Forum Class for January 23, 2005
| "All through the
Bible we see God's love is manifest to men and women everywhere
in urging them to escape this judgment. God in love pleads with
people, 'Do not go on to this end!' But ultimately he must judge
those who refuse his offer of grace. He says, in effect, 'I love
you and I can provide all you need. Therefore love me, and you
will find the fulfillment your heart is looking for. ' But many
men and women say, 'No, I do not want that. I will take your
gifts, I will take all the good things you provide, but I do
not want you! Let me run my own life. Let me serve my own ends.
Let me have my own kingdom. ' To such, God ultimately says, 'All
right, have it your way!' "God has three choices: first,
he can let rebellion go on forever and never judge it. In that
case the terrible things that are happening on earth, all these
distressing injustices, the cruelty, the anger, the hate, the
malice, the sorrow, the hurt, the pain, the death that now prevails,
must go on forever. God does not want that, and neither does
man. Second, God can force men to obey him and control them as
robots. But he will never do that because that means they cannot
truly love him. Love cannot be forced. Therefore, third, the
only choice God really has is that he must withdraw ultimately
from those who refuse his love. He must let them have their own
way forever. That results in the terrible torment of godlessness.
If God is necessary to us, then to take him out of our lives
is to plunge us into the most terrible sense of loneliness and
abandonment that mankind can know. We have all experienced it
to some small degree when we get what we want and then discover
we do not want what we got! For that sense of bored emptiness
to go on forever, is unspeakable torment."
(Ray C. Stedman, The Time of Harvest, http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/revelation/)
[These notes expand briefly upon the notes last week from Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder of Dallas Seminary. See the last half of http://ldolphin.org/cleanpages/judge01.html. The first part of last week's notice is about the appointed role of Jesus as Judge of all of mankind, John Chapter 5.]
I. The Judgments at the Cross:
1. When Jesus died on the cross the sins of all of mankind were judged. Jesus as the innocent lamb was made to be the substitute who endured the full wrath and punishment of God for all the sins of everyone who ever lived.
"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed [i.e. under the Old Covenant in all who believed in the promises of God before Jesus came into the world], to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:21-26)
"...And He Himself [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." (1 John 2:2)
The judgment of all human sin on the cross makes it possible for all men everywhere to be freely forgiven and reconciled to God. This is the impetus for Paul's urging us in 2 Cor. 5 to plead with men everywhere that they accept God gracious good favor towards them now:
"For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)
2. The judgment of the Adamic nature of believers was carried by Christ on the cross. Romans 6:1-10 outlines this. By taking us out of the family of Adam and "immersing" us "into Christ" we are each identified fully with Christ in His death burial and resurrection. This enables God to make us totally new persons at the core of our being. Galatians 2:20-21 summarizes this.
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain."
Many Christians realize that Christ died for their sins, but do not appreciate the other side of the coin: each of us dies with Christ in order to be raised to a whole new life. "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?" (Luke 9:22-25) Naturally we do not experience the reality of our having died with Christ all at once. Our awareness of this comes over a life-time in the course of our sanctification. There is nothing in us inherited from Adam. All of who we were in Adam must die so that we can become all we were meant to be in Christ. This is why every Christian is fully identified with Christ in His death , burial, and resurrection (Romans 6).
3. Satan, the chief of the fallen angels was judged at the cross. Satan's judgment also occurs in stages down through history: A. When he sinned Satan was evicted immediately from his high office in the heavens. B. He will be thrown out of heaven and down to earth by the Archangel Michael during the coming tribulation, Rev. 12. C. Then he will be imprisoned in the abyss for 1000 years, Rev. 20:1-3. D. His final end is in the Lake of Fire, Rev. 20:1-9. This is a vast subject included within the short statement "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself."
"It pleased the Father that in Christ all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross." (Colossians 1:19-20)
"Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out." (John 12:31)
II. The Judgment of Believers of the Church Age (The Judgment Seat of Christ)
Those who have placed their full trust and faith in Jesus Christ and have entered into a relationship with God and can not come into judgment for their sins since Christ has borne their just punishment them Himself once for all.
"...Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation." (Hebrews 9:28)
"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:18)
"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." (John 5:24)
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:1-4)
However, each and every Christian experiences at death (or at the rapture) what is called the "Judgment Seat of Christ." This is an evaluation of how the Christian has lived his or her life since becoming a Christian.
"For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:9-15)
"Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:9-10)
This issue here is those works which result from saving grace--these works will survive. However, all we have done in the strength and energy of the flesh will be burned up. Alternately, we can say that only what Christ does through the believer results in lasting works. Everything else is hay, wood, and stubble. Nevertheless the Bema, the Judgment Seat of Christ, will bring each believer God's expressions of approval--commendation not condemnation:
"Therefore do not judge anything before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise (commendation) will come from God." (1 Corinthians 4:5)
"For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us shall give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:7-12)
"And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work." (Revelation 22:12)
If one thinks of this present life as a training program which prepares Christians for life in the world to come, then it is obvious that some Christians care little for long-term or eternal goals, and others care more. "Rewards" would therefore seem to be given us in determining one's capacity to serve God and to enjoy him. All Christians will be free from sin in heaven, fully justified, happy, content, after we arrive in the next life. Christ's evaluation of our lives will have been utterly fair and just. Some Christians will be well suited for the Master's highest use, others for lesser tasks. One sees this anticipated in Paul's second letter to Timothy:
"In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work." (2 Timothy 2:20-21)
The Rapture of the Church will mean that ALL true Christians from the day of Pentecost down to the parousia, will be raised from the dead, and assembled with the believers alive on earth at that time. They will all be with Christ forever in new resurrection bodies like His. As a rough estimate, the total number of believers in the true church could well number a billion or more true Christians. (Given the size of the heavenly city New Jerusalem, the space allotment for a billion people in the heavenly city would average about one cubic mile per person!)
III. The Judgment of Israel
God appointed Israel to be a model nation for the rest of the nations to learn from. In the second half of Isaiah there are a series of messages which related to this: 1. Israel is called the chosen servant of the Lord. 2. Israel's failure to live up to this calling is documented. 3. Messiah fulfills the righteous demands of God for the nation. That is, Messiah is "true Israel." Therefore that part of Israel which places their faith in Messiah will be credited with Messiah's righteousness and pass the test. Because of their high calling and privileged position, Israel will be judged much more strictly that any other nation.
The judgment of Israel takes place after the rapture of the church but precedes the judgment of the gentile nations. This can be seen in the Olivet discourse (The sheep and goats in Matthew 24:1-25:46). (It is interesting to note that though Israel is judged as a body, as a group, the church is not judged in a similar manner).
The judgment of Israel includes all generations of Jews who have lived since the Patriarchs, the Exodus, the Old Covenant, Joshua, Judges, Kings, the Exile, the Return--all the way down to the rejection of Jesus as Messiah--Matthew 23:37-39--when Jesus said "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" These Old Covenant believers in Yahweh and his promises, who lived before Christ came, always hoped for a great Messianic Age on earth. Note the many promises to this effect in the entire OT. The Jews were given a land, a temple, a king, a temple, and earthly inheritance--in perpetuity. The promises to the church in the New Testament, on the other hand, are very different! (For a comparison see "God, the Church and the United States Compared," http://ldolphin.org/IsChUS.html).
That kingdom age will be ushered in when Jesus Christ returns in power to the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem. A study of the subject reveals that Scripture provides us with many amazing details of this judgment of historic Israel. But there are also some uncertainties. Most commentators believe that the Old Testament saints of Israel will be raised towards the end of the Great tribulation. Daniel the prophet anticipated this final regathering and raising of all of Israel:
"At that time [the time of the end, "the time of Jacob's trouble"] Michael [the archangel who is over Israel] shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever." (Daniel 12:1-3)
The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews concludes his "hall of fame" description of these Old Testament saints with these words:
"...And all these, (Old Testament saints) having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us (Christians), that they should not be made perfect apart from us." (Hebrews 11:39-40)
Israel as a people, nation, has existed since the time of the Exodus, about 3500 years ago. This is approximately 90 generations (allowing 40 years per generation). The total number of Jews who have ever lived would appear to be of the order of 100-900 million persons. Those Jews who have come to know the Lord Jesus during the age of the church have [mostly] been added to the church. This leaves roughly 40 generations who were born under the Old Covenant from the time of the Exodus to the coming of John the Baptist. The total number of Jews who were born in this time period was probably 50-100 million persons. Many of these were not believers.
"Now I desire to remind you, though you were once for all fully informed, that he who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe." (Jude 5)
Zechariah says that at the end of the age we live in now, one third of the Jews who survive Armageddon (World War III) will come to know the Lord--perhaps 2 million people if this happened in our day. This number is the end time "believing remnant" within the land of Israel constitutes true Israel. (Zech. 13:8, 9). We do not know how large this believing remnant was, on average, from the time of Moses to the First Advent. (In Elijah's day--a time of severe apostasy--the believing remnant in Israel was about 7000, 1 Kings 19:18). But for discussion purposes let us assume the total number of Old Testament Jews who know the Lord might be as few as 10 million or as many as 100 million.
At the beginning of the Millennium, after all these believing Old Testament saints have been raised, Israel will start rebuilding and occupying the promised land. All the believing Jews of the Old Testament will enter the Millennial kingdom together at the Second Advent of Christ. Joining these OT saints to inhabit and rebuild the land will be Jewish survivors of the time of Jacob's trouble (the great tribulation), numbering several million. This latter group will marry and raise children.
The "sheep" from the gentile nations who survive the tribulation--all believers--will enter the millennium and live in their own native lands, not having yet received their resurrection bodies. They will evidently live out their (extended) lives, die and be resurrected at the end of the Millennium? They will marry and bear children. These children all need to be spiritually reborn in order to be part of God's eternal kingdom. Some of these offspring will be saved and others will be lost. In other words, the offspring of these people will be children of Adam, just as we all were when we were born into the world. The earth will be repopulated during he Millennium starting with the first generation being all believers. But their children will all have the choice of becoming believers or not. This was the situation on earth after the Flood of Noah when the world civilization began all over again through Noah's three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives. Under the righteous rule of Jesus (ruling with a rod of iron), with the devil chained in the abyss, life on earth will be far better during the Millennium than it is now. Nevertheless man's fallen nature will still be manifest and there will still be sin on earth.
The question then is this: Will all the believing Old Testament saints of Israel all have resurrection bodies at the start of the Millennium? Apparently not. On the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus appeared together with Elijah and Moses who were both in their immortal form. If all of believing Israel were to enter the Millennium in resurrection bodies then will no more Jews be born on earth during this entire thousand year period. Were all the Jews living in Israel during the Millennium be in their resurrection bodies, there would be "no marrying and no given in marriage," therefore there would be no next generations
All the Jews on earth who are alive when Jesus returns will be gathered together by the Lord and evaluated. Only those who are believers in Jesus (Yeshua) will enter the Millennial kingdom. These surviving believers will not yet have their resurrection bodies. They will live out their lives in Israel, bring children into the world, and die ("full of years"). They probably will be given resurrection bodies at the close of the Millennium? (The "tribulation saints" will be raised at beginning of the Millennium, see below). So it would seem that those Jews living at the time of the Second Coming, who receive Jesus Christ as Lord will enter the Millennium and live in Israel, marry and raise children but not have resurrection bodies when the Millennium begins. Thus the initial population of Israel will consists of a couple of million Jewish survivors of Armageddon (all believers)--and many more millions of their forefathers who will have their resurrection bodies and will be entering into the Millennial promises they had been promised before they died. OT believers will have full access and homes in the New Jerusalem--the heavenly city along with believers from the church age (RCS).
It seems likely that the much greater number of OT Jews who
never became believers will appear at the Judgment of the Great
White Throne, "bypassing" the Millennium altogether.
As noted below, Jesus will be on earth in the time interval between the Rapture and the Second Coming. We, the church, will be with Jesus the whole time--but we shall have our resurrection bodies and thus will be dwelling "in heaven" at the same time.
Jesus will come to preside as Judge of Israel. He is Israel's Kinsman Redeemer and Avenger of Blood. (See Jesus the Avenger of Blood, http://ldolphin.org/avenger.html). In a broader sense, Jesus is every believer's Kinsman Redeemer because He has already grafted gentile believers into the true olive tree of Abraham's faith, (Romans 11). We gentiles are in His family as much as anyone.
Ezekiel clearly indicates that God will judge the entire nation of Israel through all of her long history, and He will separate believers ("true Israel") from the non-believing majority.
"As I live, says the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, I will be king over you (Israel). I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out; and (then, after that) I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you, says the Lord GOD. I will make you pass under the rod, and I will let you go in by number. [The term the wilderness of the peoples, v35, as used in the Bible often refers to Edom. The term pass under the rod appears in Leviticus 27 and symbolizes a separation of the consecrated and the unconsecrated animals of the flock.]
I will purge out the rebels [apostates] from among you, and those who transgress against me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn (Edom?), but they shall not enter (back into?) the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD. "As for you, O house of Israel, thus says the Lord GOD: Go serve every one of you his idols, now and hereafter, if you will not listen to me; but my holy name you shall no more profane with your gifts and your idols. "For on my holy mountain, the mountain height of Israel, says the Lord GOD, there all the house of Israel, all of them, shall serve me in the land; there I will accept them, and there I will require your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your sacred offerings. As a pleasing odor I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples, and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the country which I swore to give to your fathers. And there you shall remember your ways and all the doings with which you have polluted yourselves [see Zechariah 12:10-14]; and you shall loathe yourselves for all the evils that you have committed. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for my name's sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O house of Israel, says the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 20:33-44)
The regathering of Israel will involve the supernatural agency of angels. The coming of Jesus to the Mount of Olives will bring about Israel's national repentance:
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect [of Israel] from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matthew 24:29-31)
"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo." (Zechariah 12: 10,11).
Malachi Chapter 3 also is about the judgment of Israel at the end of the age,
"Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire And like launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the LORD An offering in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem Will be pleasant to the LORD, As in the days of old, As in former years. And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien-- Because they do not fear Me," Says the LORD of hosts. For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob." (3:1-6)
Isaiah 11 also contains further suggestions concerning the events of the end time and the Millennium:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious.
In that day [at the end of the tribulation] the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the [rest of the] dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart, and those who harass Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim. But they shall swoop down upon the shoulder of the Philistines in the west, and together they shall plunder the people of the east. They shall put forth their hand against Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites shall obey them. And the LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the sea of Egypt (the Suez Canal); and will wave his hand over the River [the Euphrates?, Rev. 16:12] with his scorching wind, and smite it into seven channels that men may cross dryshod. And there will be a [new King's] highway from Assyria for the remnant which is left of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt. (Isaiah 11)
But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel caused to be profaned among the nations to which they came. "Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations will know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. (Ezekiel 36:23-26)
Ezekiel says the following about God's mercy, grace and compassion coming on the nation of Israel at the close of the age:
For I will take you [Jews] from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. [Then] I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. [This is an announcement, similar to Jeremiah 30-31, of God's intention to bring the people of Israel into the New Covenant which Jesus put into effect with his 11 disciples at the Last Supper.]
You [Jews] shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses; and I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominable deeds. [Here is the national repentance seen also in Zechariah 12:10-14.]
Ezekiel then describes Messiah's reign over all the nations, from Jerusalem, and the millennial prosperity He will bring to all mankind, through Israel:
It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. "Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, `This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now inhabited and fortified.' Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places, and replanted that which was desolate; I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will do it. "Thus says the Lord GOD: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their men like a flock. Like the flock for sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men. Then they will know that I am the LORD." (Ezekiel 36:24-38)
Regarding the believing remnant, they are gathered under the care of the Great Shepherd of the Sheep at Bozrah,
"I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob, I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men. He who opens the breach will go up before them; they will break through and pass the gate, going out by it. Their king will pass on before them, the LORD at their head." (Micah 2:12-13)
The Lord's return (the parousia)--to care for his remnant at Petra/Bozrah and his leading them safely back to Jerusalem by way of Bozrah is then compared by Isaiah with God's care for the Jews through the wilderness in the Days of Moses:
I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel which he has granted them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. For he said, Surely they are my people, sons who will not deal falsely; and he became their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence (compare 1 Cor. 10:3) saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
But they rebelled and grieved his holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses his servant. Where is he who brought up out of the sea the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his holy Spirit, who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths? Like a horse in the desert, they did not stumble. Like cattle that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So thou didst lead thy people, to make for thyself a glorious name.
Now follows a prayer of the remnant of Israel calling on Yahweh for deliverance:
"Look down from heaven and see, from thy holy and glorious habitation. Where are thy zeal and thy might? The yearning of thy heart and thy compassion are withheld from me. For thou art our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us; thou, O LORD, art our Father, our Redeemer from of old is thy name. O LORD, why dost thou make us err from thy ways and harden our heart, so that we fear thee not? Return for the sake of thy servants, the tribes of thy heritage. Thy holy people possessed thy sanctuary (the Third Temple) a little while; our adversaries have trodden it down. We have become like those over whom thou hast never ruled, like those who are not called by thy name." (Isaiah 63)
Ezekiel also presents us with the well-known Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones. Ezekiel 37 seems to be closer to a description of the literal resurrection of Israel than commentators have thought. Note that Ezekiel 37 says that the whole house of Israel will be raised from the dead and then brought into their land. This event will take place before the second coming of the Lord in glory. It precedes the judgment of the nations which immediately follows the Second Advent.
In all of these considerations concerning the Tribulation period, note that the Lord Jesus will be on earth, during the entire seven years of the tribulation period leading His angelic armies and His 144,000 evangelists. At the middle of the seven-year tribulation, the man of sin will desecrate the Third Temple in Jerusalem--and in that temple he will declare himself to be God. In discussing this future event (see Matthew 24:15-21) Jesus warned that all Jews living in Judea should flee at the time--most likely to Petra where they will be safe for the three-and-a-half Great Tribulation.
Isaiah Chapters 24 through 27 are often called "The Little Apocalypse" because of the prophet's description of this end-time period, "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30). The Little Apocalypse is full of information on the Lord's subduing evil on earth and his judgment of human rulers and angels who operate behind the scenes.
The Final Conversion of Israel
Israel's national prayer for their Messiah to come and to forgive them is found in Hosea Chapter 5 beginning at verse 15. Many believe this prayer must be prayed by the nation as a precondition for their national salvation in the coming of Yeshua the Messiah to save them:
I [the LORD] will return again to my place, until they [Israel] acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress they seek me, saying, Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn, that he may heal us; he has stricken, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know the LORD; his going forth is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth." (Hosea 5:15-6:3).
Earlier we traced the escape of a remnant of some thousands--perhaps tens of thousands--of believing Jews from Jerusalem to Petra which will take at the time of the desecration of the Third Temple at the mid-point of the tribulation period.
As the age comes to a full close many passages of Scripture speak of the national conversion of Israel. The imagery of the trampling out of the vineyard and the blood like grape juice flowing as high as a horse's bridle up and down the length of Israel will be Jewish blood as God judges the apostate majority of Jews in the land of Israel. In this terrible time for Israel, millions of men from invading Gentile armies fighting World War III in Israel will also meet their violent end. All the while the terrible judgments from God depicted in the Book of the Revelation will devastate the entire earth. Most of mankind will perish and the great infrastructures of the past thousand of years of civilization will be destroyed.
Yet Paul argues in Romans 11 that in spite of all this, "all Israel will be saved."
Lest you [Gentiles] be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, [to the church] and then all Israel will be saved; as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob"; "and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins." As regards the gospel they are [now] enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11:25-36)
Paul is careful to make clear that he is not speaking of each and every Jew being converted, but true Israel is limited to those who ultimately believe in Yeshua within the nation. Just how many Jews will be saved at the very end of the age? That is, a "true Jew" is one who has the same faith Abraham had.
Though our own nation, the United States, contains a professing Christian population that appears to number many tens of millions of believers, it is more realistic to say that the "believing remnant" in America today is perhaps only 5 to 10% of those professing faith in Jesus Christ. Thus the future large-scale conversion of Jews to belief in Yeshua at the close of the age will represent a very great work of saving grace by the God of Israel. A final conversion of one-third of the populace of Israel will surely be very large in percentage compared to the size of the fractional wheat harvest from among the Gentiles. The end result of Yeshua's work in Israel at the end of the age will be a completely righteous nation of believers chosen to be the head of all the nations.
Isaiah (Chapter 25-26) wrote the following words about 700 BC:
On this mountain (Mt. Zion) the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined. And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil [of pride and spiritual blindness] that is spread over all nations. (2 Cor. 4:3,4) He will swallow up death for ever (1 Cor. 15:54), and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth (Rev. 21:4); for the LORD has spoken.
It will be said on that day, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation." For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain [Jerusalem], and Moab [Jordan] shall be trodden down in his place, as straw is trodden down in a dung-pit. And he will spread out his hands in the midst of it as a swimmer spreads his hands out to swim; but the LORD will lay low his pride together with the skill of his hands. And the high fortifications of his walls he will bring down, lay low, and cast to the ground, even to the dust.
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: "We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps faith may enter in. Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee. Trust in the LORD for ever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy. The way of the righteous is level; thou dost make smooth the path of the righteous. In the path of thy judgments, O LORD, we wait for thee; thy memorial name is the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for thee in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks thee.
For when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals perversely and does not see the majesty of the LORD.
O LORD, thy hand is lifted up, but they see it not. Let them see thy zeal for thy people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for thy adversaries consume them. O LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us, thou hast wrought for us all our works. O LORD our God, other lords besides thee have ruled over us, but thy name alone we acknowledge. They are dead, they will not live; they are shades, they will not arise; to that end thou hast visited them with destruction and wiped out all remembrance of them. But thou hast increased the nation, O LORD, thou hast increased the nation; thou art glorified; thou hast enlarged all the borders of the land (of Israel). O LORD, in distress they sought thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them. Like a woman with child, who writhes and cries out in her pangs, when she is near her time, so were we because of thee, O LORD; we were with child, we writhed, we have as it were brought forth wind. We have wrought no deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen. Thy dead shall live, their bodies shall rise. O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For thy dew is a dew of light, and on the land of the shades thou wilt let it fall. (Isaiah 25:6-26:19)
In the midst of Isaiah's description of the terrible judgments during the time of Jacob's trouble, the prophet gives a call for the remnant to hide themselves for a season.
Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the wrath is past. For behold, the LORD is coming forth out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed upon her, and will no more cover her slain.
In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea; [these creatures symbolize our human pride, inspired by Satan in the hearts of men].
In that day: "A pleasant vineyard [Israel], sing of it! I, the LORD, am its keeper; every moment I water it. Lest any one harm it, I guard it night and day; I have no wrath. Would that I had thorns and briers to battle! I would set out against them, I would burn them up together. Or let them lay hold of my protection, let them make peace with me, let them make peace with me." In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots, and fill the whole world with fruit. Has he smitten them as he smote those who smote them? Or have they been slain as their slayers were slain? Measure by measure, by exile thou didst contend with them; he removed them with his fierce blast in the day of the east wind. Therefore by this the guilt of Jacob will be expiated, and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin: when he makes all the stones of the altars like chalkstones crushed to pieces, no Asherim or incense altars will remain standing.
For the fortified city (Jerusalem?) is [now] solitary, a habitation deserted and forsaken, like the wilderness; there the calf grazes, there he lies down, and strips its branches. When its boughs are dry, they are broken; women come and make a fire of them. For this is a people without discernment (those who remained in Jerusalem after the flight of the remnant?); therefore he who made them will not have compassion on them, he that formed them will show them no favor.
In that day from the river Euphrates to the Brook of Egypt the LORD will thresh out the grain, and you will be gathered one by one, O people of Israel. And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come (back) and worship the LORD on the holy mountain at Jerusalem. (Isaiah 26:20-27:13).
The post-exilic prophet Zechariah had much to say about the close of the age we live in as well as details about both the identity and character of both the true Messiah and the Antichrist.
An Oracle The word of the LORD concerning Israel: Thus says the LORD, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him: "Lo, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling to all the peoples round about; it will be against Judah also in the siege against Jerusalem. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it shall grievously hurt themselves.
The term "on that day" is a clue that the passage is referring to the Day of the Lord, i.e. the great tribulation period:
And all the nations of the earth will come together against it [Jerusalem]. On that day, says the LORD, I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. But upon the house of Judah I will open my eyes, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness.
Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, `The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the LORD of hosts, their God.' "On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves; and they shall devour to the right and to the left all the peoples round about, while Jerusalem shall still be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem. "And the LORD will give victory to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not be exalted over that of Judah. On that day the LORD will put a shield about the inhabitants of Jerusalem so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, at their head. And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
Israel's National Mourning for Yeshua
"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land shall mourn, each family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.
"On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness. "And on that day, says the LORD of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more; and also I will remove from the land the prophets and the unclean spirit. And if any one again appears as a prophet, his father and mother who bore him will say to him, `You shall not live, for you speak lies in the name of the LORD'; and his father and mother who bore him shall pierce him through when he prophesies. On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; he will not put on a hairy mantle in order to deceive, but he will say, `I am no prophet, I am a tiller of the soil; for the land has been my possession since my youth.' And if one asks him, `What are these wounds on your back?' he will say, `The wounds I received in the house of my friends.'"
Yeshua, the Church, and the Remnant (true Israel) return from Edom to Jerusalem
Behold, a day of the LORD is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle.
On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD your God will come, and all the holy ones [saints, i.e., the church, his holy angels, and the believing remnant from Edom] with him.
On that day there shall be neither cold nor frost. And there shall be continuous day (it is known to the LORD), not day and not night, for at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will become king over all the earth; on that day the LORD will be one and his name one. The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft upon its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king's wine presses. And it shall be inhabited, for there shall be no more curse; Jerusalem shall dwell in security. And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will smite all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh shall rot while they are still on their feet, their eyes shall rot in their sockets, and their tongues shall rot in their mouths. And on that day a great panic from the LORD shall fall on them, so that each will lay hold on the hand of his fellow, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other; even Judah will fight against Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the nations round about shall be collected, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance. And a plague like this plague shall fall on the horses, the mules, the camels, the asses, and whatever beasts may be in those camps.
Messiah will Reign from Jerusalem and the Nations will come Annually to Pay Tribute
Then every one that survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem [the sheep of Matthew 25:31-46] shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain upon them. And if the family of Egypt do not go up and present themselves, then upon them shall come the plague with which the LORD afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the feast of booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the feast of booths. And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, "Holy to the LORD." And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar; and every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be sacred to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the flesh of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day. (Zechariah 12-14)
The Wine Press of Wrath upon the Jews
Then I looked, and lo, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat upon the cloud, "Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe. So he who sat upon the cloud swung his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped."
The first sickle and the references to the reaping of the harvest of the earth indicates the reaping of the wheat and the tares from the nations, Matthew 13. This is a final separation of the believers in the nations other than Israel divided and differentiated from the unbelievers they are co-mingled with.
And another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Then another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has power over fire, and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, "Put in your sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth (Israel), for its grapes are ripe." So the angel swung his sickle on the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God; and the wine press was trodden outside the city (Jerusalem), and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse's bridle, for one thousand six hundred stadia. (Revelation 14:14-20)
This series of events is also foretold by the prophet Joel. First Joel discusses the judgment of the nations on the basis of their treatment of the God's people the Jews. This is the same judgment we know as the "Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats" from Matthew 25:31-46.
"For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations, and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have given a boy for a harlot, and have sold a girl for wine, and have drunk it.
"What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are paying me back, I will requite your deed upon your own head swiftly and speedily. For you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried my rich treasures into your temples. You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, removing them far from their own border. But now I will stir them up from the place to which you have sold them, and I will requite your deed upon your own head. I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a nation far off; for the LORD has spoken." (Joel 3:1-8)
Joel now announces the assembly of the nations to the Battle of Armageddon. It is God who draws these armies into His land.
Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare war, stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near, let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, "I am a warrior." Hasten and come, all you nations round about, gather yourselves there.
Next, Joel invokes the Lord to come down with his armies of heaven to fight against the nations:
Bring down thy warriors, O LORD.
Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the nations round about. [Again, this is the sheep and goat judgment of Matthew 25:31-46. The Valley of Jehoshaphat is most probably the Kidron Valley between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives]
Likewise, Israel is to be judged and that is next. Wine and grapes are symbols of Israel.
Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the wine press is full. The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.
Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.
The Lord makes His open appearance upon the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem in the midst of the battle:
And the LORD roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shake. But the LORD is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel. "So you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who dwell in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy and strangers shall never again pass through it. (Joel 3:11-17)
The return of the Lord leads at last into the conditions of peace on earth under Messiah's long-expected reign:
"And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD and water the valley of Shittim. "Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the people of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall be inhabited for ever, and Jerusalem to all generations. I will avenge their blood, and I will not clear the guilty, for the LORD dwells in Zion." (Joel 3:18-21)
The coming of Messiah to the Mount of Olives in power and glory is of course described by the Apostle John:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses.
From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule [lit: shepherdize] them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in mid heaven, "Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great." And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. (Revelation 19:11-21)
Notice that the armies of the world originally gather to battle at Megiddo---to fight one another. In the midst of that battle, ominous portents from outer space---visions and signs of the approach of Yeshua---cause the armies of the world to turn and fight against God and His armies!
Isaiah's Prayer for the Soon-Coming of Messiah:
O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at thy presence---as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil---to make thy name known to thy adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at thy presence! When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains quaked at thy presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for him. Thou meetest him that joyfully works righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways. Behold, thou wast angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one that calls upon thy name, that bestirs himself to take hold of thee; for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast delivered us into the hand of our iniquities.
Yet, O LORD, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou art our potter; we are all the work of thy hand. Be not exceedingly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity for ever. Behold, consider, we are all thy people. Thy holy cities have become a wilderness, Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins. Wilt thou restrain thyself at these things, O LORD? Wilt thou keep silent, and afflict us sorely? (Isaiah 64)
Messiah's reply to the prophet:
I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, "Here am I, here am I," to a nation that did not call on my name. I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and burning incense upon bricks; who sit in tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels; who say, "Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am set apart from you." These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all the day. Behold, it is written before me: "I will not keep silent, but I will repay, yea, I will repay into their bosom their iniquities and their fathers' iniquities together, says the LORD; because they burned incense upon the mountains and reviled me upon the hills, I will measure into their bosom payment for their former doings." Thus says the LORD: "As the wine is found in the cluster, and they say, `Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,' so I will do for my servants' sake, and not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah inheritors of my mountains; my chosen shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there. Sharon shall become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, for my people who have sought me. But you who forsake the LORD, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny; I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter; because, when I called, you did not answer, when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes, and chose what I did not delight in."
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, my servants (the remnant) shall eat, but you (apostates) shall be hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame; behold, my servants shall sing for gladness of heart, but you shall cry out for pain of heart, and shall wail for anguish of spirit. You shall leave your name to my chosen for a curse, and the Lord GOD will slay you; but his servants he will call by a different name. So that he who blesses himself in the land shall bless himself by the God of truth, and he who takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten and are hid from my eyes.
"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the child shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their children with them. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the LORD."
Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house which you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the LORD. But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. "He who slaughters an ox is like him who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like him who breaks a dog's neck; he who presents a cereal offering, like him who offers swine's blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like him who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations; I also will choose affliction for them, and bring their fears upon them; because, when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not listen; but they did what was evil in my eyes, and chose that in which I did not delight." Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at his word: "Your brethren who hate you and cast you out for my name's sake have said, `Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy'; but it is they who shall be put to shame. "Hark, an uproar from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the LORD, rendering recompense to his enemies! "Before she was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she was delivered of a son. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her sons. Shall I bring to the birth and not cause to bring forth? says the LORD; shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb? says your God.
"Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; that you may suck and be satisfied with her consoling breasts; that you may drink deeply with delight from the abundance of her glory." For thus says the LORD: "Behold, I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall suck, you shall be carried upon her hip, and dandled upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and it shall be known that the hand of the LORD is with his servants, and his indignation is against his enemies. "For behold, the LORD will come in fire, and his chariots like the storm wind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire will the LORD execute judgment, and by his sword, upon all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many. "Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating swine's flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, says the LORD. "For I know their works and their thoughts, and I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Put, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their cereal offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the LORD. "For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me, says the LORD; so shall your descendants and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the LORD. "And they shall go forth and look on the dead bodies of the men that have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh." (Isaiah 65-66)
V. The Judgment of the Nations
The gentile nations will be judged immediately following the judgment of the nation Israel and after the Lord Jesus has returned to the Mount of Olives. The basis for this judgment is how the nations have treated the Jews! The nation Israel was given a special role as God's model nation. In spite of their past failures as a group, God intends to see them living out their place in future history as the chief of the nations. Jesus, by the way, is called "true Israel" in Isaiah. The nation failed, but their Messiah did not. It is Yeshua who gives Israel her righteous identity in the end.
The prophet Joel prophesied about the final judgment of the gentiles in this way:
'For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations, and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have given a boy for a harlot, and have sold a girl for wine, and have drunk it. 'What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are paying me back, I will requite your deed upon your own head swiftly and speedily. For you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried my rich treasures into your temples. You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, removing them far from their own border. But now I will stir them up from the place to which you have sold them, and I will requite your deed upon your own head. I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a nation far off; for the LORD has spoken.' (Joel 3:1-8)
The "Valley of Jehoshaphat" is probably the Kidron Valley between the Temple Mount and The Mount of Olives. This valley runs through the wilderness of Judea down to the Dead Sea. Joel's words are consistent with the teaching of the Lord Himself in the Olivet Discourse:
When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?" And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." Then he will say to those at his left hand, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me." Then they also will answer, "Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?" Then he will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me." And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-46)
The "sheep" at this judgment will be individual believing gentiles from the nations of the world who have survived the tribulation. They will be allowed to enter into the Millennial kingdom. But they will not receive resurrection bodies until after the Millennium. They will marry and raise children each of whom will have every opportunity to be regenerated and to know the Lord Jesus. Those Jews allowed to enter into the Promised Land at the beginning of the Millennium will also all be believers, but apparently will not have their resurrection bodies until after the Millennium. However all Jewish believers down through Israel's history will evidently be part of a great resurrection immediately following the second coming of the Lord to Jerusalem. This means that the "goats" (unbelieving gentiles) and unbelieving Jews who survive the tribulation will be put to death and then face the Judgment of the Great White throne at the end of the Millennium.
Paul in writing to the Church at Corinth reminds them that "the saints will judge the world." This is also suggested in Psalm 149. When the Lord Jesus returns to earth at the Rapture, the true church (that is "the Body of Christ"--with Christ the Head) will engage in a vigorous offensive to retake the planet from earth men and evil angels so that Christ's kingdom can come on earth. Traditionally we think of the work of judgment as being entirely in the hands of the Lord Jesus, but evidently His saints will work with Him.
During the tribulation period, the efforts of 144,000 Jewish evangelists will be instrumental in bringing many thousands (millions?) of people into a relationship with God. Most, possibly all, will suffer martyrdom. These "tribulation saints" will evidently be raised from the dead at the beginning of the Millennium (see below).
VI. The Great White Throne Judgment
In a few words the Apostle John tells us about he judgment of unbelievers from the nations down through all of history, which will occur after the Millennium. In popular literature this judgment is often called "the Last Judgment."
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over 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.
Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:4-15)
In his commentary on this passage Ray Stedman says,
We must notice three distinct groups that are mentioned here: First, John sees thrones, and seated on them are those "who had been given authority to judge." Who are they? This ties in with a strange promise that Jesus made to his twelve disciples, found in Matthew 19:28. There Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the restoration of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Clearly he gives them authority to judge! The twelve disciples are specifically to judge the nation of Israel, and they are linked, in this Revelation passage, with restored Israel. "I saw thrones," says John, "on which were seated those given authority to judge." But that phrase includes more than the twelve disciples, because more than they are "given authority to judge" by our Lord. It also includes the "overcomers" of the present age of the church. These are described in the letter to the church at Thyatira, found in Chapter 2:26. Jesus said to them, "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery." Thus, associated with the reign of Jesus over the nations are the believers of the present age, the true, born-again believers in Christ. That is why Paul writes to the church in First Corinthians, Chapter 6, and says, "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" (1 Cor 6:2 NIV). And he even goes further, "Do you not know that we will judge angels?" (1 Cor 6:3 NIV). His argument is, "If we are going to do all this judging and we are learning how to do it now, for heaven's sake can't you settle those little disputes in the congregation now!"
There is also a second group here -- the martyrs of the tribulation -- those "who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and ... had not worshiped the beast or his image or received his mark ... on their hands." This is the same group we saw in Chapters 6 and-7 who were put to death because of their faith in Christ. They refused to bow before the authority of the Antichrist or to worship him. They will live again, we are told, and reign with Christ a thousand years. But there is still a third group. They are only mentioned here but are not dealt with, and we will see why in a moment. In a parenthesis, in Verse-5, John says, "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended." That is a reference to the unbelieving dead, who will appear before the Great White Throne which is described at the end of this chapter. We will look at that before we are through. Leaving out the parenthetical expression, John is saying that all those who reign with Christ are included in what he calls "the first resurrection."
Would you not think that this would clearly establish the fact that there is more than one resurrection? If you have a first, surely there must be a second. But our amill friends believe there is only one. It comes at the final end of history and therefore must be associated with the Great White Throne judgment, yet to come. They say it will be a judgment of both the righteous and the wicked dead -- raised at the same time and judged in one judgment. Of course, if that were the case, and since Verse-5 says "the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended," they are driven to say that this "first resurrection" here is not a resurrection of the body, but something which happens to the spirit or soul. They say that this refers to spiritual rebirth, or possibly, to the survival of the spirit after death. But that is an extremely weak position because the word "resurrection" literally means "to stand up again." The Dutch have a wonderful word for resurrection: oopstanding, they call it. That word captures the meaning exactly. A spirit cannot stand up; it is immaterial. Neither can a soul. But a body can, and this word "resurrection" is never used in Scripture except for bodies. Therefore, it is indeed a raising of the bodies of the dead that is meant by "the first resurrection."
There is a passage in First Corinthians 15 that speaks of the order of resurrection and it says of Jesus that he was "the first fruits from the dead." So the first resurrection here reaches back to include the resurrection of Jesus and those raised with him. Matthew 27:52-53 tells us that at the time our Lord was raised "many of the bodies of the saints came out of the tombs." Many people do not seem to know that, although the Scriptures plainly state it. They, too, were part of that sheaf of the first fruits which was offered to God as the initial installment of the first resurrection.
Then the verse in First Corinthians says, "then, when he comes, those who belong to him [will be raised]," (1 Cor 15:23). When Christ appears, to catch the church to himself, that is the next segment of the first resurrection. Over 2000 years lie between, but time is no factor in an eternal event. Then the verse says, "then the end will come," i.e., the end resurrection, which would be the final one before the Great White Throne. So there are clearly two resurrections taught in Scripture. Jesus himself referred to a "resurrection of life" and a "resurrection of judgment" (cf, John 5:29 KJV), and in several other passages this is made very clear. Resurrection of individuals will be "each in his own order" (1 Cor 15:23), as Paul says, but the "first resurrection" touches only those who believe in Christ. Thus John says, "Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years."
When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth -- Gog and Magog -- to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:7-10 NIV)
Someone asked me last week, "What reason is there for a millennium after Jesus comes back?" Here is the answer: A thousand years of peace and blessing is to demonstrate, beyond question, the fact that everyone finds hard to believe: that we belong to a fallen race, and everyone is born with a basically evil nature. No one wants to believe that! Try teaching that in public school and see how far you get. Our whole education system is based upon the idea that we all have a basically good nature with some potential for evil; but Scripture does not teach that. That famous theologian, Flip Wilson, was known for saying, "The devil made me do it!" That has become the ultimate excuse of man for the evil in the world. Much of it does come from the devil, without a doubt. That is why he must be taken out of the scene before world-wide peace can come. But not all evil comes from the devil. God wants to impress upon humanity what Jeremiah declares so plainly, "The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" That is why everyone needs salvation. We are desperate and hopeless without it. If we do not have a Savior there is no hope for anyone because of the taint of evil within us which affects all we do. That is very hard for people to believe. But I see it in my own life -- and certainly in yours! I struggle with it all the time. People are saying nice things about me as they learn I am going to be gone soon. It would be nice if I could believe that was all there was to say, but I know better. I know the malice, the selfishness, the impatience, the anger and other things which come upon me unbidden and unwanted many times. I struggle with the same things that you struggle with. Everybody does. There are no exceptions. When you take a look at your own life and what goes on in your thoughts -- your heart and your motives -- there is no question but what the biblical picture of man is accurate. We are born with a fallen nature. The millennium will prove that to be true. No one will doubt it from then on. For a thousand years the temptation of the devil ceases. He is removed from the earth. He cannot stir up this evil propensity within us any longer. As a consequence the earth will be greatly improved. Men will live together in peace. There will be no more war. That beautiful picture from Isaiah 2, read to you this morning, will be true: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and men shall make war no more," (Isaiah 2:4). But did you notice also that it said that Jesus "will judge among the nations and settle disputes among many people?" Sin is still going to be there even when the devil is gone.
The curse will be lifted from nature. The land and ground will produce abundantly. Many lyric passages in the prophets describe this. There will be abundant food and beauty and peace. The whole world will be like Hawaii -- without the tourists! But there will still be sin and there will still be death! Read the 65th chapter of Isaiah. There the prophet says, "He who dies at 100 will be thought a mere youth," (Isaiah 65:20b NIV). The life of man will be greatly extended, probably to reach the longevity the patriarchs had, like Methuselah who lived 969 years -- almost 1,000. That will be restored. The animal kingdom will be changed so that the animals that are now carnivores and predators shall live together in peace. This is all said in the same context as the verse, "The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion eat straw like the ox," (Isaiah 65:25 NIV).
Isaiah goes on to say, "The sinner who reaches 100 will be considered accursed," (Isaiah 65:20b KJV). There is still going to be some sin and it will affect the lifespan. The presence of sin is why Jesus must rule with a rod of iron -- still, righteousness will be dominant. Today evil is the dominant philosophy of the masses. Righteousness must struggle to exist. But then it will be reversed. The dominant practice of the day will be justice, wholeness, peace and purity. Evil will have to keep under wraps and will find it difficult to express itself -- but it will be there. Therefore the judgment of the "rod of iron" will still be necessary for some. But, as Revelation goes on to say, at the end of the thousand years "at the four corners of the earth," retreating as far as possible from the central glory, there will still be many who represent Israel's old antagonists, Gog and Magog, and therefore are called by their names. They have the same attitude as the enemies of Israel who are described in Ezekiel 38 and 39. These are men and women who are not born-again despite the wonderful, almost perfect, world in which they live. When Satan is released there is an immediate response from them.
It will be clearly demonstrated for all time that there is still an evil inheritance in man; that until he is born-again his nature remains unchanged, and immediately these respond to Satan's appeal and deception. They march upon Jerusalem, but they are destroyed, with fire coming down from heaven. The devil, the old enemy, is thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet have been for a thousand years. That clearly shows that the end of man is not annihilation or liquidation, as though they disappear into nothing, but they remain alive forever. As it says here, "They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever." It is a very sad picture, but it is certainly clear. Now we come to the last sobering scene in Verses 11-15:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15 NIV)
This scene hardly needs any comment at all. Earth and heaven flee away, which means it is not on earth but it is a judgment in eternity. The judge is Jesus, not the Father! Jesus himself said, "The Father has committed all judgment to the Son," (John 5:22). So it is he who sits upon this throne of majesty and gathers all the dead before him. There will also be some living people from the millennium who will be there as well for it needs to be determined as to whether their names are in the book of life or not. But judgment will be "according to what each one has done." Deeds reveal what the heart is like. They reveal belief. It is all preserved in God's great library. Books are used as symbols here; we would probably use video tapes. The whole record of every life is made known before all, and judgment will be based upon that. We have already seen in recent history a President of the United States who was forced to resign because of the tapes he made when he thought no unfriendly ear was listening. Here we learn that if your name is in the book of life, your deeds will have been righteous. Only those whose names are in the book of life can do righteous deeds. That is the point of this. Such deeds are done by the power and energy of the Spirit of God, not by the person himself. All other deeds are burned with fire, and only righteous deeds remain.
If your name is not in the book of life, it reveals evil deeds have been done. They may look good on the outside but inwardly are tainted by the selfish, self-centered desire for prominence or power, influence or recognition. So the ultimate question put here is the words of an old song,
Is my name written there,
On the page bright and fair?
In the book of God's kingdom,
Is my name written there?
When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to minister to other cities and towns in Israel they came back reporting great victories, and especially that the demons were subject to them. They could cast evil spirits out of people with just a word, and the demons obeyed them. They came back very excited about that. Jesus said to them, "Do not rejoice over that, [That is nothing you have done; God did that through you], but rejoice that your names are written in heaven," (Luke 10:20 NIV).That is the central question of life: "Is my name written there in the Lamb's book of life?"
It is written when you believe in Jesus. No one needs to go to the lake of fire. No one is thrown into it against his or her will. They have chosen the lake of fire! They have refused the Savior, and there is no other choice. This is not talking about those who have never heard; do not bring that up, because they are not in view here. The best information we have on them is found in Hebrews 11:6, "Anyone who comes to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." God will deal with them according to the great declaration of Scripture, "Will not the judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25 NIV). Scripture does not really tell us what happens to them, but God will deal in justice and righteousness with them. The great question here is, having heard of him, is your name written there? Jesus knows our hearts. Nothing has been hidden from his view. If we come to him, we will be given life. In his first epistle, John writes,
This is the testimony, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son! He who has the Son has life, but he who does not have the Son of God, does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12 NIV)
The ultimate issues of life are all settled here. If your name is written in the book of life, you enter into eternal life. If you refuse him, then your ultimate fate is the lake of fire, the second death, along with the devil and the beast and the false prophet. That is a most sobering scene. I dislike preaching about these matters, but it is wonderful to preach against this dark background and offer to all what Jesus offers -- eternal life by faith in him, as you receive him into your heart and life. May all who hear or read these words be included in the Lamb's book of life! (http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/revelation/4210.html)
Other Judgments: The self-judgment of the believer, the Judgment of the Angels, the Judgment of the World, and Temporal Judgments were mentioned briefly in last week's notes.
For when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals perversely and does not see the majesty of the LORD. (Isaiah 26:9)
Web page: Notes and audio: http://ldolphin.org/cleanpages/
January 18, 2005.