What do we Know about The Antichrist?

When Will the Antichrist Be Revealed?

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 2:1-12

Introduction:

Several times recently, someone has expressed to me concern about “The Antichrist,” or, as he is called in Revelation 13, “the Beast.” Other questions have also come up. (Has the Tribulation already begun? Will the church go through the Tribulation?

The internet is loaded with such suggestions, and we are tempted to feel alarmed, that somehow we have “missed out!” When the Covid vaccinations were being offered, people were saying it was the “Mark of the Beast.” (It absolutely is not!) Whether you choose to take such medicines is up to you. But the “mark” discussed in Revelation 13 is definitely not something that could be hidden in a vaccination. It also is not something that can be “secretly” administered.

So, in light of all these concerns, it seems entirely appropriate that we are just now coming to a passage that will address many of those fears.

Meet the “New Fear!” (Same as The Old Fear!)

There was a fear among the believers in Thessalonica that they had somehow “missed the Rapture.” Or, perhaps, that the Tribulation had already begun. Remember, this is an account from almost 2000 years ago: They didn’t even have television, let alone the internet! But someone told them that the day of the Lord had come! Do you wonder how it happens that the same fear was triggered in Thessalonica 2000 years ago, as is being triggered in us, today? You would almost think that the same deceiver was responsible!  (And he IS!)

Paul assured them that the rumors were not true. Then he gave them the order of events that will begin the tribulation and the final countdown. Let’s read what he said:

1Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

Where did the Fear Come From?

Notice, first, that Paul begged them not to be deceived: He recognized that there were enemies involved. “Someone” may have claimed that a spirit had told them these things. Or perhaps someone said that they had been told by some “authoritative person.” Or it seems that someone had even gone so far as to write a letter, and claim that Paul had sent it to them. Paul said it didn’t matter from where the falsehood had arisen: it was simply false!

Notice that the various possible “sources” still add up to one root source. This is increasingly obvious when we consider that these specific fears and deceptions have been dumped on believers nearly continually, ever since the beginning.

Who would gain by Christians always being afraid and trying to “prepare for a coming tribulation and judgment?” (Especially, as it means we concentrate on that, as opposed to joyfully, fearlessly living out the great Commission which we have received from Jesus?)

What is the Day of Christ?

We have discussed the “Day of the LORD” (all uppercase) as it is addressed throughout the Old Testament Prophets. In the New Testament it is also called the Day of the Lord (normal capitalization.) In several places it says the “Day of the Lord” comes “as a thief in the night.”

The Day of the Lord begins with the Rapture of the Church, as seen in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18. That is the only portion of the Day of the Lord about which it can be said, “it will come as a thief in the night.” All the rest of it is fully laid out in scripture.

It is often given in rather obscure terms, though, and that makes sense. The people who initially received the prophecy (including the prophets themselves) did not understand the message. In Daniel 12:8, 9 Daniel commented that he heard it, but he didn’t understand it! And he was told, effectively, “Write it down, close the book, and run along! The message is not for you, but rather, for the people of the end times!”

Paul’s End-Time Teaching (Eschatology)

In 1st Thessalonians chapters 4 and 5, Paul began to lay out the End-time truths, (sometimes called “eschatology.”) The first “act” in the “Day of the Lord” is the Rapture, and it sweeps directly into the Tribulation, which will culminate in the return of Christ, and the immediate “Judgment of the Living Nations.” (But John tells us this same “Day of the Lord” then continues through the Millennial Kingdom, and it will end with the Great White Throne Judgment.)

As far as I can tell, the “Day of Christ” is identical to the previously named and often referenced “Day of the LORD” (All uppercase, in the Old Testament, showing where the tetragrammaton (YHWH) is used in the Old Testament. The New Testament “Day of the Lord,” (with the lowercase “ord”) is the same event, but using Jesus’s title as “the Master:” the Lord. It is mentioned throughout the New Testament. (Especially, see 1st Thessalonians 5:2)

The only difference might be simply that the New Testament believers are specifically looking forward to the return of Christ, whereas the Old Testament prophecies were including everything from His return at the Rapture and His physical return as Judge and King, all the way through the millennial Kingdom.

When is the Day of the Lord?

In Acts 1:7, Jesus said that it is not given to us to know the times or the seasons. And, here in Thessalonians, Paul makes it clear that neither we nor any other human will know the time of His coming. We won’t know until it is too late to change anything based on that knowledge. But he does give us ample reason to not fear that we have been “left behind.”

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first,…

The Greek word translated “falling away,” here, is “apostasis.” It is where we get our English word, “apostasy.” And it means a “falling away,” just as it is translated, here. It is only used a few times in scripture, and it always is used in a negative sense. While some would like to view it as the catching away of the church at the Rapture, it simply is not used in that way. It is never used in the sense of a “rescue,” or any other “positive” thing.

However! The organized church “falling away from Christ,” and denying Him the honor due Him would be a true apostasy. In Luke 18:8, Jesus posed the question, “When the Son of Man comes, shall He find faith?” (It was a rhetorical question, the implied answer being “NO!”) But, for the complete apostasy of the organized church to occur, the remnant of true believers would have to be entirely removed from the mix, first. And that is what we saw happening, back there, in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18…the removal of the believers.

When Will the Antichrist be Revealed?

With the genuine believers gone, the tribulation can begin, and the “Man of Sin” can be revealed. Paul goes on to describe that person and the events surrounding his entrance on the “World Stage.” (verse three continued.)

3 …and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

This is the one we see in Revelation 13 and in Daniel 9:27. He is the one we call “the Antichrist.” (He is also called the “Son of Perdition:” Ony he and Judas Iscariot are called this name…,and both end up possessed by Satan, personally. There is no other such example.)

Avoid Foolish Speculation

When I was a new Christian, many people speculated that a certain politician was “the Antichrist.” A few years later, they were pointing to a different politician. Obviously, the fifty years of history since then have repeatedly proved them wrong! People repeat this folly every time there is a politician they don’t like. But it is foolish to keep speculating! Right here, in verses three through eight, we read that the Man of Sin will not be revealed until certain things happen. One of those is the apostasy of the church at large. Another, necessarily, is the Rapture which will leave the apostasy of the church complete.

We already read in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18, that the believing church would suddenly be removed. And then, in chapter five, immediately following the departure of the believers, we saw that the Tribulation will begin.

Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

So, this is the second letter Paul has written to the believers at Thessalonica. And he reminds them that he taught them this when he was still there with them in Thessalonica. (Paul and Silas evidently told them these things before they left town, in Acts 17! We are getting told today!)

What’s the Holdup?

And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth (restrains) will let (restrain), until he be taken out of the way.

So long as the Person, the Holy Spirit, is present, indwelling all the believers, the person of the Antichrist will not be revealed. In 1st John 4:3, we see that the spirit of Antichrist is already in the world and working. But the man called the Antichrist will not be revealed until the Holy Spirit is removed. In John 14:16 we see that the Holy Spirit will be with us forever. Therefore, when He is taken out of the way, we will be going with Him!

When Does all this Take Place?

And then (and not before!) shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

In Revelation chapter 13, we see what kind of “wonders” are in question. Notice that, right here in verse nine, Paul labels those supposed “miracles” as “lying wonders.” They are not “miracles,” but rather, they are false, and specifically intended to deceive.

Most “magicians” today are entertainers. Some are very honest, publicly pointing out that what they are doing is not magic, but rather, a trick that looks like magic. The problem is that, as humans, we are “easily deceived,” and we can be led astray by tricksters who are not honest enough to say, “ This is not magic! It is a trick!” So, we have been warned in advance that such a deceiver is coming and that he will deceive the majority of the world.

Who will be Deceived? (Notice the Tenses, Here:)

The people who (future tense) will be deceived all made choices in the past (before The Rapture unveiled the truth.) And God will (in the future) send them a strong delusion, so that (in the future) they will stick with their earlier (past tense) choice, and so face eternal judgment.

10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not  (past tense) the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall (future tense) send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might (future tense) be damned who (past tense) believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

This is similar to what happened in Egypt: Pharaoh originally hardened his own heart against God. But in the end, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he persisted in his bad decision, past the point of insanity. Everyone else knew God had destroyed Egypt, but Pharaoh was blind to that truth. Those unbelievers who rejected Christ before the Rapture will not “change their minds” when it occurs.

Unbelievers who simply never heard of Him (or who had only heard “bits and pieces,” (never enough to make any sort of decision) will hear the Gospel (through the witnesses God provides during the Tribulation) and millions of them will believe…and many will die for their faith.

But You are NOT to be Deceived!

1st Thessalonians 5:4-11 “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. 11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

So, we are to believe God, and trust Him for the future, and not be deceived by the clamoring voices in the world around us. Then we will be free to serve Him rather than constantly worrying. In doing so, we can comfort one another and build one another up in the Lord. (That is what “edify” means.) That is part of what Jesus calls us to do.

Lord Jesus, we ask that you teach our hearts to trust in you and not to be discouraged by the deceivers in the World. Draw us along to follow you faithfully and fearlessly.

What Should We Know about The Coming Judgment?

The Coming Judgment

© 2023 C. O, Bishop

2nd Thessalonians 1:4-12

So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: 12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Introduction:

Last week we saw how Paul was using the good report of the spiritual growth in the church at Thessalonica to encourage other churches as he travelled. He said “We glory in you in the churches of God…” We also saw that part of the reason he could see their Faith and Love was evidenced by how they were responding to persecution and hardship.

But we only briefly touched upon the Coming Judgment. (Notice, too, that he says in verses six and seven that God will “recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.” And (in contrast,) to you who are troubled, rest, with us.”The believers will receive rest from the harsh realities of living among hostile nations. Those who were their antagonists will face judgment.

There are several Judgments we need to address:

  1. The General Judgment (condemnation) of the World. (John 3:18, 19; Romans 1:18, etc.)
  2. The Judgment of Sin at the Cross. (Colossians 2:14; 1st John 2:2)
  3. The Judgment Seat of Christ (believers) (2nd Corinthians 5:10; 1st Corinthians 3:10-16)
  4. The Judgment of Living Nations (believers and unbelievers Matthew 25:31-46)
  5. The Great White Throne Judgment (unrighteous dead only) (Revelation 20:11-15)

This list is not exhaustive…looking back in time, we can see many judgments. It is important for us to remember that Jesus is always the Judge. He is not “just the Savior:” He is also the Judge. He gave His life to prevent our being destroyed in the Judgment which His Righteousness requires Him to bring. But these five are the judgments that we see presently or ahead of us and which we might be worried about.

Please bear in mind the two promises of God:

  • John 5:24, which says believers will not come into condemnation, and
  • Romans 8:1, 2, which says we have been set free from the Law of Sin and Death, and that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Our “positionIn Christ, separates us from Judgment, just as Noah and his family were separated from judment by their position inside the Ark.)

Which of These Five Judgments Will Affect Believers?

The General Condemnation

Clearly, the General Condemnation of the Human Race once affected every one of us, directly. We all were lost sinners, regardless of our individual qualities or actions. But that is why Jesus went to the Cross! He freed us from that condemnation. It still affects us indirectly, as all the troubles, evil, and pain in the world still exist because of the curse in Genesis 3, which still has not been lifted. But we have been separated from that curse by our position in Christ.

The Judgment of Sin at the Cross

Jesus lifted the Judgment of the Curse, by bearing the Judgment of the Cross! Colossians 2:14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” His blood paid the sin-debt for all humans, past, present and future. 1st John 2:2 spells it out: And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole World.”

But the General Condemnation remains, for those who reject His sacrifice. (John 3:18 says they are condemned already, because they “have not believed in the only begotten Son of God.”) All that is required of them to escape that Judgment is to choose the Judgment of the Cross, where Jesus bore the judgment of our sins. Until they make that choice, they are still “in Adam,” where we all died spiritually, because of Sin. (See 1st Corinthians 15:22)

The Judgment Seat of Christ

All believers face the Judgment Seat of Christ. (2nd Corinthians 5:10) But this judgment is the judgment of the works of believers. It is an “awards ceremony.” We can read some details about it in 1st Corinthians 3:10-16, The works will be evaluated for their eternal value. Reward for service is to be awarded on the basis of that Judgment. And it is for believers only. Our position in Him guarantees that we will face this judgment, just as it guarantees our security in Him. We will never be condemned, because we are in Him (Romans 8:1, 2; John 5:24)

When people “line up for their pay” in a large factory, or in a military organization, for example, they have to already be an employee, or, already a member of the armed forces. Working without having been an employee does not bring reward, but rather, it brings punishment for “trespassing,” or for “impersonating a member of the military.”

It is possible for a believer’s works to not have eternal value. In John 15:5, Jesus said “Apart from Me ye can do nothing.” So, if we have not been walking with Him, and have not been working with Him, then our works may “look good,” but their eternal value is questionable.

The Judgment of the Living Nations

Matthew 25:31-46 gives us the most details about this judgment. It includes believers and unbelievers, all in their natural bodies and all facing judgment as to whether they will enter the Millennial Kingdom alive, right then, or enter eternal punishment as enemies of God.

There are numerous mentions of this “division of the people by the omniscient Judge,” but this passage allows us to see when it will happen (at the end of the Tribulation, immediately after Jesus’s physical return to earth. Compare Revelation 19.) It tells us where it will occur: on planet earth…and, very likely at Jerusalem, as it says, “He shall sit upon the throne of His Glory.” He will be reigning from Jerusalem, so it seems likely that the Judgment will take place there.

This Judgment, as usual, will be based upon faith or the lack thereof; but, in this case, that faith will have been evidenced by how the people treated the Jews and the Tribulation saints. People who believe in Jesus as their Savior will express that faith by caring for His people. People who do not believe will not care for His people. But the determining factor, as always, is still faith.

The Great White Throne Judgment

Remember that the Judge, in all the cases we have listed, is Jesus Christ. John 5:22 says He is the only Judge. Jesus said, “The Father judgeth no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son.” (That means the “Judge of all the Earth” in Genesis 18:25 was also Jesus!)

So, the One sitting on the Throne, in Revelation 20:11, is Jesus, in His full Glory. It is interesting to see that (see Genesis 3:8) in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve heard “the voice of the LORD God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day,” they fled at the sound of His voice, and they hid. (That was Jesus, too! God the Son is the Member of the Trinity who always shows up to walk and talk with humans.)

When will this Judgment occur?

So, now, at the very end of time, Jesus shows up on the Great White Throne as the Eternal Judge, and all the progeny of Adam and Eve respond the same way they did! It says, “Heaven and Earth fled from before His face.”

And that (apparently) is when the Judgment of 2nd Peter 3:10 will occur: “The heavens and earth shall pass away with a fervent heat and a great noise.” (Revelation 21:1confirms this connection.)

So where will the church-age believers be, during that Judgment? Our position will not have changed: We will still be in Him. And, as a result, we will be with Him on that throne! (According to Ephesians 2:6, we are already there. And in John 14:3, Jesus promised, saying “…that where I am, there ye may be also.”)

Deep Grief and Solemn Joy

Will we be “happy” to be at that judgment? No! It will be a terrible tragedy, but we will absolutely know and agree that God the Son is doing right, by making that judgment. But, it is after that judgment that He says, “He will wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

You see, that will be the final Judgment and the end of all death, and sorrow, crying, and pain. Psalm 30:5 says, “…weeping may endure for a night, but Joy cometh in the Morning!” Jesus is called the Morning Star, and His Day is eternal. That is the “Morning” we all long to see!

Why are Believers Excluded from this Final Judgment? (verse 10)

“…because our testimony among you was believed…”

We are saved by Grace, through Faith, plus Nothing! The Thessalonian believers were saved sinners, just like us. But Paul said that the Lord will be worshipped and admired by all those who believe in Him, and then he specifically reminds them of how they became believers. Paul and Silas had brought the message of salvation to Thessalonica, in Acts 17. Those who became believers did so because they believed the testimony of Paul and Silas. They believed the Gospel!

The long-term effect of believers’ faith is the eternal worship of Christ, as our Redeemer. And, for the first time, when He returns, believers who are still in their natural bodies (those in Matthew 25:31-46) will be seeing Jesus in His full glory!

What Should be the Result of all this “Positional Truth?”

All of the things we have talked about so far, (except the results of the Judgment Seat of Christ) have been positional Truths. They are true because we are “In Christ.” That is our location: our position. But positional truths should result in conditional changes!

Wherefore…

11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: 12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul says that he was praying for the believers that their lives would be pleasing to God so that He would agree that they lived up to their calling: That they were acting in a manner worthy of their family connection to Him.

And the result in their lives was that God would fulfil the Good Pleasure of His Goodness in them, and that His Grace would be manifested in their lives and that others would Glorify God because of what they could see happening in the lives of those believers. They would see the power of God working in the lives of the believers and the work of faith being done by the believers.

And the result in our lives?

“That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you and you in Him”…all according to the Grace of the Father and the Son. We are not to fear condemnation from God, but I think it is healthy to fear displeasing Him, because it means we are missing out on our only opportunity to serve with Him.

When we take Communion together, we are publicly stating that we have placed our faith in Jesus’s shed blood at the Cross, as full payment for our sins.

Each of us is saying “Jesus died for me! And He is coming back to take me home with Him!”

This is what we have in common. This is what we share at the Lord’s Table.

Lord Jesus, we desire to see you as our Savior and our Lord; We know we will stand before you at the Judgment seat to receive reward, and we desire to be worthy of that reward. Teach us to consistently walk with you, and let our daily behavior have eternal worth.

Why Two Resurrections?

Why are there Two Resurrections taught in the Bible?

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 5:28-30; 1st John 2:2; 1st Corinthians 3:10-15;

Introduction:

Last week, we touched on the fact that there are two resurrections, and that the resurrection of the believers is prior to that of the unbelievers.

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 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. 30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

So, while most of us may simply accept the Divine Order as just being “how it will all work out,” perhaps the question might arise as to why there are two resurrections as opposed to just a general resurrection wherein all the “sorting” can happen at once. Perhaps the best way to begin would be to address the various “judgments” in the scriptures. In Hebrews 9:27, it says that “It is appointed unto Man once to die, but after this the judgment.” So, we need to think that through, and ask, “What judgment is in view?”

How many Judgments?

  1. The Judgment of Sin (the sin of the whole Human Race) was carried out at the Cross.
  2. The Judgment seat of Christ, where the works of believers are in view, will be carried out after the rapture, but before the physical return of Jesus.
  3. The Judgment of the Living Nations (the survivors of the tribulation) will be carried out at the physical return of Christ, at the beginning of the Kingdom age.
  4. The Final Judgment (of all the unrighteous dead of all time) will be carried out at the Great White Throne, after the Kingdom age, after the destruction of this earth, and immediately before the revealing of the new Heaven and new Earth.

Judgment of Sin

As we have learned in the past, all the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament from Genesis 3:21 onward, were all “looking forward to” the one all-sufficient sacrifice Jesus made at the Cross. Since He became sin for us, dying as a substitute for every human who would ever live, His blood literally satisfied God’s judgment upon the sin of the whole human race. (1st John 2:2)

In John 3:18, Jesus said that those who believed in His Name (placing their trust in His finished work) would not be condemned, but that those who did not trust Him as the substitute for their own life, and their own sins, were not “going to be condemned,” but are already condemned. So, as a rebellious young atheist, I was already condemned, and effectively “on death row:” I was headed for Hell, and without hope, until I became convinced that I was lost, and that I needed a Savior. Finally, I placed my trust in Him, and was permanently placed under His blood. I have no other offering…there is nothing to be added to His Grace.

Judgment of our Works: The Judgment Seat of Christ

(Only Believers are at this Judgment.)

Works have zero effect on salvation, but they have great effect on our ongoing relationship with God in this life, and our reward in the next. 1st Corinthians 3:1015 tells us how God will “grade” our works: our works will be judged “by fire.”

Anything showing “eternal value” by surviving that “Refiner’s Fire” will result in reward. All the works that “looked good,” during our lifetimes, but turned out to just be something we did on our own initiative, and which did not originate with the Spirit of God, will be consumed in that flame, but the believers will not be harmed. They will simply be “as one escaping through the flames.” They will have lost what they thought they had gained, but they themselves are safe.

What are the Rewards?

I really don’t know. There are five different “crowns” (Greek, “stephanos”…victor’s wreaths) which are named, but not clearly described. There are also places where a reward is described as “ruling over a city.” So, that would evidently be a reward of authority and responsibility. But the conclusion I would have to call the “bottom line,” is what Paul said: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what the Father hath in store for them that love Him.” (That’s it! He says we don’t know! So, I’m going to drop it right there.)

Judgment of the Living Nations:

(Living Believers and unbelievers: “What did you do with Jesus and His Family?”)

This Judgment is described in Matthew 25:31, ff.  This is the one where, immediately after the Tribulation, and Jesus’s physical return, His throne is set up on earth, and all the living nations (Gentile nations) are brought before him for judgment. The Judgment seems to be based upon how they treated the Jews and the Gentile believers during the tribulation.

One could make the mistake of thinking that this describes a works-based salvation: But what we are seeing, here, is proof that “works are the result of faith.” They all acted upon their beliefs:

  • Those who denied Jesus’s authority and who despised His Grace, and sought to destroy His people are revealed by their works as being unbelievers.
  • Those who took the risk of either siding with, or at least helping those persecuted people of God, are also revealed by their works, as being believers.

The result of this judgment is peculiar, in that, since the people being judged are not dead, the passage in Hebrews 9:27 is not directly applicable. Those who were judged to have been believers, as revealed by their works, are admitted into the Kingdom age (along with the remnant of the Jews, and the believing Gentiles who survived the purges of the tribulation.)

Those who were judged to have rejected the Savior, as revealed by their works, are sent into the place of the dead, (called “Sheol” in the Old Testament: “Hades” in the New Testament, (mostly translated “hell,” in both Testaments.) All it says in Matthew is “everlasting punishment.” (The reason we know that it is not the Lake of Fire, is that Revelation 20:11-15 tells us about that specific judgment, and hell will be cast into the Lake of Fire.)

The Final Judgment: The Great White Throne

(Only unbelievers are at this Judgment.)

This judgment occurs at the very end of the Kingdom age, after a final rebellion has been put down by God the Father. The old “heaven and earth” have just been destroyed, as seen in 2nd Peter 3:10, 11. A Great White Throne appears in space…it says, “heaven and earth flee away from the Face of Him who sits on the throne.”

The old Heaven and Earth are evidently destroyed in this moment. All the remaining dead stand before the Judge. (The righteous dead are already eternally with the Lord.) Who is the Judge? In John 5:22 we see that it is Jesus! We have a hard time with this: We have been taught to think of Jesus as such a tender, forgiving person that it is difficult to imagine Him in this role. But He is the only Judge, and always has been!

All the dead are seen as being checked in God’s Records (the “books are opened”…) and they are judged accordingly…and all of them end up in the lake of fire. Are there “degrees of punishment?” Evidently there are: Jesus said so! How does that work? I really don’t know. Different writers have hypothesized at different times, sometimes quite famously (e.g. Inferno, by Dante Alighieri, in 1320.) But God does not explain this at all, except to say that it is so.

Why Different Resurrections?

Given the huge difference in destination, it seems pretty sensible to me to arrange the resurrection in two waves. In 1st Thessalonians 4:11-18 (along with 1st Corinthians 15:51, 52) we see that the resurrection of believers (their dead bodies being restored to life) will come at the same time as the Rapture. The dead believers will receive their bodies back, immortal, and in the next instant, we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds, as it says in 1st Thessalonians.

All of them, together, receive their “resurrected” or “transformed” bodies at that time. The “Awards ceremonies” as we might consider the “Judgment Seat of Christ” to be, will happen after that point, but before His physical return to Earth. However, there is another group, in Revelation 20:4, who were beheaded during the Tribulation for the sake of Christ. They will be resurrected at the end of the Tribulation or beginning of the Kingdom age, and will reign with Christ for the duration of the Kingdom: 1,000 years. Together, this group with the ones resurrected at the rapture, seem to comprise the “first Resurrection.” (Revelation 20:5, 6)

After the First Resurrection:

The Judgment of the living nations, at the end of the Tribulation, doesn’t involve a resurrection at all: they are all living people, who either will live on the restored earth for the next 1,000 years, or will be summarily dropped into Hades, to await the resurrection of the lost.

Finally, after the Kingdom age, and the crushing defeat of Satan and his army, the only people left to be resurrected and judged are the unbelieving dead. We may feel that “They weren’t all bad,” but Jeremiah 17:9 says that the human heart is “desperately wicked.  God’s view of their hearts is the standard by which they will be judged, not our opinions.

What follows is the Final Judgment of the unrighteous dead. Some had just recently died by fire in the rebellion which had just been crushed. Some had died in the wars during the tribulation. Others had been dead for thousands of years, just awaiting final judgment. In either case, we need to remember that Our Savior, Jesus, the Messiah…is the One seated on that Great White Throne. Jesus has never misjudged anyone. And He never will.

Time Lapse Between the Resurrections

According to Revelation 20:5 there is a 1,000-year span between the end of the first resurrection and the beginning of the second. Also, (apparently) time ends right then. The eternal state has begun and there is no further need to measure time. (We saw in Genesis 1:14 that the reason for the Sun, Moon and stars was partly to give light, but primarily to tell time. And the sun and moon will be gone, in the new heaven and earth!)

So, how long do the judgements take? I don’t know. God is sovereign, and omniscient (all-knowing) so, He could complete it all in an instant, and it will have been done perfectly. Or, He could carry on individual conversations simultaneously with every single person who ever lived! (No waiting!) But, since He doesn’t tell us any details, we must choose to be satisfied with His Word, and trust His perfect character, wisdom, and justice. No one will be misjudged.

No Confusion Needed

It would be easy to be confused by the account in Matthew, revealing the Judgment of the Living Nations: we have not had much teaching along those lines, so we tend to think of this as being the final judgment. But it’s not! This is the judgment of living people: Some (the righteous) will enter the Kingdom (not heaven) in their natural bodies, in whatever shape they are in after surviving the Tribulation. They will live in that glorious world in peace, for 1,000 years, where Jesus is ruling, in person.

The rest, who are condemned in that judgment, will join those already in the place of the unrighteous dead (not the lake of fire), and wait for the second resurrection. In Revelation 20:14, at the culmination of the Great White Throne Judgment, we see death and hell (Hades) will be cast into the Lake of Fire. This is the final Judgment—the Second Death.

Separation:

God has moved to keep His people separate from the lost, throughout the ages. During our lifetimes, we are only separated spiritually: he sends us among them as ambassadors, as lights in the darkness of this world. But, once we are released from this world, we are separated permanently.

So, the only Judgment in which the saved and lost are together and being separated, is the Judgment of the Living Nations in Matthew 25. All those who have died are kept entirely separate. There is no more mingling after that point. So, the final reason for two separate resurrections is the completion of our eternal separation from sin. The resurrection of the believers is past: all the righteous dead of all ages are finally home with God, and in their eternal, glorified bodies.

There is no further outreach to those who have rejected God’s offer of Grace. That door is closed. If we remember the Ark, in the Genesis Flood, we recall that the building of the Ark evidently took 120 years. During that time, God says Noah was a preacher of righteousness. But the day came when God closed the door to the Ark. The Flood came and all outside the Ark were swept away.

The Deadline is Coming:

Jesus reminded his hearers of that account, in Matthew 24:37-39. He was using it to warn of a different “deadline,” but the principle is the same: the day is coming when God will close the door. After that time, no further decisions will be offered or accepted. Those in the second resurrection, the resurrection of damnation, will be eternally separated from God and from us. That is the bad news: The Good News is that there is still time for us to offer God’s Grace to anyone who will hear.

Jesus is still in the business of reaching out to the Lost, and offering them eternal life. And He only does so through His people: It always requires that we take the time (and risk) of sharing His Grace with others. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by Hearing, and Hearing by the Word of God.” You may be the only source of light in someone else’s darkness: Don’t deny them that light! Open your heart to care enough to open your mouth and offer them the Grace of God and eternal life, through the Gospel.

Lord Jesus, open our hearts to allow Your compassion to flow through us to the people around  in our lives. Give us the compassion to care and the courage and conviction to speak. Fill us with Your Spirit and allow us to serve.

The Day of the LORD (1)

The Day of the LORD, Part One

© C. O. Bishop 3/30/2019

Isaiah 2:6-22

Introduction:

We have been studying through Isaiah, and are already up against some of the central themes of the book: the awful Judgment and Holiness of God, as well as the Grace of God, and His desire to reason with fallen Man.

Isaiah is distraught at the wickedness of Israel, and begs God to not forgive them, as he sees that all the coming Judgment is fully deserved.

Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.

Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots:

Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made:

And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not.

The remainder of the chapter promises the coming judgment on Judah, reminding all readers that it was specifically because she has forsaken her God, and sought her sustenance from everyone and everything except Him. In verses 6-9, Isaiah is speaking to God, commenting on the spiritual condition of the nation, and the reasons for the coming judgment. He specifically lists all the things upon which they have depended instead of God—and the things in which they have found pleasure instead of God’s values. He complains that from the least to the greatest, they have all bowed themselves to idols, as a nation (not excluding the possibility of a righteous remnant, which God says will always be there.) So, Isaiah begs that God not forgive them. This is an interesting insight into how a man of God may see the holiness of God, and demand retribution for sin.

In Luke 9:54, 55 (Read it), two of Jesus’s disciples, James and John, wanted permission to call down fire out of heaven to burn up some people (Samaritans) who rejected Jesus. But Jesus rebuked the two disciples for the idea, saying that they were wrong, and that He had not come to destroy lives but to save them. So, I need to recognize that even wicked, self-centered enemies of God (whomever they are) are still folks for whom Jesus died.

In the Psalms, there are many examples of “imprecatory prayers”, where the Psalmist called for judgment on sinners. Yes, Judgment is coming, but it will be in God’s timing, and under His righteousness, not our self-righteous indignation. The coming Judgment has a name, in fact: it is called “The Day of the LORD”, and it is first mentioned here in Isaiah 2:12.

The Name of the Coming Judgment

The Day of the Lord becomes a powerful theme in all the prophets, as we begin to see the various parts of it, and how widespread its effects will be.

10 Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty.

11 The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.

12 For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:

13 And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan,

14 And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up,

15 And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall,

16 And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.

17 And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.

18 And the idols he shall utterly abolish.

19 And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

20 In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats;

21 To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

22 Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?

In verses 10-22, he speaks to the people, outlining the coming judgment. He says that all the things they have depended upon will become worthless. Looking at verses 11, 12 and 17-21 we see that the Judgment in question is the culmination of the Great Tribulation. Three is no other time when all the earth shall be judged in that fashion, and in the Revelation, he describes just such fear and trembling, and attempts to hide in the rocks.

What is the Day of the Lord?

The Day of the Lord, mentioned here, and many other places, begins with the removal of the Church-age believers from the earth, as seen in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 (Read it). But then (1st Thessalonians 5:1-3 (Read it)) it immediately transitions into the tribulation; next, the second coming (Zechariah 12:1-10; 14:1-15), the Kingdom age (Zechariah 14:16-21) and finally the ultimate destruction of planet earth (2nd Peter 3:10-12). All five aspects are clearly taught in both the Old and New Testaments. The immediate judgment coming upon Judah is very minor, compared to the ultimate judgment described here, though I am sure that they saw it as pretty major.

God says Judgment is coming (both immediate and ultimate), and that it will affect absolutely everyone (not just the Jews), and remove from them all the things they have depended upon and found foolish pleasure in. Verse 22 says that above all, they need to quit relying upon humans…which would include dependence upon themselves. (Cp. Proverbs 3:5-7) Part of our sin nature, our incurable arrogance, is that we continually trust ourselves over God, even though we have proven untrustworthy time and time again. Now: Am I advocating piously “trusting God” as opposed to going to a doctor? No! I trust that God will guide the doctor, and, unless I know a solid reason to do otherwise, I usually take the doctor’s advice. Do I mean, when I am forced to respond to a legal summons, that I should “just trust the Lord” and not get the best lawyer I can afford? No… I am to pray for God’s guidance, and look for the most honest and competent, intelligent legal counsel I can find. But my dependence is to be upon God.

The story has been told (countless times, I guess) about a man who was trapped by rising floodwaters. He sat on his front porch roof, and a boat came by, with a man offering to take him to higher ground. He piously replied, “No; I am trusting God. He will help me!”

The water rose higher, until he was on the peak of his upper roof, when a larger power boat came up, and the pilot offered to take him to high ground. He was frightened, but clung to his “faith” and said, “No, I am waiting on God!” Finally, when he was clinging to his chimney, and about to drown, a helicopter hovered overhead, dangling a ladder, and offering help. He made his final choice, to depend on God, and finally was swept away by the flood.

He appeared before God, and asked, “Why did you not save me? I trusted in you!” God replied, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter! What did you want??”

I do NOT think that the command to not place our trust in Man is an order to abandon sensible behavior, but rather to allow God to define what sensible behavior is. A hospital employee may say, “This child will never have a normal life, you need to have an abortion.”—and we should feel quite secure in saying, based our understanding of God’s principles, “No, I will not kill my child…I will give him the best life I can, and, though it may not be much, I will not deny him the right to live!”

Someone else may say, “Well, I would never stay married to a person like that…” and it may be that we feel the same way. But, we must have the conviction to do as God leads, not man. Marriage is sacred, and not to be lightly disposed of, though God does recognize both divorce and remarriage, according to John chapter 4.

The same things are true in Business, Politics, and Church Government. The “bottom line” must not be “Does it work?” or “Is it profitable?”, but, “Does it Honor God? Is it obedient to His revealed Word?”

As far as we know, the only two times Joshua got into any trouble were the two times when he simply forgot to ask God what to do. He thought he knew the answer, and went off to battle at Ai, when, in fact, there was sin in the camp, and God would not have allowed them to go to battle at all, without having dealt with the sin. So, 36 men lost their lives in a fiasco at a very small city. (Joshua 7)

The other time, he was fooled by the Gibeonites, because he trusted his eyes, and did not seek God’s counsel. (Joshua 9)

Joshua was a good leader and a good soldier. He made decisions on a daily basis that affected the entire country, but he also kept very close accounts with God, and, as a rule, he was always where he was supposed to be, and doing what he was supposed to be doing, because he walked closely with God and had His constant guidance.

That is what we need, too, as we approach the end times: we need to keep close accounts with God, and seek God’s constant guidance. We cannot see our deadly enemies, in the spiritual battle around us, but we are given some things we can do to be on guard. The first, is: follow Jesus! (The closer the better!) The second is that we are to arm ourselves as He directs us, and learn His wisdom from His Word, as part of that armament.

The battle is not ours, but we are in it, nevertheless. We need to take the coming judgment seriously, and live as those who have been freed from a death-sentence.

Lord, help us to see the coming judgment, as you have described it, and live to free others from the destruction to come.