What should faithful and unfaithful Christians expect in the age to come?
In brief, such Christians, depending upon their faithful and obedient service (or lack of it) during this life, can expect either “good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10) — they will receive a “reward” or they will “suffer loss” (1 Corinthians 3:14, 15) — in the coming Kingdom Age (Messianic Era) that will be established upon Christ’s Second Advent. These possibilities will be based upon decisions and determinations at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 2:16; 14:10, 12), a judgment of Christians that will take place following the Rapture of the Church (Body of Christ), an extraction event that will precede the seven year Tribulation Period upon Earth. The “good” or “reward” will involve faithful Christians being included in the “out-resurrection” (Philippians 3:11), taking them out of the Body of Christ and being placed into the Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7, 8), to reign and rule with Him during the one thousand years of the Messianic Era (Revelation 20:4-6). And the “bad” or “suffer loss” will involve unfaithful Christians being assigned to “outer darkness” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30), a position also described as being “hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:11), which will last the one thousand years of the Messianic Era.
Many of the above details are better covered below from selected portions (chapters 2, 3, and 11) from the book, Judgment Seat of Christ:
We Must All Appear
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 5:10)
Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;
He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. . . .
The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:12-16, 20)
Events of the judgment seat of Christ will occur between the removal of the Church before the Tribulation and the return of Christ following the Tribulation. Christ is not judging today. Rather, He is ministering as High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary on behalf of Christians. And He will not act in the capacity of Judge until He completes His present high priestly ministry, which will last throughout the present dispensation.
Thus, Christians will not be judged until the present dispensation has run its course and Christ returns for His Church. Once these things occur, the judgment of Christians will ensue; and this judgment must be completed prior to the time Christ returns to deal with Israel and the nations at the end of the Tribulation.
Christ as Judge
In Revelation 1:13, Christ is seen dressed in the type garments worn by both a priest and a judge; but the position of the girdle about the breasts rather than around the waist indicates that Christ, in this passage, is exercising a judicial rather than a priestly role. A priest would be girded about the waist, signifying service; but the girdle placed about the shoulders or breasts indicates a magisterial function (cf. John 13:2-5; Revelation 15:6).
Aside from the preceding, the entire scene is judicial, not priestly. Brass, fire, and a sword are mentioned in connection with Christ’s appearance, which speak of judicial activity. And Christ’s countenance is described by the expression, “the sun shining in its strength,” which has to do with His glory, to be manifested during that coming day of His power (a 1,000-year period of judging those upon the earth [cf. Psalm 2:1-9; Revelation 2:26, 27]).
Then, more information is given, which will help to ascertain exactly what is being depicted by the scene at hand. The apostle John was transported into “the Lord’s day [the Day of the Lord]” (v. 10), and the vision of Christ that he saw depicts Christ as He shall appear following the completion of His high priestly work, anticipating His long-awaited regal work. The entire scene in Revelation 1:13-18 is prophetic, depicting Christ as Judge in the midst of the seven churches at the conclusion of the present dispensation, anticipating that coming day when He will exercise governmental power and authority over the earth.
The chronological arrangement of events opening the book of Revelation sets forth the fact that God will deal with the Church in judgment before He deals with Israel and the nations after this fashion (cf. 1 Peter 4:17-19). The Church will be removed from the earth and placed in the heavens; and the Church will be dealt with during a period of time before the Tribulation begins on earth.
A review of the first five chapters of the book of Revelation reveals that there will have to be an interval of time between the removal of the Church and the beginning of the Tribulation. That is, the present dispensation will run its course, the Church will be removed, and certain events will then transpire in heaven (while the Church is in heaven) before the Tribulation begins on earth (which, when it begins, will fulfill seven uncompleted years of the previous dispensation).
These events — occurring while the Church is in heaven, preceding the beginning of the Tribulation on earth — concern the Church coming under judgment (as revealed in chapters one through three); and these events also concern the relinquishment of crowns that Christians will wear during the Messianic Era (chapter 4), along with preparations to redeem the domain over which Christians will rule at this time (chapter 5).
(The event marking the beginning of the Tribulation on earth is not the removal of the Church, as is often taught, but the ratifying of a seven-year covenant between the man of sin and Israel. The Tribulation, following the ratifying of this covenant, will last exactly seven years, completing the full four hundred ninety years of Daniel’s prophecy concerning Seventy Sevens “determined” upon the Jewish people [cf. Daniel 9:24-27].)
Material in the book of Revelation has been arranged in a three-fold manner, and this arrangement is given at the beginning of the book, in the first chapter:
Write the things that you have seen, and the things that are, and the things that will take place after this. (v. 19)
The “things that you have seen” refer to the things concerning Christ in the verses immediately preceding verse nineteen, in chapter one (cf. v. 12); the “things that are” refer to things concerning the seven churches in chapters two and three, that depict the Church in a two-fold respect: (1) the Church during the present dispensation, showing a history of the Church throughout the dispensation; but (2) more specifically these chapters reveal the Church at the end of the dispensation (in the Lord’s Day [1:10]), showing the Church coming under Judgment (continuing from chapter one [note that John was relating “the things that are” from the perspective of a future time, in the Lord’s Day, not from the perspective of his own time and day — about. 90 A.D., during Man’s Day — though this revelation dropped back and encompassed that day as well]); and the “things that will take place after this” refer to things not only beyond the present dispensation but beyond that time when the Church is judged (chapters 1-3). And this section of the book, though having its own divisions, continues from the beginning of chapter four throughout the remainder of the book.
The word translated “after this” in 1:19 and the words translated “after these” and “after this” in 4:1 are from the same two words in the Greek text (meta tauta). In all three instances the translation should be, “after these things.” The thought, as shown at the beginning of chapter four, is after the things revealed in chapters two and three. In one respect, this would be a reference to events following the present dispensation (one way in which chapters 2 & 3 are to be viewed); but, more specifically, the reference would be to events following findings and determinations emanating out of activity at the judgment seat (the primary thrust of chapters 2 & 3).
The seven churches in the presence of Christ in Revelation, chapter one depict the Church as a whole coming under judgment at the conclusion of the present dispensation; and the fact that this judgment will occur in heaven and has to do with issues surrounding the judgment seat of Christ becomes evident as one studies the opening chapters of this book.
“Seven” in Scripture is God’s number. It is a number showing completion. It is used more specifically to show the completion of that which is in view, and in this case, the Church is in view, with “seven churches” showing the complete Church (all Christians, faithful and unfaithful alike).
The seven churches named in the opening chapters of the book of Revelation, though referring to seven existing churches in the Gentile world (in Asia [1:4]) during the first century, depict completion in relation to the Church. These seven churches represent Christianity as a whole — both on earth during the present dispensation (chapters 2 & 3) and in heaven at the conclusion of the dispensation (chapters 1-4, as a whole). Chapter one introduces the matter at hand, (judgment awaiting all Christians); chapters two through four then form a commentary on chapter one; and chapter five leads into that section of the book covering the Tribulation (6:1ff).
(Note: When studying the book of Revelation, look for the book’s own built-in interpretation, as in chapters one through four. A unit of truth will be given; then, following Scriptures provide commentary upon this unit of truth, allowing the Holy Spirit Himself to interpret that which He gave through John (e.g., cf. 12:1-6 and 12:7-17; cf. 12:1-17 and chapters 13 & 14; cf. 12:3; 13:1-18; 17:1-7 and 17:8-18.)
The trumpet beckoning to John in Revelation 4:1 can only be synonymous with the trumpet in Revelation 1:10. In this respect — because of the revealed events that follow in each instance — the trumpet in these two sections is apparently the trumpet that will be heard when the Church is removed from the earth at the end of this dispensation, subsequently appearing in the presence of Christ to be judged, as revealed in chapters one through three (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:9). Then, a sequence of events, revealed throughout the remainder of the book, begins to unfold.
John, transported into the Lord’s Day, at a future time, in chapter one, was instructed to record that which he saw and send the record to seven existing churches in Asia. These churches, along with a brief description of each, are seen on earth in chapters two and three; but the scene back in chapter one, as well, has them in the presence of Christ in heaven, at the end of the dispensation, about to come under judgment. An overcomer’s promise is listed for each church in chapters two and three, and in chapter one the churches are seen as they are about to be judged relative to these overcomer’s promises. Chapters two and three not only furnish the background material to show why and on what basis the judgment set forth in chapter one will occur, but these chapters actually have to do with that judgment.
Note the structure of each of the seven epistles to the seven churches. All seven are structured exactly the same way: (1) I know your works, (2) judgment is then seen to be on the basis of these works, and (3) this judgment is with a view to showing whether the Christian has overcome or has been overcome. There is an overcomer’s promise concluding each epistle, and these overcomer’s promises are millennial in their scope of fulfillment. Christians will be judged on the basis of works, with a view to showing whether they have overcome or have been overcome; and this will be with a view to their realizing or being denied regal promises and blessing in the Messianic Era that follows.
As previously seen, John’s experience of being transported into the Lord’s Day in chapter one is synonymous with his being removed from the earth at the beginning of chapter four. Thus, events about to be revealed in chapter four begin at exactly the same time events in the previous three chapters began — with the removal of the Church to be judged. But this judgment is not repeated in chapter four. Rather, events surrounding the judgment seat shift to related events that will immediately follow this judgment.
The scene in heaven throughout chapter four provides additional details concerning the seven churches in the presence of Christ in chapter one. All Christians, comprising the complete Church in the presence of Christ in that future day, will not only see that which John saw in chapter one, experience that is depicted in chapters two and three, but also see that which John saw in chapter four (along with, it would appear, the things that John saw in the remaining chapters of the book as well).
(For additional details pertaining to the first four chapters of the book of Revelation, refer to the author’s books, Mysteries of the Kingdom, Chapter 10, and Search for the Bride, chapters 12 & 13)
By way of summation, to grasp exactly what is being taught in these opening chapters of the book of Revelation, keep two things in mind:
This is completely in line with any Scriptural teaching on the subject. The widespread teaching that either all or part of the Church will remain on earth during the Tribulation has no basis whatsoever in Scripture. The Scriptures teach, unequivocally, that the complete Church — all of the saved from the entire 2,000-year dispensation — will be removed before the Tribulation begins; and that the complete Church will, at this time, appear before the judgment seat of Christ in heaven — a judgment that, as previously seen, will apparently be completed before the Tribulation even begins on earth.
Removal of the Church to be Judged
Aside from the opening chapters of the book of Revelation, scriptural warrant for both the removal of the Church before the Tribulation and the fact that all Christians — faithful and unfaithful alike — will be removed at this time is not difficult at all to find. Teachings of this nature can be found beginning with the Old Testament types. And the Old Testament types must not only agree with one another but they must also agree with the New Testament antitype. All must parallel one another and be in perfect agreement.
(For additional material on the rapture, refer to the author’s book, Search for the Bride, chapter 12)
1) The Old Testament Types
The three main Old Testament types dealing with the rapture can be found in the opening book of Scripture, the book of Genesis. The first is seen in the experiences of Enoch, the second in the experiences of Lot and his family, and the third in the experiences of Rebekah. And each of these three types present different facets of the same picture, together forming an Old Testament composite word-picture of the rapture.
Enoch, as previously stated, is seen being removed from the earth between two points in time — following a blood sacrifice and prior to the Flood. This points to those whom Enoch typifies (Christians) being removed from the earth at a time following that which Abel’s death typifies (Christ’s death) but preceding that which the Flood typifies (the coming Tribulation).
Thus, both the participants and the timing of the rapture are introduced in the foundational type. The rapture, according to this type, must have to do with those of the present dispensation (with Christians). It cannot pertain to any other than the ones who have appropriated the blood of the individual dying in the antitype of Abel’s death. And it has to occur preceding that time typified by the Flood during Noah’s day (i.e., it has to occur before the Tribulation). Then, subsequent types reveal other things about this event (e.g., the inclusion or non-inclusion of all Christians, etc.).
Some individuals move beyond that which is revealed in Genesis 4-8 or Hebrews 11:4-7 and attempt to teach a selective removal of Christians through using this overall, foundational type. A teaching of this nature is derived through viewing Enoch’s removal from the earth as being conditioned upon his faithfulness. Using the type after this fashion forms a beginning point that individuals often use to teach that only faithful Christians will be removed at the time of the rapture (the faithful among the dead in Christ raised and removed with the faithful who are alive at that time).
This though is an improper way to view the type. There is a dispensational scheme of things seen through that set forth in both Genesis 4-8 and Hebrews 11:4-7, but the central teaching surrounding “faith” is really not part of this dispensational scheme. Rather, the central teaching surrounding “faith,” contextually, has to do with the salvation of the soul (Hebrews 10:35ff). And to bring “faith” from this central teaching over into this dispensational structure and attempt to teach a selective removal of Christians on this basis is clearly incorrect.
First, note what viewing matters after this fashion would do to the next type in the light of the antitype — Noah and his family going through the Flood, typifying Israel going through the coming Tribulation. This would necessitate Israel, in the antitype, exercising faith prior to the Tribulation and being delivered by acting in accordance with that faith (as Noah exercised faith prior to the Flood and was delivered by acting in accordance with his faith). But exercising faith after this fashion will not be true of Israel during the Tribulation at all. Israel will not exercise faith until the end of the Tribulation, following the Jewish people looking upon the One whom they pierced.
Then, viewing the matter from another perspective, subsequent types clearly reveal that all Christians (faithful and unfaithful alike) will be removed at the time of the rapture. If the foundational type shows a selective rapture of faithful Christians alone, so must any subsequent type that deals with this aspect of the rapture. And the antitype, dealing with this same aspect of the rapture, must show a selective rapture as well.
But, when one turns to Scripture alone, the preceding is not seen to be the case at all. Something other than a selective rapture of the faithful is clearly seen in subsequent types. And the antitype must deal with the matter after the same fashion as it is dealt with in the type, which it does.
The foundational type in Genesis chapter four deals centrally with the participants and the timing of the rapture (Christians, and a pretribulational event). It has nothing to do with selective or nonselective rapture. Subsequent types deal with this matter, along with the antitype.
B) Lot and His Family
Lot, his wife, and his two virgin daughters were removed from Sodom prior to the destruction of the cities of the plain. And the manner in which the New Testament handles this event leaves no room to question that which is in view from a typical standpoint. The destruction of the cities of the plain can point only to the coming destruction of this present world system, and the removal of Lot and part of his family can only point to a removal of certain individuals from this world (from the earth) prior to this destruction (a destruction occurring during the Tribulation).
This account forms a subsequent type of that previously seen in Genesis 5-8, and the account is dealt with in the New Testament in a parallel manner. The destruction of the cities of the plain during Lot’s day is dealt with in the New Testament alongside the destruction produced by the Flood during Noah’s day, introducing a parallel type. Both destructions in the two types point to the same destruction in the antitype.
And as it was in the days of Noah . . .
Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot . . .
Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. (Luke 17:26a, 28a, 30).
Then Christ — relating the accounts of these two destructions occurring in history, which point to the same destruction in prophecy — sounded two main warnings. And the warnings were directed to two groups of people — to Israel, and to the Church (about to be brought into existence).
The account surrounding Noah and the Flood was given first (v. 26). And, accordingly, Christ sounded the warning to Israel in connection with this type first (v. 31). Noah and the Flood, not Enoch and his removal from the earth, are in view; and the matter has to do with those typified by Noah going through the Flood — Israel going through the Tribulation.
The same statement, comprising the warning, is later seen within a more lengthy warning that Christ provided in the Olivet Discourse. Christ, in this discourse, warned the Jewish people to flee for their lives when they see a particular man (Antichrist) do certain things during this coming time of destruction (Matthew 24:15ff).
Immediately following the warning that had to do with the days of Noah, Christ sounded a warning that had to do with the days of Lot (Luke 17: 28). Rather than dealing with individuals going through a time of destruction, the days of Lot had to do with individuals removed prior to this destruction. And the warning that Christ sounded was in connection with Lot’s wife and the salvation or loss of one’s soul.
Remember Lot’s wife.
Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life [soul] will preserve it. (vv. 32, 33)
Lot’s wife, along with her husband and two virgin daughters, was delivered from Sodom. And, though delivered from Sodom, she lost her soul. She looked back toward Sodom rather than out ahead toward the mountain to which Lot had been told to flee (Genesis 19:17, 26; Luke 9:62).
Lot, in similar fashion, failed to realize the salvation of his soul as well. Lot is contrasted with Abraham; and though Lot later found himself on the mountain to which he had been told to flee, his portion on the mount was diametrically opposed to that of Abraham (a “mountain” in Scripture symbolizes a kingdom [cf. Isaiah 2:2-4; Daniel 2:35, 44, 45; Matthew 16:28-17:5]).
Lot found himself dwelling on the mountain, but in a cave on the mountain, in a place separated from the Lord (Genesis 19:30; cf. Matthew 22:10-14). Abraham, on the other hand, found himself also dwelling in the high country, but standing before the Lord — a place where, unlike Lot, he had been both dwelling and standing for quite sometime (Genesis 19:27; cf. Genesis 18:22).
The account of Lot and certain members of his family being delivered from Sodom add additional information to the type surrounding Enoch in Genesis chapter four. This second type makes it quite clear that faithfulness or unfaithfulness of Christians and the consequent salvation or loss of the soul have nothing to do with the rapture itself. These are issues that will come into view following the rapture, as seen in God’s dealings with both Lot’s wife and Lot following their deliverance from Sodom. These are issues that will come into view following the rapture, as seen in God’s dealings with both Lot’s wife and Lot following their deliverance from Sodom. These are issues that have to do with the judgment seat following the rapture, not issues that have to do with the rapture.
Then there is a subsequent type that deals with the matter from a different perspective yet, building upon that revealed in the previous types and providing additional information. And that type is found in Genesis chapter twenty-four.
Genesis chapter twenty-four relates the story of Abraham sending his eldest servant into Mesopotamia to procure a bride for his son, Isaac. This chapter is the fourth of five consecutive chapters (21-25) in Genesis that form one overall type consisting of numerous individual types. And within the complete typology seen in these chapters, God has set forth exactly the same thing seen in previous chapters (4-8) — a dispensational framework of events surrounding Christ, Israel, and the Church.
Throughout these chapters, “Abraham” is seen as a type of God the Father, “Isaac” a type of God the Son, and “Sarah” (Abraham’s wife) a type of Israel (the wife of Jehovah). “Abraham’s servant” sent into Mesopotamia in chapter twenty-four is seen as a type of the Holy Spirit sent into the world; and Keturah in chapter twenty-five (who Abraham married following events in chapter 24) is also, as Sarah (in chapter 23), seen as a type of Israel, though within another frame of reference than Sarah.
Typology after the preceding fashion becomes evident as one works his way through these chapters.
Isaac’s birth in chapter twenty-one was via supernatural means, typifying Christ’s subsequent birth through the same supernatural means. The offering of Isaac by his father in a designated place in the land of Moriah in chapter twenty-two typifies the subsequent offering of Christ by His Father in a designated place in the same land. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, dying in chapter twenty-three (following the offering of the son) typifies God’s wife, Israel, subsequently being set aside (following the offering of the Son). And Israel, as Sarah, is looked upon during this time as being in the place of death (Jonah 1:17ff; John 11:6ff).
Next in the dispensational structure and overall type are events in chapter twenty-four, where the search for and procurement of the bride is seen prior to Abraham’s remarriage in the following chapter. Chapter twenty-four details the work of the Spirit in the world today, searching for the bride, following Israel being set aside (chapter 23). And this search will occur and be completed before the time God resumes His dealings with and restores Israel (chapter 25).
In the past, Israel, as Sarah, was barren (Genesis 16:1, 2). And because of Sarah’s barrenness, Isaac’s birth required God’s supernatural intervention. But when Israel is one day restored, typified by Abraham marrying Keturah in chapter twenty-five, conditions will be reversed. Keturah bore Abraham six sons (Genesis 25:1, 2). Keturah was very fruitful, as Israel will be during that coming day following the nation’s restoration.
It is between these two dispensational points (Israel being set aside [chapter 23] and Israel being restored [chapter 25]) that God procures a bride in the antitype for His Son, Jesus. And as Abraham sent his eldest servant into Mesopotamia to search for and procure his son’s bride, God has sent the Holy Spirit into the world to search for and procure His Son’s bride.
Thus, within the dispensational structure of the things seen throughout Genesis chapters twenty-one through twenty-five, there can be no question concerning that which is involved in the typology of chapter twenty-four. This chapter has to do with the mission of the Spirit in the world during the present dispensation.
The servant arrived in Mesopotamia with “ten camels” laden with his master’s goods. “Ten” is the number of ordinal completion, showing all of the master’s goods (Genesis 24:10), and the master had given all these goods to his son (Genesis 24:36; 25:5). The servant was to show the prospective bride, from Abraham’s family, all the glories that the father had given to his son. Then the invitation to become the wife of Abraham’s son was to be extended (Genesis 24:3, 4, 53, 57, 58).
This points to that which is occurring during the present dispensation. The Spirit is in the world showing those from God’s family (Christians) all the glories that the Father has given to His Son. And He is doing this through opening the Word to their understanding, revealing these things to them. Then, as in the type, the invitation is extended to Christians to become the wife of God’s Son.
Rebekah, in the type, said that she would go (Genesis 24:57, 58). And once the purpose for the servant’s mission had been accomplished, he removed Rebekah from Mesopotamia (Genesis 24:59ff).
In the antitype, exactly the same thing will occur. Once the purpose for the Spirit’s mission has been accomplished, He will remove the bride from the world. And the manner in which Isaac’s bride was removed, along with that which followed forms the pattern for the manner in which Christ’s bride will be removed, along with that which will follow.
Abraham’s servant removed the bride on camels, and the bride was accompanied by damsels. All of them together rode on the camels, and they all went forth together to meet Isaac.
Though the number of the camels at the time of the departure is not stated, the inference would clearly point to ten camels. The servant entered the land with “ten camels” to search for the bride, and the reference to camels upon his departure with the bride would clearly point to the same ten camels.
Rebekah and her damsels leaving on the camels show ordinal completion once again. All went forth to meet Isaac, but only Rebekah was later presented to Isaac as his bride for whom the servant had searched. Rebekah was the one seen putting on her veil when she and the damsels accompanying her came into the son’s presence, typifying the wedding garment to be worn by Christ’s bride when Christians find themselves in the Son’s presence.
As they all went forth to meet Isaac in the type, so will they all go forth to meet Christ in the antitype. And, as a distinction was made between Rebekah and the damsels accompanying her in the type, so will it be in the antitype.
Rebekah was the one who had responded positively to the servant’s mission in Mesopotamia; and she was the one who, following her removal from Mesopotamia, was separated from the other damsels and presented to Isaac as his bride.
In like manner, those Christians forming Christ’s bride will be the ones who respond positively to the Spirit’s mission in the world; and they will be the ones who, following their removal from the earth, will be separated from other Christians and presented to Christ as His bride.
2) The New Testament Antitype
There are not really that many verses in Scripture (Old or New Testament) that pertain to the rapture per se. Scripture, dealing with Christians, centers on two main areas: (1) with issues surrounding faithfulness or unfaithfulness during the present time, preceding the rapture; and (2) with issues surrounding the results of one’s faithfulness or unfaithfulness, following the rapture. Scripture provides a great deal of information in both realms; but, from a comparative standpoint, Scripture does not present that much information concerning the rapture itself.
The rapture though, as has been demonstrated, is dealt with in several of the types. And the existence of the types demands the existence of an antitype. An individual could really go to only two places in the New Testament to view the rapture in connection with the events set forth in the three Old Testament types under consideration — Revelation 1:10-4:11 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:10 (though the rapture is presented in 1 Corinthians 15:51-57, details surrounding the events seen in the types are not presented here).
Each of these two sections provides information peculiar to the passage, but only one provides the complete sequence seen through comparing the types — Revelation 1:10-4:11. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:10 provides everything except a reference to the Tribulation. And since this is provided in the context of Revelation 1:10-4:11 (chapter 5ff), this section of Scripture will be used to show the antitype, with reference back to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:10.
It is sometimes stated that there is no place in Scripture that shows the sequence of events having to do with all Christians being removed preceding the tribulation. But that’s not true at all. This is seen in the Old Testament types, and this is also seen in the New Testament antitype as well.
Again, the only possible way to properly deal with the rapture from the standpoint of Scripture is to call attention to the matter after the fashion in which God has set it forth. One simply calls attention to the types and the antitype, leaving the matter to rest upon the foundation of Scripture itself.
A) Christians in the Lord’s Day
John, in the book of Revelation, was taken to the Isle of Patmos and then transported into the Lord’s Day (or Day of the Lord), at a future time (1:10; 4:1, 2). And, in this future time, in the Lord’s Day, John was told to record that which he was being allowed to see (1:19), which dealt first with events surrounding the Church in Christ’s presence in heaven (1:10-4:11), then with events surrounding Israel and the nations on earth (5:1-18:24).
The Lord’s Day follows Man’s Day in relation to man himself, whether for the Church or for Israel and the nations. Once Man’s Day has been allowed to run its course, or once man has been removed from the earth during Man’s Day (as John being removed from the Isle of Patmos, or the removal of Christians from the earth at the end of the dispensation), the Lord’s Day begins for man at that time.
That is, the Lord’s Day will begin on earth at the end of Man’s Day; and the Lord’s Day can begin for a segment of mankind prior to that time through man being removed from the earth, removed from Man’s Day on the earth. Thus, the Lord’s Day will begin at least seven years earlier for the Church (removed from the earth) than it will for Israel and the nations (remaining on the earth).
(Matters surrounding Man’s Day and the Lord’s Day in relation to the preceding are dealt with more fully in chapter 13 of the author’s book, Search for the Bride.)
Christians removed from the earth preceding the seven-year Tribulation will no longer be living in Man’s Day. “Man’s Day” has to do with man upon the earth during an allotted 6,000 years of time (with the foundation upon which the whole of the matter rests seen in the six and seven days of Genesis 1:1-2:3). Christians, at the time of the rapture, will be removed from Man’s Day and transported into the Lord’s Day. That, as previously shown, is what is seen through John being transported into the Lord’s Day in Revelation 1:10 and seeing seven churches in Christ’s presence, in heaven, in that future day.
This is also what is seen in 1 Thessalonians 5:2ff, following the removal of the Church into the heavens (4:13-18). A removal of the Church into that future day will overtake many Christians “as a thief in the night,” though this will not be true for other Christians (5:2-4; cf. 2 Peter 3:10, 11).
Christians in the Lord’s Day, in connection with either faithfulness or unfaithfulness, resulting in either salvation or wrath, is the subject at hand in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-9. And this is the same subject set forth in the opening chapter of the book of Revelation (in conjunction with that revealed in chapters 2 & 3), though seen from a different perspective.
(The actual rapture of the Church itself, if shown in Revelation 1-4, would have to be seen in John’s experience [removed from earth into heaven, into the Lord’s Day in 1:10, with the same event repeated in 4:1, 2]. If, on the other hand, the rapture of the Church is not seen in John’s experience in these opening chapters of the book, then the rapture itself is not dealt with in these chapters.
The rapture though would have had to occur at the time of or preceding John’s experience, for John saw the complete Church in Christ’s presence, in heaven, in the Lord’s Day. Thus, relative to the timing of the rapture, whether or not the rapture can be seen in John’s experience would be immaterial. The rapture is plainly shown in a companion passage [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17], preceding the same mention of Christians in the Lord’s Day as seen in Revelation 1:10-20 [cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4].)
B) Christians in Christ’s Presence
Thus, as clearly stated in the opening chapter of the book of Revelation, this book begins with Christians in Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Day, at a future time. And two things are seen in this chapter relative to Christians in that future day: (1) All Christians will be present, together, at the same time and place; and (2) All Christians will appear before Christ at this time to be judged.
The complete Church is seen in Christ’s presence at this time, shown by the number “seven” — shown by all seven churches from chapters two and three appearing in Christ’s presence at the same time (1:12, 13, 20).
Not only is the church in Ephesus seen in Christ’s presence (the church which left its first love), but the church in Laodicea is seen there as well (comprised of “lukewarm” Christians, of whom Christ said, “I will vomit you out of my mouth” [3:16]).
Or, perhaps it would be better to draw the contrast between the Philadelphian and Laodicean churches. All Christians represented by both will be there, along with all Christians represented by the other five churches. All Christians — shown by seven churches seen together in Christ’s presence — will be there, awaiting judgment.
A separation of Christians on the basis of faithfulness occurs in Christ’s presence alone, at the judgment seat. Scripture knows nothing of a separation of this nature occurring at the time of the rapture.
And all Christians will appear in Christ’s presence to be judged in this manner preceding the search for someone worthy to break the seals of the seven sealed scroll (chapter 5). Only when these seals begin to be broken will the judgments of the Tribulation begin (chapter 6).
Thus, the antitype, in complete accord with the types, presents the rapture as both all-inclusive and pretribulational. All Christians will be removed together, at the same time; and this will occur preceding the Tribulation.
This is simply what Scripture has to say about the matter, viewing the types and then going to the antitype. What man may have to say is of no moment at all. Scripture alone contains the correct, necessary information to properly address the issue at hand. And that is where the matter must be left.
That Every One May Receive
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.
Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men . . . . (2 Corinthians 5:10, 11a).
Decisions and determinations emanating from findings at the judgment seat will fall into two major categories — “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . .” and “You wicked and lazy servant . . . .” (cf. Matthew 25:19-30; Luke 19:15-26). The fact that “a just recompense” — exact payment for services rendered — will be meted out to every individual is set forth in Scripture in a number of different places through a number of different means (types, parables, direct statements), beginning with the writings of Moses in the book of Genesis and terminating with the writings of John in the book of Revelation. The Scriptures are replete with information concerning exactly what the future holds for all Christians, and there is no excuse for any Christian with an open Bible set before him to be other than knowledgeable concerning these things.
Each Christian, individually, will appear before the judgment seat of Christ to “receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” The specific statement is made that Christians will be judged solely on the basis of that which they themselves have done, which will be a judgment solely on the basis of works.
Each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by [in] fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
(1 Corinthians 3:13).
The works of Christians that will be tried “by [in] fire” in that coming day will, according to Scripture, fall into two central categories: “gold, silver, precious stones,” and “wood, hay, straw” (1 Corinthians 3:12). And every Christian will receive “a just recompense,” completely commensurate with that revealed by his works.
Reason for Judgment
There are two major events in Scripture, common to all Christians, with which every Christian should be intimately familiar. One event is that past moment when the individual became a Christian through the birth from above, and the other event is that future moment when the same individual will be removed from the earth to appear before the Lord in judgment.
The birth from above in no way prepares an individual for that which will occur at the judgment seat. Becoming a Christian only places the individual in a position where he can appear at this judgment. Otherwise, he would appear at the great white throne judgment, with the unsaved dead from throughout Man’s Day (Revelation 20:11-15).
Issues of the judgment seat of Christ will occur before the millennium, and issues of the great white throne judgment will occur after the millennium. Issues of the judgment seat of Christ must occur before the millennium for the simple reason that these issues will involve the millennium itself. Such will not be the case with judgment to be executed at the great white throne. Issues of this judgment will involve only the eternal ages beyond the millennium. Thus, the judgment seat of Christ finds its place in Scripture preceding the millennium, and the great white throne judgment finds its place in Scripture following the millennium.
The Church was brought into existence to be the recipient of that part of the kingdom which Israel rejected, the kingdom of the heavens; and the Church must appear in judgment, with the kingdom of the heavens in view, preceding the time Christ takes the kingdom.
The primary purpose for the judgment seat of Christ is to reveal, through a testing “by [in] fire,” each Christian’s qualifications for occupying one of the numerous proffered positions as a co-heir with Christ in the kingdom. Emanating out of this revelation through testing will be a just recompense — each individual receiving exactly what he deserves, either receiving rewards commensurate with his service or suffering loss commensurate with his failure to serve.
Christians, at the judgment seat, will be shown to be either qualified or disqualified to occupy positions of power and authority with Christ in the kingdom. And every Christian will either occupy one of these positions or be denied one of these positions.
Issues surrounding the judgment seat will involve the activities of two dispensations — the present dispensation, and the coming dispensation. The present dispensation is one filled with trials, testing, and preparation; and issues of the judgment seat will be based entirely upon Christian involvement in these activities, with a view to the coming dispensation. Then, in the coming dispensation, the Messianic Era, findings and determinations previously made at the judgment seat will be brought to pass.
In the coming dispensation, every Christian will find himself in one of two positions. He will either occupy a position of honor and glory, or he will occupy a position of shame and disgrace. And there will be no equality among Christians in either position, for there will have previously been a just recompense at the judgment seat. There will be a reaping in accord with the sowing. Every Christian will “receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
This is the reason why some Christians will occupy higher positions in the kingdom than other Christians. And this is also the reason why, while some Christians will be given territorial authority, other Christians will be denied any authority at all (cf. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27).
The words, “judgment seat,” are a translation of the Greek word bema. This word refers to an elevated platform upon which the chair of a magistrate rested. This was the recognized place of magisterial authority; and the person occupying this chair issued decrees, judgments, etc. relative to the matter at hand.
Some expositors have sought to understand the word bema in the sense that it was used in connection with the ancient Grecian athletic games in Athens. At these games, the bema was a raised platform upon which the president or the umpire sat; and the victorious participants would appear before the bema, at the conclusion of the contests, to be rewarded. At these games, there was no thought of judicial activity in connection with the bema, only rewards; and this use of the word has led many Christians to view the bema of Christ within the same framework — a rewarding stand, apart from judicial activity.
However, the word bema is used a number of times in the New Testament in quite a different sense, and Scripture must first and foremost be understood in the light of other Scripture. The use of words in contemporary sources outside the Scriptures can, at times, provide added light on definitions, meanings, etc.; and this could extend into the way in which the word bema was used in connection with the athletic games in Athens. But the use of this word in connection with these games shows only one facet of the way in which the word is to be understood. New Testament references show other facets, which are quite different.
In many instances, rewards will emanate from findings at the judgment seat. Every man’s work will be tried “by [in] fire.” The race will have been run (the present “race of the faith”), judgment will follow, and only then will rewards come into the picture. The Grecian athletic games had only the contests and rewards in view, with no thought of judicial activity in connection with loss following the various contests. The use of the word bema in this respect shows only a portion of one side of the judgment seat.
Victorious and non-victorious runners alike will appear before the judgment seat of Christ: “For we must ALL appear . . . .” This was not true at the Grecian athletic games. Only the victorious participants appeared before the bema at these games. But all Christians will appear before Christ’s bema, judgment will be executed, and, as previously seen, a just recompense will result in every Christian receiving “the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad “ (2 Corinthians 5:10b).
Despite the previous differences, in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul likened himself to a contestant in the games of that day, though one with an entirely different purpose and goal in view. A contestant in the games conditioned himself physically, with his ultimate goal being the reception of a corruptible crown; but Paul, as a contestant in the race of the faith, conditioned himself spiritually, with his ultimate goal being the reception of an incorruptible crown.
The thought in both contests is straining every muscle of one’s being as the contestant moves toward the goal.
(The word translated “striveth — ‘competes’ in NKJV — [v. 25]” is from agonizomai in the Greek text. This is the word from which the English word “agonize” is derived. Note Luke 13:24 where the same word is translated “strive”; note also the intensified form of this same word [epagonizomai], translated “earnestly contend,” in Jude 3.)
Paul knew that he would appear before Christ’s bema at the termination of the contest, as a runner either approved for an incorruptible crown or disapproved for this crown (“castaway” [Greek: adokimos (v. 27)] should be translated “disapproved”). At that time, approval will result in the person subsequently being crowned (after Christ receives the kingdom and returns [cf. Daniel 7:13, 14; Revelation 19:11ff]), and disapproval will result in the crown subsequently being denied. Denial of the crown will also involve something additional. The contestant who fails in the race of the faith will also “suffer loss” at this time (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:15).
The word bema is only used twice in the New Testament relative to the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10). The reference in Romans 14:10, according to some Greek manuscripts, should be translated “judgment seat of God.” This is the rendering preferred by most commentators, but the rendering is open to question. In the final analysis though, the question resolves itself as really being immaterial. "For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22). And since the judgment seat in Romans 14:10 is the one before which all Christians must stand, this can only be synonymous with the judgment seat of Christ referred to in 2 Corinthians 5:10.
Other uses of the word bema in the New Testament are found in the gospel accounts of Matthew and John and in the book of Acts. In these accounts, the word bema appears in connection with magisterial functions of Pilate, Herod, Gallio, Festus, and Caesar.
Note the different usages of the word bema in these three books:
1) Matthew 27:19; John 19:13: The word bema is used in these two passages referring to the place where Pilate sat when he issued the decrees that Barabbas be released and Jesus be crucified. Pilate sat in judgment upon God’s Son, but the day is coming when these roles will be reversed. God’s Son will one day sit in judgment upon Pilate; and the past judgment rendered by Pilate, among other things, will be accounted for (Revelation 20:12).
2) Acts 12:21: Herod arrayed in “royal apparel,” sat upon “his throne [bema] and made an oration.” The people listening associated his voice with that of “God” rather than “man”; and Herod, not giving God the glory, was executed by the angel of the Lord.
3) Acts 18:12, 16, 17: Gallio, deputy of Achaia, refused to judge Paul when the Jews “brought him to the judgment seat [bema]” (vv. 12-16). Then in verse seventeen, “the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat [bema].”
4) Acts 25:6, 10, 17: Paul was brought before Festus’ “judgment seat [bema],” which he called “Caesar’s judgment seat [bema]”; and upon Paul’s appeal to Caesar, Festus rendered the decision to send him to Rome.
The use of the word bema in the preceding passages is not at all in accord with the thought of a rewarding stand. In each instance the judicial activities of a magistrate is in view, which is exactly the Scriptural view of the judgment seat of Christ. When the various Scriptures bearing upon the subject are viewed together, it is clearly revealed that this judgment will result not only in praise and rewards but also in rebuke and suffering loss. The latter will be as much of a reality as the former, or vice versa; for, again, every person will “receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
Justification by Faith, Works
At the judgment seat of Christ there will be an execution of perfect justice and righteousness. If rewards are merited, then rewards will be forthcoming; if, on the other hand, punishment is merited, then punishment will be forthcoming. Every Christian will be judged “according to his works,” and there will be exact payment for services rendered. The former will be exactly commensurate with the latter.
In Scripture there is a justification by faith and there is also a justification by works. And, correspondingly, there is a salvation associated with each. Verses such as Ephesians 2:8, 9 deal with justification by faith, with Ephesians 2:10 leading into the thought of justification by works. Then, a passage of Scripture such as James 2:14-26 deals more in detail with justification by works.
This is where individuals often commit mayhem when studying Scripture. They see only justification by faith throughout Scripture, and they attempt to make passages such as James 2:14-26 fit into the framework of teachings surrounding justification by faith. And, as a result, confusion reigns supreme.
Justification by faith is based entirely upon the finished work of Christ at Calvary and has to do with the salvation that Christians presently possess — the salvation of the spirit (“. . . that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” [John 3:6b]). Works performed by the one being justified by faith cannot enter into this justification in any form or fashion — either preceding or following salvation.
That is, unredeemed man cannot do any works to be saved, and redeemed man cannot do any works to either stay saved or to show that he has been saved. It is a justification “by grace through faith” completely apart from the works of fallen man — whether preceding or following salvation. Works enter into this justification only to the extent that Christ performed the works on man’s behalf, and man can be justified only by receiving that which Christ has already done.
Justification by works, on the other hand, is based entirely upon the actions of those who have already been justified by faith, those who have been justified on the basis of Christ’s finished work. “Faith” itself is not part of justification by works. There is no such thing in Scripture as a justification by faith and works. There is a justification by faith alone, and there is a justification by works alone; but there is no such thing as a justification resulting from a combination of the two.
It is true that works emanate out of faith. And it would be equally true that a different type of works, on the other hand, would emanate out of unfaithfulness (James 2:14-26). All Christians will be judged on the basis of that emanating out of one or the other. They will be judged either on the basis of that which emanated out of their faithfulness or on the basis of that which emanated out of their unfaithfulness. That is, they will be judged on the basis of their prior reaction to faith, which will have to do with either their prior faithfulness or their prior unfaithfulness. And, emanating out of the former or out of the latter will be a revelation of works at the judgment seat comparable to either “gold, silver, precious stones” or “wood, hay, straw.”
In justification by faith, it is the work of another (Person) that makes possible justification on the basis of faith alone; in justification by works, it is faithfulness on the part of those who have already been justified by faith that not only results in works but makes possible justification on the basis of works alone.
In this respect, the type of works resulting in justification by works emanate from one’s faithfulness to his calling; and works of this nature, in turn, bring faith to its proper goal. And the goal of faith, brought to this point as a result of works, is the salvation of one’s soul — the salvation associated with justification by works (cf. James 2:22; 1 Peter 1:9).
Thus, justification by faith is based entirely upon Christ’s righteous, justifying act — His finished work at Calvary (Romans 5:16, 18); and justification by works is based entirely upon the “righteous acts of the saints” — the works of those having previously been justified by faith, through the work of Another (Revelation 19:8, ASV).
The word translated “righteous acts” (“righteousness,” KJV) is plural in the Greek text (dikaiomata) and cannot refer to the imputed righteousness of Christ possessed by every Christian (which is a singular righteousness). Dikaiomata in this verse can only have to do with the works of saved individuals (the same word, appearing in the singular, is translated “justification” and “righteousness” in Romans 5:16, 18 [referring to justification by faith, made possible through Christ’s finished work at Calvary]; and a cognate verb [from dikaioo] is translated “justified” in James 2:24 [referring to both justification by faith and justification by works]).
The “righteous acts of the saints” — justifying acts of the saints — emanate out of faith (faithfulness to one’s calling). And these acts alone will result in justification by works.
The type of works possessed by every Christian will be revealed “by [in] fire” at the judgment seat. Works emanating out of faith will be revealed as works comparable to “gold, silver, precious stones.” And works of this nature will bring about three things:
1) Justification by works (i.e., a justification on the basis of works that will have emanated out of faithfulness [James 2:14-26]).
2) Provide the Christian with a wedding garment (made up of the righteous acts of the saints [Revelation 19:7, 8]).
3) Bring faith to its proper goal (which will result in the salvation of the soul [1 Peter 1:4-9]).
An individual having been justified by works will appear in Christ’s presence properly clothed. He will possess a wedding garment; and, consequently, he will be in a position to participate in the activities attendant the bride. Having denied himself, taken up his cross, and followed Christ, he will realize the salvation of his soul (Matthew 16:24-27). And he will be among those who will occupy positions as joint-heirs with Christ in the kingdom.
An individual having failed to be justified by works will appear in Christ’s presence improperly clothed. He will not possess a wedding garment; and, consequently, he will not only be naked but also ashamed (cf. Revelation 3:15, 17, 18; note “works” [v. 15], “naked” [v. 17], and “shame” [v. 18]).
Lacking a wedding garment, he will be in no position to participate in the activities attendant the bride. Having saved his life (soul) — living for self, rather than having lost his life (soul) for Christ's sake during the present day of trials and testing (Matthew 16:25) — he will not realize the salvation of his life (soul) in that coming day. Faith will not have been brought to its proper goal; and, as a result, he will not be among those who will occupy positions as co-heirs with Christ in the kingdom.
(Saving one’s life, living for self, has to do with allowing the self-life [the soulical man] with all its fleshly desires, appetites, etc. to control oneself [in opposition to Matthew 16:24]; losing one’s life for Christ’s sake, on the other hand, has to do with bringing the self-life [the soulical man] with all its fleshly desires, appetites, etc. under subjection to the spiritual man [cf. Genesis 16:9; Galatians 4:21-31], taking up one’s cross, and following Christ [in accord with Matthew 16:24].)
Terror of the Lord
Faithfulness to one’s calling, the righteous acts of the saints (the wedding garment, the covering associated with works emanating out of faithfulness, providing a justification by works), and the salvation of the soul are all intimately related and have to do with issues surrounding the judgment seat. Scripture deals with this overall subject on a far broader scale than many realize. Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; and 2 Corinthians 5:10, 11 are only three of many passages dealing, either directly or indirectly, with the judgment seat in the New Testament. From the parables in the gospel of Matthew (e.g., 22:1-14; 24:40-25:30) to the opening chapters of the book of Revelation, the New Testament is replete with information concerning things related to the judgment seat.
According to 2 Corinthians 5:11, the judgment seat is the place where “the terror of the Lord” will be manifested. The word “terror” in this verse is a translation of the Greek word phobos, referring to “that which causes fear, terror, apprehension.” This is the same word translated “fearful” in Hebrews l0:31 (“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”), another reference to events at the judgment seat.
Actually, Hebrews 10:30, 31 forms a parallel reference to 2 Corinthians 5:10, 11, and the preceding verses (vv. 26-29) provide additional information concerning that facet of the judgment seat associated with “the terror of the Lord.”
Note how this entire section in Hebrews chapter ten begins:
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge [Greek: epignosis, mature knowledge] of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
but a certain fearful [Greek: phoberos, a cognate of phobos] expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation that will devour the adversaries. (vv. 26, 27)
That Christians, rather than the unredeemed, are in view is evident. The verses introducing this passage (vv. 19-25) deal with Christians alone (“Having therefore, brethren, boldness . . . .” [v. 19]), and there is no change in the identity of those addressed beginning with verse twenty-six.
The word “we,” appearing twice in this verse, shows that the writer is talking about himself and other Christians, continuing without a break in the overall continuity of thought from the preceding verses. Further, the word “knowledge” in this verse is a translation of the Greek word epignosis, showing that these individuals had acquired a mature knowledge of the truth (“after we have received the knowledge [mature knowledge] of the truth”).
Gnosis is the regular Greek word for “knowledge,” and epignosis is an intensified form of this word (through a preposition being prefixed to the word), referring to “a mature knowledge.” Only redeemed individuals possess saved spirits into which the Word of God can be received; and only redeemed individuals possess the indwelling Holy Spirit who can take the Word of God, after it has been received into their saved human spirits, and lead them into “all truth” (resulting first in gnosis, but leading into epignosis). None of this is possible for the unredeemed, for they possess no means to either receive or rightly divide the Word of God.
The “things of the Spirit of God,” revealed through the Word of God (John 16:13-15), are “foolishness” to the unredeemed; they cannot “know [gnosis]” these things, for these things “are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The unredeemed man, the soulical man, cannot even come into a rudimentary understanding (gnosis) of the things revealed through the Spirit of God, much less a mature understanding, referred to by the word epignosis (note also the word “illuminated” in v. 32. This is from the same Greek word translated “enlightened” in Hebrews 6:4, which, drawing from the type in chapters 3 and 4, can refer only to the saved).
Thus, there can be no room for controversy concerning exactly who is in view in Hebrews 10:26ff. Drawing from both the text and the context, the passage can be understood only one way — a passage of Scripture dealing with the saved alone.
(Epignosis in v. 26, as it is used throughout the epistles, is often seen having a peculiar relationship to knowledge as it pertains to the Word of the Kingdom. And, contextually [from vv. 23-25], that is the relationship seen in this verse through the use of epignosis. Then, also contextually, it is only those who have come into this mature knowledge of the Word of the Kingdom who are able to commit the particular sin in view.)
Christ provided Himself as the sacrifice for sin, His blood is today on the mercy seat in heaven, and He is presently occupying the office of High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary on behalf of sinning Christians. Christ is presently performing a cleansing from defilement for Christians who sin, and all a Christian needs to do in order to avail himself of this provided cleansing is to confess his sin. When he does this, cleansing will occur (1 John 1:9).
The willful sin of Hebrews 10:26 results in defilement, as does any sin. But, a different situation exists with this sin. This verse states that no sacrifice exists for those who sin after the manner dealt with by the verse, which separates it from Christ’s present ministry.
How does this sin differ from any other sin that Christians can commit? Is it possible that this sin could somehow be brought under Christ’s present ministry and confessed, with forgiveness resulting from the person's confession? If so, “How?” If not, “Why not?”
1) Christ’s Present Ministry
To properly understand the willful sin, for several reasons (one reason being contextual), it should be viewed, first of all, in the light of the present high priestly ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. Note the context of Hebrews 10:26 (vv. 19-22) and also 1 John 1:6-2:2. The “blood” of Christ is presently on the mercy seat in the “holiest [Holy of Holies]” of the heavenly sanctuary; and a “new and living way” of access has been provided through the One who shed this blood, our “High Priest over the house of God.”
The blood of Christ, presently on the mercy seat of the heavenly sanctuary, “cleanses [keeps on cleansing]” Christians who have become defiled (through sin) as they “walk [keep on walking] in the light” (1 John 1:7; cf. Hebrews 10:22). It is impossible for the ones walking in the light to occupy a position other than being cleansed from sin; but, viewing the other side of the picture, it is entirely possible for Christians to not walk in the light, in which case there will be no cleansing.
To understand exactly what is meant by walking in the light, one must draw from the typology of the tabernacle. The light was provided by a seven-leafed golden candlestick inside the Holy Place where the priests carried on part of their ministry, and the only way that these priests were permitted to enter the Holy Place and walk in this light was through a previous cleansing at the brazen laver in the courtyard.
This laver lay between the brazen altar and the Holy Place and had upper and lower basins for washing the hands and feet. The entire bodies of these priests had been washed upon their entrance into the priesthood (Exodus 29:4; 40:12-15) — an act never to be repeated — but in their subsequent ministry, it was necessary to avail themselves of partial washings at the laver. Their hands and feet became soiled in their ministry, and these parts of the body had to be cleansed prior to entering the Holy Place (Exodus 30:18-21; 40:30-32).
Exactly the same thing holds true for Christians, New Testament priests, in the antitype today. Christians have received a complete washing (received at the point of the birth from above, upon their entrance into the priesthood) — an act never to be repeated.
But, as the Old Testament priests, they must now avail themselves of partial washings in their ministry. And this is seen in the type through the actions of Old Testament priests washing at the laver.
This is what Jesus alluded to in John 13:8, 10: “If I do not wash [Greek: nipto, referring to a part of the body (the Septuagint uses this same word in Exodus 30:19, 21)] you, you have no part with me [note: not ‘in me,’ but ‘with me’]”; and “He who is washed [Greek: louo, (‘bathed’ in the NKJV) referring to the entire body (the Septuagint uses this same word in Exodus 29:4; 40:12)] needs only to wash [Greek: nipto] his feet . . . .” This is also what is alluded to in Hebrews 10:22 and 1 John 1:7.
Old Testament priests whose hands and feet had become soiled through activity in the courtyard could not bypass the laver and proceed on to the Holy Place. Nor can New Testament priests. New Testament priests must first, as the Old Testament priests, avail themselves of cleansing. Defilement in the Christians’ case comes through contact with sin; and cleansing, according to the context of 1 John 1:7, is accomplished through confession of sin:
If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (v. 9)
And this cleansing is accomplished solely on the basis of Christ’s shed blood on the mercy seat in the heavenly sanctuary:
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate [Greek: parakletos, one called alongside to help in time of need] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
And He Himself is the propitiation [Greek: hilasmos, (God appeased, through Christ’s work on the basis of His shed blood on the mercy seat)] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world [contextually, a reference to all of the saved in the world, not the unsaved (a cleansing for Christians alone is in view; the unsaved and eternal salvation are not in view at all in these verses)]. (1 John 2:1, 2)
Thus, the ones walking in the light in 1 John 1:7 are Christians who have availed themselves of the provision in 1 John 1:9. As they continue walking in the light (continue availing themselves of this provision, allowing continued access to the Holy Place), the blood of Christ continues cleansing them from “all sin.”
And a Christian refusing to avail himself of provided cleansing today is seen walking in darkness. He has not come to the laver and, consequently, can only remain in the darkened courtyard outside the light in the Holy Place. He has refused confession of sin; he has refused the cleansing provided by Christ.
And for such an individual, in reality, “there remains no more sacrifice for sins.” That is, there is no sacrifice for those refusing the sacrifice that God has provided in the person of His Son.
Thus, contextually (Hebrews 10:19-22), one might think that the willful sin in verse twenty-six (for which there is no sacrifice) would be a Christian’s refusal to avail himself of Christ’s present high priestly ministry.
In this respect, there would be no sacrifice for his unconfessed sins (for a Christian refusing to confess his sins would be refusing the provided sacrifice).
2) But . . . .
But Christians harboring sins of the flesh and refusing to confess these sins cannot possibly be that which they are warned against in Hebrews 10:26. This verse continues the thought from the immediately preceding verses (vv. 23-25), and this thought has nothing whatsoever with Christians confessing (or not confessing) their sins.
Nor can the willful sin in this verse be thought of in the broad sense of sins committed by Christians in a willful, or a deliberate, or a knowing manner. If the truth were known, it could probably easily be shown that most sins committed by Christians would fall into a singular category — things which Christians knew were sins before they committed them, knew were sins during the time in which they were committing them, and knew were sins after they had committed them.
The only possible way to properly understand the willful sin in Hebrews 10:26, for which there is no sacrifice, is to view this sin, contextually, within the book of Hebrews where it is found. If this is not done, a person will invariably go wrong at this point in Scripture.
Note first that all of the warnings in Hebrews are closely related, drawing heavily from the Old Testament types. The second warning (chapters 3 & 4) draws from the account of the Israelites under Moses, and the same thought is continued in the third warning (6:4ff), relating the matter to Christians.
In both the type (chapters 3 & 4 [second warning]) and the antitype (chapter 6 [third warning]), the sin referenced in the fourth warning (10:26ff) is present. The Israelites under Moses committed a sin for which there was no sacrifice (second warning), and Christians today can commit exactly the same sin, with the same result following (third warning). Then the fourth warning continues with thoughts pertaining to this sin; and the matter has to do with “so great salvation” (chapter 2 [first warning]), resulting in “blessings” associated with the "birthright" (chapter 12 [fifth warning]).
That is the broad contextual scope of the matter. The Israelites, in the type, through their actions at Kadesh-Barnea — refusing to go in and take the land to which they had been called — committed a sin for which there was no sacrifice. And, with there being no sacrifice for this sin, God didn't, He couldn't, change His mind concerning that which He had decreed pertaining to the matter.
And Christians, in the antitype, can commit exactly the same sin relative to the heavenly land to which they have been called. And, as in the type, no sacrifice exists for such a sin. As in the type, God won’t, He can’t change His mind concerning that which He has decreed pertaining to this sin, if committed by His people today.
This is plain from that which is stated in Hebrews 6:2-4, again drawing from the type in chapters three and four — ‘For it is impossible . . . if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance . . . .” (Reference the author’s book, Let Us Go On, chapter 5).
Then note that the reference to this sin is the continuation of a text having to do with a central purpose for Christians assembling together during the present dispensation — whether on Sunday at a regular meeting place, or at any other time or place during the week (vv. 23-25). The particular purpose given in the text is singular: Christians meeting together in order to exhort and encourage one another concerning the hope set before each one of them (“profession of our faith” [v. 23, KJV] should be translated, “confession of our hope”). And this hope set before every Christian is the hope that they might one day realize the very thing to which they have been called — win a crown in the present race of the faith and, as a result, occupy a regal position with Christ in that coming day of His power.
In short, Christians are exhorted to assemble together for a particular purpose, and then they are warned concerning the danger of failing to assemble together on a regular basis for this purpose. They can either find mutual strength in the race of the faith through assembling together, or they can fail to assemble for this mutual strength and find themselves in danger of falling away and becoming involved in that which Scripture refers to as willful sin.
The willful sin, simply put, has to do with apostasy, after one has come into a mature knowledge of the things surrounding the hope set before Christians — something seen in the type in the second warning and in the antitype in the third warning. And committing this sin will result in a Christian failing to come into possession of so great salvation (first warning), synonymous with failing to realize the rights of the firstborn (fifth warning).
Numbers 15:30, 31, immediately following the account of the Israelites refusal to enter into the land at Kadesh-Barnea (chapters 13 & 14), deals with God’s statement concerning a sin for which there was no sacrifice. And an example of such a sin — a man violating the Sabbath — immediately follows God’s instructions concerning the matter.
God’s statement concerning a sin for which there was no sacrifice in this passage had to do with a person acting in open rebellion, followed by his being cut off from the people of Israel (which was exactly what occurred at and following the events at Kadesh-Barnea). And the contextual example not only had to do with the experiences of the Israelites, beginning at Kadesh-Barnea (chapters 13 & 14), but it also had to do with a man violating the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36).
As with the Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea, so with the man violating the Sabbath. There was no sacrifice for the sin committed by either. Rather, in both instances, the Lord commanded that a sentence of death was to be carried out. And, resulting, an entire accountable generation died on the one hand, and a man was taken outside the camp and stoned on the other.
The land set before Christians is associated with a rest, a Sabbath rest, drawing from Genesis 2:1-3 (Hebrews 4:4-9). And a Christian turning his back on this land (after coming into a mature knowledge of the things surrounding the land) would be doing exactly the same thing which the Israelites under Moses did at Kadesh-Barnea (after hearing the report concerning the land by the twelve spies). Then, in another respect, such a Christian would be doing violence to that which God had to say about the Sabbath rest set before the people of God, in a similar respect to the man violating the Sabbath in Numbers 15:32-36 (for the Sabbath was given to Israel as a sign [Exodus 31:13-17]).
The Sabbath was a sign pointing to a day of rest following God’s present six days of work. As God rested on the seventh day after working six days to restore a past ruined creation (the material creation) — establishing an unchangeable, foundational pattern — He is going to rest on a seventh day (a 1,000-year day) after working six days (six 6,000-year days) to restore two present ruined creations (both man and the material creation once again).
Thus, drawing from both Numbers 13-15 and Hebrews 3, 4, 6, it can easily be shown how Christians, in Hebrews 10:26ff, can sin willfully today. They can do so through only one means: coming into a mature knowledge of the truth surrounding their calling, and then apostatizing (turning away from this truth).
Any Christian committing such an act will have done three things: (1) “trodden under foot the Son of God,” (2) considered the blood of Christ “an unholy [a common] thing,” and (3) insulted “the Spirit of grace” (v. 29). God places the willful sin in a category of this nature simply because of the high place in which He holds that which He has stated concerning the coming reign of His Son. And, according to Scripture, any Christian coming into a mature knowledge of that which God has stated in this realm, and then turning away — apostatizing — has only one thing awaiting him: “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (v. 27).
Then note how verses thirty and thirty-one of Hebrews chapter ten parallel 2 Corinthians 5:10, 11:
For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord shall judge His people.”
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Events of the judgment seat will be one of the most terrible times many Christians will ever experience, for Christians who have refused to follow the Spirit’s leadership during the present day and time will, at the judgment seat, “fall into the hands of the living God.” Such Christians will find it to be a “fearful,” “terrible” experience, for there the “terror of the Lord” will be manifested, and a completely just recompense will be meted out.
Seated on the Throne
To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne. (Revelation 3:21)
The first thing that a person must get fixed in his mind when studying the message to the church in Laodicea is the fact that the Spirit of God is addressing Christians. The unsaved are not in view at all; they cannot be in view. The message is to a church (vv. 14-22), and the New Testament knows nothing about unsaved people having a part in the formation of a church.
First, works are in view (vv. 15-20), and this is a realm into which the unsaved cannot enter; then, overcoming is in view (v. 21), something associated with works and foreign to the experiences of the unsaved.
Thus it is with the structure of each of the other six messages to the six churches preceding the message to the church in Laodicea. In this respect, the church in Laodicea is no different than the church in Philadelphia, or any of the other churches. All seven messages are to Christians, to those “in Christ”; and all have to do with works, resulting in Christians overcoming or being overcome.
Too many people deal with certain acute problems that arise in the Christian life in a rather loose manner. When, for example, sin manifests itself in the life of an individual claiming to be a Christian, one of the most common ways to deal with the matter is to begin questioning the person’s salvation. The thought usually centers around the premise that if a person is saved he will follow a certain course of action; and if he doesn’t follow this course of action, his conduct reveals that he was never really saved in the first place.
Such a thought, however, is completely contrary to any Scriptural teaching on salvation by grace through faith. It is a corruption of the pure gospel of the grace of God, for works have been introduced into a realm where works cannot exist (cf. Ephesians 2:8, 9; Romans 11:6).
A person can no more show by his works that he has been saved than he can perform works to be saved in the first place. Works cannot enter in after any fashion, either preceding or following the time one is saved. An individual cannot perform works to be saved, he cannot perform works to stay saved, and he cannot perform works to show that he has been saved. Salvation is by grace through faith apart from works, and it must forever so remain. As in Jonah 2:9, “Salvation is of the Lord” (cf. Ephesians 2:8, 9; Titus 3:5).
The church in Laodicea is described as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” This description applies to a group of “lukewarm” Christians, “rich” in the things of the world that Christ is about to “vomit” out of His “mouth” (vv. 15-17). The scene within that portion of Christendom depicted by the church in Laodicea, in this respect, is one portrayed as producing sickness to the very stomach.
These Christians had been called into existence with the things of the coming age in view; but they, instead, prostituted their high calling through their intimate association with the things of this present age, the present world system under Satan. And it is the One who made this calling possible, through His sacrifice on Calvary, who is associated with sickness in the respect that it is set forth in this passage.
Being vomited out of the stomach/mouth has no reference to eternal verities, for such are not in view. The message is to those who already possess eternal life, and it is life for the coming age alone that is in view. The scene in these verses anticipates the judgment seat of Christ, with Christians standing naked and ashamed in the presence of Christ (v. 18). Such Christians will be rejected for positions with Christ on the throne, with the attitude that Christ exhibits toward their revealed works expressed in very vivid language.
However, there is another side to the picture presented in these verses. Despite the attitude of such Christians as set forth in the message to the church in Laodicea, Christ still extends an invitation for them to “repent.” They have forsaken Him, but He has not forsaken them. Christ still holds out before them proffered crowns, necessary for positions on the throne with Him in the coming day. It is not too late for them to buy “gold tried in the fire” (that they might be rich), clothe themselves in “white garments” (that the shame of their nakedness might not be manifested), and anoint their “eyes with eye salve” (that they might see).
Christ stands at the door of the lukewarm Church of today and knocks, as He stood at the door of the Laodicean church in Revelation chapter three after the same fashion; and the invitation is to the individual Christian within the Church — whether in the Laodicean church then, or the Laodicean Church of today — is the same:
. . . if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him [not come into that individual, but come inside the Church to that individual], and will dine with him, and he with Me. (v. 20b; cf. vv. 18, 19)
The End, Goal
The present dispensation will one day be brought to an end, and Scripture presents the Church at the termination of this dispensation in a dual fashion. The messages to the churches in Philadelphia and Laodicea present these two facets within Christendom, forming God’s own commentary concerning the concluding period of Church history, with the Church in Laodicea becoming more and more prominent as the age nears its completion. There will always be faithful Christians, extending right on up to the time of the rapture; but Christendom, by large — the Church as a whole, foreshadowed by the church in Laodicea — through an unholy alliance with the world, will have prostituted its high calling by the end of the dispensation.
1) Beginning and Working of the Matter in History
There is an event in Church history that precipitated conditions as they exist today; and that event was the placing of leaven in the three measures of meal by the woman in Matthew 13:33. Once this act had been accomplished, which appears to have occurred very early in the history of the Church, the end of the matter was set. The leaven would work in the meal “till the whole was leavened,” and such would ultimately result in conditions existing in the Church at the conclusion of the dispensation that would parallel those existing in the first century church in Laodicea.
“Leaven” in Scripture has to do with that which is evil, vile, corrupt: the Israelites, immediately following the Passover, were told to “put away leaven” out of their houses (Exodus 12:14-20); Jesus told His disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6); and Christians are told, “Purge out therefore the old leaven” (1 Corinthians 5:7), with an allusion made in the following verse (v. 8) to the feast of unleavened bread in Exodus chapter twelve (showing a type-antitype arrangement of the teaching set forth).
The leaven that the woman placed in the three measures of meal in Matthew 13:33 was destined to ultimately corrupt the entire mass. And this is exactly the climactic time we are nearing in Church history today. The whole has been affected by the leaven, and the message to the church in Laodicea shows the end result of the working of this leaven.
Leaven actually works best in a place where the temperature is not too hot or too cold, and the lukewarm state of the Laodicean church points to ideal conditions after this fashion. The leaven, after many centuries of deteriorating work, will be brought into the advanced stages of its action and do its most damaging work within the lukewarm confines of the Laodicean Church near the end of the dispensation.
The working of this leaven will be so complete that the question is asked in Luke 18:8, “. . . when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith [the faith] on the earth?” The response to the question, designated by the wording in the Greek text, is negative. The Son of Man will not find “the faith” upon the earth when He returns. Rather, He will find conditions as depicted in Revelation 3:14ff.
“The faith” in Luke 18:8 can only be synonymous with faith exhibited by Christians in passages such as 1Timothy 6:12 and Jude 3. It is a faith in connection with laying hold on eternal life [life for the age] in First Timothy and a faith in opposition to the great apostasy of the latter days in Jude. This is the faith destroyed by the working of the leaven within the lukewarm confines of the Laodicean church, producing the conditions described as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
This is the reason Christendom exists as it is seen today. The corruption brought about by the leaven, destroying “the faith,” has produced a condition in which the return of Christ is either not taught at all or it is invariably taught in such a way that things surrounding “the faith” are not dealt with.
The very reason for the existence of Christians upon the earth is intimately linked to the coming kingdom. Christians are the ones destined to occupy the throne with Christ; and this is the heart of that which has come under attack through the working of the leaven.
Every Christian is a firstborn child of God, in possession of the rights of primogeniture; and these rights, in their entirety, have to do with positions in the coming kingdom. Everything moves toward that day when Christ will take the kingdom; and this is a fact that seems to be equally hated and despised by both the world around us and by the worldly-minded Laodicean Christians in our midst.
(“The world” though really doesn’t possess a spiritual capacity to understand the things surrounding that day when Christ takes the kingdom. All “the world” can know is fact concerning the matter, i.e., that Christ one day will take the kingdom.
The worldly-minded Laodicean Christians, on the other hand, possess a capacity for spiritual truth. But the things surrounding that day when Christ takes the kingdom are of little to no interest to them. They know little more [often no more] about the matter than “the world” itself; and, generally, they would take a similar position to that taken by the world. They, as the world, are generally quite content with the status quo.)
2) Goal and Conclusion of the Matter in Prophecy
When the birth of the nation of Israel occurred in Egypt, followed by this nation being removed from Egypt, there was a purpose/goal behind the matter. Israel, as God’s firstborn son, was to be removed from one land, be placed in another, and realize the rights of primogeniture in that land. Israel was to enter into the land of Canaan and rule over the Gentile nations of the earth. Not only was Israel to rule after this fashion, but Israel was also to be “a kingdom of priests” through whom all the Gentile nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:3; Exodus 19:5, 6).
Israel being placed in this position would bring about the fulfillment of one part of Genesis 22:17 (the earthly seed of Abraham [“the sand which is on the seashore”] would “possess the gate of their enemies [rule over his enemies]”); and Genesis 22:18 could be fulfilled insofar as the earthly aspect of the kingdom was concerned (“And in your seed shall all the nations [Gentiles] of the earth be blessed”).
(For the earthly aspect of the kingdom to be brought into full fruition though, the entirety of Genesis 22:17, 18 would have to be brought to pass. The heavenly aspect of the kingdom would have to be brought into existence as well.
The seed of Abraham would have to possess the gate of the enemy in both heavenly and earthly realms, else Satan and his angels could continue in power from the heavenly realm, ruling through the Gentile nations on the earth.)
When God called the Church into existence, as when He called Israel into existence, there was a purpose/goal behind His calling; and the thought of eternal redemption in connection with Christianity (which too often is erroneously made the key issue) doesn’t even begin to touch the matter. Christians have been called into existence (they have become possessors of eternal life) to realize an inheritance “reserved in heaven,” associated with a “salvation” to be revealed (1 Peter 1:3-11). Christians have been called into existence to be removed from one land, be placed in another, and realize the rights of primogeniture in that land.
Christians are to inhabit a heavenly land and occupy the throne as co-regents with Christ when He rules the nations with a rod of iron. And Christians, comprising “the Church of the firstborn [a called out group of firstborn sons]” — as Israel fulfilling the rights of primogeniture on earth — are to exercise a priestly function in this rule. Christians are not only to be “kings” but they are also to be “priests” in that day (Revelation 5:10; cf. Exodus 19:5, 6).
The nations are not only to be ruled by Christians (from a heavenly sphere) but the nations are to receive spiritual blessings through the position that Christians will occupy as well (as Christians exercise the full rights of the firstborn). And, as this rule progresses through Israel on earth (as a restored and believing Israel is placed at the head of the nations), spiritual blessings will flow out to the Gentile nations through Israel (as Israel exercises the full rights of the firstborn).
Christians being placed in this position in the heavens will effect the fulfillment of one part of Genesis 22:17 (the heavenly seed of Abraham [the stars of the heaven] will “possess the gate of their enemies [rule over his enemies]”); and Israel being placed in this position on earth will effect the fulfillment of the other part of Genesis 22:17 as well (the earthly seed of Abraham [“the sand which is upon the seashore”] will “possess the gate of his enemies”).
Then Genesis 22:18 will be fulfilled in relation to both heavenly and earthly aspects of the kingdom (“And in your seed shall all the nations [Gentile nations] of the earth be blessed” [cf. Galatians 3:17, 18, 29]). And this will bring a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees at the time of his call (Genesis 12:1-3) long before either Israel or the Church was ever brought into existence.
Genesis 22:17, 18 will, thus, find its proper fulfillment in the coming age when God’s firstborn sons (Christ, Israel, and the Church [following the adoption]) occupy their proper places in relation to the earth as they exercise the rights of primogeniture. Israel will occupy the earthly sphere of the kingdom in the capacity set forth in these verses; the Church will occupy the heavenly sphere of the kingdom in the capacity set forth in the same verses; and Christ will rule in both spheres of the kingdom.
Christ will rule from His own throne in the heavenly Jerusalem, with Christians occupying positions as co-heirs on the throne; and Christ will also rule from David’s throne in the earthly Jerusalem, in the midst of His people Israel. Within this complete structure of the kingdom (heavenly and earthly spheres), the seed of Abraham will “possess the gate” of the enemy, and the Gentile nations of the earth will “be blessed.”
The nation of Israel in the Old Testament moved beyond the things surrounding the death of the paschal lambs in Egypt and advanced toward the land of Canaan. However, the actions of “many” brought displeasure to the Lord; and these individuals were overthrown in the wilderness, short of realizing the purpose for their deliverance from Egypt (1 Corinthians 10:1-5). They were overthrown on the right side of the blood but on the wrong side of the goal of their calling.
Thus it is with Christians during the present dispensation. They have appropriated the blood of the Passover Lamb and placed themselves in a position to move toward a heavenly land, wherein their calling will be realized. But the actions of “many” will bring about the displeasure of the Lord, resulting in their overthrow, short of realizing the purpose for their deliverance from this world. Their overthrow will occur on the right side of the blood but on the wrong side of the goal of their calling.
The Laodicean church sets forth the far-reaching heights of failure on the part of the Church in this respect. The Church in the latter days of the dispensation, saturated through and through with leaven, will be filled with Christians having no regard for the purpose surrounding their salvation. And one day, appearing at the judgment seat in this condition, they will suffer the fate awaiting those in the church in Laodicea who spurned the call to “repent.” They will be rejected for positions with Christ in the kingdom, failing to realize the very purpose for their salvation.
The Overcomer’s Promise
The promise that the overcomer will one day be allowed to sit with Christ on His throne comprises the pinnacle toward which all of the overcomer’s promises move. All of the promises are millennial in their scope of fulfillment, and all have to do with Christians occupying future positions as co-heirs with Christ. All point to and find their fulfillment in Christians exalted, with Christ, to the place for which they were called into existence.
Overcoming Christians occupying the throne with Christ must be properly equipped to fulfill all the functions of the office that they are to hold. Merely being seated on the throne in fulfillment of the seventh and last of the overcomer’s promises is insufficient in and of itself. All the things contained in the first six overcomer’s promises must also be realized in the lives of Christians as they occupy positions on the throne, for only in this manner will Christians be brought into the exact status that God requires for those ruling as co-heirs with His Son.
1) Overcoming or Being Overcome
The analogy given in Revelation 3:21 has to do with Christians patterning their lives after Christ’s life, with overcoming and the throne in view. Christ overcame and is presently occupying a position with the Father on His throne, and Christians are to overcome and one day occupy a position with the Son on His throne. The exact wording of the text is, “. . . to him that overcomes . . . even as I also overcame . . . .” A conflict, ending in victory, is in view first; and then the throne comes into view. The latter is not attained without the former.
Christ’s overcoming is associated with His sufferings during the time of His shame, reproach, and rejection; and Scripture makes the matter very clear that overcoming for Christians is to be no different. Christ has “suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps”; and overcoming Christians must enter into these sufferings. Christians are told,
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
But rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory is revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:12, 13; cf. 1 Peter 2:21-23)
The thought is very simple: Christians are to follow the example that Christ has left, knowing, as He knew, that connected with the sufferings is the shame, reproach, and rejection; but beyond all of this lies the glory (Hebrews 12:1, 2). In Revelation chapters two and three, overcoming is with a view to the throne; and in portions of Scripture such as the book of First Peter, suffering is with a view to glory. Overcoming is inseparably connected with suffering, as is the throne with glory.
The sufferings of Christ find their beginning in the fact that He “came to His own [own things], and His own [own people] did not receive Him” (John 1:11).
(There is a distinction in the Greek text between two words in this verse that is not brought out in the English text at all. The gender of the first word translated “own” is neuter [pl.], indicating “things”; but the gender of the second is masculine [pl.], indicating “people.”)
The “things” to which Christ came refer to those things which were rightfully His: the Davidic throne, His own throne, the domain over which He was to rule, etc.; and the “people” to whom He came refer to His brethren after the flesh, the nation of Israel. Christ suffered at the hands of His own people, among others, because of things that were rightfully His, to which He came.
All the sufferings of Christ, after some fashion, were associated with His “own things”; and coming into possession of His “own things” is something that must not only follow His sufferings but is something that can only be millennial in its scope of fulfillment. His “own things” are intimately linked with His coming rule over the earth. He was born “King of the Jews,” He presented Himself to Israel as the nation’s “King,” He was crucified “King of the Jews,” and when He returns it will be as “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Matthew 2:2; 21:5; 27:37; Revelation 19:16). Christ at that time, not before, will come into the realization of His Kingship and come into possession of His own things.
While here on earth the first time, at the beginning of His earthly ministry, Christ met the incumbent ruler (Satan) face-to-face in order to reveal that He was fully qualified to redeem that which the first Adam had forfeited in the fall. Such included not only fallen man ultimately being placed back in the position for which he was originally created, but it included the restoration of the ruined creation itself (the forfeited domain that was rightfully His). Following this, He suffered rejection time and time again by the Jewish people; and the entire matter was climaxed by His being arrayed as a mock King and followed by His crucifixion.
During all of this, His “own things” were held in abeyance. There was no attempt on Christ’s part to interfere with incumbent powers and authorities, whether of Satan and his angels holding the scepter in the heavens or of the Gentile nations holding the scepter here on earth. It was not time for Him to take the scepter. He suffered through all of this, climaxed by Calvary itself.
He has overcome, and the call has gone forth for Christians to overcome as He overcame. And overcoming, as He overcame, looks ahead to that future day when Christ will come into possession of His “own things,” with overcoming Christians ascending the throne with Him.
The things of that day though are future in their entirety and have nothing to do with man during the present day and time. Man during the present day and time is still living during the day of Christ’s shame, reproach, and rejection; and the attitude that Christians are to exhibit toward the “things” to which Christ came must parallel the attitude that Christ took toward these things when He was upon earth the first time.
Involvement in the affairs of the present world system does not become Christians at all. Such involvement will result in their being overcome by the world rather than their overcoming the world. It is occupying an opposite position to that which Christ occupied relative to a world controlled by Satan and his angels through the Gentile nations. The words, “as I also overcame,” and the words, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps,” must be pondered and heeded by any Christian aspiring to be an overcomer.
When Christ returns to earth the second time, He will once again come to His Own things and to His Own people; but this time He will come into possession of His Own things, and His Own people will receive Him.
Many of the things to which Christ came in the past and will come in the future, given to Him by the Father, are presently being extended to Christians. Overcoming Christians are to inherit with Christ; and, insofar as the heavenly aspect of the kingdom is concerned, these Christians are to participate with Christ in the things to which He came almost two millennia ago. Christians occupying their proper place in Christ’s rejection, shame, and reproach today will result in these same Christians occupying their proper place in Christ’s acceptance, glory, and exaltation yet future.
2) My Throne, My Father’s Throne
The Son is presently seated with His Father on His Father’s throne (Psalm 110:1). But, at the end of Man’s Day — for the duration of the millennium, when the Lord’s Day will exist on earth — Christ will sit on His own throne; and it will be during this time that the overcomer’s promise in Revelation 3:21 will be fulfilled.
Following the millennium, after all things have been brought under subjection to Christ, the kingdom shall be delivered up “to God, even the Father.” At that time the Son will also Himself “be subject to Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). The Son’s throne will then cease to exist as a separate throne, and there will be one throne — “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:1, 3).
The Father’s throne is the point from which God presently administers His rule throughout the entire universe. Messianic angels — Satan among them (Job 1:6; 2:1; Ezekiel 28:14) — presently rule under God throughout God’s creation. The earth, in this respect, is one of numerous provinces in God’s kingdom that are ruled by messianic angels.
Scripture clearly infers that numerous provinces (worlds) exist throughout the universe, over which messianic angels rule. The scene presented in Job chapters one and two is that of Satan appearing in the midst of certain other angels who can only be his equals (i.e., other messianic angels who rule under God over other provinces, as Satan rules the earth under God). And it appears that within the sphere of God’s government of the universe these messianic angels are summoned into His presence at scheduled intervals in what could be called congresses of the sons of God.
(Man, during the past several years, has, for the first time, been able to look through his powerful telescopes and see some of the other solar systems in his own galaxy [similar to the one in which he lives]. Man now knows, through his own scientific achievements, that other solar systems exist in the universe. But this is as far as he can go with the matter within his science.
Scripture though begins beyond the point where man presently finds himself. Scripture begins at the point of revealing that messianic angels rule over provinces in the universe, simply inferring that other provinces exist [provinces other than the earth, which man is presently discovering]. And these could only be other provinces in other solar systems [i.e., planets revolving around other stars (the earth’s sun is a medium-size star)], not only in our galaxy but probably in all the galaxies scattered throughout the universe.
Scripture no more attempts to prove the existence of these other provinces than it does the existence of God Himself. As with the existence of God, Scripture simply deals with these other provinces from the standpoint that they exist, providing revelation, beginning at that point.
It is left to finite man to believe that he has wrought some great astronomical achievement through recent findings, made possible by his use of more powerful telescopes and an orbiting telescope. Man though, in his scientific achievements in this realm, has not even arrived at the point where Scripture begins; nor can man arrive at this point through his science.
Had man simply turned to the Scriptures in the beginning, rather than science, he could have learned millennia ago things concerning how the universe is actually structured — something that he can only begin to discover within the framework of his finite scientific ability.)
Christ is presently seated with His Father upon a throne from that the government of the entire universe is administered. The future government that Christ will administer from His own throne though will be limited to the earth over which Satan presently rules, for He is to replace Satan and rule over the same domain.
The other messianic angels are not in view at all in this sphere of activity. They administer affairs over provinces unrelated to Satan’s domain and unrelated to the reason for the appearances of the first man, the first Adam, and the second Man, the last Adam.
The creation of man, in keeping with the entire matter, is peculiar to the earth. Man’s creation is directly related to the governmental administration of this earth; and once man finds himself in the position that he was created to occupy (when he finds himself seated on the throne with the second Man, the last Adam, ruling over the earth), his rule will have to do with this earth alone. Angelic rule on the earth will be affected, for man will replace angels (Hebrews 2:5); but angelic rule elsewhere in the universe will remain completely unaffected. Angelic rule elsewhere in the universe had no involvement with Satan’s fall and man’s subsequent creation.
Satan and his angels are the ones who rebelled, resulting in their disqualification to rule and necessitating their ultimate removal. Satan sought to exalt his throne above the other messianic angels and occupy the very throne of God, from which he could administer power and authority throughout the universe. He led a great host of the angels ruling under him in this rebellion, and his failure to succeed brought about a wrecked kingdom and the pronouncement of judgment (Isaiah 14:13-17; Genesis 1:1, 2a).
The creation was later restored, and man was brought into existence for the express purpose of taking the scepter that Satan had forfeited. However, man’s fall resulted in a ruined creature and creation, necessitating the appearance at a later date of the second Man, the last Adam, and the subsequent “restitution of all things” (Genesis 1:2b-28; 3:6, 7, 17, 18; Acts 3:21). Only after all things have been restored will man realize his calling — holding the scepter while seated on the throne with Christ.
All things relating to man — his creation, fall, redemption, and coming rule — are peculiarly related to the earth. Thus, during the coming age, the only change in governmental affairs throughout God’s universe will be in the sphere of Satan’s present governmental administration — his rule over the earth upon which man resides.
On this province, man, realizing his high calling, will come into the position previously occupied by angels; but elsewhere in the universe, angelic rule over other provinces in the kingdom of God can only continue unchanged.
Christendom, near the conclusion of this dispensation, will be marked by one main feature, foretold almost two millennia in advance: Apostasy. This is the situation revealed by the sequential arrangement of the first four parables in Matthew chapter thirteen, the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three, the books of 2 Peter and Jude, and by portions of Scripture such as 1 Timothy 4:1ff and Luke 18:8. The working of the leaven that the woman placed in the three measures of meal in Matthew 13:33 cannot be checked or stopped within the lukewarm confines of the Laodicean Church of today. Deterioration will continue until the whole has been leavened.
The people of God though have not been left alone and helpless against the deteriorating process of the leaven. God has promised that He will never leave nor forsake His people (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5). Christians are in possession of God’s Word and the indwelling Holy Spirit; and a knowledge of this Word, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, is the one great protection that Christians possess against the false doctrine produced by the working of the leaven (John 16:13-15; 17:14; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Philippians 1:6; Colossians 3:10).
Then, God’s Son has promised that He will be with Christians until the end of the age (Matthew 28:19, 20); and, as depicted in the message to the church in Laodicea, He stands and knocks at the door of the lukewarm Church during the final eroding stages of the working of the leaven, extending an invitation to any Christian who will heed His voice.
This invitation, contextually, is with a view to overcoming; and overcoming is, in turn, with a view to ultimately occupying a position with Christ on His throne.
 Judgment Seat of Christ by Arlen L. Chitwood, The Lamp Broadcast, Inc., 2001, pages 17-52; 161-175