Prophecy on Mount Olivet
By Arlen L. Chitwood
The King of Glory
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.
All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah
The third part of the Olivet Discourse concerns God’s dealings with saved Gentiles at the conclusion of the Tribulation, preceding the Millennium. After Christ returns to the earth following the Tribulation, prior to the time He begins His 1,000-year reign over the earth, all of the Gentiles who were saved during the Tribulation and survived the judgments of the Tribulation (saved mainly as a result of the ministry of the 144,000 seen in Revelation 7, 14), will be gathered into His presence to be judged.
These Gentiles, appearing before Him, will first be separated into two groups — “the sheep” and “the goats.” They will be separated in this manner solely on one basis; and they will then be dealt with solely on this one basis — their prior treatment of the Jewish people during the Tribulation.
Order exists in all of God’s future judgments, as seen throughout the Olivet Discourse or elsewhere in Scripture. All judgment of individuals will be on the basis of “works” and must occur in accordance with John 5:22 and 1 Peter 4:17. God has committed “all judgment” into the hands of His Son, and “judgment [is] to begin at the house of God.”
All of the saved will be judged by God’s Son prior to any judgment of the unsaved.
Actually, 1,000 years separate the judgment of the saved from that of the unsaved. All of the saved will be judged preceding the Millennium, and all of the unsaved will be judged following the Millennium.
The Church will be judged at the close of the present dispensation, following Christ’s return for His own, preceding the Tribulation; and all other saved individuals will appear in different judgments at the close of the present dispensation, following Christ’s return at the end of the Tribulation.
According to the book of Daniel, there will be a seventy-five-day period between the end of the Tribulation and the time Christ begins His 1,000-year reign over the earth (Daniel 12:11, 12). Certain things must be brought to pass following Christ’s return but preceding His reign, which is the evident reason for this period. And one of the things that must be taken care of during this time will be judgment upon all of the saved, with the kingdom in view.
(There is no such thing as a judgment of unsaved individuals preceding the Millennium [such as Christ’s judgment of Gentiles in Matthew 25:31-46 is often made to be by expositors].
The judgment of the saved has to do with the Millennium; thus, they are judged before the Millennium. The judgment of the unsaved has nothing to do with the Millennium, only with the eternal ages following the Millennium; thus, their judgment occurs after the Millennium, at the beginning of the eternal ages.)
There are different groups of saved individuals who will appear before Christ to be judged following the Tribulation:
1) Resurrected Old Testament saints (which will include others besides Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob — those living during the twenty generations, the 2,000 years, extending from Adam to Abraham).
2) Jews who survive the Tribulation, who have looked upon their Messiah, who have realized that this is the One who paid the price for man’s redemption at Calvary 2,000 years earlier, and who have been saved in the antitype of that which occurred when Christ appeared to Paul as he journeyed from Jerusalem to Damascus (Acts 9:1-6; 1 Timothy 1:15, 16; cf. Isaiah 53:1ff; 66:8; Zechariah 12:10-14; 13:6-9).
3) Gentiles who are saved during the Tribulation (many will be martyred but resurrected when Christ returns, and many others will survive this time and still be living when Christ returns).
The future judgment of Israel is referred to in Ezekiel 20:33-38. This judgment will undoubtedly include both resurrected Old Testament saints and those Israelites living when Christ returns (experiencing salvation at that time). Possibly other Old Testament saints (those preceding Abraham) will be resurrected with and judged at the same time and place as Israel (in keeping with 1 Peter 4:17).
The future judgment of the Tribulation martyrs is referred to in Revelation 20:4, and the judgment of the saved Gentiles who will be living at the time Christ returns is referred to in Matthew 25:31-46.
No specific order is given in Scripture concerning these judgments, though it seems evident that God will complete His dealings with Israel first, including their judgment. In this respect, the judgment of Gentiles will apparently occur near the end of the seventy-five days of Daniel 12:11, 12, immediately preceding the beginning of the Messianic Era.
Judgment upon the saved will be with a view to an inheritance in the kingdom. Insofar as the Church, Israel, and the Gentiles saved during the Tribulation are concerned (both the martyrs and those who survive the judgments of the Tribulation), Scripture clearly reveals that their respective future judgments will involve evaluations of the past actions of individuals to ascertain their exact positions in the kingdom (cf. Ezekiel 44:10-16; Matthew 16:27; 25:19-30, 34ff; Luke 19:15ff; Revelation 20:4).
Moving beyond the Christian section of the Olivet Discourse, one is introduced to a time-break at the opening point of the Gentile section. This section opens in the Greek text with the words Hotan de, which should be translated, “But when.” De, a post-positive Greek particle, used quite often to show a contrast, is used in a disjunctive sense in this passage. De, used with hotan, forms a type of connective that disjoins or separates that which has preceded from that which is about to follow. Hotan de thus places the coming of the Son of Man in His Glory (the subject matter introduced by Hotan de) over against the coming of the Son of Man to deal with His household servants.
These two words in the Greek text make it very clear that the coming of the Son of Man in His Glory occurs at an altogether different time than the coming of the Son of Man to deal with His household servants. His coming to deal with His household servants will occur preceding the Tribulation; but His coming “in His glory” will occur following the Tribulation. The latter is clearly disjoined, separated, from the former in the text.
A popular, widely-promulgated interpretation of the Olivet Discourse views references concerning the coming of the Son of Man throughout the discourse as pertaining only to His coming following the Tribulation. Within the scope of this interpretation, the Church is not seen at all in the discourse. The entire matter from Matthew 24:4 through Matthew 25:30 is looked upon as God’s end-time dealings with Israel.
The ten virgins, for example, are viewed as representing the nation of Israel awaiting her Messiah at the end of the Tribulation. Hotan de though separates the coming of the Son of Man in His Glory from the preceding parables after such a fashion that the four preceding, inseparably connected parables cannot possibly be looked upon as Jewish.
Israel awaiting her Messiah at the end of the Tribulation will be awaiting the time He appears in His Glory, a time that is clearly separated by Hotan de from the parables immediately preceding this break in the discourse.
The separation produced by Hotan de is thus in perfect accord with the teaching of Scripture throughout that part of Matthew’s gospel leading into the Olivet Discourse, which governs interpretation in this discourse. Israel had rejected the proffered kingdom of the heavens; and the kingdom had not only been taken from Israel, with a view to this kingdom being offered to “a nation bearing the fruits of it [the previously mentioned Church (Matthew 16:8; 1 Peter 2:9-11)],” but the house of Israel had been left “desolate” (Matthew 16:18; 21:43; 23:38).
With these things in mind, one can unquestionably know that when God once again begins to deal with individuals in relation to the kingdom of the heavens, as in the second part of the Olivet Discourse, such dealings cannot be with Israel. They must, on the other hand, be with the “nation” mentioned in Matthew 21:43, the Church that was about to be called into existence to be the recipient of that which Israel rejected (Romans 10:19; 1 Peter 2:9-11).
Aside from the preceding, the time element will likewise not permit the second part of this discourse to be looked upon as Jewish, for God’s household servants are placed in a position to bring forth fruit during the time of Christ’s absence, which is during the time that the house of Israel lies desolate.
The House of Israel during this time would be represented by the fruitless fig tree in both Matthew 21:19 and Matthew 24:32:
Matthew 21:19 (at Christ’s first coming [with leaves only], but lying completely withered throughout the present dispensation [not even possessing leaves; Mark 11:12-14, 20, 21]).
Matthew 24:32 (during the Tribulation, immediately preceding Christ’s second coming, when leaves reappear [portending fruit, during the Messianic Era; cf. Joel 1:7, 12; 2:22]).
Accordingly, the Gentile section of the Olivet Discourse must begin by showing a separation in time from that which preceded it. Anything else would be completely out of harmony with both Scripture leading into this discourse and Scripture up to this point in the discourse itself.
Coming in His Glory
The word “glory” has a peculiar reference in Scripture to the government of the earth, especially as it relates to the purpose for man’s creation in the beginning and his redemption following the fall. And the reference to Christ’s return “in His glory” and the fact that He will sit upon “the throne of His glory” following His return must be understood in the light of the way “glory” is used throughout Scripture.
1) Man’s Creation and Fall
When Adam was created to replace Satan as the ruler over this earth, he was created in the “image” and “likeness” of God (Genesis 1:26-28). According to Psalm 104:2, God is enswathed in “light”; He is covered “with light as with a garment.” Comparing Scripture with Scripture, it is evident that man at the time of his creation, created in God’s image and likeness, was also covered “with light as with a garment”; and this garment of light, elsewhere in Scripture, is specifically associated with God’s “glory” (cf. Matthew 16:28-17:2; Luke 9:32; 2 Peter 1:16-18).
Man, at the time of his creation, was enswathed in a covering of Glory, which he lost at the time of the fall. Losing this enswathement of Glory, man became a fallen image, resulting in certain conditions that had not heretofore existed. “The glory of God,” with which man was clothed preceding the fall, is connected in Scripture with the personal presence of God (cf. Exodus 24:16-18; 25:8, 22; 40:34, 35).
Thus, the loss of this Glory not only resulted in a recognized nakedness but also a recognized separation. This is the evident reason for Adam and Eve’s immediate action.
Realizing that the Glory of God no longer covered their bodies, they sought to clothe themselves; and realizing that a separation now existed, they sought to hide from God (Genesis 3:7, 8).
Man since that time has remained in a fallen condition, leaving him estranged from the covering of Glory:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
The words “fall short [KJV: ‘come short’]” in this verse are from a Greek word (hustereo) that means “to fail to attain,” “to be excluded from,” or “to lack.” Man, in his sinful state, has been excluded from “the glory of God” in the respect seen at the time of man’s beginning in Eden.
(Note that when Christ came to earth the first time, He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” [Romans 8:3]. That is, He laid aside the Glory that He had previously shared with the Father [John 17:5] and took upon Himself a body of flesh which, like fallen man’s body, was not enswathed in a covering of Glory.
This, in turn, was the central part of the ignominy and shame surrounding Calvary. Christ was stripped of His garments, and He appeared on the Cross naked, wearing a crown of thorns, with His exposed flesh separated from the Glory, for all to behold [Matthew 27:26ff].
But the same scenes that witnessed His ignominy and shame will one day witness His glory and exaltation, when He returns not only with a covering of Glory but possessing regal garments, wearing many diadems [regal crowns] upon His head [Revelation 19:11ff].)
Following the fall, God covered Adam’s and Eve’s naked bodies, though not with the lost Glory. God instead covered their bodies with animal skins (Genesis 3:21). And for 2,000 years of human history, insofar as the Record is concerned, there is no mention of or allusion to God’s Glory. Man’s rule over the earth within a theocracy and in connection with God’s Glory, was put on hold.
2) Beginning Anew with Abraham
Two thousand years beyond Adam’s creation and subsequent fall, “the God of glory” appeared to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees (Acts 7:2; cf. Genesis 12:1-3). The expression, “the God of glory,” appears only one other place in Scripture, and it is used in this place as a Messianic title (Psalm 29:3; cf. v. 10). “The God of glory” in Psalm 29:3 is “the King of glory” in Psalm 24:7-10, referring to the position that the Son of Man will hold in that future day when He shall “come in His glory” and “sit upon the throne of His glory.”
(Understanding the preceding will help one to grasp the correct usage in Scripture of the expressions, “the Lord of Glory” [1 Corinthians 2:7, 8], “the Father of glory” [Ephesians 1:17], “the Spirit of glory” [1 Peter 4:13, 14], and “the gospel of the glory of Christ” [2 Corinthians 4:3, 4; cf. 1 Timothy 1:11].
Note that each of these preceding references [shown following], contextually, appears in a Messianic setting.)
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,
which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7, 8)
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge [Greek: epignosis, mature knowledge] of Him. (Ephesians 1:17)
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:12, 13)
But even if our gospel is veiled [‘covered,’ ‘veiled’], it is veiled [‘covered,’ ‘veiled’] to those who are perishing,
whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4)
God’s appearance to Abraham as “the God of glory” was a clear indication that a 2,000-year silence relative to the Glory and the theocracy was at an end. God was about to take one man out of the human race and, through this one man, bring to pass His plans and purposes relative to the creation of man in the beginning.
The outworking of these plans and purposes, though still awaiting complete fulfillment 4,000 years after God’s appearance to Abraham, can be seen today in a threefold fashion.
Through Abraham God has brought forth:
1) The nation of Israel.
2) The promised Redeemer from Genesis 3:15.
3) The Church.
The nation of Israel descended from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, Christ is the Seed of Abraham through the lineage of David, and Christians are Abraham’s seed by and through being “in Christ” (Acts 7:2; Galatians 3:16, 29). And through Christ, Israel, and the Church, the purpose for God’s appearance to Abraham as the “God of glory” will ultimately be realized, placing man back in the position for which he was created.
God, by removing Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees and placing him in another land, performing a special creation in Abraham’s grandson (Jacob), and subsequently adopting the nation descending from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, could call a nation out of Egypt under Moses through which He would fulfill every restoration promise given since Adam’s fall. And this restoration had to do first and foremost with the restoration of man in relation to a restored kingdom, which involved a restoration of the Glory.
(In God’s kingdom, only “sons” can rule [all angels, because of their individual creation, are sons of God (which has to do with regality, not salvation — e.g., Satan, because of creation, is a son of God)]; and in the human realm, only firstborn sons can rule.
To fulfill His purposes concerning Abraham and His progeny in relation to regality, God performed a special creation, later followed by an adoption of the one whom He had created.
God performed a special creation in the person of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob [Isaiah 43:1]. This creation had to do with “Jacob,” the natural man, not “Israel,” the spiritual man.
Thus, the creation could be passed down from father to son, ultimately placing the entire nation descending from the loins of Jacob in the position of God’s son. Then God later adopted His son, the nation of Israel. And adoption placed Israel in the position of God’s firstborn son in a position wherein the nation could realize the reason for man’s creation in the beginning [Genesis 1:26-28; Exodus 4:22, 23; Romans 9:4].
This was the nation God called out of Egypt under Moses — a nation ready to take the scepter and realize the rights of primogeniture, the rights belonging to firstborn sons, within a theocracy, with a restored Glory.)
God had placed Israel in a position where the nation could rule within a theocracy, with a restored Glory. Four hundred and thirty years after God appeared to Abraham as the “God of glory” in Ur of the Chaldees, this was brought to completion by and through God’s dealings with the descendants of Abraham in the wilderness of Sinai.
(Note the reign of death in the preceding respect, extending from Adam to Moses, as seen in Romans chapter five:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned--
For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed [charged to one’s account] when there is no law.
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (vv. 12-14)
“Death,” by the definition established in Genesis at the time of the fall — “. . . for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” [Genesis 2:17b] — is separation from God. When Adam partook of the forbidden fruit, both he and Eve lost their covering of Glory. A separation from God [death] then existed, and the reign of death seen in Romans 5:14 began.
Then, 2,500 years later, during Moses’ day, there was a restoration of the Glory, though restored after a different fashion. And, with a restored Glory, the reign of death ended; man was no longer separated from God.)
Israel, God’s firstborn son, had been delivered from Egypt, the Law had been given to Moses, and the tabernacle had been constructed. All of this was climaxed by the “glory of the LORD” filling the tabernacle at Sinai. And for the first time in history a theocratic kingdom then existed on the earth (Exodus 4:22, 23; 12:41; 19:3-6; 25:8; 40:16-38).
The “glory” as it pertained to the government of the earth had been restored to man, though not in the same manner as experienced by Adam prior to the fall. Man in his sinful state remained estranged from the Glory in this respect, described by Paul in Romans 3:23. The Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai, though in possession of the Glory in one respect, were excluded in another.
Israel, as God’s firstborn son within a theocracy, was to be removed from the wilderness of Sinai and placed in the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Once in this land, the nation of Israel, with God in the nation’s midst, was to rule over and be a blessing to all the Gentile nations.
However, because of disobedience through centuries of time, while God in His longsuffering patience waited, this position was realized only to a limited extent by the nation.
The kingdom reached its height during Solomon’s reign (about 500 years after the establishment of the theocracy in the wilderness of Sinai), but conditions afterward deteriorated to the point that God eventually allowed pagan Gentile nations to come into the land of Canaan (God’s land [Joel 3:2]) and take His people into captivity (cf. Lev. 26:1ff; Deuteronomy 28:1ff).
The kingdom had been divided following Solomon’s death (about 925 B.C.), forming both northern and southern kingdoms. Then, about two hundred years later, about 722 B.C., God allowed the Assyrians to come down and take those comprising the northern kingdom into captivity; and slightly more than one hundred years later, about 605 B.C., God allowed the Babylonians to come over and move against the southern kingdom after the same fashion (2 Kings 17:4ff; 2 Chronicles 36:6ff). God then removed His Glory from Israel, signaling an end to the Old Testament theocracy (Ezekiel 10:4, 18, 19; 11:23).
The removal of the Glory from Israel occurred almost 2,600 years ago, and to this day no restoration has occurred. Israel, at Christ’s first coming, was in the land with a rebuilt Temple housing no Glory. The nation’s rejection of the King and the Kingdom at this time resulted in Israel being set aside while God removed from the Gentiles “a people for His name,” delaying any restoration of the Glory to Israel for another 2,000 years (Acts 15:14; Romans 11:25).
The day is near at hand though, with Christ presently “even at the doors,” when the Glory will be restored and a theocracy will once again exist on the earth. Not only will the Glory be restored to Israel (Ezekiel 43:1-7; 44:4), but Christ will be present in all His Glory, and Christians will be present in the kingdom in glorified bodies. Christians will have bodies like the body of Christ, described in Matthew 17:2 (cf. Luke 9:32; Philippians 3:21; 2 Peter 1:16-18; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 1:16). Christians will possess transfigured bodies enswathed in a covering of light, a covering of Glory.
In that day, Israel will be restored to the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and rule at the head of the nations; Christians, having been adopted as firstborn sons (Romans 8:23; Hebrews 12:23), will rule over the nations from the new Jerusalem in the heavens above the earth; and Christ will have a dual reign, ruling from both David’s throne in the earthly Jerusalem and from His own throne in the heavenly Jerusalem.
In that day, God’s three firstborn Sons (Christ, Israel, and the Church) — three Sons of Abraham, to whom God appeared as the “God of glory” — will rule the earth. And God’s original purpose for man’s creation, occurring 2,000 years prior to the days of Abraham, will then be realized.
With His Holy Angels
When Christ returns to the earth at the end of the Tribulation, He will be accompanied by an innumerable host of angels who will be instrumental in executing His will and purpose in matters that must be brought to pass preceding His reign.
Throughout Scripture angels are seen as far more active in the Lord’s affairs, as they pertain to man, than many realize. Scripture often refers to the Lord acting in a particular realm, while also referring to angels acting in this same realm. In this respect, though angels are the executors, it is the Lord who is looked upon in a foremost sense as bringing the matter to pass. That is, the Lord assigns and empowers certain angels for particular tasks; and once these tasks are carried out, the matter is looked upon as being done by the Lord Himself.
Possibly two of the most instructive instances of the preceding can be seen in the destruction of the cities of the plain during the days of Abraham in Genesis 18, 19 and the removal of Nebuchadnezzar from his throne for seven years during the days of Daniel in Daniel 4:1ff. Also, comparing these two instances provides an insight into heavenly angelic courts that God has established (apparently alluded to in Matthew 5:22 by and through a reference to corresponding earthly courts) and the power with which angels acting in these courts on His behalf have been vested.
In the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, because of his ascribing to himself that which belonged to God alone (cf. 4:17, 30), was removed from the throne and driven into the field to eat grass as the oxen. The entire matter — judicial issues and determinations, the passing of the sentence, and the execution of the sentence — was carried out by angels, though the “Most High [God Himself]” was specifically said to be the One who brought the matter to pass.
Nebuchadnezzar had been delivered into the charge of angels called “watchers,” who had made certain decisions that resulted in a decree concerning him; and these decisions, resulting in the decree, were also ascribed to the “Most High” (4:17, 24).
The “decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones” (v. 17) can only point to angelic activity in heavenly courts concerning matters relating to individuals on earth. It seems apparent that the angels in this passage possessed a specially imparted wisdom and knowledge, allowing them to act within the scope of fixed laws to fulfill the perfect will of God concerning particular matters, apart from any immediate command from God. In so doing, the actions of these angels were looked upon as actions of the Lord Himself.
(Undoubtedly the same thing is in view in Daniel chapter five where decisions were made and a decree was issued concerning Belshazzar. Note that Belshazzar was reminded of a time in Nebuchadnezzar’s life when similar action had to be taken for a similar reason [vv. 18-23].
The days of Belshazzar’s kingdom were at an end; he had been weighed in the balances and found wanting, and his kingdom, apparently within the scope of decisions and determinations made by angels in the heavenly courts, had been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians [vv. 24-31].)
Understanding the working of these heavenly courts, the same thing can be seen in Genesis chapters eighteen and nineteen. The Lord, accompanied by two angels, appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mamre. The purpose of this visit concerned the impending destruction of the cities in the Jordan plain. Comparing this section in Genesis with Daniel chapter four, it would appear clear that judicial decisions concerning these cities had already been made in the heavenly courts; and the “decree of the watchers” had already been rendered (cf. Genesis 18:17-22).
The Lord remained with Abraham, and the two angels accompanying the Lord went on down into the Jordan plain to carry out the previously rendered decree. Everything relating to the destruction of these cities was apparently done by angels. In the light of Daniel chapter four, it would appear clear that they were the ones who had made the decisions and rendered the decree; and the Genesis account clearly shows that they were the executors of the decree. However, the same thing can be said of the Lord (cf. 18:20-33; 19:11-13, 16, 24, 29).
It is the same as in Daniel chapter four. Angelic activity in this realm — because of their ability to act within the scope of the perfect will of God — is looked upon as being done by the Lord Himself.
Immediately preceding Christ’s return, during the Tribulation, angels will be very instrumental in carrying out decrees by and through executing judgment upon the earth-dwellers; and their actions will be looked upon as those of the Lord Himself (Revelation 6:12-17; 8:1ff; 9:1ff; 11:18; 15:1; 16:1ff). Angelic activity in the heavenly courts, as it pertains to those upon the earth, will evidently be carried out in a climactic sense and on an intensified basis during the Tribulation.
Not only will this be the case, but angelic activity of the same nature will carry over into events surrounding Christ’s presence upon earth following the Tribulation. In Matthew 13:49, 50, angels are said to perform some of the same activity in relation to saved and unsaved Gentiles that Christ is said to perform in Matthew 25:32ff. Immediately preceding this, angels will have re-gathered Israel (Matthew 24:31), but elsewhere in Scripture it is the Lord who re-gathers His people (Deuteronomy 30:1-4; Isaiah 11:10, 11; Jeremiah 23:7, 8).
Angels will apparently be very active in all matters when Christ returns. The Lord being accompanied by angels at the time of His return points simply to continued angelic activity of a like nature to that which has occurred throughout the whole of Man’s Day.
(Note that the same principle seen in angelic activity, associating their actions with the Lord’s actions, exists in connection with the proclaimed Word among God’s people [Israel past and future, the Church present].
This could perhaps best be seen in Christ’s words to Peter in Matthew 16:19, repeated in another setting to all of the disciples later in Matthew 18:18:
Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven [in the heavens], and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven [in the heavens].
This statement to Peter [which grew out of his confession concerning Christ’s true identity (v. 16)], along with the same statement to all the disciples at a later time, has not been understood at all by numerous Christians down through the years. But there is really nothing difficult about that which is being taught, though a translation problem does exist, and it helps to understand Christ’s statement in the light of angelic activity in heavenly courts, as previously discussed.
The translation problem involves the way in which the Greek verbs and participles in the verse [“bind” and “loose”] are handled in the English text. The binding and loosing here on earth are present aorist subjunctives, and the binding and loosing in the heavens are perfect passive participles [same in both Matthew 16:19 and 18:18].
To show this — the aorist subjunctive verbs and the perfect passive participles — the translation should read somewhat along these lines:
“. . . whatsoever you might bind on earth shall have already been bound in the heavens, and whatsoever you might loose on earth shall have already been loosed in the heavens.”
The subjunctive mood shows that which is probable, that which is expected, though it may not occur. And the perfect tense shows that which is completed in past time, existing in a finished state during present time.
Those forming the Church [future at that time] are in view in both passages [16:18; 18:17]. And when those in the Church act in complete accord with that which is being dealt with in these verses, their actions — exactly as the actions of angels acting under fixed laws in the heavenly courts — will be seen as having already been acted upon in the heavens. In short, with the perfect tense being used in the manner in which it is used [a perfect passive], the actions of those in the Church on earth are seen as having already been acted upon in the heavens before those in the Church even act [“bind” and “loose” are simply two words used to express these actions, both on earth and in the heavens].
Now, what is this all about? Can Christians in a Church just come to a conclusion on which they all agree and have that conclusion already be decided in the heavens? That’s not exactly the way matters exist, no more so than angels in the heavenly courts can do the same and have their actions seen as the Lord’s actions.
Angels in the heavenly courts, in order to have their actions seen as those of the Lord, must act under fixed laws; and Christians in the Church today, in order to have their actions seen as having already been performed in the heavens, must do the same. They must act in complete accord with the revealed Word [exactly as Peter acted in Matthew 16:16].
Remaining completely within the scope of the proclaimed Word, that which is bound or loosed on earth will be seen as having already been bound or loosed in the heavens. This cannot help but be the case, for God must remain true to His Word.
The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. [Psalm 12:6]
. . . Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.” [Psalm 119:89]
. . . You have magnified Your word above all Your name [lit., “…You have exalted above all things Your Word and Your Name”]. (Psalm 138:2b)
To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:20)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God. . . .
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . . (John 1:1, 2, 14a)
It is this unchangeable Word [inseparably associated with the entire Godhead] which is to be proclaimed [2 Timothy 4:2]; and it is this unchangeable Word alone that Christians are to adhere to and follow in all matters.
And when this is done, that which is stated in Matthew 16:19; 18:18 can’t help but be the case in the actions of Christians here on earth [during present time] and in corresponding actions in the heavens [during all past, present, and future time].)