"When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory." Matthew 25: 3I.
IT must be clearly understood that the judgment of the nations is not the judgment of the Great White Throne. That is the judgment at the end of this present world, this is a judgment at the manifested coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth. It will be with this judgment that He will usher in His glorious reign on earth. In this connection it is interesting to notice that in Matthew 25: only does our Lord ever refer to Himself as King. The judgment of the Great White Throne takes place not at the beginning of Christ's glorious reign on earth, but at the end (Revelation 20:) This is a judgment of the living nations, but the Great White Throne is the tribunal of the wicked dead. Here destiny is determined by kindness to our Lord's brethren, there by the revelation of condemnable deeds. At this judgment there is a separation of sheep from goats, but all are of one class before the Great White Throne.
It is therefore impossible to regard the two accounts as referring to the same event. Dean Alford in his " Greek Testament " considered there was but one event, but in later editions of his commentary he acknowledges a change of view: "I think it proper to state in this Third Edition that having now entered on the deeper study of the prophetic portions of the New Testament, I do not feel by any means that full confidence which I once did in the exegesis here given." The more one reflects indeed, the more one is convinced that, in spite of the difficulties, the two occasions must be separated. Two further considerations would appear to make that conclusion decisive. First let it be remembered that the Lord Jesus is coming in the air for His saints. They will be caught up to be forever with the Lord. They will appear before the judgment seat of Christ in the heavenlies to receive their rewards. Afterwards they will come with the Lord to the earth on the day of His manifested appearing. There can be no further tribunal before which the saints are to appear. They have received their rewards before this judgment of the living nations takes place. Secondly, the surprise of everybody before this tribunal is instructive. The sheep are as surprised as the goats. So surprised, indeed, that they feel bound to protest that there must have been a mistake. It may, of course, be a mark of great humility, but there are some things about which surprise, however humble, would be no virtue.
The destiny of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ can never be in doubt, nor his final entrance into the Kingdom a matter of surprise. " We know we have passed from death unto life;" "He that hath the Son hath the life." With such assurances surprise would be hypocrisy. Gratitude there will be on that day, but for the believer no surprise. "Of them that the Father hath given me, none shall pluck them out of my hand," said our Lord, and the soul that is simply trusting in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, having the added witness of the Spirit, knows his standing before God is eternally assured. This judgment then, described by our Lord in St. Matthew's gospel, provokes serious questions. It is presumed the words were spoken during the week of the Cross. Many things of importance then would be uttered, but nothing trivial. We are compelled to the most careful consideration, and difficulties must be faced.
Let it be remembered that, immediately the Church of the redeemed is caught up to meet its Lord, the purpose of the Gospel of grace will have been accomplished. The gospel, of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is being proclaimed for the one purpose of calling out from the world the Church. When the Church is raptured the opportunity of entrance into the Kingdom through faith in Christ will be gone forever. The rapture will mark the end of the gospel era. From that time there will be no gospel of grace. After the rapture of the Church, the world will go on with its business, religion and politics as usual. Antichrist will come to the zenith of his power, Israel under his patronage will prosper in their own land. Their prosperity will excite the envy of the nations, who will gather their armies in the valley of Megiddo and proceed to the destruction of Jerusalem. The size of Antichrist's army presupposes formidable defences on the other side. The struggle will be severe and Israel will be hard pressed, and would indeed be destroyed by Antichrist but for the deliverance secured by the glorious appearing of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven. Israel will at once be reconciled to Messiah. But what of the armies? They will be aghast at the remarkable phenomenon, and as they see the Glorious One on the earth they will tremble with fear.
The nations involved in the struggle around Jerusalem will be immediately brought to judgment. It will be the judgment of the living nations, and they will be judged by their treatment of " my brethren." Who are our Lord's brethren? Not the Church, for they are with Him. Who if not downtrodden Israel? So will be brought to pass the prophecy of Joel, " I will also gather all the nations and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations and parted my land." With this interpretation in his mind let the reader consider the parable of the Good Samaritan. The lawyer desired to know what he might do, " to inherit eternal life." Jesus answered by asking for the law upon the subject. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God . . . and thy neighbour as thyself." " This do and thou shalt live " (e.g. inherit eternal life), replied our Lord. " But who is my neighbour?" objected the lawyer.
Then in graphic sentences the story of the kindness of the Samaritan to the man robbed and battered by the roadside was related. That man, neglected by priest and Levite, is typical of the experience of the Jew through the centuries. It was far easier to take the part of the priest and the Levite than to take compassion upon the unknown destitute bruised stranger, almost dead by the roadside. It is impossible to preach a gospel sermon on faith in the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ from that parable. It is possible to preach that the King in His glory will judge the nations by their treatment of His chosen race. The deepest instincts of men are now, and much more through the Great Tribulation, brought out by the Jew. The quality of nations may be known to day by their treatment of God's chosen race. At that day it will be decisive. The promise given to Abram will at last be literally fulfilled "I will bless them that bless thee and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
It is easy to see that the dismayed armies overawed and dazzled by His appearing, will be aghast, not knowing what may be the issue. There will be the natural surprise of those who hear the words " Come ye blessed;" and the cursed will aver they never neglected or oppressed Him. By this judgment, light is thrown on that mysterious verse in John 10: " And other sheep I have that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one flock and one shepherd." What is " this fold?" if not the gospel fold. The Church of the redeemed is "this fold," but there are other sheep our Lord has, outside of the gospel fold, whom He must also bring, that there may be one fold and one Shepherd. The sheep nations, therefore, come into the Millennial kingdom, not through their trust in the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ, but by the edict which the King ordains on the authority which is His by virtue of His Sacrifice at Calvary. This was doubtless in the mind of our Lord in that peculiar parable in Matthew 20: Labourers are hired at varying times of the day, and all are rewarded as agreed with each one.
Those who came early felt sure, however, that at the end they would receive more and they were disappointed, and murmured against the goodman. What is the final answer to their contention? " Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?" In this dispensation we are received through simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If in some other dispensations He chooses to open the Kingdom (not the church) to others on grounds of His choosing, shall we not declare the King can do no wrong?
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