans 3:24-26 has reference to the blood in Egypt, and chapter 4:24-25 to the Red Sea divided. Chapter 3, “Through faith in His blood.” Chapter 4, “We believe in Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.”
Israel’s salvation was not the salvation of the soul, but temporal deliverance, not eternal. It delivered them from Pharaoh and his oppression; but not from the oppressor, the devil, whom Pharaoh typified. It was a salvation openly revealed, then and there; not like the salvation of the soul, which is “ready to be revealed,” but for its revelation awaits the appearing of Christ (1 Pet 1:5-13). Their baptism was to Moses in the cloud and in the sea, ours to Christ and to His death. Their food was the manna for the sustenance of the body, ours is Christ for the sustenance of the spiritual life derived from Christ. The rock from which they drank poured forth its water, after being smitten with the rod of Moses, for the natural thirst of the congregation, our Rock is Christ who was smitten with the rod of Divine judgment on our behalf, and from whom risen and glorified, flow the refreshing streams of Divine grace for the weary pilgrim on his journey to heaven.
We must keep in mind that they were a people taken up in the flesh, and that their arrival at the purpose of God depended entirely on their obedience to the command of God. I speak of their history from Sinai onward. From their departure out of Egypt until Sinai they were under pure grace, but at Sinai they entered into a covenant with God, binding themselves to life and blessing on the ground of their fulfilling their responsibilities, and broke it the first day they got it. Then, through the intercession of Moses, they got the law once more, written upon the second two stony tablets, but with a little grace added (Ex. 34:1-9). For the rest of their journey they were not under pure law. Under pure law they would have perished to a man at Sinai. It became now a question of their inheriting with the help of God; but in Numbers 14 we see that even with the help of God they could not inherit. Even those who eventually came into the land could not keep it, for they proved themselves to be worse than the nations that were in the land before them. They broke the law, stoned the prophets, and murdered the Son of God, and today they are a mighty witness to the great fact that “the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7)
Yet Israel shall enter into and enjoy the inheritance which God promised to them, but it will be on the ground of pure grace, and under a covenant that shall leave them nothing to do but submit to God’s terms. They will inherit through the sovereignty of God. He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and He will feel compassion for whom He will feel compassion; and therefore blessing will not be of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy (Ex. 33:19; Rom. 9:15-16). On the part of God it will not be, I will, if you will, but it will be all God’s “I will.” The new covenant will simply set forth the disposition of God towards the people; and what He says He will do, that He shall do (Heb. 8:6-13).
And this will be their salvation. The ground of all blessing for them and for us is the work of the cross. That was a work done outside of us. But it is also necessary that a work should be done in us. The work done for us is set before us in 1 Corinthians 15, “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried; and that He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.” In the epistle to Titus we have the work done in us: “After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by His grace we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” The first is the work done for you, the second is the work done in you; and both are necessary if we are to have the hope of eternal life. And being justified by His grace we are heirs, and cannot be robbed of our inheritance.
But not all that came out of Egypt entered the land. In connection with this we are told by the writer of this book: “God’s sharp dilemma impales us on its one horn or on the other. Overthrown Israel are a type, either of the believer’s eternal destruction, or of his forfeited reward.” Overthrown Israel is a type of neither, and on neither horn need anyone be impaled. The things that happened to them are types of the profession of Christianity (1 Cor. 10). Jude speaks of certain ungodly men who had crept into the profession, who turned the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denied the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ, and says, “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed them that believed not.” The things that happened to them are not types of true believers, but of those who profess faith in Christ, the great majority of whom in the present day are without faith in His sacred Word. And it is in this sense that we have the warnings of Scripture—“Afterward destroyed them that believed not”; “They could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:18-19). The unbelief manifests itself in unholy and unrighteous behaviour, and these things have to be taken up, but the root evil is unbelief. The mere profession of faith in Christ saves no one.
All the grace that was shown to Israel was powerless to produce in them anything for God. Man must be born of water and of the Spirit, if he is to enter into the kingdom of God. He must be renewed in the whole texture of his moral being. The flesh, which is man’s nature as derived from fallen Adam, could not be mended, therefore is it ended judicially in the cross of Christ: “Our old man has been crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6), “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). The believer—every true believer, whoever he may be—is the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus, and in Him is new creation. There the old things have passed away, and all things have become new, and all these new things are of God (2 Cor. 5:17-18). There is not an element of the flesh, or of old creation, recognized in our relations with God; nothing of the old order forms part of us viewed as in Christ. In the work that has been done for us, and in the work that has been done in us, is salvation and eternal life; and these blessings we have in Him, by the way in which He has intervened for us when we were utterly lost; and we possess them by the power of the Spirit in the knowledge of the Father and of Jesus Christ His sent One, though in their fullness both are future (1 Thess. 5:8; Tit. 1:2).
“God gives us,” we are told, “not only facts backward to believe, but facts forward: never to believe the facts backward is to be lost; not to believe the facts forward is for a child of God to drift into sin at once, and to incur the peril of the oath of exclusion.” That there are facts brought before the hearer by the preaching of the Gospel no believer will be disposed to question; but these facts are concerning the work of God on our behalf, facts which set Him before us in His true character, in grace and love, so that the faith of our souls centres on Himself: He becomes the object of our faith. “Abraham believed God.” The facts are believed because we have faith in the Person who speaks them; and yet this faith is begotten in our hearts by the very word that is addressed to us in the Gospel. Still it is God that is believed, and not merely facts.
In the book that lies before me I cannot say that I find God brought before us as the object of faith. He has revealed Himself in the Son of His love, and in Christ have we got to know Him. We know Him, as I have said, by what He has done; but it is Himself we know and trust, I do not find anything of this in the book I have in review. It is all the kingdom, and our efforts to get a good position in it, and that, not for the love of Christ, nor to be near Him in the day of His glory, but only for our own advantage. It is something akin to the desire of the wife of Zebedee for her two sons. She wanted them to have the best and most honourable place in the kingdom (Matt. 20:21), or like Peter, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?” (Matt. 19:27). But what is it that gives true energy and direction to the Christian life? The love of Christ constrains us,” and to be with Him, to be like Him, to be His companions, and to be for ever to the satisfaction of His heart; this is better than any glory that could be given to us. If it were possible to miss reigning with Him, it would be the consequence of putting into practice the teachings of this book. It is self that is placed before the soul and not Christ. No one will question that a reward given by His pierced hand, as a mark of His approval of the little service we may by His grace be able to render to Him will be exceedingly precious to His own; but this does not come much into evidence in this book. Rewards are set before us to encourage us in our tribulation through this evil world, and the warnings that are given are to keep us from forgetting that if God is our Father, our Father is also God. We must remember that the One whom we invoke as Father is the One who without respect of persons judges according to every man’s work (1 Peter 1:17), and the judgments that He exercises in His family are sometimes made to fail with heavy hand. But they will deprive no true believer of a share in the reign of His Son, for the kingdom is “promised to them that love Him” (Jas. 2:5), and it is our Father’s good pleasure to give it to us (Luke 12:32). If a man does not love God, he is not begotten of God; but if he does love God, he is a child of God, and the kingdom is assured to him by the God that cannot lie.
I come back to the question of faith. Faith, in every instance, whether in natural or spiritual things, comes by report; and in Divine things report is by the Word of God (Rom. 10:16-17). To believe the report with the heart—that is, with a heart interested in it—is to come under the power of it. To believe the word of a man without being able to verify it, is to believe the man; and to believe the Gospel of God, which we have no means of verifying, apart from the inward assurance that it is He who has spoken, is to believe God; not to believe His Word is to say He is not worthy to be trusted. Abraham came under the power of the Word addressed to him by God, though he well knew that, as far as nature was concerned, the promise God made to him could never be fulfilled. But he knew that what he had promised He was able also to bring to pass (Rom. 4:21). A large number of the children of Israel had no faith in God. They are spoken of as children in whom is no faith (Deut. 32:20), and they could not enter into the purpose of God because of this.
Scripture reveals no way into the eternal enjoyment of the favour of God in the new heaven and the new earth except through the kingdom. It is to the kingdom we are called by the Gospel (1 Thess. 2:12), and it is the first thing placed before the believer. It is promised to them that love God; and a man who does not love Him has not passed out of death into life (Jas. 2:5; 1 John 4:7-8); he is in no vital relationship with God. If it were possible that a soul that loved God would be rejected from the kingdom, it would prove a breach of promise on the part of God; but His gifts and calling are without repentance (Rom. 11:29). To those rejected from the kingdom He says: “I never knew you”; and such are cast into outer darkness, among hypocrites, and into the fire of Gehenna, the second death (Matt. 25:39, 41; 24:51, and many other texts). If a man is prepared to argue that such a punishment may be meted out to children of God, it would be very unwise to waste precious time in any discussion with him.
But the coming kingdom has a heavenly side to it as well as an earthly. It is more a sphere than a plain. When the Son of Man shall have sent forth His angels and gathered out of His kingdom every evil thing that it has accumulated in its present aspect, and shall have cast them that do iniquity into a furnace of fire, “then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” This I do not doubt is the heavenly side of the kingdom, which, in its administrative character, is set before us in the holy city (Rev. 21, 22). In this city are the throne of God and of the Lamb, and in it the saints of this dispensation shall reign with Christ over the kingdom under the whole heaven (Dan. 7:27). All on the heavenly side are in their ultimate and glorified condition. The city is the whole assembly of the glorified saints of this dispensation. Taking the tabernacle in the wilderness as typical of the order of the world to come, the heavenly city is “The Holiest,” the earthly Jerusalem “The Holy Place,” and the court, the court of the Gentiles. The heavenly city has the Shekinah, “The glory of God,” and the sphere where His face is seen (Rev. 21:11; 22:4), and in the light of this the nations walk. The glory of the earthly Jerusalem owes its brightness and wealth of blessing to the heavenly. It will minister both light and nourishment to the nations.
When we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air our state and condition are changeless: “So (Thus) shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). And John tells us: “We shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). This is a way in which the world shall never see Him. The world shall see Him in His judicial character only; but we shall see Him in His and our Father’s house, in that place He has prepared for us (John 14). And we shall all be caught up: “The dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus shall we ever be with the Lord.” Let us give heed to the injunction, then, to “Comfort one another with these words.”
Yet after such plain and encouraging words, we are asked in this pamphlet to believe that many of those who have been caught up to “be for ever with the Lord,” and whose bodies of humiliation have been fashioned like unto the Lord’s own glorious body, will be excluded from His kingdom and (1) Some, perhaps, . . . may behold without entering, (2) Some return temporarily to corruption . . . until Hades, together with death, are emptied at the final judgment, . . . (3) Some are in the mysterious region known as “outer darkness,” (4) Some, guilty of the very gravest offences, are temporarily in Gehenna. To suppose that a man who is fit to be the companion of Christ throughout the eternal ages is not fit to reign with Christ over a rebellious world, is not only contrary to Scripture, but obnoxious to every spiritual mind. What could be more unworthy of all that we have learned of God, than to speak of Him as returning some to corruption who had been glorified, and in the likeness of Christ, and in spiritual bodies?
However unspeakable the joy of having to do with a God of all grace and love, there is a solemnity connected with it that shuts out completely all levity of the flesh. But it is another thing when one is told of “The awful vision of the judgment-seat of Christ,” a judgment that has not the slightest terror for the believer. A saint and servant of God, seeing the effect of that judgment upon himself, may well be aroused to increased earnestness for the Christless soul who may have to stand before it. But for himself it has no terrors. We have boldness in that day.
But in connection with this subject I read in the pamphlet that I have before me: “If on the ground of 1 Thessalonians 5:4, it should be said that the Parousia cannot overtake a believer as a thief, this word of our Lord at once negatives the inference, for the threat of a thief-like descent, accompanied with total ignorance of the arrival, is addressed to a Christian pastor” (Rev. 3:3). But the Lord is here speaking of “the times and seasons” which refer to His restoring again the kingdom unto Israel (Acts 1:6-7), and that will be at His appearing to the world; and Israel cannot be taken up for blessing until the church has gone from this scene. The rapture of the church will make way for Israel to come in. The Gentile branches must be broken off out of the Olive Tree, before the natural branches can be grafted in again (Rom. 11:16-25). No true believer is in darkness; for He “has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). “Delivered us from the power of darkness” (Col. 1:13). Indeed believers are themselves light, though they were once darkness (Eph. 5:8). “He that hates his brother is in darkness” (1 John 2:22); and to such “is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 13). Therefore, if the day of which the Lord speaks in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4 overtakes any one it must be as a thief, for all in darkness are without the knowledge of God and utterly unprepared for that day. This is what light is, the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 4:3-6).
We are told that the threat that “is addressed to a Christian pastor” (the Angel of the church in Sardis), “decisively proves that Thessalonian disciples (1 Thess. 4:15) stand, not for the whole church, but for the watchful only; even as the promise of escape is addressed to the Philadelphian Angel, and only indirectly to all in Philadelphia who also had kept ‘the word of My patience.’ To Thessalonian disciples there will be no thief-like suddenness; therefore the Thessalonians stand for souls never surprised (1 Thess. 5:4) because never unready.” It is nice to have things proven “decisively”; and surely it would be a pity to have things that have been decisively proven disturbed. Still, one may ask a question, and turn to Scripture for a decisive answer.
Why was it that that day would not overtake the Thessalonians as a thief? Does not the very Scripture (1 These. 5:4) quoted give the reason? The reason was because they were not in darkness. I have spoken of this, and shown from the Word that all believers are in the light, and are light in the Lord. This was not at all peculiar to the Thessalonians; indeed, many believers were a great deal more in the light than they, for they had been converted only a few weeks, and had no time to learn anything but the simplest elements of the Gospel, nor does the apostle put forth anything advanced in either of his two epistles which are written to them. In verse 5 the apostle says directly to the Thessalonians: “Ye are the children of light, and the children of the day,” and then, as if to show that this was true of all believers, he says: “We are not of the night, nor of the darkness.” And again, “For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him” (vv. 9-10).
And whether we fall asleep, or whether we wait here until He come, when He comes and establishes His kingdom, we shall “live together with Him.” The Lord shall make no mistake in His dealings with either His saints or with the world. He knows them that are His (2 Tim. 1:9), and they know Him (John 10:14), and they are beloved of God, for they love Jesus (John 16:27; 1 Peter 1:8); and for them God has the kingdom in view (Jas. 2:5). And speaking of such as should believe through the word of the apostles, He says, “The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.” The world to which we have manifested little of the unity of life and nature, and for that reason goes on in its blind unbelief, shall yet see us in the same glory as Christ, and then it shall, not believe, but know, that the Father sent the Son, and also that He has loved us as He has loved Him (John 17:22-23).
I must bring this paper to an end. I have said that the immediate prospect placed before us in Scripture is the kingdom. To this we are called by the Gospel (2 Thess. 2:13-14); and we have the assurance given to us by the God who cannot lie that we shall be confirmed unto the end: “Blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8). But from the beginning good and bad have been found together in the profession of Christianity. The enemy sowed tares among the wheat, and the net gathered both good and bad fish (Matt. 13:25, 47). Therefore we require to be attentive to the Scriptures, in order that we may have light for our path through this confusion.
In Matthew 5-7 we have the characteristics of those who have title to enter the kingdom and to reign with Christ. How they come to be able to exhibit those beautiful moral features of the King comes not to light in this discourse. This is to be learned from other parts of the Word of God. Those who exhibit the qualities necessary for entrance into the kingdom are those who share in the life of the risen and glorified Saviour, and who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. They are the qualities of the only life in which we live in our relationship with the Father and the Son (1 John). Being alive in that life we are able to “walk worthy of God, who has called us unto His kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12).
We are called to glory, but there is a way there, and to that way the Holy Spirit by means of the Word directs our attention. Should we see others who bear the name of Christ, and who may seem to occupy a high position in the house of God, acting in a way contrary to the Divine will, we are warned against going with them or imitating, and their eternal condemnation is plainly declared. To all these warnings we are exhorted to take heed. On God’s side we are kept by His almighty power, but on our side it is, “By the word of Thy lips have I kept me from the paths of the destroyer.” Our God has no intention of allowing us to slide away from Himself, and therefore are all His wholesome, solemn, and gracious warnings. If there is one saint who is more devoted to the interests of Christ than another, he can only say, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”
If what these men, who misread the Word of God and fill unestablished souls with dismay, affirm were true, is there a single believer upon earth who would have a place in the coming kingdom of Christ and of God? Certainly if what they teach were true, no one could know whether or not the fires of Gehenna would not be his millennial portion, for they tell us “The escape is no privilege attached to faith, but a reward attached to a standard of holiness known only to God.”
I see around me a great baptized Christian profession, because they have no heart for Christ, turning to fables, Modernism, Spiritism, Russellism, Christadelphianism, evolution, and every other soul-destroying error invented by the human mind broken loose from God, and under the domination of the devil. And I see sects and parties with their priestly hierarchy and lay hearers, part of them treading the highway to Rome and part to rank infidelity. Religious pride, politics, covetousness, pleasure-loving Christlessness, God-forgetfulness, and apostasy, characterizing the whole restless, seething, corrupt mass, out of which the Lord who knows them that are His will shortly call away His own to Himself, and spew the nauseous dregs out of His mouth. Then Rome with her illicit traffic with this evil world shall carry on her hellish plotting and scheming unrestrained, while Protestantism, without even its name to live, and Laodicea with her proud boasting louder than ever, shall go on in their fancied security, until He shall come upon all as a thief in the night, and bring their sinful career on earth to an end in unsparing judgment. But not one soul who has been begotten of God shall be denied entrance into the kingdom over which Christ shall reign.