Our Lord has three grand offices assigned Him in the Scriptures in the work of human redemption. When He was upon our earth at His first advent, He was that prophet of whom Moses spake in Deuteronomy 18:15–19. (See also Acts 3:22–26.) When He ascended up to heaven, He became a great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. (See Psalm 110; Hebrews 8:1–6.) But when He comes again, He is in possession of His kingly authority, as promised in the second psalm. It is by virtue of this office of King that He judges mankind. (See Matthew 25:34–40.) The transition from our Lord’s priesthood to His kingly office precedes His Second Advent. (See Luke 19:11, 12, 15.) It takes place when His Father sits in judgment, as described in Daniel 7:9–14.
The nature of the words addressed by the Father to the Son when He crowns Him King shows that coronation to be at the close of His priestly office. (See Psalm 2:6–9.) It is manifest that the giving of the heathen to the Son by the Father is not for their salvation but for their destruction. It could not, therefore, take place at the ascension of Christ when He entered upon His priesthood but must be when the work of that priesthood is finished. Daniel has placed the coronation of Christ at the Father’s judgment-seat, and to this fact the words of the second psalm perfectly agree. The priesthood of Christ is closed when the scepter of iron is placed in His hands; for when the wicked are given into the hands of Christ to be destroyed, it is plain that there is no further salvation for sinners. The coronation, which is described in Daniel 7:9–14, is simply the transition from the priesthood of Christ to His Kingly office.
It is plain that our Lord’s priesthood is brought to a conclusion at the time when the Ancient of Days sits in judgment. We need Him as Priest to confess our names at that tribunal and to show from the record of our past lives that w have perfected the work of overcoming so that our sins may, by the decision of the Father, be blotted out and our names retained in the book of life. But when the people of God have thus passed the decision of the investigative judgment, their probation is closed forever and their names, being found in the Book of Life when all that have failed to overcome are stricken therefrom, they are prepared for the standing up of Michael to deliver His people and to destroy all others with the scepter of His justice.
The priesthood of Christ continues till His enemies are given Him to be destroyed.
The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool. The LORD shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion; rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning; Thou hast the dew of Thy youth. The LORD that sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. The LORD at Thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, He shall fill the places with the dead bodies; He shall wound the heads over many countries. He shall drink of the brook in the way; therefore shall He lift up the head.” Psalm 110:1–7.
Closing Christ’s Intercession
These words are addressed by God the Father to Christ when He enters upon His priestly office and are equivalent to saying that in due time He should have His enemies given Him to destroy, viz., at the close of His work of intercession. For this reason it is that Paul represents Him as sitting at the Father’s right hand, in a state of expectancy. (See Hebrews 10:13.) But the words of the second psalm, bidding Him ask for the heathen, to destroy them, cannot be uttered till He finished His work of intercession. It appears that our Lord announces the close of His intercession by saying, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which if filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” Revelation 22:11. In response to this declaration of the Intercessor, announcing to His Father the close of His work, the Father bids the Son ask of Him the heathen that He may devote them to utter destruction. And in fulfillment of the Son’s request, the Father crowns Him King as described in Daniel 7:9–14, as He sits in judgment and commits the judgment into His hands.
Christ, as our High Priest, or Intercessor, sits at the right hand of the Father’s throne, i.e., He occupies the place of honor in the presence of One greater, till He is Himself crowned King when He takes His own throne.
The position of the Saviour as High Priest cannot be one invariable, fixed posture of sitting. Indeed, although Mark says (see Mark 16:19), concerning our Lord, that “He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God,” yet it is said of Stephen that “he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55, 56. The fact that Stephen saw our Lord standing at His Father’s right hand and that after this Jesus did personally appear to Saul to constitute him a witness of His resurrection, which, in order to be an apostle, he must be, is not inconsistent with the mandate of the Father, “Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.”
The Hebrew word yahshav, rendered sit in Psalm 110:1, is used an immense number of times in the Old Testament and is, in a very large proportion of these cases, rendered dwell. Thus, “Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain.” Genesis 13:12. (See also Genesis 45:10; 1 Samuel 27:7.) But it is to be observed that Abraham, Lot, Jacob, and David, the persons spoken of in the texts, who dwelled, or, as rendered in Psalms 110:1, who sat in the places named, were not, during the time in which they acted thus, immovably fixed to those several places but were capable of going and returning during the very time in question. And the Greek word kathizo, used in the New Testament for Christ’s act of sitting at the Father’s right hand, though more generally used in the sense of sitting, is also used precisely like yahshav, in the texts above.
Christ’s Work More than that of an Intercessor
When our Lord went away, it was not simply that He should act as Intercessor for His people; He also had another work to do. He says: “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:2, 3. We cannot doubt that this work is wrought under our Lord’s personal inspection, and it is performed during the period that He is at the Father’s right hand.
The expression, “right hand,” is especially worthy of attention. In defining the Hebrew word yahmeen, i.e., right hand, Gesenius says: “To sit on the right hand of the king, as the highest place of honor, e.g., spoken of the queen (1 Kings 2:19; Psalm 14:9); of one beloved of the king and vicegerent of the kingdom. Psalm 110:1.”
When our Lord spoke of going away to intercede for His people, He said: “I go unto the Father, for My Father is greater than I.” John 14:28. In fulfilling His office of Intercessor, or High Priest, He has assigned to Him the highest place of honor in the presence of a greater; for He sits on the right hand of His Father’s throne. He is not, however, to sustain this relation always. It lasts while He pleads for sinful man. When it ceases, the impenitent are to be made His footstool and the dominion, and glory, and kingdom being given Him, He sits down upon His own throne. (See Revelation 3:21.) This gift of the heathen to Christ is when the Father sits in judgment, as we have seen from Daniel 7:9–14. We can well understand that at this tribunal, the question is determined as to who has overcome; and that, being settled, all the others are given to Christ to be broken with His iron scepter. The determination of the cases of the righteous in showing that they are worthy to have their sins blotted out is the final work of our Lord as High Priest. When this is accomplished, His priesthood is closed forever; and He assumes His kingly throne to judge His enemies and to deliver and reward His saints.
The Beginning of Christ’s Work as King
The Saviour, being crowned King at the close of His priestly office, begins the exercise of His Kingly power by delivering His people and by bringing to trial, pronouncing judgment upon, and executing His enemies.
The one hundred and tenth psalm, though it speaks very distinctly of the priesthood of Christ, enters even more largely into the exercise of His kingly office. It very clearly reveals the fact that our Lord acts as Judge by virtue of His kingly authority. Thus verse 1 assigns to Him, as Priest, the place of honor at His Father’s right hand, limiting His priesthood, however, by an event which changes His office from Priest to King. Verse 2 states the very act of making Christ King makes His enemies His footstool. Thus it says: “The Lord shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion; rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies.” The first clause of this verse is parallel to Psalm 2:6, “Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion.” The heavenly Zion (see Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 14:1) is the place of Christ’s coronation. The last clause is the very words of the Father to the Son when He crowns Him King. This is sufficiently obvious from our common English version. But it is made still more evident from the French translation of David Martin in which the two clauses are connected by the words, “in saying.” Thus: “The Lord shall transmit out of Zion the scepter of Thy strength, in saying: Rule in the midst of Thy enemies.”
Our Lord being thus inducted into His Kingly office and proceeding to the exercise of His power against His enemies, the next verse states the sympathy of His people with this work: “Thy people shall be willing in the days of Thy power; in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning Thou hast the dew of youth.” Instead of “the day of Thy power,” Martin’s French Bible reads, “The day that Thou shalt assemble Thy army in holy pomp.” This is the time when the Son of man descends in power and great glory, and the armies of Heaven, i.e., all the holy angels, attend and surround Him. (See Matthew 24:30, 31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18; Revelation 19:11–21.) The people of God are to unite with Christ in His rule over the nations of wicked men. (See Revelation 2:26, 27; Psalm 2:6–9.) The morning of this verse must be the morning of the day which it mentions. One of the earliest events of that day is the resurrection of the just, when, like their Lord, they are born from the dead to life immortal. (See Revelation 20:4–6; Luke 20:35, 36; Colossians 1:18; Hosea 13:13, 14; 1 Corinthians 15:42–44, 51–54.)
The fourth verse of Psalm 110 confirms with an oath the priesthood of Christ. His prophetic office is the subject of solemn promise. (See Deuteronomy 18:15–18.)
The Limitations of Christ’s Priestly Office
His priesthood is established by an oath. (See psalm 110:4.) His kingly office is the subject of a fixed decree. (See Psalm 2:6, 7.) But the forever of His priesthood, as expressed by this verse, is limited by the fact that at a certain point of time, He is to cease to plead for sinful men and they are to be made His footstool.
It is important to observe that there are in this psalm two Lords, the Father and the Son. One in the original is called Jehovah; the other is called Adonai. The word LORD in small capitals is used for Jehovah. But the Lord at His right hand (verse 1) is Adonai, the Son. So we read of the Son in verse 5: “The Lord at Thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of His wrath.” This will evidently be in the battle of the great day of God Almighty. (See Revelation 6:15–17; 19:11–21; Isaiah 24:21–23.)
Our Lord does not thus destroy His enemies by virtue of His kingly office until He has first judged them, for one of the first acts of His kingly power is to proceed to the judgment of His enemies. He represents Himself as judging by reason of His kingly office. (See Matthew 25:34, 40.) It is in the exercise of this power that He judges His enemies. So Psalm 110:6 reads thus: “He shall judge among the heathen; He shall fill the places with the dead bodies; He shall wound the heads over many countries.” This is the work in the day of His power, and to this work His people shall consent. (See verse 3.) This is indeed the great day of His wrath, and none shall be able to stand except those whose sins are blotted out. The wicked kings of the earth shall fall before Him when He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
Human probation closes with the priesthood of Christ. Those who are found in their sins after our Lord has taken His kingly power must be destroyed as His enemies. His priesthood terminates when He has obtained the acquittal of His people and secured the blotting out of their sins at the tribunal of His Father. Then and there He is crowned King; and from that coronation scene, He comes as King to our earth to deliver all who at that examination of the books are accounted worthy to have part in the world to come and in the resurrection of the just. (See Daniel 7:9, 10; 12:1; Luke 20:35, 36; 21:36.)
The righteous dead are “accounted worthy” of a part in the resurrection to immortal life before they are raised from among the dead. (See Luke 20:35, 36; Philippians 3:11; 1 Corinthians 15:52; Revelation 20:4–6.) They awake with the likeness of Christ. (See Psalm 17:15.) We may be certain, therefore, that the investigation and decision of their cases is an accomplished fact prior to their resurrection; for that event is declarative of their final justification in the judgment.
But Like 21:36 uses the same expression both in Greek and in English respecting those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord that Luke 20:35, 36 uses respecting those who are asleep. As the latter, before the resurrection, are “accounted worthy” to be made like the angels, so the former are “accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” The things that shall come to pass before the deliverance of the saints are the events of the time of trouble such as never was. (See Daniel 12:1.) And those who are accounted worthy to escape these things are also worthy to stand before the Son of man at His appearing.
This act of accounting worthy does, therefore, relate to their eternal salvation and is performed before they enter that great time of trouble at which they are to be delivered; for that does not commence until the standing up of Michael, which is but another term for the coronation of Christ, or the beginning of His reign upon His own throne. But Michael, or Christ, does not take His throne till He has finished His work as Priest at the tribunal of His Father. It is at that tribunal that the righteous dead are accounted worthy of the resurrection to immortality and the righteous living are accounted worthy to escape the anguish of the time of trouble and to stand before the Son of man. Those only can be accounted worthy of this whose record in the book of God’s remembrance shows them to have been perfect overcomers.
The Saviour, while yet High Priest, confesses the names of such before His Father and the holy angels and secures the blotting out of their sins. Those who shall be raised to immortality and those who shall escape the things coming upon the earth and stand before the Son of man are severally counted worthy of this before the priesthood of Christ is closed. We cannot, therefore, doubt that with both these classes the investigation and decision of the judgment is passed before the Saviour takes the throne of His glory and begins the destruction of His enemies.
The righteous dead come first in the order of the Investigative Judgment; and while their cases are being examined and decided, probation continues to the living.
It is certainly most natural that the cases of the righteous dead should be the first to come up in the Investigative Judgment, for their names stand first in the book of God’s remembrance. Reason would therefore teach us that these cases must earliest come into account before God. But we are not left simply to the reasonableness of this order of events. We have direct proof in the messages of Revelation 14:6–14 that probation to the living continues after the judgment hour has actually arrived:
The First Angel ushers in the hour of God’s judgment by a solemn announcement to all of the inhabitants of the earth that it has actually commenced. But the Second and Third Angels, who unite with this proclamation, deliver their messages in the judgment hour itself; and they address themselves to men still in probation. We have already learned that God the Father sits in judgment, as described in Daniel 7, before the advent of our Lord to this earth. And in Revelation 14, the fact that the hour of God’s judgment has come is announced to the inhabitants of the earth by a mighty proclamation. The judgment scene of Daniel 7 is closed by the coronation of Christ; and the judgment hour of Revelation 14 is followed by our Lord being seen upon the white cloud with a crown upon His head, a proof that His priesthood has then given place to His kingly office. Each of these pertains to the closing events of this dispensation. There can be, therefore, no doubt that the hour of God’s judgment announced in Revelation 14 is the time when God the Father sits in judgment, as described in Daniel 7:9–14.