The Saviour closes His priesthood with the acquittal of His people at His Fatherís bar. For the act of God, the Father, in sitting as judge, enables the Son to appear as the advocate of His people, and to obtain decision in their favor. That acquittal involves the virtual condemnation of all others. The last act of the Father in the work of the judgment in Daniel 7 is to crown His Son king, that He may execute its decision. It is at the close of this session, therefore, that our Lord terminates His office of priest-king upon His Fatherís throne, and takes His own throne to execute the decision of the Father. For it is the part of the Son to show from the record of the books who have overcome, and to confess the names of such before His Father (Revelation 3:5). It pertains to the Father to give decision that such persons shall have immortality. And the execution of the judgment will consist in making these persons immortal, and in destroying all the rest. The decision of the judgment does therefore rest wholly with the Father. But the execution of the judgment pertains alone to the Son, who is crowned king at His Fatherís tribunal for this very purpose.
The distinction between these two relations sustained by the Father and the Son to the work of the judgment is made very plain by our Lordís words in John 5:22Ė30. This chapter takes up the
judgment work just where the prophecy of Daniel leaves it. The Father having rendered decision, and having anointed His Son king, it pertains to the Son to execute the judgmentóa work which
He distinctly acknowledges in John 5. In this chapter our Lord uses these remarkable words: "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father." (Verses 22, 23.)
Now it is certain that God the Father must sit in judgment to fulfill Daniel 7:9, 10. But if we read forward in these words of our Lord to verses 26, 27, we shall see what He means in verse 22.
"For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man." Verses 26, 27.
It is therefore not the decision of the judgment, but its execution, that the Father had by promise even then given to His Son. And this execution will be effected, by the accomplishment of the words which follow: "Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." Verses 28, 29.
That our Lord is simply carrying out the judgment of His Father in the work which He thus performs, is distinctly taught in the next verse: "I can of Mine own self do nothing; as I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me." Verse 30.
Christís part of the judgment work is its execution. His work is just, because He first hears the Fatherís decision, and then carries it out, doing only the Fatherís will in all this work. We conclude this chapter with the following direct proof that the decision of the judgment, which is the Fatherís part of the work, is past when our Lord comes again in the clouds of heaven. The execution of the judgment must be preceded by the investigation and decision of the cases which are judged. Now it is distinctly stated that the coming of Christ is to execute the judgment; whence it follows that the decision of the judgment is made by the Father before He sends His Son in the clouds of heaven. Thus we read of His Second Advent: "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." Jude 14, 15.
The term saints, or holy ones, is applied to angels as well as to men (Daniel 8:13). These ten thousands of His saints are the host of heavenly angels that will escort our Lord on His return to our earth (Matthew 25:31). Enoch does, therefore, distinctly state the object of the Second Advent. It is to execute the judgment. And this fact constitutes a convincing proof that the decision of the judgment precedes our Lordís return. That event is therefore "the revelation of the righteous judgment of God." Romans 2:5. And the very act of giving immortality is one part of the work of rendering to every man according to his deeds (Romans 2:6, 7). The judgment of God does, therefore, precede the advent of His Son from heaven.
When the events of Christís advent are mentioned in the Scriptures, it is not merely those which happen at the very point when He descends from heaven, but also those which happen in consequence of that event. The execution of the judgment covers more than one thousand years (Revelation 20). But the advent of Christ lies at the foundation of this whole work. And when men find just retribution meted out to them for all their sins, they will surely be convinced of their ungodly deeds and of their hard speeches.
The coming of the Son of man in His glory, attended by all His holy angels (Matthew 25:31), and the riding forth of the King of kings upon the white horse, followed by the armies of heaven, when heaven itself is opened (Revelation 19:11Ė16), must be one and the same event. When Jude describes the Second Advent, or rather when he quotes Enochís description of that event, He says, "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment upon all." Verses 14, 15. Our Lordís description of this grand event in Matthew 25:31Ė46, and of the things consequent upon it, relates wholly to the execution of the judgment, and the convincing of the ungodly of all their evil deeds and hard speeches. And it is certain that the revelation of the King of kings, followed by the armies of heaven, is for this very purpose; for it is said (Revelation 19:11), "In righteousness He doth judge and make war."
It being true that these representations of Christís advent are each statements of one and the same event, it is worthy of notice that the chain of events in Matthew 25:31Ė46, and the chain of events in Revelation 19:11Ė21, has each, as its second link, the gathering of the nations before Christ. In Matthew 25:32, we have simply the statement of the fact, "And before Him shall be gathered all nations." But in Revelation 19:19, we have the occasion of this gathering stated: "I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army."
The gathering of the nations mentioned in these two texts must be identical, as each gathering is at the same time as the other, and both are connected with the same event, viz., the advent of Christ. The nature of this gathering is presented in the following passages: "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles,
which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." Revelation 16:13, 14.
"And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army." Revelation 19:19.
"Therefore wait ye upon Me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey; for My determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them Mine indignation, even all My fierce anger; for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent." Zephaniah 3:8, 9.
These texts clearly indicate that the gathering of the nations is effected not by the good angels of God, but by the evil angels of Satan. The mighty working of the devil, even after men have passed the day of grace, is plainly his final desperate struggle before he is bound. This great gathering of the nations is, in the providence of God, for the purpose of pouring on them the fierceness of His wrath in their terrible destruction. The battle of the great day of God Almighty is the very scene of treading the winepress of the wrath of God (Revelation 19:11Ė15). The central point of this great slaughter is the valley of Jehoshaphat near Jerusalem (Joel 3:2, 9Ė12). The city (Revelation 14:19, 20) near which this winepress is trodden must, therefore, be old Jerusalem. But the slain of the Lord in the great battle shall be from one end of the earth to the other (Jeremiah 25:30Ė33).
The separation of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:32) must be at the same time as the separation of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:30, 40, 41); and of the good and bad fishes (Matthew 13:48, 49); and of the wheat and the chaff (Matthew 3:12). This separation of the righteous and the wicked is effected in the manner stated in the following texts: "And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Matthew 24:31. (See also Mark 13:27.)
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord." 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17.
But the angels who perform this work, do it under the express order of Christ. Thus we read: "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people. Gather My saints together unto Me; those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice." Psalm 50:3Ė5.
And the Saviour, who gives this order, is simply executing the judgment already determined by the Father (John 5:22, 27; Daniel 7:9Ė14). Indeed, the saints are made immortal before the angels bear them away from our earth; for the sounding of the trumpet is the signal for the angels to descend from Christ to gather His saints (Matthew 24:31). But the saints are changed to immortality in an instant at the sounding of the last trump (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52).
The decision of the judgment has, therefore, been rendered before even the separation of the two classes described in (Matthew 25:32); for the gift of immortality is a part of the righteous judgment of God in rendering to every man according to His deeds. (Romans 1:5Ė8). And in particular, the resurrection which makes a part of mankind equal to the angels (Luke 20:35, 36), which makes them immortal (1 Corinthians 15:51Ė54), which shows them to be blessed and holy, and incapable of the second death (Revelation 20:6), and which shows that they were that part of
the dead which belonged to Christ (1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:16), this resurrection which our Lord terms the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:14), is, in the expressive language of Paul, declared to be the "justification of life." Romans 5:18. This free gift of God, which is open to all men, like the gift of grace and righteousness in the previous verse, will be shared by those only who accept the grace and righteousness offered in the gospel, and will only be conferred on them after they have been pronounced just in the judgment; for the change to immortality, which precedes the act of the angels who are sent by Christ to separate the two classes, is demonstrative of the fact that those changed in this manner have already been pronounced just in the decision of the judgment. The resurrection to immortality is, therefore, the "justification of life." Our Lord does not pronounce the decision of that judgment which He thus begins to execute, until He has conferred upon His saints the gift of immortality. And when He does it, it is in words which imply that the Father has already rendered decision in favor of the saints (Matthew 25:34).
The separation of the sheep and goats is effected by the angels (Matthew 13:49). It must, therefore, be accomplished when the saints are caught up to meet Christ in the air (2 Thessalonians 4:17). The placing of the righteous upon the right hand, and the wicked upon the left, cannot, therefore, have reference to the right and left sides of the Saviour. It must signify the exaltation of the one class in His presence, and the rejection of the other class to shame and final ruin. Even if we place the separation of the two classes at the end of the one thousand years, when all the righteous are within the city, and when all the wicked surround it on every hand, we shall still be compelled to interpret these words as above (Revelation 20:7Ė9).
Thus we find this term used in many places. At the right hand of the Lord "are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11. God saves by His right hand those that put their trust in Him (Psalm 17:7). The right hand of the Lord holds up His servants. (Psalm 18:35.) His right hand is used for His saving strength. (Psalm 20:6). The right hand of the Lord gave Canaan to Israel. (Psalm 44:3). Christ is the man of the Fatherís right hand. (Psalm 80:17).
And as Christ, at the Fatherís right hand, was a joint ruler with His Father upon His throne (Psalm 110:1, 4; Zechariah 6, 12, 13), so the saints, when they are placed at Christís right hand, sit down with Him upon His throne, as once He thus sat down upon the throne of His Father, that they may be joint rulers with Him, and may co-operate with Him in the judgment. To sit at the right hand is the highest place of honor in the presence of one greater. Gesenius says: "To sit on the right hand of a king, as the highest place of honor, e.g., spoken of the queen (1 Kings 2:19; Psalm 45:9); of one beloved of the king and vicegerent of the kingdom (Psalm 110:1)."
When the saints enter Christís presence they are immortal. They will be like Him, for they "shall see Him as He is." 1 John 3:2. They will behold His face in righteousness when they awake with His likeness (Psalm 17:15). One of the first events that follows the entrance of the saints into Christís presence is thus stated: "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in His body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." 2 Corinthians 5:10.
Though our Lord comes to execute the judgment (John 5:22, 27; Jude 14:15; 2 Timothy 4:1; Matthew 25:31Ė46; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Psalm 50:3Ė5), and though He makes His people immortal before He gathers them into His presence (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; Matthew 24:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17), yet it is certain that everyone, even of the righteous, shall stand at the judgment-seat of Christ (Romans 14:10). It is not, however, that their cases may be decided for salvation or for perdition, but "that everyone may receive the things done in his body." Even all the wicked shall stand thus in His presence, that they may receive for their deeds of evil, which have not been repented of, and so neither pardoned nor blotted out. But the wicked will not stand thus before Christ till the resurrection of the ungodly, at the end of the one thousand years. The righteous will appear at Christís judgment-seat, that they may receive the reward of well doing; and at a later time all the wicked shall stand in His presence, that they may hear their sentence and receive this just reward. In executing the judgment, our Lord is to reward every man according to his works (Revelation 22:12; Matthew 16:27). Then the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to Paul a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). To all His saints He will in like manner give crowns, but of very different brightness (1 Corinthians 15:41, 42), and assign to each a reward proportionate to his labors and responsibilities (Luke 19:15Ė19).
When the Saviour, in the work of executing the judgment, which has been already determined by the Father, pronounces the heavenly benediction upon His people; He does it in His Fatherís
name. Thus we read: "Then shall the king say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me in; naked, and ye clothed Me; I was sick, and ye visited Me; I was in prison and ye came unto Me." Matthew 25:34Ė36.
This plainly indicates: (1) That the record of their good deeds has been already examined; (2) that this examination has been made in the Fatherís presence, by Whom they have been pronounced
innocent, and upon whom His blessing has been conferred. The saints will have boldness in the day of judgment (1 John 4:17), for their sins are all blotted out before the Saviour ceases to act as
priest, and they are made immortal before they stand at Christís judgement-seat; and when they thus stand before Him, it is not to have decision rendered whether they shall be saved or lost, but it is to hear the Saviour enumerate their good deeds, and to receive from Him their great reward.
When invited to inherit the kingdom, it is said to be prepared for them from the foundation of the world. This cannot signify that they are at once to inherit the new earth, for the new earth cannot exist till the sentence has been passed upon the wicked, and executed upon them, as the lake of fire, where the wicked are punished, is our earth in its final conflagration (2 Peter 3:7Ė13;Malachi 4:1Ė3; Proverbs 11:31; Revelation 20:21). Indeed, the new earth can hardly be said to have been prepared from the foundation of the world. But Paradise, which contains the tree of life, and is now in the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2Ė4), was prepared for mankind in their innocency, when the earth itself was founded (Genesis 2:8Ė15; 3:1Ė24) and is to be given as a part of the overcomerís reward, and will be reached by their entrance within the walls of the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14). The giving of the kingdom to the saints begins with the capital of that kingdom, but will not be finished till they take the kingdom under the whole heaven, to possess it forever, even forever and ever (Daniel 7:18; Revelation 21). The Saviourís act of giving the kingdom to His saints is a part of the work of executing the decision of the Father respecting His people; for it is the Fatherís good pleasure to give them the kingdom (Luke 12:32).
When our Lord was about to leave His disciples to go to His Father, He told them that He would go to prepare a place for them, and would then return and receive them into himself; that where He was they might be also (John 14:2, 3). And on this very occasion He told Peter that he could
not follow Him then, but should follow Him afterward; that is, when He should have completed the preparation of the place, He would return for Peter and for all the saints, and they should follow Him thither (John 13:36). Thus it is that our Lord is the forerunner, and His entrance is, therefore, the pledge that His people shall afterward follow Him (Hebrews 6:20). In this connection let us notice I Thessalonians 4:14. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him."
Many read this text as teaching that at the Second Advent Christ will bring the souls of His sleeping saints from heaven. But let it be observed: (1). That heaven is not a place of soul sleeping. (2). That the sleep of the saints is in the dust of the earth (Daniel 12:2. 3). (3). That the sleeping ones cannot be brought from heaven, for they are not there when Christ descends for His people. (4). That they cannot be brought to our earth at that time, for they are at that moment asleep in its dust. (5). The one who brings the saints is God the Father. (6). To bring them, He must do one of two things, either He must come with His Son at the second advent, and take along with Him, as He thus comes, His sleeping saints, or else He brings His saints to Himself by sending His Son to awaken them, and then to take them into His presence. (7). Two reasons forbid the idea that the Father brings the sleeping saints to the earth. One is, that the Father does not come to our earth, but sends His Son (Acts 3:20); and the other is, that the sleepers are not in heaven, but already within the bosom of the earth (Isaiah 26:19). (8). We cannot, therefore, avoid the conclusion that the act of bringing the saints is into His own presence. (9). The saints are to be brought according to a certain example, which is the resurrection of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:14; Hebrews 13:20). (10). The very act of bringing the saints by God the Father is wrought by sending His Son after them, as described in this chapter, and by this means taking them into His presence. So that this chapter brings to view the great fact taught in our Lordís promise that He would go into the Fatherís presence to prepare a place for His people and then return after them,to take them to this prepared place. So Christ will present His saints unblamable in holiness before His Father as He bears them up with Him to the heavenly Jerusalem (Compare John 14:2, 3; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 4:14).
That the Saviour takes His people to the house of the Father, the New Jerusalem, immediately after He has made them immortal, and invited them in the Fatherís name to share Paradise with him, is further proved by what is said respecting the marriage supper. This is eaten directly after the saints are received into Christís presence (Luke 12:36, 37). But the marriage supper must be eaten where the bride is. The saints are the invited guests. But the bride, the Lambís wife, is that holy city, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 19:9; 21:2, 9, 10; Galatians 4:26Ė28; Isaiah 54).
The saints are in the Fatherís presence, near the throne of God, when they eat the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 191Ė9; Luke 12:36, 37; 22:16Ė18). Our Lord does, therefore, introduce His saints to the holy city, and to the presence of His Father, where they eat the marriage supper, in the kingdom of God. This is the grand celebration of our Lordís assumption of His own throne and of His royal city, the metropolis of His everlasting kingdom. When this is past, the great work of the judgment upon the wicked remains to be entered upon by Christ and His saints.