final events in God's scheme of salvation
In all God’s doings, there
is purpose. Everything is planned; everything adapted with the utmost
exactness of wisdom to the accomplishment of a predetermined end.
All his plans are characterised by illimitable comprehensiveness
of bearing, like his own mind, which takes into account the infinitude
of minute circumstance and remote contingency that surround us,
"knowing all things from the end to the beginning". He
is wise; he makes no mistakes, and he is economical - he wastes
no effort. He accomplishes as much as possible with as little as
possible. The result always transcends the means: the good always
overtops and outnumbers the evil.
When, therefore, we are called upon
to contemplate any declared purpose of God, we are presented with
a subject of study which is sure to have in it a depth and fertility
delightful to the mind to explore. This is true of God’s natural
wonders in creation, where we see all these principles abundantly
exemplified; how much more is it true of his schemes in relation
to the intelligent creatures whom he has formed in his own image?
Now the testimony of Scripture clearly
demonstrates the purpose of God to interfere in human affairs, to
overthrow every form of human government at present existing on
earth, and to establish a visible kingdom of his own. It shows that
when the time arrives, he will take the power out of the hands of
the erring mortals who now possess it, and transfer it to Jesus
Christ and his "called, chosen, and faithful" ones, who
will administer the affairs of the world in wisdom and righteousness.
This being the purpose, it now remains for us to enquire what is
the object of the purpose, and what its consummation.
The kingdom of God is itself but
an instrumentality - another step in the march of God’s beneficent
scheme - another stage in the accomplishment of his purpose to "gather
together in one all things in Christ" (Ephesians 1:10). It
only lasts for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6). What is to be
accomplished during this period? Paul says, "He (Jesus) must
reign, till he hath put all enemies under
his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death"
(1 Corinthians 15:25-26). Hence the millennial mission of Christ
is to subdue "all enemies", which he will accomplish within
the period of a thousand years. The "enemies" spoken of
are not necessarily personal enemies, for death is mentioned as
the last of them, which we know to be an event, and not a personal
adversary. Hence, we may understand Paul’s statement to mean
that "he must reign till he hath subdued every evil".
This being so, we have a starting point supplied to us in our endeavour
to understand the mission of the kingdom of God. It is to subdue
"all enemies", or every evil.
Now the "all enemies"
are of various kinds. The first class that will be subjected to
the subduing power of the kingdom are the governments of the earth.
"It shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms"
(Daniel 2:44). This is the first operation - to break up the existing
arrangement of things political - to take the government of mankind
out of the hands of mortals, and place it in the hands of the King
whom God has prepared as the all-wise, and all-just, and all-humane
"governor among the nations". Now it must be admitted
that this will be a great thing accomplished, a great enemy subdued;
for some of the greatest evils that affect the present state of
man originate in bad government.
The subjugation of the powers that
be will be its first achievement, resulting in the "kingdoms
of this world" becoming, "the kingdoms of our Lord and
of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15). For one government will
take the place of many: God in Christ will reign, instead of mortal
man. "The Lord shall be King over all the earth, in that day
shall there be one Lord, and his name one" (Zechariah 14:9).
All countries will come under the sway of his "rod of iron",
which will "break in pieces the oppressor". All inimical
institutions and practices will fall before the vigour which destroys
kingdoms; individual misdemeanours will be restrained, and individual
ways regulated, by the indomitable power that breaks dynasties.
A universal absolutism, wielded with wisdom and humanity, will rule
in general and detail - nothing too vast for its scope, nothing
too small for its notice: and thus will the world know the blessedness
of true government for the first time:
"He shall judge the poor
of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall
break in pieces the oppressor. They shall fear thee as long as
the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. He shall
come down like rain upon the mown grass; as showers that water
the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance
of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion
also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the
earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him;
and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and
of the isles shall bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba
shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him;
all nations shall serve him. For he shall deliver the needy when
he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall
spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.
He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence, and precious
shall their blood be in his sight. His name shall endure for ever;
his name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall
be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed" (Psalm
Then - "The earth shall be
filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters
cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14).
When the earth is filled with the
knowledge of the glory of the Lord, it follows that the ignorance
and barbarism of the present time will have vanished. But how is
this result to be practically attained? The machinery of the kingdom
of God is the answer. When the governments of the earth have been
overthrown, and divine authority established with firm hand in every
part of the globe, it will be an easy matter to enlighten and emancipate
the "people, nations, and languages" that will render
allegiance to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. This is done by a
process which will afford pleasure and honour to the rulers of the
age, while conferring benefit on the subject people. The centre
of activity is Jerusalem, as in the case of the gospel in the first
century. "At that time", says Jeremiah, chapter 3:17,
"they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD,
and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the
Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination
of their evil heart". Here is a turning from evil on the part
of the nations as the result of their subjection to Jerusalem, when
occupied as the throne of the Lord. What is the connection between
the two things? How does the one result from the other? The answer
is, because from Jerusalem emanates a teaching and a law which,
divinely administered, works an intellectual, moral, and social
reformation. This is evident from the following testimony:
"And many people shall go
and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his
ways, and we will walk in his paths:
for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word
of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among
the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat
their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning
hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither
shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:3-4).
Jerusalem, once more the centre
from which divine illumination will irradiate, will be so this second
time, on a larger and grander scale, and with more glorious results:
"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 vail that is spread over all nations. He
will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away
tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he
take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.
And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God: we have
waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have
waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation"
The feast is to be provided in Mount
Zion; this is the reason why the nations gather there to partake
of it. Their gathering, however, will not be simultaneous. "God
is not the author of confusion", says Paul: the aggregation
of the world’s populations in such a comparatively small neighbourhood
would certainly involve confusion. The prophetic testimony shows
that there will be a pilgrimage from all parts of the earth from
one year’s end to the other in which all nations will take
their turn. It will be periodical, and take place in every case
once a year, as is evident, from Zechariah 14:16-17:
"And it shall come to pass,
that every one that is left of all the nations which came against
Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year
to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast
of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of
all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King,
the Lord of Hosts, even upon them shall be no rain."
This annual pilgrimage will be fraught
with many blessings. To individuals it will be annual relief from
the routine of common life (which routine, at the same time, will
be vastly less laborious, both as to the duration and manner of
occupation, than the present modes of life), and an annual refreshing
physically by travel, and spiritually by contemplation of the objects
of the journey, and by the actual instruction received at "the
city of the great king". Nationally, it will be a yearly riveting
of the bonds of happy and contented allegiance that will bind all
people to the throne of David, occupied by his illustrious son Jesus
of Nazareth, the Son of God, and King of the Jews. This glorious
epoch in the world’s history finds the following fore-shadowing
from Psalm 102:
"Thou shalt arise, and have
mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time
is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour
the dust thereof. So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord,
and all the kings of the earth thy glory. When the Lord shall
build up Zion, he shall appear in
his glory. He will regard the prayer of the destitute,
and not despise their prayer. This shall be written for the generation
to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the
Lord. For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary;
from heaven did the Lord behold the earth: to hear the groaning
of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death; to
declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem;
when the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve
the Lord" (vs.13-22).
Thus will the earth become filled
with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, and
thus will be realised the petition, "Thy will be done in earth
as it is in heaven". Then for the first time will be fulfilled
the prophetic song of the angels, chanted at the birth of him who
is to be its accomplisher, "Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men."
"And the last enemy that shall
be destroyed is death". Death will continue during the thousand
years’ preliminary phase of the kingdom - not among the rulers,
Jesus and the saints, who are immortal, but among the subject nations
who continue as they are now, the death-stricken descendants of
the first Adam. "The child shall die
an hundred years old" (Isaiah 65:20). Death may happen at a
hundred years, but, even then, a man will be considered a child.
As for an "old man", the term will never be applied to
any one that has not run his centuries, as of old. By reason of
the certainty of life, and the stability of the new order of things
in the hands of Christ and his brethren, the houses they (Israel)
shall build, they shall inhabit, the vineyards they shall plant,
they shall eat the fruit of (Isaiah 65:21). It will not happen as
it frequently has happened in past times, that the work of their
hands has been enjoyed by others, even as Moses foretold to them,
saying "Thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell
therein, thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes
thereof" (Deuteronomy 28:30). As the days of a tree (which
flourishes for centuries) shall be the days of Jehovah’s people;
they shall wear out the works of their hands.
But more blessed still shall be
their rulers and the rulers of the nations, for they shall not die
any more (Luke 20:36), and they shall inherit the land for ever.
But, ultimately, death will be abolished in all the earth. Its subjugation,
however, comes last in order: all other enemies are got out of the
way first; and then the greatest and most formidable is removed
for ever. On what principle? Seeing that all the saved pertaining
to this and past dispensations will be admitted to eternal life
at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and associated with him
in the government of the world, on what principle are the mortal
subjects of Messiah’s reign to be dealt with, so as to admit
of their participation in the glorious gift of immortality? We are
admitted to the answer in Revelation 20. We shall quote entire that
part of the chapter which relates to the point in hand:
"And when the thousand years
are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall
go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of
the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the
number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on
the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints
about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of
heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was
cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and
the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for
ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat
on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and
there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and
great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another
book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were
judged out of those things which were written in the books, according
to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it;
and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and
they were judged every man according to their works. And death
and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast
into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:7-15).
Here we have a predicted insurrection
at the close of the millennium, which is allowed to gather strength,
and come to a head, and which is then to be summarily suppressed
by an outburst of divine judgment at "the beloved city"
- Jerusalem. This is followed by a general judgment. Now who are
arraigned at this judgment? It cannot be the saints who have been
associated with Christ in government during the previous thousand
years, who at the beginning of his reign have been welcomed as "good
and faithful servants" into his joy. These have been judged
already. They appeared before his judgment-seat at his coming, and
gave an account, and were dealt with accordingly.
Who, then, are thus to be judged
at the close of the thousand years? Obviously those who have lived
during the thousand years. The subjects of Messiah’s kingdom
will be placed under a different system from that which we are connected
with, and no doubt it will be of such a nature as to call for the
exercise of faith, notwithstanding the visible manifestation of
divine power among them, for, "without faith it is impossible
to please God". However that may be, the result of their judgment
is that many of them are found "written in the book of life",
and receive eternal life.
But what becomes of the remainder?
The answer is, "Whosoever was not found written in the book
of life was cast into the lake of fire". This lake of fire
is one of the symbols employed in the Apocalypse. The Apocalypse
is full of symbol. It is "the revelation of Jesus Christ...signified
by his angel" - a revelation indicated by sign, as the sequel
shows. The prophetic facts intended to be communicated are portrayed
in symbol, and an occasional hint of interpretation is dropped to
enable "his servants" to decipher the hieroglyphs employed.
The hint dropped in this case is this (chapter 20:14): "This
is the second death", or, to make
the matter more certain (Revelation 21:8), "All liars shall
have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone,
which is the second death". Here,
the lake of fire is introduced to us as a symbol signifying the
What is the second death? "Second"
implies a first. Where, then, shall we look for the first death?
Obviously to that "accident of life" which overtakes all
the living; "It is appointed unto men once
to die". A wicked man dies in the natural course of events;
but, if amenable to judgment, he is raised again - restored to life
for punishment. And what follows judgment? Condemnation - few stripes
or many stripes. And what after the stripes? Death a second time;
but a death different to the first, inasmuch as it is directly inflicted
by divine displeasure, and consigns its victims to an oblivion from
which there is no reclaim by resurrection. It is a death that wipes
away every vestige of their being from God’s creation. "The
day that cometh", says Malachi (chapter 4:1), "shall burn
them up, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch".
And David’s declaration is, that "The enemies of the
Lord shall be as the fat of lambs. They shall consume, into smoke
shall they consume away" (Psalm 37:20).
How appropriate a symbol of such
a fate is a lake of fire. The only conception we can have of such
a thing is supplied by the pools of incandescent iron to be seen
at blast furnaces. Throw an animal into one of these pools, and
what is the result? Instant annihilation. Not a vestige of the creature’s
substance survives the action of the destructive element. Complete,
and immediate, and irretrievable destruction, then, is the idea
suggested by a lake of fire, and how appropriate is such a symbol
to signify the second death, which will destroy, with double destruction,
even "soul and body" (Matthew 10:28).
When every one not found written
in the book of life is cast into the lake of fire, what remains
but the fulfilment of Paul’s statement; that "death shall
be destroyed?" All that are sinful are destroyed, and death
is, therefore, literally destroyed with them, because there will
then be none left upon whom it can prey. And, death being destroyed,
what is the picture? A population of deathless beings, reclaimed
by God’s intervention from the sin and death which now curse
our planet. With these considerations in view, the following testimonies
will be fully appreciated:
"The face of the Lord is
against them that do evil, to cut of the remembrance of them from
the earth" (Psalm 34:16).
"Let the wicked be ashamed
and let them be silent in the grave" (Psalm 31:17).
"For evil doers shall be
cut off; but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit
the earth; for yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be:
yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not
be: but the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves
in the abundance of peace" (Psalm 37:9-11).
"Wait on the Lord, and keep
his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the
wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it" (Psalm 37:34).
"Let the sinners be consumed
out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more"
"The upright shall dwell
in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it; but the wicked
shall be cut of from the earth, and the transgressors shall be
rooted out of it" (Proverbs 2:21-22).
"As the whirlwind passeth,
so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting
foundation...The righteous shall never be removed, but the wicked
shall not inhabit the earth" (Proverbs 10:25,30).
"Blessed are the meek, for
they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5)
The work of immortalising mankind
is spoken of as a harvest in its final form. This being so, analogy
would require us to find the nature of the harvest in the firstfruits
- Christ and his brethren. Christ was the first of the ripe fruit
of the life-harvest which God proposes to raise for his own glory
in the earth (1 Corinthians 15:23). Now the rest of the harvest
must follow in the same process of raising. Christ attained to life
by faith and obedience (Philippians 2:9, Hebrews 5:7). His brethren
of the present dispensation attain it in the same way through him.
Now, what is
true of the "called" in the time of the Gentiles is true
of the called of the millennial age. Though men will live longer
than they do now, death will continue indiscriminately, as the law
of faith requires, till the grand final triumph, when the great
enemy will be destroyed for ever, and every inhabitant of
ransomed earth be able to say, "O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?"
There is this difference between
the introduction of death and the introduction of resurrection unto
life: death passed upon all men at once, whereas in resurrection,
there is a gradual order of development, marked by three stages.
Paul states this order in the following terms:
"But every man in his own
order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward
they that are Christ’s at his coming: then the end, when
he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father,
when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
For he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Corinthians
Here we have a "first",
an "afterwards", and a "then", as the "order"
of resurrection. Christ was first raised, afterwards those that
are Christ's will be raised at his coming, then at the end of the
millennium there will be the final resurrection. There is resurrection
at "the end", for the end is introduced expressly in connection
with the order of the resurrection, and not only so, but Paul makes
the reign of Christ result in the putting down of all enemies, including
"death", which he makes the "last". That this
destruction of death involves resurrection, is illustrated in the
case of "those that are Christ’s at his coming".
Death in their case is "swallowed up (or destroyed) in victory",
in their being raised from the dead no more to see corruption. The
nature of the case demands that there should be resurrection at
the close of the thousand years.
The fitness of things requires this.
"To whom much is given, of them is much required". The
first-century believers enjoyed the privilege of the Spirit gifts
and the company of personal acquaintances of the Lord; and they
were required to prove their faithfulness in confiscation and prison,
and at the executioner’s block. We of the latter days have
no open vision or witness of the Spirit in its wonder-working power.
We have but the written and historical evidence of God’s operations
in the past. Having received "less" than our brethren
of old, we are not called upon, like them, to go to prison and to
death, but have times of liberty and peace wherein to manifest our
love. In the age to come, privileges such as have never fallen to
the lot of mortal man will be enjoyed by the peoples, nations, and
languages, who will rejoice in the rule of Christ and the saints.
Instead, therefore, of their position calling for exemption from
death, it rather requires that their faith and obedience should
be developed and tested by its prevalence until the time for its
destruction as the "last enemy" arrives, in the resurrection
and glorification of all who in that blessed age secure the approbation
We have to note another feature
of the change that takes place at the end, indicated by Paul in
the following words:
"Then cometh the end, when
he (Christ) shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the
Father, when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority
and power; for he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under
his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death...and
when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son
also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him,
that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
From this we learn that Christ at
the end of the thousand years is to abdicate the position of absolute
sovereignty, which he occupies in the earth during that period.
It would seem as if, on the accomplishment of his mission in the
complete redemption of the world, that God himself is manifested
(without a medium) as the only eternal Governor. The idea will be
apprehended in the light of Paul’s statement that "the
head of every man is Christ, and the head of Christ is
God". During the thousand years, it is Christ’s
headship that is the institution of the day: after that, it is the
headship of the Father in some specially manifested form. The headship
of the Father is the fact now, but it is in the background. The
state of things upon the earth does not admit of its manifestation
or even its recognition. During the thousand years, the headship
of the Father is a visible fact in the headship of Christ. But at
the end of the thousand years, the headship of the Father is manifest
It, therefore, seems that the change
to take place then is more a change in the aspect of things as they
appear to man, than as they exist in themselves. Though no longer
the supreme ruler of the earth, Christ will continue in his position
of peculiar pre-eminence as "Captain" of the "many
sons" whom he will have been instrumental in "bringing
to glory". God will be "all in all". He will be manifested
as the power, and supporter, and constitutor of all, the Alpha and
Omega, the beginning and ending, the only self-Almighty one. He
will no longer work by interposition. He will no longer deal with
man mediatively: he will establish direct communication with his
perfected children, and the world freed from sin and death will
become a happy, loyal, glory-giving province in that already universal
dominion which extends to the utmost bounds of space, reflecting
the wisdom and the goodness of the Highest. The divine scheme of
redemption will then have been consummated: and earth’s glorified
inhabitants in holy gratitude - exalted employment - and an eternity
of unbroken felicity lying before them, will realise the perfection
and glory and gladness of life as it is in God.
It will thus be seen that the kingdom
of the thousand years is but a transitional period between the purely
animal and purely spiritual ages. It will blend the elements of
both. It will exhibit the perfection of the eternal ages in the
Lord Jesus and the saints who will be immortal and incorruptible,
and the imperfection of the human age in the mortal population who
will constitute the subjects of their rule. Both will co-exist for
a thousand years, and will constitute a state of things as superior
to the present dispensation as it will be inferior to the glory
ages beyond. The Kingdom of God will lead us by a bridge of a thousand
years from the age of sin and death defection to the age of restoration
to the bosom of the Deity, in righteousness and life eternal.
(Extracted from Christendom Astray
by Robert Roberts with slight amendments to reflect the current
state of affairs among the nations. Copies of this excellent guide
to understanding the Bible are available by contacting