Judgment Seat of Christ
Arlen L. Chitwood
You Can Rule and Reign
Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30)
The Israelites under Moses, preceding their departure from Egypt, slew the paschal lambs and appropriated the blood of these lambs in Egypt, for a purpose; and this purpose was to be realized beyond Egypt, in the land of Canaan.
The nation of Israel constituted a redeemed, adopted people who had been called from one land to go into another and there realize the rights of primogeniture. This nation had been removed from Egypt and was ultimately placed in a position where the people could enter the land of Canaan, conquer the inhabitants of the land, and rule over “all the nations of the earth” as “a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.”
This is the manner in which the outworking of the promised blessings destined to flow through Abraham and his seed to the Gentile nations would be brought to pass. Israel was to be placed at the head of the nations, as God’s firstborn son, the nation in possession of the rights of primogeniture. Israel was to rule as “a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation”; and the Gentile nations of the earth were to be ruled by and blessed through Israel (cf. Genesis 12:3; 22:17, 18; Exodus 4:22, 23; 19:5, 6).
At Kadesh-Barnea, when the Israelites were ready to enter the land of Canaan, Moses first sent spies into the land to obtain information concerning both the land and the inhabitants. Twelve spies, one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, traversed the land, “from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob,” for forty days and nights. They then returned to the camp of Israel with their report, along with samples of the fruits of the land (grapes, figs, and pomegranates [Numbers 13:21-25]).
All twelve spies together gave a report before Moses, Aaron, and the people, which simply had to do with facts concerning the land and its inhabitants — a land flowing with milk and honey, inhabited by a strong people dwelling in walled cities (Numbers 13:26-29).
Then, two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua — on the basis of that which they had seen, in conjunction with Israel’s calling and God’s power — presented a positive report concerning the ability of the Israelites to enter in and conquer the inhabitants. They stated that the Israelites would be “well able to overcome it [the people in the land, with their strength, walled cities, etc.].” (Numbers 13:30)
However, the remaining ten spies presented a negative report concerning the matter. They stated — on the basis of that which they had seen, ignoring Israel’s calling and God’s power — that the Israelites would not be “able to go up against the people” (among whom were “the giants [Hebrew: Nephilim, fallen ones], the sons of Anak” [Numbers 13:31-33]).
And it was at this point that the Israelites made a decision with far-reaching ramifications. It was at this point that the Israelites made their crucial decision relative to whether they would enter the land and allow God to fulfill His purpose for calling the nation into existence or whether they would refuse to enter the land, turning their backs upon the entire matter.
The Israelites, to their own detriment and to the detriment of the surrounding Gentile nations that were to be blessed through Israel, chose to believe the “bad report” proclaimed by the ten spies. They turned away from God’s promises, they turned their backs upon the land, and they turned against Moses and Aaron. Then, they sought to appoint a new leader, with a view to returning to Egypt (Numbers 14:1-4).
As a consequence, God pronounced judgment upon the entire unbelieving, rebellious generation, twenty years old and above. This generation was destined to be overthrown in the wilderness, short of the goal of their calling. Then, the ten spies who had brought a “bad report” before the people of Israel “died by the plague before the Lord”; and during the next thirty-eight and one-half years the “carcasses” of the remainder of the unbelieving, rebellious Israelites fell in the wilderness (Numbers 14:5ff; cf. Hebrews 3:8-19).
Caleb and Joshua though, because they believed that God would bring to completion His plans and purposes that He had for Israel at the time He led the nation out of Egypt, doing exactly what He had promised, were not numbered among those overthrown in the wilderness. They, rather, were numbered among those of the succeeding generation that would be allowed to enter the land.
In fact, the Lord appointed Joshua to lead the people into the land following the death of Moses. Then, once the nation had become securely established in the land, Caleb and Joshua both realized their inheritance (Numbers 14:24-38; Joshua 14:7-15; 19:49, 50).
Type — Antitype
The experiences of the Israelites under Moses establishes the basic, fundamental type that God uses concerning the experiences of Christians under Christ (1 Corinthians 9:24-10:11). The One who is greater than Moses is today leading another group out of this world to a calling removed from the world (as in the type, out of Egypt [a type of the world] to a place removed from Egypt).
In the antitype though, the calling is heavenly rather than earthly. Christians under Christ have a calling associated with the heavens, as Israel under Moses had a calling associated with the earth.
Christians have appropriated the blood of the Passover Lamb (as the Israelites appropriated the blood of the paschal lambs in Egypt) and presently constitute a redeemed people called into existence for definite and specific purposes. Christians are being called from one land to go into another and there realize the rights of primogeniture. And they, as the Israelites under Moses, are to engage the present occupants of the land in battle, with a view to both a conquest of the land and the realization of an ultimate inheritance in the land.
Scripture specifically states that our warfare is “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places [against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenlies]” (Ephesians 6:12). Satan and his angels occupy this heavenly realm, as the corrupted nations of Canaan occupied the earthly realm to which Israel had been called; and Christians — within the scope of their calling, drawn from the type — are to enter in, engage, and overcome “the spirit forces of wickedness.” And this is all with a view to Christians one day realizing an inheritance as co-heirs with Christ in this heavenly land.
The report and fruit brought back to the camp of Israel by the twelve spies during Moses’ day has its counterpart in the report and fruit that Christians presently have available in the revealed Word of God. Christians are told about the inhabitants of the land (Ephesians 6:11ff); and, as in Hebrews 6:5, Christians can taste “the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come.”
Christians who have progressed into a mature understanding of the things concerning the land and its inhabitants then find themselves in exactly the same position as the Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea under Moses. Such Christians can, under God, enter the land, engage the enemy, and be victorious over the enemy; or they can refuse to enter the land, resulting in their being overcome by the enemy apart from ever engaging the enemy in combat.
They can follow in the steps of Caleb and Joshua, or they can follow in the steps of the remainder of the nation. The decision is left entirely up to those Christians who have been brought to the antitype of Israel’s Kadesh-Barnea experience following the report of the twelve spies.
Ruin Produced by Unbelief
Unbelief manifested by Israel at Kadesh-Barnea was not something that occurred overnight. Such unbelief had been building from the very time God began to manifest His “wonders in Egypt” through Moses. The people did not understand His mighty works then, and they were quick to forget His mighty works following the Red Sea passage. They “lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert . . . They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molded image . . . They forgot God their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt” (Psalm 106:7ff). The climax of the entire matter though was the fact that “they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His Word” (Psalm 106:24).
At this time, at Kadesh-Barnea, God had allowed them to come up to the very goal of their calling. But once they had “despised the pleasant land” and “did not believe His Word” — refusing to enter the land and realize the goal of their calling — that was the end of the matter.
God will not countenance sin of any type. But the nature, time, and place of this sin necessitated God’s immediate intervention into the affairs of His people, resulting in His actions. And the Israelites, because of the nature of their unbelief at this particular time and place, were left without recourse. They could now do only one thing. They could now only turn back into the wilderness, where the entire accountable generation would die, short of the goal of their calling.
At Mount Sinai, following the forming and the worship of the molded (KJV: molten) calf, God set about to do away with the present nation and begin anew through Moses, making of him “a great nation”; and this same thing also occurred following the manifested unbelief of the people at Kadesh-Barnea (Exodus 32:9, 10; Numbers 14:11, 12). But Moses’ intercession on behalf of Israel, on both occasions, stayed God’s hand of judgment after this fashion (Exodus 32:11-14; Numbers 14:13-20).
Events at Kadesh-Barnea though occurred at a terminal point in God’s plans and purposes rather than at a preparatory point, as those at Mount Sinai; and, consequently, following God’s pronouncement at Kadesh-Barnea that the nation itself would be spared, circumstances were quite different than those existing at the time that this same announcement was heard at Mount Sinai.
Following the events at Mount Sinai, Moses was instructed to “lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you . . . the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Exodus 32:34-33:1). But following similar events at Kadesh-Barnea, ending the same way as at Mount Sinai — which followed the people’s refusal to enter the land — there was then no place for Moses to lead them. They were at the end of the line; and, although the nation itself would be spared, there was nothing left for God to do but set the entire accountable generation aside.
Immediately after God announced at Kadesh-Barnea that the nation would be spared, He then turned and pronounced judgment upon those who had seen His glory and miracles but had now tempted Him “these ten times” (Numbers 14:22ff). The number “ten” is an apparent allusion to both the ten faithless spies and the fullness in God’s sight of Israel’s unfaithfulness, dating all the way back to the time when He had first begun to deal with the nation in Egypt.
“Ten” is the number of ordinal completion, pointing in Numbers 14:22 to the full extent that the nation would be allowed to go in their unfaithfulness before judgment fell. As God had dealt with the Amorites in Genesis 15:16, so He would deal with the Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea. Judgment was withheld upon the Amorites until their iniquity had become full, and judgment was withheld upon the Israelites until they had reached this same point at Kadesh-Barnea.
After Israel’s unfaithfulness had been manifested in all its fullness, judgment fell. And God, during the next thirty-eight and one-half years, overthrew the entire accountable generation in the wilderness. Not a single Israelite numbered among this unfaithful generation was spared to subsequently enter the land under Joshua.
Reward Awaiting Belief
Obedience to that which God has said is the crucial matter. A seeming impossibility surrounding the issue at hand, as with the Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea, is of no moment. God has spoken, the matter is in His hands, and His people are to exhibit faithfulness therein.
1) Natural or Supernatural Means
The Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea viewed entrance into the land from two perspectives — naturalistic, and supernaturalistic.
From a naturalistic perspective, there was no question concerning the inability of the Israelites to go in and take the land. The inhabitants of the land were stronger, and the Israelites were no match for them. This was plainly exhibited when the Israelites subsequently sought to enter the land apart from the presence, power, and leadership of the Lord (Numbers 13:28, 29; 14:40-45).
However, viewing entrance into the land from a supernaturalistic perspective, the strength possessed by the inhabitants of the land was of no moment. Strength to defeat the enemy did not lie within the ability of the Israelites themselves (that would have been naturalistic), but outside their ability (supernaturalistic).
The battle belonged to the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:15); and no obedient Israelite, exercising faithfulness after the order of Caleb and Joshua, could fail in battle. Failure within the realm of faithfulness was not possible, for such would reflect upon the very faithfulness of God itself. Failure could come only through “unfaithfulness.”
2) Possessing the Land
The earthly land inhabited by the nations of Canaan has its counterpart in that heavenly land inhabited by Satan and his angels. There were supernatural beings (the “giants [Hebrews: Nephilim, fallen ones]”) contesting the right of the Israelites to enter into and take possession of the earthly land, and there are supernatural beings (Satan and his angels) contesting the right of Christians to enter into and take possession of the heavenly land.
The Nephilim (the offspring resulting from the co-habitation of the “sons of God [angels within Satan’s kingdom]” with the “daughters of men [female offspring from the lineage of Adam; cf. Genesis 6:2-4; Numbers 13:32, 33]”) had infiltrated the nations of Canaan, opposing the Israelites’ entrance into and conquest of the land; and many of the very ones responsible for this past condition of the land of Canaan presently inhabit the heavenly land, opposing the Christians’ entrance into and conquest of that land.
The Israelites had been redeemed in Egypt and prepared in the wilderness for that time when God would open the way for them to go in and take the land. The law had been given to Israel at Mount Sinai, along with instructions for the tabernacle and its associated priestly ministry and worship. The law with its rules and regulations was to be Israel’s constitution — the Magna Charta for the kingdom — given to govern the nation’s affairs in the kingdom; and the tabernacle with God dwelling in the Holy of Holies in the midst of His people was to be the central place of worship for the “kingdom of priests,” through whom God would bless all the nations. Israel, God’s firstborn son, was to enter the land, conquer the inhabitants, and bear rule in a worldwide theocracy after this fashion.
Not only were the Israelites prepared in the wilderness for the task ahead, but at Kadesh-Barnea they had been brought into an intimate knowledge of things concerning the land itself. They heard the report of the spies who had traversed the land; along with seeing and tasting the actual fruits of the land. In essence, they had moved in one and one-half years from a simple knowledge concerning things relative to the death of the paschal lambs in Egypt to a mature knowledge concerning the land and entrance therein. They had moved from what is called in the Greek text gnosis (knowledge) to epignosis (mature knowledge). God had brought them into such mature knowledge for one central purpose:
Entrance into and conquest of the land, along with all that would be involved in the theocracy once they were in the land.
The entire matter is the same in Christendom today. God does not immediately move newborn Christians onto the front lines against the enemy in the land. Rather, He first trains and prepares them. Within this preparation, there is a progression in teaching that leads Christians from a rudimentary knowledge concerning the death of the Passover Lamb to a mature knowledge concerning the land and entrance therein.
In other words, the preparation of Christians involves leading them from gnosis (knowledge) to epignosis (mature knowledge); and God brings Christians into such mature knowledge for one central purpose:
Entrance into and conquest of the land, along with all that will be involved in the theocracy once they are in the land.
There is a land to be possessed; but as in the earthly, so in the heavenly — Christians must enter in and engage the enemy. There can be no such thing as a Christian being victorious in this realm who has never gone forth to battle. The victors alone (overcomers during the present dispensation) will ultimately possess the land and rule within the theocracy.
There was no question in the minds of Caleb and Joshua concerning the ability of the Israelites, under God, to enter in and possess the land. Their attitude, voiced in Caleb’s words, was, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” And this must be the attitude expressed by Christians today, for therein alone can victory be achieved.
The Israelites would have been well able to take the land. Their ability lay completely within God’s power and provision. That which God had begun in Egypt and continued in the wilderness was to be carried through to completion in the land of Canaan. God, by and through His power, had removed them from Egypt and sustained them during their wilderness journey; and, beyond Kadesh-Barnea, He would have provided victory over the enemy and would have subsequently established them in the land.
But the Israelites refused to enter the land. Their unbelief, which had been building from the time God began to perform His mighty works in Egypt, caused them to look to their own inadequate ability. This then led them to turn from the land of Canaan and longingly look back to the land that they had left, the land of Egypt (Numbers 14:2-4; cf. Luke 9:62). They suffered defeat before ever engaging the enemy in combat.
And things are no different in Christendom today. Christians are well able to take the land set before them. Their provision lies completely within God’s power and control of the matter. That which God began in the life of a Christian at the point of his salvation is to be carried through to completion in the land set before him. God, by and through His power, has redeemed the individual, is presently sustaining him during his pilgrim journey, and desires to establish him in the land to which he has been called.
Should the Christian fail in his calling relative to the land (in the antitype of Israel’s failure at Kadesh-Barnea), he, as the faithless Israelites, places himself in a position of unbelief concerning entrance into the land. The goal of his calling involves entrance into and conquest of the land; and once this goal has been set aside, there is nothing left. Such a Christian has rejected his calling; the purpose for his very existence has been discarded. And this is the point in the antitype where unfaithfulness reaches the full extent that God will allow.
This is the point where the number “ten” from Numbers 14:22 comes into view. And, as with the Israelites, so with Christians: God withholds terminal judgment in one’s life relative to the land and the things of the land up to this point, but not beyond.
(In order to understand why judgment must fall at this point in God’s dealings with His people — whether in His dealings with Israel [the type] or in His dealings with Christians [the antitype] — study Hebrews 6:4-6 in the light of its context [chapters 3-5]. Understanding this type-antitype structure will reveal the why of the word “impossible” in Hebrews 6:4.)
Just as there was no reason for the Israelites under Moses to have failed to realize the goal of their calling in the type, there is no reason for Christians under Christ to fail to realize the goal of their calling in the antitype. The One who has “begun a good work in you [at the point of one’s eternal salvation] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ [that time beyond the present dispensation when all Christians appear before the judgment seat of Christ]” (Philippians 1:6). God will continue His work in the lives of Christians in order to bring them victoriously into the land.
This is the goal! But Christians must patiently endure in the present race of the faith. They must keep their eyes fixed upon Jesus, “the Author [Originator] and Finisher [Perfecter] of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1, 2; cf. James 1:2-4, 12; 1 Peter 1:7; 2 Peter 1:5-11). It is through the supernatural power of God alone — the power presently performing a work in the lives of Christians, with one main goal in view — that Christians can overcome the supernatural power of the enemy.
The Battle for the Land
From the point of the Israelites’ appropriation of the blood of the paschal lambs in Egypt, everything was directed toward one goal — entrance into and occupation of an earthly land, with the theocracy in view.
And it is the same in the lives of Christians today. From the point of their appropriation of the blood of the Passover Lamb, everything is likewise directed toward one goal — entrance into and occupation of a heavenly land, with a theocracy in view.
Christians have a heavenly calling, a heavenly hope, a heavenly inheritance, a heavenly citizenship, heavenly blessings, and they are confronted with an ever-present heavenly battle against the present rulers who occupy the heavenly land to which they have been called (Ephesians 1:3; 6:11-18; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 1:5; Hebrews 3:1; 1 Peter 1:4).
The one book in the New Testament that, in its overall structure, possibly sets forth that facet of truth dealing with the Christians’ relationship to the heavenly land better than any other is Paul’s epistle, Ephesians. Paul used the expression “in heavenly places [lit. in the heavenlies]” five different times in the six chapters of this epistle.
Two of these times, the Christians’ position in the heavenlies is in view (1:3; 2:6); two other times, the position of Satan and his angels in the heavenlies comes into view (3:10; 6:12); and the other time, the position of Christ at the right hand of God, also in a heavenly place, is in view (1:20).
1) In the Heavenlies
Revelation in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians begins by revealing blessings awaiting Christians “in heavenly places [‘in the heavenlies’] in Christ,” and terminates by revealing a warfare confronting Christians against “spiritual wickedness in high places [‘the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenlies’]” (1:3; 6:12). The heavenlies, wherein blessings are to be realized in chapter one, and the heavenlies in which the enemy presently resides in chapters three and six, must be looked upon as one and the same.
A Christians positional standing is “in Christ” in the heavenlies where God Himself dwells; but, contextually, the spiritual blessings in view are to be realized by Christians as they move in, conquer, and dwell in the heavenly land held by the enemy in chapter six. In this respect, there are heavenly blessings for present victorious engagements of the enemy, and there are heavenly blessings awaiting victorious Christians in that coming day when the enemy will finally be dislodged from the land.
Contextually, the blessings in chapter one are associated with the “adoption” (v. 5), the “dispensation of the fullness of the times” (v. 10), the “inheritance” (vv. 11, 14, 18), and the “wisdom and revelation in the knowledge [Greek: epignosis, mature knowledge] of Him” (v. 17). Such blessings to be realized by Christians are, thus, intimately associated with the heavenly land to which they have been called; and the entire matter is projected out into the coming age, but not to the exclusion of the present dispensation.
The present spiritual warfare in the heavenlies is with a view to the coming age, but spiritual blessings await the victors during both present and future time. There can be no future occupation of the land apart from a present warfare against the enemy; and the blessings extend throughout both eras.
Ephesians moves progressively from chapter one into things relative to eternal salvation and the revelation of the mystery in chapters two and three. Believing Gentiles have been placed together in the same body with believing Jews. God has broken down the “middle wall of partition” by creating one new man, where there is neither “Jew nor Greek” (2:8-16; cf. Galatians 3:28).
Believing Jews and believing Gentiles, together in one body, forming the one new man, then become “fellowheirs” of the heavenly promises and blessings in view (Ephesians 3:6; cf. Galatians 3:29). The very purpose for an individual’s salvation is to be realized through the reception of the inheritance introduced in chapter one and continued in chapters two and three.
The Christians’ association with the heavenlies is presently being made known to the “principalities and powers in heavenly places [in the heavenlies]” “by [through] the Church” (Ephesians 3:9, 10). God is making known to the incumbent rulers in the heavenlies that they are about to be replaced; and He is making this known through the ones who are destined to occupy these positions, the ones presently engaging the enemy in the heavenlies.
Ephesians then continues by exhorting Christians to walk worthy of their high calling (4:1ff) and revealing the need for pastor-teachers in the Church (4:11-16). Pastor-teachers have been placed in the Church to lead Christians into a mature knowledge of, contextually, their calling in relation to the heavenlies.
Christians are to know about the blessings awaiting them in the heavenlies, the coming dispensation, the inheritance, the mystery, etc. And to make this known, in the strict biblical sense, is the primary task of pastor-teachers.
The latter part of chapter four and the first part of chapter five continues with thoughts and exhortations concerning walking worthy of one’s high calling; and this is followed by related material in the latter part of chapter five and the first part of chapter six concerning the relationship of husbands and wives, children and parents, and servants and masters.
Then, at the conclusion of the epistle, in the latter part of chapter six, the crux of the entire matter comes into view. Beginning in 6:10, the apostle Paul says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” The engagement with the enemy now comes to the forefront in the epistle. The enemy is revealed, and the proper armor with which the Christian is to clothe himself is given (vv. 12-17).
2) The Spiritual Warfare
There is a battle to be fought, and there is a victory to be won. This battle not only requires extensive preparation but also the correct armor; and pastor-teachers in the Church are to see that Christians placed under their care become properly equipped to engage the enemy in the battle at hand (cf. 3:10, 11; 4:11-16; 6:11-18).
Going forth to battle, one’s loins are to be girded with truth (showing truthfulness, earnestness, and sincerity in the conflict), a person is to have on the breastplate of righteousness (showing a righteous manner of living), his feet are to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (showing that the messenger properly understands and is able to proclaim both present and future aspects of salvation), he is to take the shield of faith (showing faithfulness to act in the realm God has commanded), he is to put on the helmet of salvation (showing a hope relative to a future salvation [the salvation of the soul]), and he is to take the sword of the Spirit (showing an acquisition of the Word of God). Only in this fashion can a Christian stand in a victorious manner against “the wiles of the devil.”
(Refer to chapter 4 in this book for a more complete discussion of Ephesians 6:14-17.)
One’s faithfulness in the entire realm of proper preparation is the primary prerequisite. As in Jude 3, one is to “contend earnestly for the faith [i.e., ‘earnestly strive for (with reference to, in the good contest of) the faith’].” He, according to the parallel passage in 1 Timothy 6:12, is to “Fight the good fight of faith [lit. Strive in the good contest of the faith]”; and, in this manner he is to “lay hold on eternal life [lit., lay hold on life for the age (a future salvation, to be realized during the Messianic Era, associated in the text with his calling)].”
The words translated “contend” in Jude 3 and “fight” in 1 Timothy 6:12 are from epagonizomai and agonizomai respectively in the Greek text. Note that the only difference in these two words is the prefix “ep” in Jude (this is the preposition epi [upon] prefixed to the word [the “i” is dropped when epi is prefixed to a word beginning with a vowel]). Epi, used in this manner, intensifies the meaning of the word, providing the translation, “contend earnestly [earnestly strive].”
Agonizomai is the Greek word from which our English word “agonize” is derived. The word could more properly be translated “strive,” as in Luke 13:24 and 1 Corinthians 9:25. Every muscle is to be strained; every effort is to be expended, in the “good contest of the faith.”
In Jude 3-5 this contest is associated with entrance into the land to which Christians have been called; and the false teachers in these verses are seeking, by and through that which they are teaching, to mislead and thus prevent Christians from entering this land (ref. the ten unfaithful spies and the results of their message). However, Christians following the admonition in Jude 3 need not fear the false teachers in Jude 4, nor fear being numbered among the unfaithful in Jude 5. Such Christians will experience victory after victory in the battle and partake of rich spiritual blessings that the Lord has reserved for His conquerors, both now and in the coming age.
Dare to be a Caleb! Dare to be a Joshua!
Rewards for those who so govern their lives will be the same as Caleb and Joshua’s — present victory, and the ultimate possession of one’s inheritance (Joshua 13:7-14; 19:48-50).