THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST IS NOT A REFUGE FOR BELIEVERS WHO REJECT THE SCRIPTURAL DOCTRINE OF SELECTIVE RESURRECTION AND SELECTIVE RAPTURE.
[Hudson Taylor and others have been exponents of ‘secret’ or ‘partial’ rapture and a ‘partial’ reign. This view I must say I have no hesitation whatever in accepting. To me it is perfectly clear that only those who qualify will be given positions of trust and authority, or in other words will reign with Christ. But many eminent believers reject the Scriptural doctrine of Select Resurrection and Select Rapture. A major thrust for their rejection, and often the sole basis of it, is that all Christians must appear (in Heaven, as they suppose) before the Lord’s Judgment Seat. Therefore the time of judgment is after resurrection and not before it: Heaven being the place to establish whether a believer will enter or be excluded from the Millennium. (See Luke 20: 35; 21: 34-26; Matt5: 20; 7: 21; 18: 3; Luke 14: 14; 1 Cor 6: 9; Gal. 5: 21; Eph. 5: 5, 6; Phil. 3: 11; Col. 3: 23, 24; 1 Thess. 2: 11; 2 Thess. 1: 5, 6; 1 Tim. 5: 24, 25; 2 Tim. 2: 12, 13; Heb. 4: 1, 11; 12: 12; Jas. 1: 12; 2: 24 ; 1 John 3: 24; 2 John 2: 8; Rev. 2: 10, 26, 27; 3: 10,11, 21; 11: 18; 12: 11; 20: 6.)
The following writing by Mr. G. H. Lang, exposes from Scripture the error and weakness in such logic.]
1. God has an inescapable duty to be the "Judge of all the earth" (Gen. 18. 25). Those who submit to Him are subject to this judgment equally with the insubordinate: "The Lord shall judge His people" (Deut. 32: 36; Psa. 135: 14; Heb. 10: 30). The children of the sovereign are amenable to the laws and the courts and liable to penalty for misconduct.
2. This judgmeint is ever in process. There is a perpetual overruling of human affairs by higher authorities. Prominent instances are Job (ch. 1 and 2), Ahab (1 Kin. 22), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4). The first case shows the judicial proceedings effecting perfecting, the second death, the third reformation.
Job was a godly man under discipline for his good: an upright man was made a holy man. Thus still does God chasten His sons that they may become partakers of His holiness (Heb. 12: 10, 11).
Sinning Christians were disciplined even unto premature death, and it is explained that this operates to save them from liability to condemnation at the time when God will deal with the world at large (1 Cor. 11: 32).
But this continuous judicial administration has its crisis sessions, its
special occasions. Instances are: the
Flood; the destruction of
there will come the destruction of Gentile world dominion and the punishment of
Antichrist. Then the judgment at
But it is most necessary to keep in mind that all such separate and specific sessions are but part of the ceaselessly operating judicial administration of heaven and earth.
4. It is important to remember that the Son of man is the chief Judge of the universe. It was He who acted at the Flood: "Jehovah sat as king at the Flood" (Psa. 29. 10). It was He who, in holy care that only justice should be done, came down to enquire personally whether Sodom and Gomorrah ought to be destroyed (Gen. 18: 20, 21), and Who again came down to deliver Israel from Egypt (Ex. 3: 7, 8). it was His glory as judge that was seen by Isaiah (ch. 6; John 12. 41), and later by Ezekiel (ch. 1).
He is the Man appointed to judge the world in righteousness on behalf of God the Father (Acts 17: 31); for the Father has entrusted all judgment unto the Son, in order that He may receive equal honour with the Father (John 5: 19-29).
5. Yet it is particularly needful to note that the last cited passage is in reference to the future sessions of the divine judgment, for the judging in question is there set in direct connection with the raising of men from the dead (John 5. 21, 22, 27-29). For when the Son of God became man He ceased for the present to supervise those judgments of heaven. This was among the dignities of which He emptied, that is, divested Himself, for His immediate and blessed purpose in becoming man was their salvation from judgment (John 5: 24). Therefore He said: "God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him" (John 3: 17); nor has He yet resumed the office of supreme Judge, though appointed thereto as man. In relation to the world He is still the Dispenser of the grace of God, not yet the Executor of His holy wrath, as He will one day become.
This is clear from three chief considerations:
(1) That the Father has called Him to sit at His own right hand until the time when His enemies are to be put under His feet (Ps. 110: 1; Heb. 1: 13; 10: 13). That is, He is not yet sitting upon His own throne and asserting His own right and authority, as He will do in a later day (Rev. 2: 26, 27; 3: 21; Matt. 25: 31); but He is waiting expectantly that coming day.
(2) And therefore is it twice pictured that, as Son of man, the Lamb, He is hereafter to be brought before the Father to be invested officially with that authority to judge and to make war the title to which is His already but the exercise of which is in abeyance (Dan. 7: 13, 14; Rev. ch. 4 and 5). In both of these scenes it is God the Father who is shown acting from the throne of judgment until the Son has been thus formally installed as Judge.
(3) And therefore is He now the Advocate of His people before the Father (1 John 2: 1). But the Advocate cannot be at the same time the Judge.
Thus during this interval the especial concern and sphere of the Son of man is
the company He is calling out of the world, the
this work calls for both grace and judgment. He "can bear
gently with the ignorant and the erring, sympathizing with our infirmities"
(Heb. 5: 2; 4: 15); but dealing with kind
severity with the wilful of His people. "Behold then the
goodness and severity of God" (
7. Judgment upon His own people therefore God exercises now; this is the very period for it; but the general judgment of the world is deferred: "The time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God" (1 Pet. 4: 17). And again: "If we discriminated [sat in strict judgment upon] ourselves, we should not be judged; but when [failing in this holy self-judgment] we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord [here perhaps the Father; comp. Heb. 12: 5, 9, where He who chastens is the Father of spirits] that we may not be condemned with the world" (1 Cor. 11: 30, 31). And this chastening may extend to bodily weakness, positive sickness, or even death.. So it was in the cases of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5: 1-11, and see Jas. 5: 19, 20; 1 John 5, 16, 17; Matt. 5: 21-26; 18: 28-35).
8. The Lord made many most serious statements as to His dealings with "His own" servants at His return. Some of these are:
(1) Luke 12: 22-53. From dealing with the crowd He turns and speaks specifically to, His own disciples (verse 22). Only genuine disciples, regenerated persons, are able to fulfil His precepts here given. To mere professors the task is impossible, and such cannot be in view. They are to live without any anxiety as to the necessities of life, and in this are to be in express contrast to the nations; they are His "little flock," for whom the Father intends the kingdom, and therefore they are to give away, not to hoard, and so to lay up treasure in heaven (21-34). It is impossible to include the unregenerate in such a passage; nor would it be attempted save to avoid the application to Christians of part of the succeeding and connected instruction.
This instruction is that disciples are like the personal household slaves of an absent master, who upon his return will deal with each according to his conduct during the master's absence. In particular, the steward set over the household will be dealt with the more strictly that his office, opportunities, and example were the higher. The goodness of the master is seen in exalting the faithful (though from one point of view he had done no more than his duty and was an unprofitable servant) to almost unlimited privilege and power: "He will set him over all that he hath" (verse 44): his severity is shown by "cutting in sunder"* the servant who had abused his trust, and appointing his portion with the unfaithful (35-53).
[*Equals "severely scourge," because the scourge used cut deeply into the flesh - see margin.]
(2) This is elaborated and enforced in later statements. Luke 19. 11-27. The picture is the same- namely, the absent master and the faithful or unfaithful servants. The "pound" represents that deposit of truth entrusted to the saints (Jude 3), for their use among men while Christ is away: "Trade ye till I come." The Nobleman himself held and used it while here, and left it with us when He went to receive the kingdom. If we traffic with knowledge it increases in our hands and we gain more; if we neglect to do so it remains truth, retaining its own intrinsic value ("thou hast thy pound"), but we do not accumulate knowledge, nor benefit others, nor bring to our Lord any return for His confidence in us. In this parable it is not the personal life of the slave that is in question; that may have been good: it is his use of the truth in either spreading it among man, or hiding his light under a bushel of silence, or, as the picture is here, burying the pound in the earth.
The unfaithful servant loses opportunity further to serve his lord, the pound is taken from him. Sadder still, his lord has no confidence in him. But he is not an enemy of his lord, nor is treated as such. He does not lose his life. The contrast is most distinct between him, however unfaithful, and the foes and rebels: "But these mine enemies that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me" (verse 27).
(3) Matt. 24: 42-25, 30. Only a few days later the Lord repeated this instruction, with fuller detail. The head slave, set as steward of the house during the absence of the master, will be set over all his lord's possessions if only he have acted faithfully (45-47). "But if that evil servant" abuses his position, and becomes self-indulgent and tyrannical, he will be "severely scourged," and his portion be allotted with the hypocrites, where he will weep and gnash his teeth over his folly and lot.
Only a believer who does not consider his own heart will assert that a Christian cannot act the hypocrite, be unfaithful, or arbitrary and unloving. But the pronoun "that" - "But if that evil servant, etc.," leaves no option but to regard him as a believer, for it has no antecedent to whom it can refer except the faithful servant just before described, no other person having been mentioned. "That evil servant": what evil servant? and there is no answer but that the faithful steward has become unfaithful * : And such cases are known. Nor will we, for our part, join to consign all such to eternal ruin rather than accept the alternative of the temporary, though severe, punishments intimated by the Lord being possible to a believer. Those who take the latter course, mainly influenced to support certain dispensational theories, have surely never weighed the solemnity of thus easily consigning so many backsliders to endless misery.
Since, then, an unbeliever is (a) not set by the Lord over His house, nor (b) could feed the souls of his fellows, nor (c) could be so faithful as to become at last ruler of all the possessions of the Lord, this man must be a true believer. But when such a one may lapse from his fidelity he does not thereby become unregenerate; consequently the unfaithful steward is still called one of the Lord's "own servants"; and therefore a believer may incur the solemn penalties veiled under the figures used.
If it be thought inconceivable that the Lord should describe, one of His blood-bought and beloved people as a "wicked servant" (Matt. 25: 26), it must be weighed that He had before applied the term to a servant whose "debt" had been fully remitted: "thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt" (Matt. 18: 32). Thus one who, as an act of compassion by the Lord, has been fully forgiven all his failure as a servant may prove a "wicked servant," his wickedness consisting in this, that though forgiven he would not forgive. To deny that a child of God can be unforgiving is to blind the eyes by denying sad and stern fact. The Lord left no room for doubt that members of the divine family were in His mind by the application of the parable He then and there made: "Even so shall my heavenly Father do unto you [Peter, whose question as to forgiving had drawn forth the parable, and the other disciples, verse 1, 21], if ye forgive not, each one of you (hekastos), his brother from your hearts" (35). It is the Father and the brothers who are in question, not here those outside the family circle.
Moreover, if this parable be pressed to include a mere professing but unregenerate person some inevitable implications must be accepted. It is by no means denied that there are such persons, but if they are in view here these consequences follow: -
(a) An unregenerate person has had "all his debt forgiven."
(b) In spite of this free forgiveness he remains unregenerate.
(c) A forgiven sinner can have the free pardon of his sins, revoked, in which case he will thereafter stand in his former lost estate exposed to the eternal wrath of God. He may be saved to-day yet lose this [eternal salvation] to-morrow.
(d) Though delivered to the "tormentors" he may entertain hope that he may yet himself “pay all that is due” (verse 34); that is, the wrath of God against the unregenerate can be somehow, some time satisfied by the sufferings and efforts of the sinner himself. In these cases therefore "Christ died for nought"; they can at last secure their own deliverance.
In the fact, however, being “delivered to the tormentor” has no reference to the eternal judgment of the lost. In the lake of fire neither lost angels nor lost men are stated to torment one another, but are all alike in the same torment. It is a picture of present and temporal chastisement under that continually proceeding judgment of God above indicated, and which applies to His family as to others. Regarded thus the above confusing implications do not arise, implications which no one divinely illuminated could accept. But it results that the wicked servant is a real servant, not a hypocrite, and were it not for the severity of the punishment no one would be likely to question this.
It is not difficult to see what the punishment is.
(a) The forgiveness of his great failures as a servant can be revoked, and he be made to feel the sin and bitterness of not having walked by the same spirit as his Lord, nor rendered to Him the due use and return of the benefits grace had bestowed.
(b) Paul says of some who had once had faith and a good conscience (or they could not have thrust these away), and who had started on the voyage of faith (or they could not have made shipwreck), "whom I delivered to Satan" (the present "tormentor," as of Job); but not to be afflicted by him in hell, but for their recovery, "that they might be taught not to blaspheme," which the torments of the damned will not teach them, as far as we see in the Word (1 Tim. 1: 19, 20. See also 1 Cor. 5: 3-5).
(4) We remark upon one other instance of these solemn testimonies by Christ, the parable of the virgins (Matt. 25). It is to the same effect.
(a) They are all virgins, the foolish equally with the wise, which figure is inappropriate to indicate a worldling in his sins, even though he be a professing Christian. In the only other places where it is used figuratively and spiritually it certainly means true Christians (2 Cor. 11: 2; Rev. 14: 4).
(b) They are all equally the invited guests of the bridegroom, not strangers, let alone his enemies. -
(c) They all have oil, or, the foolish could not say "our lamps are going out." Without some oil the lamps could not even have been lit, for a dry wick will not kindle and certainly could not have burned during the time they had slept.
(d) But the foolish had no supply to replenish the dimly burning flax and revive their testimony. They had formerly been "light in the Lord," but had been thoughtless as to grace to continue alight.
(e) They found means for this renewing, for in spite of the darkness they gained the bridegroom's gate.
(f) They did not lose their lives, as enemies, but they did lose the marriage feast, and were left in the darkness outside the house. This is parallel to the "wicked servant," who also did not lose his life but did lose the entrance into the joy of his master at his return, and was cast into "outer darkness."
Two observations are vital to grasping the meaning of these judgments.
(1) A marriage feast is obviously no picture of anything eternal. Plainly it is a temporary matter. Grand, intensely happy, a highly coveted honour, especially when the king's son, the heir apparent, is the bridegroom, it yet is but the prelude to a life, a reign, not anything long-extended, let alone permanent. Does not this correspond to the joy of the millennial kingdom as the glorious prelude to the eternal kingdom? For the "marriage of the Lamb" comes at the immediate inception of that millennial kingdom (Rev. 19: 6-9). And are not the invited virgins those of whom verse 9 says, "Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb," rather than the wife herself? A bride is not usually invited to her wedding feast: it cannot (save, perhaps, among Moslems) be held without her. Does not this give the clue to what the virgins and the unfaithful servant lose?
(2) "Outer darkness" is no picture of the lake of fire. It is the realm just outside the palace where the feast is held, not the public prison or execution ground. If the strict sense of Scripture pictures be kept, and imagination be not allowed to fill in what the Divine Artist did not put in, much confusion will be avoided.
It has been felt that the words of the bridegroom to the virgins, "Verily I say unto you, I know you not" preclude us from taking these to represent His true people. But again the picture itself will give the real sense. The bridegroom is here pictured as standing within the heavy and thick outer door that secures every eastern house of quality, and the door is shut. He does not open it, or he would see who they are, and that they are some of his own invited guests; but standing the other side of the closed door he says, in idiomatic English, I tell you sincerely, I don't know who you are (Ameen lego humin, ouk oida humas). Into such a picture it is not permissible to read in divine omniscience; it must be taken simply as it is given.
Its force may be gathered more readily by the distinction between what is here said and what the Lord said in Matt. 7: 15-23. There He spoke of false prophets, bad trees, men who, like the sons of Sceva in Acts 19: 13, used His holy name without warrant. Picturing Himself as standing face to face with these He protests, I never at any time made your acquaintance! Here the scene is changed; there is no closed door between: the verb to know is different: and the word rendered "never" is most emphatic and gives force and finality to the assertion (Oudepote egnon humas). He did not speak thus to the virgins.
9. It is not our present purpose to consider all such testimony of the Word. Enough has been advanced to show how much and how solemn is the teaching of Scripture as to judgment upon careless Christians. We wish only to deal now with the time of the judgment seat of Christ as to His people.
The most general opinion is that this judgment lies between the moment of the Lord's descent to the air, when they, dead and living, are caught up to Him there, and that later moment when He is to descend with them to the earth to set up His kingdom. That is, the judging of His saints will take place during the Parousia.
(1.) No passage of Scripture seems, distinctly to place this judgment in this interval and in the air. It seems to be rather assumed that it must take place then and there since the effects of it are to be seen in the different positions and honours in the kingdom immediately to follow.
(2.) As regards the parabolic instruction Christ gave when here it is to be observed that it speaks only of persons who will be found alive when the "nobleman ... the master of the house" returns. Strictly, therefore, these parables tell nothing as to the time and circumstances of the judgment of dead believers. It must be allowed that the principles of justice will be the same for dead and living, but the details as to the judgment of the former cannot be learned from these passages.
(3.) Some presuppositions held are:
(a) That every believer will share in the first resurrection and the millennial kingdom.
(b) The opposite, that not every believer will do so.
(c) That the judgment of the Lord will result in some of His people suffering loss of reward because of unfaithfulness, but nothing more than loss. This involves that none of the positive and painful inflictions denounced can affect true believers.
(d) The opposite, that the regenerate may incur positive chastisement as a consequence of the Lord's judgment at that time. Thus in "Touching the Coming of the Lord" (84, 85. ed.. 1), upon Col. 3. 25, "For he that doeth wrong shall receive again the wrong that he hath done (margin): and there is no respect of persons," Hogg and Vine apply this text to that judgment of Christ at His parousia, and say: "It may be difficult for us to conceive how God will fulfil this word to those who are already in bodies of glory, partakers of the joy of the redeemed in salvation consummated in spirit, soul and body. Yet may we be assured that the operation of this law is not to be suspended even in their case. He that 'knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment unto the day of judgment ' (2 Pet. 2: 9), knows also how to direct and to use the working of His law of sowing and reaping in the case of His children also. The attempt to alleviate the text of some of its weight by suggesting that the law operates only in this life, fails, for there is nothing in the text or context to lead the reader to think other than that while the sowing is here the reaping is hereafter. It is clear that if it were not for this supposed difficulty of referring the words to the Christian in the condition in which, as we know from other Scriptures, he will appear at the Judgment-seat of Christ, the question whether that time and place were intended would not be raised."
(e) Some (Govett, Pember, and others) who hold that "the millennial kingdom may be forfeited by gross sin,” suppose that all believers rise in the first resurrection, appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, and being adjudged by Him unworthy of the kingdom they return to the death state to wait the second resurrection and the great white throne judgment. Their names being then as believers found in the book of life, they have eternal life in the eternal kingdom, but they will have missed the honour of sharing in and reigning in the millennial age.
These two last ideas (d) and (e) seem alike utterly impossible. It seems wholly inconceivable that a body heavenly, spiritual, glorified, like indeed to the body of the Son of God himself, can be subjected to chastisement for guilt incurred by misuse of the present sin-marred body. Not only the manner of the infliction but the fact of it seems to us out of the question.
It seems equally so that a body that is immortal and incorruptible can admit of its owner passing again into the death state. The ideas and the terms are mutually contradictory and exclusive. Of those who rise in that first resurrection the Lord said plainly: "neither can they die any more" (Lk. 20. 36).
What, then, is the solution of these difficulties?
10. We turn to passages dealing directly with the subject.
(1) 2 Cor. 5. 10. "We make it our aim, whether at home or absent, to be well-pleasing unto Him. For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done through the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad." This chief statement leaves unmentioned the time and place of the judgment.
(2) Heb. 9. 27. “It is laid up for men once to die and after this judgment” (meta de touto krisis, no article). Thus judgment may take place at any time after death. Luke 16 shows Dives suffering anguish immediately after death, for the scene is Hades, the realm of the dead between death and resurrection, and his brothers are still alive on earth. But again, Rev. 20: 11-15, shows another, the final judgment after resurrection, after the millennial kingdom. Both are "after death."
Neither of these passages suggests the parousia in the air as the time or place.
(3) The statements of the Lord as to His dealing with His own servants at His return, contemplate that His enemies will be called before Him immediately after He will have dealt with His own household: "But these mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me" (Lk. 19: 27). "Hither," that is, to the same spot where He had just been dealing with His servants. This, as to servants then alive on earth at least, excludes the parousia in the air, for His enemies will not be gathered there.
(4) Luke 16. 19-31. Dives and Lazarus are seen [in Hades] directly after death in conditions the exact reverse of those just before known on earth. The passing of the soul to that other world, and the bringing about of so thorough a change of condition, is too striking, too solemn just to happen. Some one must have decided and ordered this reversal; that is, there must have been a judging of their cases and a judicial decision as to what should be their lot in the intermediate state.
This judgment therefore may take place at or immediately after death, as Heb. 9. 27 above. And in the time of Christ thus almost all men believed. See, for example, the judgment of Ani directly after death, before Osiris the god of the underworld, in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Or, as to the Pharisees, to whom particularly Christ spoke of Dives and Lazarus, see Josephus, Antiquities, 18. 3.
(5) 2 Tim. 4: 6, 7, 8. "I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith; I have finished the course, henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day: and not only to me, but also to all them that have loved His appearing."
Paul was now certain he had won his crown. When writing to the Philippians a few years before (3. 10-14) he spoke uncertainly: "not that I have already obtained," for then he had not yet finished the course; but now he writes with certainty. How could this assurance have become his save by communication from the Righteous Judge? But this implies that the Judge had both formed and communicated His decision upon Paul's life and service, even though Paul had not yet actually died. In such a case, as it would seem, any session of the judgment seat "in that day" will be only for bestowment of the crown already won and allotted, not for adjudication upon the race or contest, the latter having before taken place as to such a person.
(6) The expression "I have finished my course" is taken from the athletic world which held so large a place in Greek life and interest and is so often used by Paul as a picture of spiritual effort. In 1 Cor. 9: 24-27, it is used as a plain warning that the coveted prize may be lost. Phil. 3: 12-14 employs it to urge to intense and unremitting effort to win that prize. The Lord is the righteous Judge, sitting to adjudicate upon each contestant in the race or contest.
Now of unavoidable necessity the judge of the games automatically formed his decision as to each racer or wrestler as each finished the course or the contest. The giving of the prizes was indeed deferred to the close of the whole series of events: Paul's crown would be actually given "in that day"; but not till then did the judge defer his decision as to each item or contestant. It could not be, for the most celebrated of the Greek games, the Olympic, lasted five days.
The figure, taken with the case of Paul, and in the light of Dives and Lazarus, suggests a decision of the Lord as to each believer before or at the time of his death. That decision issues in determining the place and experience of the man in the intermediate state, and may extend to assurance that he has won the crown, the prize of the high calling.
(7) Rev. 6. 9, 11, The Fifth Seal. As before shown, these martyrs "under the altar" are not yet raised from the dead, for others have yet to be killed for Christ's sake, and only then will they be all vindicated and avenged. But to each one of them separately a white robe is given. Now ch. 3. 4, 5, shows that the white robe is the visible sign, conferred by the Lord, of their worthiness to be His companions in His glory and kingdom. This again makes evident that for these the Lord's judgment has been formed and announced. No later adjudication upon such is needful or conceivable; only the giving of the crown "in that day."
11. From these facts and considerations it seems fairly clear that the judgment of the Lord upon the dead of His people is not deferred to one session but is reached and declared either (a) immediately before death (as Paul), when there is no further risk of the racer failing, or (b) immediately after death (as Lazarus), or (c) at least in the intermediate state of death (the ‘souls under the altar’).
If this is so, then it will follow that the decision of the Lord as to whether a believer is worthy of the first resurrection and reigning in the kingdom is reached prior to resurrection, in which case the two insoluble problems above stated simply do not arise, that is, there is no question of one raised in a deathless state returning to the death state, nor of bodies of glory being subjected to chastisement. Believers adjudged not worthy of the first resurrection will not rise, but will remain [in Hades] where they are until the second resurrection.
We agree fully that the judgment seat of Christ will issue in chastisement for unworthy living by Christians, but this will not be inflicted after resurrection.
(8) Rev. 11. 18 repays exact study. The four and twenty elders worship God because He has put forth His "power, His great power" (teen dunamin sou teen megaleen) and has exercised His sovereignty. In consequence of this asserting of power there are five results. (1) The nations are angry, (2) God's wrath replies, (3) there arrives "the season for the dead to be judged," (4) for the faithful to be rewarded, and (5) for the destruction of the destroyers of the earth.
Since prophets and saints are to receive their reward at the resurrection of the just (Luke 14. 14), the first resurrection (Rev. 20: 1-6), the season for the dead to be judged and rewarded is here found directly before the destruction of the Antichrist and his helpers in the wasting of the lands.
Concerning this judging of the dead three features are to be noted.
1. It must be of godly dead, for it is before the thousand years, whereas the judgment of the ungodly dead is thereafter (Rev. 20. 5, 11-15).
2. It is a judgment of persons who are dead at the time they are judged. There is no ground for reading in that they have been raised from the dead before the judgment takes place. They are styled "the dead." No one would think of styling living persons "the dead." The term employed (nekros) is nowhere used of persons who are not actually dead, physically or morally. Moreover, resurrection does not of itself assure life. That unique and glorious change to be the portion of such as share the first resurrection (1 Cor. 15) is their special privilege; it does not attach to all resurrection. Dead persons can be raised dead. In John 5. 29 our Lord creates a clear contrast: "They that have done good shall come forth unto resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto resurrection of judgment." The Lord did not say that they shall come forth out of the tombs alive, but that "they shall come forth unto resurrection of life" or "unto resurrection of judgment" (eis anastasin). There seems no scripture, indeed, that at the moment they come forth they have even a body, other than that psychical counterpart before noticed and which persists in the death state.
Thus in Rev. 20. 12 also it is as dead that they are judged: "I saw the dead standing before the throne ... and the dead were judged." It should therefore be supposed that those there present whose names are found in the book of life will thereupon be restored to life, that is, will be given an immortal body; even as the Lord said: "The Father raiseth the dead (egeirei tous nekrous) and makes them live (zoopoiei), thus also the Son makes to live whom He will" (zoopoiei, John 5: 21). Here two operations are distinguished by the "and makes them live."
The verb to be judged, "the
season of the dead to be judged," is the infinitive passive
aorist (kritheenai). Being an
aorist it has the force of a completed and final action. But this final judgment, which disposes of the
case, may be the conclusion of a process of judgment. This is seen in another place where this
aorist is twice used, Acts 25: 9, 10. Festus asked Paul whether he would be willing
to go up from Caesarea to
This short discussion is no more than suggestive, directed to certain obscurities and perplexities found in our main theme, designed to provoke enquiry so as further to elucidate truth and dispel darkness. May the Lord in grace use it to this end.
G. H. LANG.