The closing work of Christ as Priest pertains to the acquittal of His people at His Father’s tribunal, the blotting out of their sins, and the decision accounting them worthy of that world and the resurrection to immortality. Our Lord cannot do this for people in a state of probation. His first work must therefore relate to the righteous dead. And while their cases are severally passing under examination and decision, the living righteous are being prepared for the close of their probation and for the decision of the investigative judgment by the proclamation of the third angel. This work being accomplished and the living righteous being accounted worthy to escape the things coming upon the earth and to stand before the Son of man, our Lord is crowned King, and takes His seat upon the white cloud, with a crown of pure gold upon His head.
The priesthood of Christ began when He presented Himself before the Father at His ascension as our Advocate. It cannot terminate till He has secured the acquittal of His people and the blotting out of their sins in the investigative judgment. The blotting out of sins, which terminates His priesthood, brings the people of God to the refreshing from the presence of the Father, which precedes His act of sending His Son from heaven. (See Acts 3:19–21.)
The whole multitude of the redeemed appear before the throne in raiment that has been washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. (See Revelation 7:13, 14.) The work of our High Priest in behalf of His people involves an immense number of individual cases. He has not only borne the sin of all these, but He makes intercession for them and finally obtains the blotting out of their sins on showing from the record that they have completed the work of overcoming. Our Lord does not continue in His priestly office to all eternity. When He comes again, it is without sin unto salvation. But He does not leave His work unfinished. He brings every part of this immense work to a conclusion before He lays it down. The following proposition is both reasonable and scriptural:
There is a period of time at the close of this dispensation devoted to the finishing of the work of human probation, i.e., to the completion of Christ’s work as priest, and of His gospel as the means of salvation.
“But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as He hath declared to His servants the prophets.” Revelation 10:7
The Mystery of God
The mystery of God is seen to be the work of salvation for fallen man through the gospel of Christ. (See Ephesians 3:3–6; Colossians 1:26–28.) It is that which unites Jews and Gentiles in one body as fellow-heirs, having Christ in them the hope of glory. The finishing of the mystery of God is the accomplishment of the work of the gospel. This must have a twofold bearing: 1) upon the priesthood of our Lord, to bring it to a close by completing all of its immense work, and 2) upon the preaching of the gospel to the inhabitants of the earth, in causing the proclamation of its final closing messages of warning.
This work is not closed instantaneously, for a space of time is devoted to its completion. And the finishing of this work pertains both to heaven and to earth, to the priesthood of Christ and the proclamation of His gospel to men. But the priesthood of Christ, as we have seen, is finished at the time when the Ancient of Days sits in judgment; and it is while that judgment is in session that the latest messages of warning are addressed to men. (See Revelation 14:6–14.) We do, therefore, understand that the period of time devoted to the finishing of the mystery of God is precisely that space occupied by the Father in the work of the investigative judgment.
It is not stated that the mystery of God shall be finished when the seventh angel begins to sound, for this would denote instantaneous completion. But it is said, “In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound,” etc. This shows beyond dispute that a period of time is devoted to this work. The days of this prophecy are prophetic days, i.e., years, as are those of the fifth and sixth angels. (See Revelation 9.) These years which are devoted to this finishing of human probation begin with the sounding of the seventh angel. They are the earliest years of his voice. The sounding of the seventh angel begins, therefore, with the opening of that investigative judgment that finishes human probation, that determines the blotting out of the sins of the overcomers, that accounts them worthy of the world to come, that terminates the priesthood of Christ, and that witnesses the completion of the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God.
But is not the last trumpet of John’s series of seven the same as Paul’s last trump? The reasons which forbid their identity are perfectly conclusive. The seventh trumpet is the last of a series, no one of which is literally heard by the inhabitants of the earth. It is the accomplishment of certain events that indicates the transition from one of the seven angels to another. The seventh is like each of the preceding six in that it is the trumpet of an angel and in that it is a symbolic and not a literal trumpet. (See Revelation 8, 9, 10, 11.) But the trumpet which awakens the dead is not blown by an angel but by the Son of God Himself. It is not a symbolic trumpet, for it is literally heard by the inhabitants of the earth. (See Matthew 24:31; Zechariah 9:14–16; 1 Thessalonians 4:14–17.) It is called the last trump because when the Almighty descended upon Mount Sinai in glory and majesty, like our Lord’s second advent, (see Exodus 19:16–19; Hebrews 12:18–27; Matthew 16:27; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8) the trump of God was heard, as it will be once more when the dead are raised. (See 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52.)
Seventh Angel and Judgment
The commencement of the seventh angel’s voice, as we have seen, is the signal for the opening of the investigative judgment; and human probation continues for a term of days, i.e., years, after that voice begins. But the trump of God is not sounded till after that investigative judgment has determined the cases of all the righteous; for when it is heard, everyone who has been accounted worthy of a part in the resurrection to immortality is, in an instant, made immortal. We conclude, therefore, that the seventh angel begins to sound before the advent of Christ and that the first years of his sounding are devoted to the finishing of the work of human probation.
The events under the sounding of the seventh angel, though not given in chronological order are, from their nature, not difficult to be arranged in the order of their occurrence.
In the days, i.e., years, of the beginning of the voice of the seventh angel, the work of human probation is finished. (See Revelation 10:7.) This, as we have seen, involves the closing up of the immense work of our High Priest. It also requires the proclamation of the final warnings to mankind.
The most holy place of the temple in heaven is opened. (See Revelation 11:19.) This is the place where our Lord’s priesthood is finished and, as we shall hereafter see, is the place where the Ancient of Days sits in judgment.
While Christ is finishing His priesthood at the tribunal of His Father in the holiest of the heavenly temple, the judgment of the righteous dead takes place. (See Revelation 11:18.)
The coronation of Christ is announced by the great voices in heaven and by the words of the twenty-four elders. (See Revelation 11:15–17.) This succeeds the close of His priesthood. When Christ begins His reign, He is invested by the Father with that power which Satan usurped from Adam the first. The reign of the second Adam is the re-establishment of the empire of God in this revolted province. Christ does not take His own throne to rule His enemies with a rod of iron till He has closed up His priestly office at His Father’s right hand.
The wrath of God comes upon the wicked when Christ begins to rule them with the iron scepter of His justice. It comes in the seven last plagues. (See Revelation 11:18, 19; 14:9–11; 15:16; 18:20; 19:11–21.)
The anger of the nations comes in consequence of the work of the unclean spirits under the sixth plague who incite them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty. (See Revelation 11:18; 16:13,14; 19:19–21.)
The giving of rewards to the servants of God is at the resurrection of the just. (See Revelation 11:18; Luke 14:14; Matthew 16:27.)
The final destruction of those who corrupt the earth is at the end of the 1,000 years in the second death. (See Revelation 11:18; 20:7–9.)
The events of the seventh trumpet do, therefore, extend over the whole period of the great day of judgment. The mighty proclamation which ushers in the seventh angel and the investigative judgment and the work in the second apartment of the heavenly temple for the completion of our Lord’s priestly office, we will now consider.
We have learned that there is a space of time at the beginning of the voice of the seventh angel which is employed in closing up the work of human probation. During this period, the living righteous conclude their probation and are accounted worthy to stand before the Son of man. (See Luke 21:36.) This is the time of the dead that they should be judged, i.e., the time when the righteous dead are accounted worthy of a part in the first resurrection. (See Luke 20:35, 36; Revelation 11:18.) It is when the Ancient of Days sits in judgment that Christ is crowned King, and this same event takes place under the sounding of the seventh angel. (See Daniel 7:9–14; Revelation 11:15–17.) This shows that the judgment scene of Daniel 7 is in the days of the seventh angel and that the judgment of the dead here brought to view is at the Father’s tribunal. Two things next claim our attention: 1) the mighty proclamation which heralds the investigative judgment at the beginning of the voice of the seventh angel and 2) the opening of the most holy place of the heavenly temple for the session of that judgment.
Period of Time to Pass
The second and third woes come in consequence of the voices of the sixth and seventh angels. (See Revelation 8:13.) There is a short space of time between the second and third woes, hence such space must exist between the close of the sixth angel’s voice and the commencement of the seventh. (See Revelation 11:14.) The termination of the hour, day, month, and year of the sixth angel marks the conclusion of the second woe, August 11, 1840. (See Revelation 9:15.)
At the close of the sixth angel’s voice, a mighty angel descends from heaven to herald the sounding of the seventh trumpet. He has a little book open in His hand; and He places His right foot upon the sea and His left foot on the earth and cries with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth. The seven thunders utter their voices, but John is forbidden to write what they utter. The angel, having made proclamation to the inhabitants of the earth, lifts His hand to heaven and swears that time shall be no longer but that in the days of the beginning of the seventh angel’s voice, the mystery of God should be finished, as He hath declared to His servants the prophets. (See Revelation 10:1–7.)
His act of placing one foot upon the sea and one upon the land implies that His proclamation pertains to all the dwellers upon the globe. He cries with a mighty voice like the roar of a lion, but it is a voice that gives instruction and warning to mankind; for He has a little book open in His hand, a fact which indicates that its contents form the subject of His proclamation. When He has finished His announcement, He confirms it with a solemn oath. The words of this oath give a definite idea of the nature of His proclamation.
That it relates to the definite time of some grand event.
That this event is the sounding of the seventh angel.
That this proclamation is based upon the prophets.
The book of Daniel contains the prophetic periods which mark the very events of the seventh angel’s voice. Among the earliest of these events are the opening of the second apartment of the heavenly temple (see Revelation 11:19), the judgment of the righteous dead (see Revelation 11:18), the finishing of the mystery of God (see Revelation 10:7), and the coronation of Christ for the destruction of His enemies (see Revelation 11:15–19; Psalm 2:6–9). The prophecy of Daniel reveals this very session of the investigative judgment, at which Christ is crowned King upon His own throne (see Daniel 7:9–14), and the final work in the sanctuary of God for the closing up of human probation (see Daniel 8:14), and marks the very time for the beginning of this grand work.
Daniel and Time
The book of Daniel must therefore be that book out of which the angel makes His proclamation of definite time; for this book alone contains the prophetic periods, unless, indeed, we add the book of Revelation, which is but a second edition of the prophecy of Daniel. Now it is a remarkable fact that the book of Daniel was by divine direction closed up and sealed till the time of the end, when the wise were to understand. (See Daniel 12:4–10.) The same power which placed the seal upon it must be employed to take it off. It was by the agency of the angel of God that this book was closed up, and it is by the same means that the seal is removed. Hence, when the angel descends to herald the work under the seventh trumpet, that prophecy which reveals the very events of that trumpet and marks the time of their commencement is open in His hand. Having made His announcement therefrom, He swears that time shall be no longer, i.e., that the events predicted shall occur where He then stands—at the end of the periods contained in the little book.
The time to the finishing of the mystery of God must be the burden of the proclamation of this mighty angel, for the oath which He utters to confirm His proclamation plainly indicates its nature. He swears that time should be no longer, but that the mystery of God should be finished in the days at the beginning of the seventh angel’s voice. The time, therefore, to which He swears must be the time contained in the little book, and which reaches to the events of the seventh angel’s voice.
That this oath uttered by the angel with the open book relates to prophetic time is further evident from the record of the oath which was uttered at the time when that book was sealed up; for the man clothed in linen, standing at a time when the prophetic periods all lay in the future, solemnly attests with an oath the time contained in the sealed book. (See Daniel 12:6, 7.) But the angel of Revelation 10, having the book open in His hand, first proclaims their termination and then swears to the truth of His announcement. His oath marks the end of the time in question. It certainly does not mark the end of time considered as duration, measured by days, or years; for the closing words of the oath speak of days yet future under the seventh angel; nor does it mark the end of human probation, for the words of the oath place this also yet future under the sounding of the seventh angel. (See verse 7.)
Moreover, after the eating of the book by John, who in this personates the church at the time of the fulfillment of this prophecy, he was bidden to prophecy again before many peoples and nations—a clear proof that there is a message of mercy and of warning to men after the oath of the angel that time shall be no longer. (See verses 7–11.) We must therefore conclude that this oath has reference to the time which the angel had announced from the book open in His hand. This oath is the complement of that in Daniel 12. In that, the man clothed in linen swears to prophetic time yet to be; in this, the angel having made solemn proclamation from the open book, lifts His hand to heaven and swears to the accomplishment of the time.
What has been said is quite sufficient to show that the work of the mighty angel of Revelation 10 is of the same nature with that of the angel in Revelation 14:6, 7. His message is uttered while the living are yet in probation. It is termed the everlasting gospel because it is that which contains the good news of the coming kingdom of God. Like the mighty proclamation of the angel of Revelation 10, which pertains to all the dwellers upon the globe, this also is addressed to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. As the angel of Revelation 10 proclaims definite time connected with the seventh angel’s voice, so this angel says with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come.” Revelation 14:7. There must be definite time to mark the proclamation of this angel; and as men are addressed while yet in probation, that time must be the prophetic periods of the Bible. And herein have we a parallel to the case of the angel of Revelation 10 with the open book in His hand swearing to the fulfillment of time. That relates to the sounding of the seventh angel and the finishing of the mystery of God; this relates to the session of the investigative judgment, which, as we have seen, is the same work. As a further work of prophesying remains after the angel of Revelation 10 swears that time shall be no longer, so in Revelation 14, after the angel has announced that the hour of God’s judgment is come, the like work remains to be performed.
The period designated as the hour of God’s judgment, or the days when the mystery of God is to be finished, is not therefore ushered in by the advent of Christ; for its work is preparatory to that event. But it is announced to the inhabitants of the earth by solemn proclamation, based on definite time and confirmed by an immutable oath. The time must therefore be given rightly. Whenever, in fulfillment of Revelation 14:6, 7, the announcement is made, “The hour of His judgment is come,” the time must be truthfully given. And certainly when the angel of Revelation 10 swears to the fulfillment of time, that time must there expire. Yet in each case, there is a further work of prophesying or proclaiming truth to the children of men.
These scriptures can never have their fulfillment by a succession of time messages, each disproving the truth of its predecessor and each being in turn disproved by the one which succeeds it. When God gives these announcements, they will be rightly given, though they are to be followed by the proclamation of other truths before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Those time movements which follow the genuine and which repeat themselves again and again in the persistent effort to fix the time of Christ’s advent never can be in fulfillment of the solemn announcement, “The hour of His judgment is come,” or of the solemn oath that time should be no longer; for these later time movements are but a succession of efforts made to fix the definite time of Christ’s advent, though that is not revealed in the Bible, and though each movement is based upon the failure of all which have preceded it. But the genuine is given for the purpose of announcing the investigative judgment; and its truthfulness being attested by the oath of the angel, it will never be retracted to make way for successive announcements of the time of Christ’s revelation. The opening of the heavenly temple and the final work therein we will now consider.
The investigative judgment, the finishing of the work of human probation, the close of Christ’s priesthood, and His coronation upon His own throne are events which transpire in the days of the voice of the seventh angel when he begins to sound. They precede the revelation of Christ in the clouds of heaven and are preparatory to that grand event. The field of vision during this closing period of human probation is not simply the earth, where, indeed, the fierce battle between truth and error is being fought, but the temple of God in heaven is opened to our view and becomes the theme of prophetic discourse. (See Revelation 11:19; 15:5.)
We have learned that the priesthood of Christ must continue till He has secured the acquittal of His people at the tribunal of His Father, where their sins are blotted out and themselves accounted worthy of eternal life. It is at this very time and place that the Saviour changes from His priestly to His kingly office. Hence, wherever our Lord closes His priestly office, there must be the place of the judgment session described in Daniel 7.