Delivered at Toronto, Canada.
J. N. Darby.
What I intend speaking of this evening, and the idea of which is given in this chapter in allegorical expressions, is, first, the gathering up of the church of God, the heavenly saints, to be with Christ; and then, secondly, if the time allows, the promises which we have, and thereby the infallible certainty of the restoration of the Jews to their place as a nation upon the earth. Both connect themselves - otherwise it would be impossible to go into the whole subject this evening - with the manifestation of judgments in this world: only that the taking up of the saints is the taking them out of the way of those judgments. On the contrary, the Jews who are to remain on the earth, and other Gentiles also, when they come to those judgments, must pass through them, as Lot passed through, and from all that happened to Sodom, making his escape, yet so as by fire, while Abraham looked on upon the judgments that fell on the guilty cities of the plain. So also Noah was saved, passing through the flood, while Enoch was taken up to heaven. Those two cases are spoken of as analogous to what shall be at the coming of the Son of man. We have in these two cases the two things of which I have spoken - the one class of persons out of the reach and out of the way altogether of the judgments that are coming, and the other class passing through those judgments which destroyed the great body of men, and thus escaping them. I have said that this class consists of the Jews and some Gentiles also; but I do not enter into details on that point at present - I wish now merely to present the general thought.
242 We saw, last evening, that the church forms the centre of the heavenly glory - under Christ, of course, who is the centre of everything - and that the Jews are the centre of the earthly dominion, the earthly blessings. This is what gives their importance to the two points on which, if time allow, I shall dwell this evening - that is, the taking the saints in the last time to be with the Lord Himself in heaven, and their sharing His own glory and blessedness; and then the Jews brought into blessing with this earth, as reigned over by Christ, and not reigning with Him, but still a great nation on the earth. These two facts are the two great centres of God's ways.
In the chapter we have read you have first Christ Himself and the church figured in the man-child; and then, in the woman which flees from persecution for twelve hundred and sixty days, you have the Jewish remnant - those who are spared in the time of judgment but are not yet brought into glory. It thus brings before you the two subjects of which I have spoken. And I add this, that the consideration of the blessing of the church will lead us necessarily to another point; and that is, that what is called a general resurrection, common to all together - and I state it now that we may get fast hold of the idea at once - is a thing entirely unknown to Scripture.
243 I do not deny that it was the notion entertained among the Jews, at least by the Pharisees, that all Jews at all events (as for the Gentiles they looked upon them as dogs) would rise again together; but our Lord corrected this notion. A right conception on this point is necessarily connected with our understanding the taking up of the church to heaven, because those saints who are dead must be raised for that. When I say "saints," I mean all the saints, those of the Old Testament, as well as those under the New Testament, dispensation.
And I mention another point for those persons who are not familiar with these subjects, and that is, that God is not now dealing with this world - providentially of course, He governs all; but that He is not dealing with this world as He afterwards will, at this time while Christ is sitting at His right hand in heaven, and while He is gathering the joint-heirs of Christ to reign with Him when He takes the inheritance. He alone knows at what moment this will be fulfilled. Then, when He hath put Christ's foes under His footstool, Christ will rise up from His Father's throne, and take His own throne. But, while Christ sits on His Father's throne, the Holy Ghost having been sent down, consequent on His ascension, He is gathering out of the world a people for His name, to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.
This lapse of time, this parenthesis in the ways of God, is brought in, in the most distinct way, at the end of Daniel 9; and I refer to it because we should never understand God's dealings with mankind, unless we get hold of this. At the end of Daniel 9 you find the Spirit of God shewing a certain period which was to elapse before Jerusalem got its full blessing; and you will see the reference that is made to what I was calling the parenthesis, or lapse of time, during which the Jews were all set aside. At verse 24 it is said, "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times." That took place: you know it was forty and six years going on. "And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off" - the threescore and two weeks, with the other seven, making sixty-nine - "but not for himself"; or rather, instead of this, take what is in the margin, which is undoubtedly the true sense, "and shall have nothing." He did not take the kingdom at all; He was cut off and got nothing; in heaven He got all the glory, but He got nothing as regards what we are speaking of. "And the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." That is - what almost everyone is familiar with - Titus coming and destroying the city, until there was not left one stone upon another that was not thrown down.
244 But there is still a week left - we have only had sixty-nine weeks; and here, without entering into details, is the great principle I want you to get hold of. We have the sixty-nine weeks, and then there is a lapse. Messiah comes, is rejected, and is cut off, does not get the kingdom at all, gets nothing - He gets the cross it is true, but that is all He gets. He ascends to heaven, and therefore our hearts must follow Him up to heaven, while He is there. Then comes the time of the end.
"And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week." For remark what was said before, "unto the end of the war desolations are determined." As to the time all is left vague; these desolations are to go on for no one knows how long after the destruction of Jerusalem, the Messiah having gone and taken nothing. "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations" - that is, idolatry: "abominations" mean idolatry in the Old Testament - "he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."
There then we get this simple but very important fact as to the interpretation of prophecy - that there was a term of seventy weeks, which would come upon the holy city - upon the Gentiles too, but specially the Jews - until all prophecy about them was to be accomplished; but when the sixty-nine weeks had elapsed, Messiah comes, is cut off - that is actually fulfilled - and takes nothing; and there go on wars, etc., and the city is destroyed; and then there run on the times of the Gentiles; and blindness in part, according to Romans 11, has happened unto Israel, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
245 So again our Saviour, in Luke's gospel, after speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, says that Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Now that is what is still going on. Jerusalem is still trodden down. Christ has not taken to Him His great power and reign, spoken of in a chapter of the Revelation, preceding that which we have read. Jerusalem is still desolate, and the times of the Gentiles are still running on - I doubt not, running close unto their completion, but still running on; and Christ is sitting on the right hand of God the Father, according to that word, "Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool." But while He sits there, the Holy Ghost comes down from heaven to declare that, if man had rejected Him, heaven had accepted Him, and that (redemption having been accomplished, and the grace appeared that brings salvation) He sits there to associate with Himself the joint-heirs of whom we have been speaking.
But in the meantime the Jews are set aside, and the times of the Gentiles are running on, and nothing is fulfilled or brought to an accomplishment, because what He is doing is gathering the heavenly saints. Now those heavenly saints, as we saw in the last lecture, are completely identified with Christ Himself. He is not ashamed to call them brethren. He is the Firstborn among many brethren, who have been conformed to the image of God's Son, and are "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." For it is said, "no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones." And the saints too are the bride of Christ. What Eve was to Adam, that is the place the church of God fills in reference to Christ. And what He is doing now is gathering the saints to fill this place. It is not the fulfilling of God's dealings with the earth, but the gathering of saints for heaven; and while He is gathering saints for heaven, Christ sits at His right hand until His enemies be made His footstool. As the apostle expresses it in Hebrews 2, referring to Psalm 8, "but now we see not yet all things put under him; but we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour."
There is an extremely beautiful thought connected with this, which we cannot dwell on now, and that is, that if you look for the church in the Old Testament, you can only find Christ, but when you find the blessedness and glory which belongs to Christ, the church is the sharer of it. So that what we have to see in connection with the fulfilment of the prophecies of God is, that previous to this the church is to be taken out of the scene altogether, because He cannot begin these dealings with the Gentiles in the last week until the gathering of the saints to be heirs with Christ is over. Until He has got the heirs, Christ cannot take the inheritance; and therefore, all the dealings of God (or of Christ, if you please who is the power of God) - all these dealings of God with the world - we do not speak of His providence, of course, for not a sparrow falleth to the ground without Him - but all the direct dealings of God with the world through the Jews are suspended until the church is taken up.
246 But you never find in prophecy, until the end of Revelation - you never find the church revealed in prophecy, except in connection with Christ. I may give you some instances of this. For example, I have no doubt that the "man-child" spoken of in the chapter that we have been reading, includes the church as well as Christ. But it is Christ that is principally meant; for the church would be nothing without Christ, it would be a body without a head. It is Christ who has been caught up, but the church is included; for whenever He begins to act publicly (even as regards the casting down of Satan), He must have His body, His bride with Him; He must have His brethren, His joint-heirs. If you examine what we find here, you will see that the church is certainly included. You read "And she brought forth a man-child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God and to his throne." The man-child is to rule all nations with a rod of Iron, but there is an interruption. And as we have seen that Christ came to this earth, was cut off, and took nothing, we get the other side of the picture here. He takes nothing, but is caught up to God and His throne, and sits at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens
This sitting at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens belongs personally to Christ, but when it comes to ruling the nations with a rod of iron, the saints are associated with Him The quotation is from Psalm 2, where it is said "Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession: thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." That is not asked yet. And He has prayed for the saints, not for the world - "I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me." He only intercedes for the world when He asks for dominion over them, and, of course, it will be given Him - it is in God's counsels that it will; and He will take judgment in hand, the rod of iron. But then the saints will judge the world too; that is positively revealed, "Know ye not that we shall judge angels? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" And not only is this stated in the general, but in the detail, especially as to the rod of iron. At the end of Revelation 2 you will find that this is given to the church, exactly as it is given to Christ. "He that overcometh, and keepeth my words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers; even as I received of my Father." And the same thing is said in Daniel 7, "Until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High" (the saints who will be in the heavenly places with Christ, when Christ comes) - the "rod of iron" being there spoken of as "judgment." That is not the most blessed part: the blessed part is to be with Him; but it is true, and it is part of what we have to look for. And so in Revelation 20, where this time is spoken of, "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them."
247 How sadly has the sense of this blessedness and glory of the saints been lost! I was speaking of it on the last occasion - their identification with Christ, their being joint-heirs, members of His body, His bride. The sense of all this has dropped away from the church. It is common to say that it is enough to lie at the foot of the cross. Now to me it is a blessed thing to see a person coming to the foot of the cross; but it is dreadful to stay there, because for a person to do so is the same as saying that he does not own that the whole thing is accomplished. It is a want of boldness "to enter into the holiest, through the veil, that is to say, Christ's flesh." It is the same as saying that he is unfit to pass through the veil to be a priest in the holy place. He says, "No; I must stay outside." I say that is a very wretched condition to be in. He must come to the cross in order to get in; that is perfectly true. And it is blessed to see a person who has been careless so coming; he can never get in any other way. But always to stay outside - always to say "I am staying at the foot of the cross, and do not know whether I have the right to enter in or not" - that is a great mistake. If you say, you cannot tell whether you are redeemed or not, how then can you call yourself a Christian? Christians are redeemed, of course. Why then do you take the name of Christians, and yet remain unable to say whether you are redeemed?
248 In this chapter of Revelation which we have read, you have it positively revealed that it is finished with the saints, as regards all their trials and all their accusations, before the time that the trial of the Jewish people begins in the last half-week of Daniel. In the first six verses of the chapter, you have the statement of those who are concerned in these last days. First, you have the "woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." This, I have no doubt, is the Jewish people, nothing else; because Christ is not born of the church, but looked at as reigning and glorious in the world, was born of the Jews, "of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came." There is no kind of sense in the idea of Christ's being born of the church. Being "clothed with the sun" is being clothed with supreme authority. She has the moon - all her previous reflected state - under her feet: "and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." Twelve is the number always used to indicate power - the power of God's administration among men. You have the twelve apostles sitting on twelve thrones - the city built on twelve foundations, and having twelve gates, etc., the number being used to express administrative power - God's administrative power over man. Well, Christ was to be born. "And she being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered." And so the Jews say, in Isaiah 9, "To us a son is born." The church cannot say that at all. We can say that we believe He is the Son of God; but we do not say He is born to us. As concerning the flesh, He was born into Israel.
Then you come to the opposing power - the power of Satan - exercised through the Roman Empire. "And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born." That is the power of Satan resisting Christ, and seeking to put an end to His power. He could not, of course, but he seemed to have done it for a while.
249 "And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron" - clearly Christ - "and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne." He did not take the power - He took nothing, but was caught up to God.
Then, having seen who are the persons engaged, you get the woman's place, "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand, two hundred and three-score days." You will see now the reason why I referred to the gap, with regard to all God's dealings with the world, which there always is in prophecy - without, however, giving any dates at all-between the time that Christ is taken up, and the time that the church is taken up; and they are both united together. As I have said, it is not merely a notion of men, but it is positively revealed, as God's own order in Daniel 9, that Messiah was to be revealed, and cut off, and take nothing; that blindness in part happens to Israel till the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled; and that then the Jews would be brought to repentance, as Jesus Christ says in the gospel of Matthew, "Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
Thus we get the church, united with Christ, taken up to God, and the woman fled into the wilderness. Now we come to the progress of events, not as regards the church at all, but as regards Israel and the world. "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven." The whole power of Satan will then be cast out. That is in direct contrast with the result of the church's warfare: "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." This is the conflict we have to wage as to our title to sit in heavenly places with Christ; and the result of this spiritual conflict is, that the power of Satan is cast out. In the prophecy we are considering this is all over, and you see the joy there is in consequence among the dwellers in heaven, the heavenly saints.
250 "And the great dragon was cast out - that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ, for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea!"
We find here, that while all the heavenly people, that is, the church of God (because our conversation is in heaven and we are one with Christ in heaven) are called upon to rejoice that the accuser of the brethren is cast down - that they have overcome him - at this very moment when these heavenly saints have overcome, it is just the time when Satan comes down to earth, having great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time. Thus we get entire rejoicing in what is heavenly, and at the same time most desperate woe in what is earthly. This makes the contrast very distinct and definite between these heavenly ones and the dwellers on earth, who, all through the Revelation, are contrasted with those persons who are heirs of heaven, whose citizenship is in heaven.
"Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child." We see here very clearly that by the woman it is not the church of God that is meant, because the church of God is called upon to rejoice on account of all their afflictions being over, and the accusations against them past. They are called upon to rejoice because they have overcome the accuser by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. But this woman is in a different position, all the rage of Satan being now directed against her. The church of God has been taken out of the way, and Satan has another object for his great wrath, namely, the Jewish people. This is for them the time of great tribulation that is elsewhere spoken of. Christ said to the Jews, "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." If they would not take the true Christ, they must have a false Christ.
251 I have read this chapter of the Revelation, in order to shew that while one class of persons - those associated with Christ - are caught up to God, and there is triumph and rejoicing and gladness amongst them when Satan is cast down, that is the very time when tribulation begins on the earth. "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent." There in the wilderness, in this time of tribulation, God takes care of her. She makes her escape from the tribulation, the figure being employed that she receives this great power of flight, as if the wings of an eagle: and God secures her, not as He did Abraham who saw the destruction of Sodom from the top of the mount, but as He secured Lot who was saved by flight. The people in heaven rejoicing are like Abraham on the top of the mount; while the woman upon the earth is like Lot, saved by God giving her the great wings of an eagle to escape while all this great rage and power of Satan is being displayed. "And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth." That is, providential means were used for the purpose of saving the Jews from the violent assaults made upon them. "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
I shall now refer to a more literal prophecy, which will help us to understand this same interval, these times of the Gentiles, so far as they are going on now - because I have no doubt that they began in the days of Nebuchadnezzar. Turn to Isaiah 8, where, after the circumstances of the moment having been spoken of as leading to it, it is said, "Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself" - a blessed testimony to the deity of the Lord Jesus as Jehovah - "and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary, but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence, to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken." The Lord, you know, spoke of His being a stumbling-stone, and said that whosoever should fall on that stone should be broken "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples And I will wait upon the Lord that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me." This, you remember, is quoted in Hebrews 2. Although God is hiding His face from the house of Jacob, Christ says, "I will wait upon the Lord"; or, as the Septuagint has it, "I have put my trust in the Lord." And again, "Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me." These are the disciples of Christ in all ages.
And then, in chapter 9, you have the close of all that - "For that hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end; upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth, even for ever."
252 Here, then, we have the fact of Christ's coming and being a stone of stumbling, and He says, "I will wait upon the Lord that hideth his face from the house of Jacob." Then follows a period of dreadful sorrow for Israel, "They shall look unto the earth, and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness." And then comes - what? A dreadful battle; only it has the fire of God's judgment in it - "this shall be with burning and fuel of fire" - which is a figure of God's judgment. And then it is said, "Unto us a child is born." Christ is this child that was born; but when He comes back, it shall be said of Him, as in Isaiah 53, "we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."
253 What I refer to the passage now for is, the revelation it gives of the same fact of Christ's coming and being rejected; His waiting upon the Lord that hides His face from the house of Jacob; and of the fact that at last He goes forth in glorious power, in this terrible battle of God's judgment, "In righteousness doth he judge and make war." And then it is said, "unto us a child is born, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the mighty God," and the like, and He sits upon the throne of David to give peace upon the earth. All this comes after the time that He had been waiting. His waiting was consequent on His rejection, while God was hiding His face from the house of Jacob, as He is doing now. But that is not for ever. I refer to it that if possible our souls may get hold of the ways of God, the framework as it were of His plan: that is, that Christ comes, is rejected, and is caught up to God; and then He sits on His Father's throne, but He does not yet take to Him His great power and reign. Meanwhile the times of the Gentiles are running on. God hath hidden His face from the house of Jacob, and Jerusalem is trodden down of the Gentiles till the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. And, while that is going on, while there is that parenthesis in God's ways as regards the government of the world, Christ, having sent down the Holy Ghost, is gathering His joint-heirs to be associated with Him when He does take His great power.
Now let us turn to the accomplishment of this, as regards the church, that is, its being taken up to be associated with Christ; and then, if time permits, we shall turn to the other part, the accomplishment as regards the Jews. My object will be to shew that the resurrection of the saints is a thing, in nature, time, and character, entirely apart from, and (except in the fact of its being a resurrection) in every particular the opposite of, the resurrection of the wicked - that the resurrection of the saints is a special favour of God, such as was manifested in Christ's own resurrection, because they are saved already, because they have got eternal life, because they are the delight of God, not as they are in themselves, but as they are in Christ - that they are taken up and dealt with apart, by themselves, as not belonging to this world's government, except in so far as they are kings of it; whereas the wicked (while it is quite true that they are raised, for Christ will raise everybody) are raised, not however, because they are the delight of God, but because the contrary is the case - not because they have life in Christ, for they have not - but they are raised for judgment, which is nothing but condemnation. This is another part of the subject and a very solemn part of it, which I cannot dwell upon now, that the judgment of the nations and of the earth is for condemnation.
254 I purpose now to go through all the passages which speak of the resurrection, and to shew you that the resurrection of the saints is an entirely distinct thing in nature, time, character, and everything else - that it is the consequence of redemption, so that now we can look for it, because we are saved - that it will happen when Christ comes, whereas, when the wicked are raised, Christ will not come at all; but that when He comes He will raise the saints, and the saints only, to be with Him in blessedness and glory. Mark, beloved friends, how solemn and practical this is for all of us - that the distinction is so clearly made, that, where the life of Christ is, where we have a part in the redemption of Christ, when Christ comes, He will take us up into glory with Himself - that we who are redeemed and have eternal life shall appear with Him in glory; whereas, where there is not repentance and a receiving of Christ into the heart, this will not be the case; but when the time comes, those who are in that condition will be raised solely for judgment, and that while all are to appear before Christ, wherever a person has to do with judgment, he is infallibly condemned.
Hence you find the words which are familiar to all of you, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy sight shall no flesh living be justified." Beloved friends, you can feel how important this is. It applies the subject we are now considering directly to the state of our souls. There is no judgment without condemnation. No man with whom God enters into judgment can be saved; for sentence has been pronounced already, as plainly as God can pronounce it - "There is none righteous, no, not one." I do not know what the great white throne can say plainer than that. Such is the declaration which is brought home to our hearts; but before the day of judgment which shall execute the wrath, the wrath to come, Christ comes to deliver us from it, and wherever He is received into the heart we are delivered from it, and are placed with Himself - He is our righteousness, our life, everything.
Before referring to the passages which speak of the resurrection, I will only add in passing that in the very nature of things the judgment of God can never be anything else than condemnation. I speak of the judgment upon men, not the rebel angels, although it is true of them also. We have made a judge of God - and how? By sin. God could not judge Adam, if he remained as God created him; for if He judged the thing that He created, He would be judging Himself. He could not judge him unless he sinned. Suppose I made this desk, and I began to judge it, I should be judging myself, the workman who made it. God made Adam such as he was, and saw him to be very good; and while Adam remained such, God could not judge him. What brought him into judgment was, that Adam left God, listened to the devil, and turned to sin. What then can judgment be but condemnation? God may save us out of it through Christ - that is another thing; but our prayer must be "Enter not into judgment with us, for there is none righteous, no, not one."
255 Now the resurrection of the saints is the fruit and final power of Christ's deliverance; whereas the other resurrection is the righteous execution of judgment against those who have hardened their necks against God's mercy in Christ, treasuring up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. First, then, as to the nature and character of the resurrection of the saints, turn to Romans 8:11 - "If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you" - that is, if you are Christians (for if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His), "He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." This is not true of the wicked. The reasons why they and we, if we are saints, are raised, are totally different; for we are raised in virtue of the Holy Ghost dwelling in us - that is, because we are saved and sealed by the Spirit of God already. There, then, we get the principle.
Now turn to John 5 and see how strongly it brings this out. It says nothing as to time, which is comparatively immaterial; but it is a most solemn and instructive passage with regard to the point we are considering. Christ says, at verse 21 - "For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." They both quicken; but the Father does not judge: all judgment is committed to the Son, "that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father" - even the wicked themselves, they cannot help doing so. "He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life." You see that after He had said the Father and Son quicken, but judgment is given to the Son, He puts it to us which we are to have. Am I to be the subject of judgment? That is what He is asking us here.
256 "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life" (it is given to him), "and shall not come into condemnation" (the same word in the Greek as stands for judgment), "but is passed from death unto life." Christ has exercised His life-giving power, and is not going to deny it by bringing into judgment those upon whom it has been exercised. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live" - by which, no doubt, is meant spiritual quickening. "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. 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" - which is the same word ("judgment") again.
I do not want to insist on the word "damnation." It is damnation no doubt, but I do not insist upon that word, because the point all through is that it is 'judgment'; it is a resurrection of life, and a resurrection of judgment. How far they may be apart is another point, which has nothing to do with this fact, that there is a resurrection of life, and a resurrection of judgment. Where there has been spiritual quickening, where they have everlasting life, they shall not come into judgment, but have passed from death unto life; but then, if dead as to their bodies, they must be raised up to make that life complete, because they must have bodies in unison and in harmony with the state into which they enter. And on the other hand, they that have done evil shall come forth unto the resurrection of judgment.
It is said, "The hour is coming, in the which," etc.; but this is really nothing as to the two things being at the same time. It is no more than if I were to say, "the hour of Napoleon's greatness," meaning the period during which he was great, as contrasted with the period of his fall and littleness. So here, when it is said, "the hour is coming and now is," we know that it has already lasted since Christ spoke of it, for more than eighteen hundred years. The real intention of the expression is, to contrast the time of Christ's life with the time since; it is the same as saying there is a time for quickening and a time for judgment, and therefore a time for raising up. Here, then, are two distinct characters of Christ's power - His giving life, and His executing judgment; those to whom life is given (gracious, spiritual life) have part in the resurrection of life; those to whom it is not given have part in the resurrection of judgment or condemnation.
257 You thus have the great principle that is involved, and I now turn to other passages which illustrate other parts of the subject. In Luke 20 the Sadducees put the case that, according to the law of Moses, if a man, having a wife, died without children, his brother should take the wife; and they supposed the case of seven brothers marrying her, and asked whose wife should she be in the resurrection. It was a quibble they raised, tempting the Lord; and Jesus answered them, "The children of this world marry and are given in marriage. But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead," etc. Now what is the meaning of this - "accounted worthy to obtain the resurrection from the dead?" You see it is accounted a special favour. If you only get the resurrection from the dead, you will be "equal unto the angels." It cannot be meant that, if people are raised to be condemned, they are equal to the angels. But it is said, If you get the resurrection, you will be equal to the angels - "And are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection." It is quite impossible that this can be said of those who are raised only to condemnation.
Again if you turn to 1 Corinthians 15, you will find that nothing can be more plainly set forth than this is. At verse 22 it is said, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order." Then we get the order of the resurrection, and this is just what we want. Let us see then if it is to be a common thing, in which all classes are to go up together. "Every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." Nothing can be more plain. "Then cometh the end." There comes another time when others shall be raised, but it is they who are Christ's at His coming.
258 And what I affirm is, that not merely can this be proved from Scripture, but that there never is the slightest appearance of anything else - that this fact I am speaking about is linked up with the very foundation truths of redemption. Many have redemption who do not see it - I admit this fully; but nevertheless it is the effect of redemption, and you can see the light that is thus thrown on the fact of my not coming into judgment, because I have passed from death unto life, as stated in John 5, and what the church has lost by losing sight of that.
Again, in Philippians 3, the apostle speaks of it as his own hope, "And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith; that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection" - that is a present thing you see - "and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." Now what is it to which so much importance is attached, that the apostle desires to be made like Christ, if by any means he may attain something very special - the resurrection of the dead? When the apostle uses such language, is it possible that all, both the wicked and the righteous, should be jostled up together in the resurrection, leaving it to be found out afterwards which are the righteous and which are the wicked? The truth is, it is a word used by the apostle in a new sense, in which it is not used in classical Greek, to express a being raised up from among the dead, on purpose to distinguish the raising of the saints from out of or among the dead, from the raising of the wicked.
I do not like to deal in critical points, but the fact is that in a number of passages the power is lost, because the word is translated "resurrection of the dead," instead of "resurrection from among the dead." This was the character of Christ's resurrection, when He was declared to be the Son of God with power by being raised from among the dead. And we shall be like Christ, in that He will raise us up from among the dead, because we have got the Spirit of Christ, and life from Christ.
The reason why I dwell on this is, because it goes right to the root of the question of our redemption. Nothing can be so absurd - forgive me for saying so - than the idea of what is called the general judgment. Not that we shall not all appear before Christ - this of course is true. Take Paul himself. He has been in heaven one thousand eight hundred years, absent from the body and present with the Lord; are you going to judge him after that? He is in heaven because he was entitled to go there; and to speak of judgment after that is absurd on the face of it. To do so only shews that the church of God, even true saints, have lost the sense of being redeemed already. If Christ's dying has put away my sins, and given me a place with Himself; if, having received the Holy Ghost, I am joined to the Lord as one spirit; am I, thus joined to Christ, still to be judged? To say so is to forget the true place which we hold.
259 I turn now to the proof of this. Look back for a moment to 1 Corinthians 15, where, having got the order, to shew further how entirely and distinctly it is saints and none else who are raised, we find, "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory." How can you apply that to a general resurrection? "Raised in glory" - can you apply that to the wicked? It is impossible to read one sentence about the resurrection without seeing - not that the others will not be raised, but - that it is distinctly and definitely the resurrection of the saints that is spoken of, because they are redeemed and have life in Christ.
Take again 1 Thessalonians 4 which we quoted another evening with reference to the Lord's coming, and now with reference to which we have already seen, that it is "they who are Christ's at his coming." At verse 16 it is said, "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" - and no one else. This is the plain language uniformly held. It is indeed the capital truth of the New Testament, that as Christ, by resurrection from the dead was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, so we through grace are (not like Christ in Person but by adoption) also declared to be the sons of God, by attaining, when the time comes, the resurrection of the body.
The only point that I refer to the Revelation for is, that there will be a thousand years between the two resurrections. But, whether it be a thousand years or a thousand days, the point which I feel it to be important to insist upon is, that they are two totally distinct things - that the resurrection of the saints is God's taking those He delights in, who are already redeemed and quickened by the Spirit, because His Spirit dwells in them His taking them to be with Christ in glory; whereas the other, whether a thousand days or a thousand years after, is the resurrection to judgment - quite a different thing.
260 There is one passage more I will refer you to, in order to shew how the same truth is everywhere affirmed - to John 14. "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." That is the way in which Christ takes us up. He will take us up to be with Himself at His coming. He comes again, and receives us to Himself, that where He is, there we may be also.
There is one passage which people quote to prove the erroneous notion about a general resurrection. They cannot apply to that purpose any of the passages which speak of the resurrection; but they quote Matthew 25 where the division between the sheep and the goats is spoken of. Now there is not a single syllable there about the resurrection. In chapter 24 our Lord has been speaking of the dealings with the Jewish people until Christ comes. Afterwards, in three parables, He describes His dealings with the saints; and then lastly He describes His dealings with the nations; and then He speaks of the time when He comes in His glory to sit upon the throne of His glory, and to gather all nations - the Gentiles, if you please, for it is the same word - before Him to judge them. And this is the judgment, whose existence people have strangely forgotten - that there is a judgment of the quick as well as of the dead - a judgment of the living (and a terrible judgment it is too).
I now refer to the passage which speaks of the thousand years. I went over the other passage first, because people are apt to think that this "first resurrection" is merely the explanation of some symbolical ideas which we find in the Revelation; but, as I have shewn you, there is no passage in Scripture referring to the resurrection, which does not shew that there is a first resurrection of the saints. Turn, then, now to Revelation 20.
But remark, that in the preceding chapters you find that Babylon has been destroyed - she in whom "was found the blood of prophets and of saints." Then you have the judgment of the wicked on the earth, which I do not enter into now; and then the marriage of the saints and the Lamb, and their coming with Him when He comes to destroy the beast. "The armies which were in heaven followed him." Whenever Christ comes, His heavenly saints will come along with Him, as it is said, "the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee"; and "the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints"; and "when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we also shall appear with him in glory." Here, in Revelation, they are seen in figurative language, coming forth, clothed in white garments, which is the righteousnesses of the saints. I refer to this merely to shew the place they hold. Then Christ comes forth as King of kings, and Lord of lords, with His saints, and the beast and false prophet are taken and destroyed.
261 Then Satan is bound, and then John says, "I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." There we find the saints, those to whom judgment is given, and not only so but who execute judgment, sitting on thrones, and reigning with Christ a thousand years. "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished; this is the first resurrection." Mark how the whole statement shews the perfect absurdity - and it is a sad and solemn thing, the influence which this delusion exercises on people's minds - the perfect absurdity of what is called the spiritual millennium. Not that the Holy Ghost will not be there, for He will; but you see now, before all this, the marriage of the Lamb is come with the church, the bride of Christ; the whole as regards the church is complete; and Christ comes forth to execute judgment on the beast and the false prophet, accompanied by the armies of the saints, the bride having made herself ready, and the marriage of the Lamb having taken place before that.
And yet people are looking for the millennium as a state of the church down here! I admit that it is presented in a figure; but this is certain, that if the bride is gone up, and the marriage of the Lamb is come, it is not the state of the church down here that is meant. For we read also that Satan is to be bound then; whereas the character given to us while down here is that we are to overcome Satan. "Satan will be bruised under your feet shortly." Our place here is that we have to wrestle, not with flesh and blood, but with spiritual wickedness in heavenly places; whereas when the Lamb comes out with His saints, Satan is bound, and then begins the period of a thousand years.
262 I wish to refer you to the connection of the passage in 1 Corinthians 15 with Isaiah 25, because the connection of these two things - the resurrection of the saints, and the restoration of Israel - will thereby be strongly brought out The apostle says that "when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." If you turn to Isaiah 25, you will see that this takes place at the time which we call the millennium, when, the Jews being restored to their place on the earth, there is that era of blessedness among the nations which is commonly called the millennium. It is there said, "Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud; the branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low. And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory." That is at the time the resurrection takes place; for it is said in Corinthians, "Then shall come to pass the saying which is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." And thus it appears that the time when the resurrection takes place is the time when the Lord restores Israel, when He establishes Israel's place in Zion, and takes away the veil from off the face of all nations.
It is said, "Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity? For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." This is the condition of the earth when this time of which I am speaking comes - "They shall labour in the very fire and shall weary themselves for very vanity." Again, it is said, "Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord. Lord, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them." We thus see that, though favour is shewn to the wicked, they will not learn righteousness. But "when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness."
263 I am adding these few texts to shew that the millennium is not spiritual in the sense in which it is often understood. Whenever God speaks of the earth being full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, and the like, it is always in connection with judgment. You find this in Numbers, when God said He would destroy Israel, that in connection with that it is written "All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord"; and you find the same thing in the passage from Habakkuk, which I have quoted. You never find the idea presented of the gospel going forth and bringing all nations under its influence. In Romans 11 the apostle puts it in this way, "For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved." That is, he treats that expectation of the church not being cut off, as being wise in their own conceit.
Again, in another passage it is declared that what gathers together to battle the kings of the earth and of the whole world will be three unclean spirits that 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. I do not now go into the details of that; but this must be evident to you, that when it is stated that these three unclean spirits go forth to gather the earth and the whole world to the battle of that great day of God Almighty, it cannot be the gathering of the saints that is spoken of - it is a gathering of the powers of Satan.
I have now gone through all the passages in the New Testament, which, so far as I am aware, speak of the resurrection; and I think it must be as plain to you as anything could possibly be, that all those passages shew very distinctly that the resurrection of the saints is an entirely distinct thing from the resurrection of the wicked, being founded on their redemption and their having received life from Christ, the power of which is shewn by the resurrection of their bodies; that that resurrection of life is definitely distinguished from the resurrection of judgment by a thousand years elapsing between the two; and that, while the first is the fruit of redemption, the other is the fruit of the rejection of redemption.
264 Time will not allow me to enter on the subject of the restoration of the Jews. But let me just return, in a few words of application, to these solemn truths, that, before judgment comes, Christ has come to save; that, if He entered into judgment, nobody could be saved; that, whenever He enters into judgment, no flesh living can be justified, because there is none righteous, no, not one; but that, because this is true, the Lord has sent a perfect salvation in order that we might escape the judgment - a salvation that delivers us from the wrath to come; that there is wrath coming, but that there is deliverance from it; and that when God interferes in this way to deliver us from that wrath to come, He does not merely save us from wrath, but gives us a place with His own Son. Thus not merely are our sins forgiven, but we are united to Christ by the one Spirit, Christ being the Firstborn among many brethren, who are the members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones; so that He nourisheth the church as a man nourisheth and cherisheth His own flesh, and prays, "Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am"; so that when He appears, we also shall appear with Him; and if He is the Judge, the saints too shall sit with Him on thrones, and judgment shall be given to them; for, says the apostle, "Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?"
Now is that the thought, beloved friends, which you have of redemption? Have your souls believed that this world is a condemned world? I know that the world will not bear this, but it must bear, when it rises to judgment, to hear that it is a condemned world. Individual souls are tried, but it is not true that the world is in a state of probation. Christ came to seek and to save that which is lost; and a man that is lost is not in a state of probation. When we are judged, we are judged of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. That is all a settled thing with the world.
How do your hearts take this up, that all this busy scene, in the midst of which you live, is a condemned world; that this is the world which said, "This is the heir, come, let us kill him"; that this world has rejected Christ, and that Christ has said, "Now is the judgment of this world"? He says, "The world seeth me no more"; and "when the Comforter is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment - of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more," etc.
265 But, because the world is thus condemned, there is offered to us redemption, a new life, a Second Adam instead of the first; and all the promises of God are in Him. There are no promises to men; but all the promises of God in Him are Yea, and in Him, Amen. When Adam sinned, the promise was not given to Adam - there was no promise given to Adam - it was to the Seed of the woman, that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. That is, the promise was given to the Second Adam, not to the first. And then, in Christ, we have not merely forgiveness, but glory. We are one with Christ, the bride of Christ, and have our place, not according to the demerits of the first Adam, but according to the merits of the Second Adam. Do you take hold of that blessed truth? The Lord give you to feel more deeply than you have ever felt before what it is to be in a world which has rejected the Lord; and then to know, with joyful hearts, that you yourselves have bowed and received Him as your Saviour, who in unspeakable love suffered and died for us.