The Heavenly Hope: Part 1

John 14:1‑3  •  37 min. read  •  grade level: 10
There is another aspect in which scripture presents the coming of the Lord. It is part of that immense change intimated in the Gospel of John, when the public testimony was closed, and the Lord unbosoms Himself to the family of God, before He gave Himself up to the band led by the traitor for His apprehension and death. He had already and publicly announced His crucifixion (John 12:3232And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. (John 12:32)). The time was come to leave the world.
John 13 introduces the new subject. It is a distinct transfer from earth to heaven. Messianic hopes are wholly eclipsed. The chosen nation are no more in evidence than the city or the sanctuary. It is not the Lord correcting the earthly expectations of the disciples as they drew His attention to the buildings of the temple, or predicting that not one stone should be left upon another, but be broken down. Nor is it the chief disciples coming privately to Him on Olivet and asking, When shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy presence, and of the consummation of the age? Here we breathe a wholly different atmosphere; and the Lord by deed and word leads on His own to unprecedented dealings of grace soon to dawn on them, in proper Christian privilege and responsibility, for which the cross as seen in the light of God laid the basis.
“Now before the feast of the passover, Jesus (knowing that his hour had come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father,) having loved his own that were in the world loved them unto the end. And supper being come, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot Simon's [son] that he should betray him, He, knowing that the Father had given him all things into his hands, and that he came out from God and goeth to God, riseth from supper, and layeth aside his upper garments, and took a linen towel and girded himself; then he poureth water into the basin, and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the linen towel wherewith he was girded. He cometh therefore unto Simon Peter. He saith to him, Lord, dost thou, wash my feet? Jesus answered and said to him, What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know afterward. Peter saith to him, Never shalt thou wash my feet. Jesus answered him, Unless I wash thee, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith to him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is bathed needeth not to wash save his feet, but is wholly clean: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew his betrayer: on this account he said, Ye are not all clean” (vers. 1-11).
What could be more impressive? and all the more, if Peter who expressed what all felt had but known that the Lord's washing their feet was in view of His departure, to be with the Father in heavenly glory. This was the truth they had all to learn, the earth being henceforth left behind for things above; not of course absolutely, but now for the Christian, as for Christ. Thus to stoop was a wholly unexpected exercise of His love; and how far was it from being realized yet! He was conscious that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that as He came out from God He was going back to be with God, the unsullied but rejected Holy One of God. From the earth and the earthly people, about to consummate to their own ruin that rejection which their state had implied, He was passing to the Father who ever loved the Son, and now all the more because the evil was only the occasion of proving His entire devotedness at all cost to the Father's will and glory.
If He thus left this world, He would demonstrate His love to His own that were in it, after a sort beyond all thought even of those who had been learning it in every form they then needed and could bear. Associating them while here with Himself for that glory into which He was going, He must and would counteract every defilement of their way inconsistent with that association. Such stains were incompatible with heaven, whither He was going as their forerunner. Of the kingdom they had learned not a little from the O. T., and yet more from Him who added so much that was new to the old things. But the Lord here provides for them a fellowship with Him on high, transcending all previous thoughts, when He should ascend where He was before; and His love would carry them through every need, obstacle, and danger. No wonder that Peter who had confessed His personal glory, revealed to him by the Father that is in the heavens, was lost in astonishment at Christ going down so low to clear away their soils as saints. Yet was he to learn soon afterward that the reality in heaven would enhance the wonder beyond measure.
The Lord on earth sets forth by His action on the disciples what He was about to do for them in heaven. We have an Advocate with the Father if one sin. It is expressly not for the unclean as such, but for those already washed if the feet get defiled. It is untrue that those washed all over do not need to have any subsequent impurity removed; or that, if defiled after the washing of the person, they need this to be renewed. The washing of regeneration abides in all its value, but demands the cleansing of the soiled feet.
It is the glorified Jesus who assures His own of His persistent and all-efficacious love in carrying on this most needful work at God's right hand, acting on His own here below by His Spirit and word; as it is said in Eph. 5:2626That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (Ephesians 5:26), purifying by the washing of water by the word, consequent on giving Himself for the church on the cross. The restoration of our communion when interrupted by sin is as essential as the new birth or as justification. He has set Himself down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, having made the purification of sins; but this finished and accepted and abiding work, instead of dispensing with further call, makes Him the more solicitous to clear away every inconsistency that would otherwise sully its luster, displease our Father, and leave ourselves in unavailing shame and grief. It is His action of grace on high which gives us to confess the sin and prove how faithful is the God of all grace. “He that is bathed needeth not to wash except his feet.” The blessed relationship of the Christian abides intact; but the Lord, even in the glories of heaven, occupies Himself with every failure to efface it holily, turning it to our needed humiliation but to fresh blessing in His infinite love.
Why is this wondrous grace here enlarged on? It is part of the characteristic blessedness of the Christian, as it was wholly new to the disciples when the Lord set forth its type before their eyes so vividly. It was a necessary provision for them during His absence, which they would soon learn is fraught with far higher privilege than could be possessed or known during the days of His flesh. It would endear Him yet more when they knew it shortly afterward, as they did not and could not know it then. They were aware of His exceeding condescension, and deeply moved that He should do the work of the meanest slave on their behalf; but only after His death, resurrection, and ascension would they learn by the Holy Spirit what His mystic washing of their feet really meant.
But there is another and still more stupendous communication which the Lord made in this chapter. It also is part of our Christian heritage, going far beyond any prophetic account of our Lord's atoning death in the O. T. such as Isa. 53, precious and bright as it is in itself, and as it will be to the generation to come of Israel. The going out of Judas (after Satan entered in) on his awful errand of perfidy gave the occasion. “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God also shall glorify him in himself, and straightway shall glorify him” (vers. 31, 32). No more pregnant revelation of the Savior's death as made sin on the cross is anywhere found, nor one so distinctly lit up with Christian light and result for God's glory now that it is fulfilled.
As Son of God He had glorified His Father in a life of unwavering and absolute obedience: a savor of rest such as had never before risen up to heaven from man on the earth, though all in Him here below was a perfect meal offering. But the exit of Judas was the signal of death on the cross. Would the Holy One of God bow to the bearing of sin, whatever it might cost at God's hand? He had vanquished the living temptations of Satan by obeying the written word. Was He willing through death to annul him that has the might of death, and deliver all those that through fear of death were all their life subject to bondage? Would He take upon Himself the sins and iniquities of God's people, the most loathsome of burdens, to make propitiation for them? Would He by the grace of God taste death for everything, and thus break the yoke of bondage under which all the creation groaned, as well as bring many sons to glory as the author, or leader, of their salvation perfected through sufferings?
The Lord here reveals the deepest and most marvelous contest ever engaged on, wherein the otherwise impossible was achieved, and the insoluble as plainly solved to God's glory and the everlasting deliverance of those that lay under guilt and judgment. Good and evil here strove for decision; and where evil seemed to have all its way, good triumphed to all eternity. Man was seen at his worst, hating the Father and the Son, hating without a cause God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Satan here swayed, not the heathen only but most fatally God's people and above all their religious leaders, scribes, doctors of the law, Pharisees, Sadducees, priests, chief priests, and the high priest himself. Roman justice proved shamelessly unjust. Jesus was condemned for His good confession, and for the truth counted imposture and blasphemy. The disciples forsook their Master and fled, one betraying Him for the price of a slave, another and not the least denying Him repeatedly and with oaths. And in the shame and agony of the cross, God, His God, hid His face and forsook Him: the bitterest of all His sorrows, the most intolerable of His sufferings. But so it must be, if He were made sin, and bowed to what it deserved at God's hand, that the divine majesty and holiness might be perfectly vindicated, and salvation come to sinners through their judgment falling on Him, and grace issue in God's righteousness justifying the ungodly who now believed. There and thus only all the attributes of God are brought into mutual harmony. Elsewhere if love pleaded, justice opposed: sin is not canceled so. But here mercy and truth met together, righteousness and peace kissed each other; and this not for earth only but for heaven and all eternity. In the Lord's own words, the Son of man was glorified, and God was glorified in Him, where unbelief saw nothing but failure and ignominy. And what was the result? God shall glorify Him in Himself and shall straightway glorify Him. It is Christ's work seen in God's light, estimated and honored by God Himself on high.
On this Christianity is based, while Israel passes into its long eclipse. Hence flows the gospel of grace to the lost; hence, according to God's secret purpose, the call of the church for union with Christ by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven, and baptizing the saints, Jew or Gentile matters not, into one body, Christ's body. Even the apostles were then and afterward full of the earthly hope, and restoring the kingdom to Israel. Not so; instead of the unintelligent confusion of theology also, instead of the throne of David or even the dominion of the Son of man over all the peoples, nations, and languages, Christ was to be glorified, not only in heaven entirely separated from the world, but in God Himself, and this “straightway,” in emphatic contrast with the future kingdom which He will by-and-by receive, and return to put down all adversaries in power and glory. Christianity has heavenly and eternal things revealed to faith now.
With this the hope revealed in chap. 14:1-3 is in perfect keeping. Here the land and the city, the people and the temple, vanish into nothingness. Not a word about misleaders, false Christs, or false prophets. We hear not of wars or rumors of wars, of nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, of famine, of earthquakes in places; nor yet of tribulation and murder, or of hatred from all the nations for Christ's name, nor of internal discord and treachery and hatred, as the love of the many decayed, while some would endure throughout, and God would see to it that the glad tidings of the kingdom should be preached in the whole inhabited earth for a testimony unto all the nations. Still less is there room here for the special and awful sign, according to Daniel's prophecy, of an idol standing in the sanctuary, the harbinger of speedy desolation when the godly in Judea must flee immediately to save their lives or yet worse. Not a hint here of the tribulation beyond parallel to fall at the close on a nation of meting on meting and of treading down, whose land the rivers have spoiled.
In our chapter we have a wholly different state; we see souls about to be severed from such anxieties, and elevated by incomparably higher associations, who have no fears of flight in winter or on sabbath, and are in no way warned for themselves against the cry of Messiah here or there, or the great signs and wonders which Satan will be let work in the hour when God retributively sends an energy of error that they all might be judged who believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Still more complete and manifest is the difference of the Christian hope in John 14 from the Presence of the Son of man in Matt. 24, “As the lightning goeth forth from the east and shineth to the west,” especially with the accompanying words, “wherever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered.” Beyond mistake this is the Lord coming in the accomplishment of His judgment, not of His love; for the earth, not for the Father's home above. The figures employed point only to His judicial dealings, with which sun, moon, and stars sympathize. For “immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the land (or earth) lament, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds from one end of heaven to the other.”
Here is no gathering of saints to Christ in heavenly glory, but the Son of man to whom all judgment is committed; and His appearing is as sudden as the lightning flash: where the carcass is, there the birds of prey flock. The governing powers, supreme, derivative, and subordinate, no more do their office; all shall be shaken. The sign is not as before of apostate religion for the godly to flee and escape, but of their Deliverer to destroy those that destroy the earth. The Son of man appearing in heaven is the sign of His speedily coming to the earth to judge the quick and the dead. Hence it is no longer those in Juda, but “all the tribes of the land” (or earth) that lament, and see Him coming; whereas when Christians are concerned, they are manifested, neither after nor before, but in glory with Him. While He is hidden, so are they; when He is manifested, so are they, having been previously caught up. It is His elect of Israel accordingly who are gathered together when He sends forth His angels with a great sound of trumpet and comes in His kingdom.
It is plain that when the Lord presents Himself for the earth and the earthly people, these traits characterize the solemn event: the apostasy, and the man of sin usurping God's prerogatives even in His temple; the desolation and the tribulation that ensue beyond all that ever had been, or that is to be; and the Son of man appearing to take vengeance on the portentous and blasphemous lawlessness, and to deliver Israel by the destruction of their enemies.
Ours is the wholly distinct lot of His coming to receive us to Himself for the place which He is gone to prepare for us in the Father's house, that where He is (and what Christian doubts it?) we may be also. It is the consummation of the sovereign grace which has associated us with Him, so that we are risen with Him even now, one spirit with the Lord, and can say with the beloved apostle that “as He is, so are we in this world.” But we await His coming to be caught up together with the dead in Christ risen first, in clouds to meet the Lord, into the air, and thus to be ever with the Lord. We are not of the world as He is not, and we look for Him to make it good by being taken up to heaven, as He Himself ascended there, not by judicial dealing with our enemies to make the earth the scene of His righteous rule, but by giving us part with Himself in His joy and glory on high, though we shall also reign over the earth when He takes His great power and reigns.
These are the words of the Lord and they are worthy of all heed. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe on (είς) God, believe also on (είς) me. In my Father's house are many abiding-places; were it not so, I would have told you; because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again, and will receive you unto myself, that where I am ye also may be.” Simpler words there could hardly be; but what depth of feeling, and height of glory Jesus was departing, despised of Israel; their beloved Lord, yet one apostle the traitor, another His denier; who could wonder if all the eleven were troubled? Let them be assured that grace would turn all for good and to God's glory. “Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe on God” though ye never saw Him. “Believe on me” when I depart unto the Father, and ye cease to see Me. Let your faith rise from its Jewish form to its Christian character and fullness. Compare John 20:2929Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. (John 20:29).
Even My earthly people shall yet say, Blessed is He that cometh in Jehovah's name. Meanwhile I am re-entering heaven to give you who have fore-hoped in Me the Christ a better portion, even a part with Me on high. Instead of abandoning you, I will as your divine Savior both prepare you for the place as already set before you, and prepare the place for you by going to the Father's house. But My heart is fixed, as is the Father's will, on bringing you there. “In my Father's house are many abiding-places.” No doubt you have never aspired to such a home. You have expected Me to abide forever with you in your house, when I have purged it of all adversaries and evils by the power which I have even to subdue all things to Myself. But there is ample room for you as well as Me in that intimate home of divine love and heavenly glory. “If it were not so, I would have told you, because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive you unto myself, that where I am, ye also may be.”
This is a hope far beyond that of the fathers; though they waited for the city that has foundations whose artificer and demiurge is God, and were eager for a better country than Canaan, that is, a heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God. But now to Christians, or saints being called, He is not ashamed to be Christ's Father and our Father, His God and our God. Such since redemption is our association with Christ. And our hope rises proportionately, however unbelief may try to level down, and contend for a monotonous unity which is at total variance with scripture, and God's ways, and above all His counsels.
No truth more sure or important than the love the Father bears the Son, and all the more. when for the glory of God He became man, and died atoningly that the salvation of the lost might be not only of grace but righteous, God's righteousness; and that the same death of Christ might be the basis for all blessing and glory forever in His universe, His unbelieving enemies alone excepted. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I found my complacency” (Matt. 3:1717And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:17), &c.). “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things [to be] in his hand '' (John 3:3535The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. (John 3:35)). But the Son Himself tells the Father later before the disciples that He loved the saints as He loved the Son (John 17:2323I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:23)). It is this accounts for their future display in the same glory. But it also accounts for that which was in His hidden purposes still deeper, more tender and intimate, the hope of Christ's coming for the Father's house, and fetching us into the place He prepared for us there, that where He is, we too might be. Thence He passed, out of this world which crucified Him, unto the Father. There God, who was glorified in Him here at infinite cost, glorified Him in Himself. There our life is hid with Him in God. There shall we be introduced when He comes and takes us unto Himself. How bright the glimpse of it we have in John 17:2424Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)! “Father, I will (desire) that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me, for thou lovedst me before the world's foundation.” To those that love Him this far transcends the glory that He gives us and that we share along with Him before every wondering eye of man; when the very world shall know by that display that the Father sent the Son [for how else could we be thus blessed?], and that He loved us as He loved the Lord; for we. appear in the same glory as the standing demonstration of it.
Indeed the facts, that He deigns to prepare a place for us in the Father's house, so much above the hopes of saints and prophets, and that He personally comes into the air for the wondrous meeting there to fetch us into His heavenly house, bespeak love unmeasured. We know how to show honor to our friends, when we do not let them come to us as best they can, but send some trusty person to conduct them, or it may be a member of the family. If greater attention were called for, the wife of the busy head might go. But if the utmost were intended, the head of the family would set aside every hindrance and come to meet the most loved and honored object. O how wondrous, that for us the Son comes thus, as we think of Himself and ourselves! But it is here love beyond all thought or comparison for that supreme moment, and all that follows is in keeping with it. Sovereign grace, known as far as it can be revealed, in its depths for us, lays the ground. Unfailing grace in its faithfulness, notwithstanding every strain through our weakness and unwatchfulness, exposed to the profound spite and the sleepless malice of our—of His—great enemy, guards and preserves us all the way through. Triumphant grace, in its heavenly height, at length consummates the love of Christ. “I am coming again, and will receive you unto myself, that where I am, ye also may be.”
Besides, there is the context which follows the hope, and confirms the essentially Christian character of these communications the Lord was then giving. For He proceeds to explain to His disciples that gift of the Spirit which is peculiar to the individual and the assembly, as says another apostle: the distinguishing privilege and power since His redemption and ascension to heaven. “For the Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Nowhere is the divine personality of that gift more clearly asserted or implied than in these chapters 14, 15, and 16 of this Gospel. It is the other Advocate whom the Father would give and send in His name, whom He Himself would send from the Father to be with them forever and in them; the Advocate who was to come, because Jesus went away to heaven and sent Him unto them to be abidingly with us and in us.
It is extreme prejudice which alone hinders the believer from apprehending that such is the new and characteristic provision for the Christian and the church while the Lord Jesus is at the right hand of God. It is in the Spirit that we cry Abba, Father, and are each guided in right dependence. By Him one enjoys the deep things of God, otherwise beyond all comprehension. By Him we walk, witness, and worship. So it is that one is enabled to preach the gospel or teach the truth. Through Him we by faith wait for, not righteousness which we have in Christ, but the hope of righteousness in the coming glory. Again, it is by, or in virtue of, one Spirit that we were all baptized into one body; as we are also builded together for God's habitation in Spirit. Only a part of what we now owe to the presence and action of the Holy Spirit is here passingly alluded to; for in truth He covers and gives a new and divine character to every exercise of the new creation, through the word revealing and glorifying Christ to us. To put honor on Him was the Spirit now sent forth from heaven. Hence it was expedient for us that Christ should go away, great as the loss seemed to the sorrowing and troubled disciples. For if He went not away, the Advocate who was to be expressly our helper in every exigency (and this in the recall of all Jesus had said and been and done, as well as in the revelation of all His glory on high) should not come unto us. But Christ went, and sent Him unto us: the pillars of Christianity.
When the Spirit came, it was the demonstration to the world of its sin in not believing on Jesus; of righteousness, because He is gone to the Father, rejected by the world that sees Him no more as He was, but as the Judge; and of judgment, because this world's ruler who led to His rejection has been judged. The Spirit's presence, outside this world which beholds and knows Him not, can (now that redemption is made) guide the believers into all the truth, taking of Christ's things and reporting them to us, and also the things that are to come.
Now all this wondrous manifestation of the truth to the Christian depends on three things: the period of the Son as come in manhood here below; the accomplishment of His work of reconciliation on the cross; and His ascension as the risen accepted Man according to divine counsels, who has sent the Spirit that we might have this divine Person dwelling with and in us forever to make good subjectively what we behold by faith objectively in the Lord, the blessed image of the invisible God. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; and now that, dead and risen, He is gone on high, we have not only the unique hope beyond all others of His coming again to receive us unto Himself, to be in the Father's house where He is, but we have by the Spirit unfailing power of communion with the Father and the Son, a fountain of blessing within, fresh and perennial, and rivers of living water flowing out, through that Savior living above for them, as they live because He lives.
All is new and Christian truth; the foundation as here made, not merely in view of our need met, but of God glorified as such to our immeasurable blessing; the necessary purifying from every defilement in our walk which Christ effects all the way through for us associated with Him for heaven; the heavenly hope for us destined to be with Him where He is, altogether outside and above the world, whatever else we may share; and meanwhile all the gracious help and power suitable for those so blessed and with such a hope, while we wait for Him in the world which with its ruler is already judged.
It may be added that the allusions to Judas Iscariot in the middle and to Peter at the end of chap. 13 were not without importance for the Christianity about to replace Judaism, as well as to strengthen and comfort those who were to labor, suffer, and share its privileges. The Lord made known to them in presence of the traitor not yet indicated, the awful course he was about to take, that their faith in Himself might be more established, instead of being shaken, and followed it up with His very solemn deliverance: “Verily, verily, I say to you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me” (20). No mistake was made either in His sending the guilty man or in others receiving him. He was an apostle sent by the Lord. It was a divine message heard from his lips; though he himself had neither saving faith nor life eternal, but was the son of perdition: the sad witness that the greatest external and official nearness to Christ, where that life is not, only exposes to the worst sin and ruin, And John could add at a later day, “Even now are there many antichrists.”
But there was another lesson yet more widely needed by the Christian in Peter's case, not so fatal but most humbling. The Lord, in view of His going soon whither they could not as yet come, presses that new commandment which was an old commandment that they had from the beginning, and was to become true in them as it was in Him, love, love one to another, the love not of a neighbor only, but the deeper love of God's family. Then Peter, confiding in his love, expresses his readiness to follow the Lord into the unknown, to follow Him now, to lay down his life for the Lord's sake, however others might hang back. Was it that he did not truly love Him? He loved Him well; but he was utterly wrong to confide in his love: self-confidence is the feeblest of reeds. And this he was soon after to learn, and walk entirely dependent on Christ as a Christian. But now he must prove that flesh is no better in a saint than in a sinner “Verily, verily, I say to thee, A cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.” And so it was that night, not for his profit only but for every Christian's.
Let us turn to other scriptures, and see whether the Holy Spirit does not present the heavenly apart from earthly admixture, and distinct from the events of prophecy: a hope dependent on nothing but the secret of the Father's purpose, and the Son's faithfulness to His word and love to us. In 1 Cor. 15:51, 5251Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51‑52) is “Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in an eye's twinkling, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
It is not that the resurrection of the dead is “a mystery,” nor even the resurrection of the righteous as a distinct act from that of men generally. Of the latter we read in Job 14:1-121Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. 2He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. 3And dost thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee? 4Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one. 5Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; 6Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day. 7For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. 8Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; 9Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. 10But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? 11As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: 12So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. (Job 14:1‑12). “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. And dost thou open thine eyes upon such a one, and bringest me into judgment with thee? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one. Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; turn from him that he may rest, till he shall accomplish as a hireling his day. For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. But man dieth and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? The waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up; so man lieth down and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.”
Now the more familiar a believer may be with God's final revelation of things to come unto eternity itself, the more will he see the exact agreement of this early disclosure of resurrection with that latest one of the unjust. It is man, the prey of sorrow, decay, and death, without one ray of divine light till all ends in utter gloom, but not of actual extinction. Yet it is a sleep only broken when “the heavens are no more.” How striking the coincidence with Rev. 20:1111And 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. (Revelation 20:11)! For it is not only after the resurrection of the blessed and holy to reign with Christ, but when the thousand years of their reigning are over, after the last insurrection of released Satan's deceit shall have ended in total destruction. Then is the great white throne for the judgment of guilty unbelieving man. For the portion of men is to die, and after this judgment; in contrast with the believers' portion, which is Christ, once offered to bear the sins of many, appearing a second time apart from sin to those that look for Him unto salvation. For He is the Savior of the body also.
But the resurrection of the saints, which at the last is called “the first resurrection” was not in those early days unknown to the much enduring elder. “O that my words were now written! O that they were inscribed in a roll! That with an iron pen and lead they were graven in the rock forever. For I know that my Redeemer (or Kinsman-vindicator) liveth, and that he shall stand up at the last upon the earth (or dust) [while the earth and still more the heavens continue]; and after my skin hath been destroyed, yet from (or in) my flesh shall I see God, whom mine eyes shall behold and not another” (Job 19:23-2723Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! 24That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! 25For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me. (Job 19:23‑27)). Nor can it be denied that the orthodox Jews in N. T. times did confess that there is to be a resurrection both of just and unjust (Acts 24:1515And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. (Acts 24:15)).
As this was commonly believed save by the skeptical Sadducees, we may observe how properly the apostle does not speak of a mystery when he discusses the resurrection of the faithful in the earlier part of the chapter, and proves it to be the complement of Christ's own rising from among the dead. He tells them a secret or “mystery,” a N.T. truth now revealed, when he speaks of our being changed, without dying, at Christ's coming. “We shall not all be put to sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in an eye's twinkling, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” No intimation of this change of the living saints had ever been made, though now that it is, we can see a gleam preparing the way for it in the translation of Enoch in the ante-diluvian world, and in that of Elijah in the world that is now. And we can also read the words of the Lord in the days of His flesh, which were only written down in John 11:25, 2625Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? (John 11:25‑26), after the Epistles of Paul. “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth on me, though he have died, shall live; and everyone that liveth and believeth on me shall never die.” Here we have the grand result at His coming, the dead saints raised, the living believers changed without dying; as the Lord then enunciated, but left to be written and understood at a later day.
It is observable how completely earthly objects are outside the description in 1 Cor. 15 Nothing is named but the resurrection of those that are Christ's, besides the living Christians who are changed if possible more gloriously at the same time, This last it is which involves “the mystery.” It is a superficial mistake to think that the last trump has any reference to the seven trumpets of the Revelation, which are the loud warnings of divine judgments in providence, after the seven seals of more reserved dealings have been opened. At length are poured out the last vials of God's wrath before the Savior appears in personal display of judgment.
“The last trump” seems a figure drawn like others here and elsewhere from the familiar facts of an army at the moment of leaving its encampment. Previous soundings were the known and necessary signals usual among the military. But the Spirit of God avoids more here and concentrates anything answering to them in the “last trump,” when the instant arrives for those that are Christ's to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Nor has error the least place in the scene of heavenly glory, but the gracious power of His resurrection distinctly now proved as the Resurrection of the dead saints and the life of those alive on a scale and pattern altogether transcending the raising of Lazarus or any other during the days of His flesh, to a life in the flesh. The unclothed will be clothed as never before, and the surviving saints clothed upon, that mortality, the mortal in them, might be swallowed up of life (2 Cor. 5:1-41For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: 3If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. 4For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. (2 Corinthians 5:1‑4)). There is therefore an evident contrast with the awful sound of the trumpet at Sinai, and but one plain link of connection with “the great trumpet” of Isa. 27:1313And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem. (Isaiah 27:13), Matt. 24:3131And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:31); in that the loud sound accompanies the gathering together His chosen people on the earth, “the holy mount at Jerusalem,” as the trump of God is to gather the changed to the Lord for heaven. One readily understands that the aim, when God was about to speak His ten words to Israel, was to fill sinful trembling man with overwhelming awe, not only by thunders and lightning and thick cloud, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud, but Sinai altogether on a smoke, because Jehovah descended upon it in fire with blackness and darkness and tempest and a voice more terrible than all. But here it is exclusively the one fashioned, even in the body, in accordance with the likeness of Christ's glory, loved of God as He was loved, and about to be with Him in the Father's house. Solemn grandeur will be there, but not an atom of fear before His perfect love as befits God's glory.
Magnificent results will follow for the earth, for Israel, for all the nations, when Jehovah will destroy “in this mountain” the face of the covering cast over all people and the vail that is spread over all the Gentiles. But the resurrection of the just, the glorification of the family of God for the heavenlies, must precede even the taking away the rebuke of His people from off all the earth. Then indeed Jehovah's hand will accomplish what His mouth promised. A woman may forget her sucking child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb; yet will not Jehovah forget Zion. Behold, He has graven her upon the palms of His hands; and her walls are continually before Him. And kings shall be Zion's nursing fathers, and princesses her nursing mothers; they shall bow down to her with face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of her feet.
But the heirs of God and the joint-heirs with Christ have a place as elevated in the heavens as Israel will surely have on the earth. And this everlasting purpose of His must be made good in sight of the principalities and powers in the heavenlies, before the dealings of God begin to awaken and lead on into blessing the nucleus of His firstborn for the earth, and to put down their Gentile foes in every form and degree. For the secret of His will, now made known to the Christian (never before), according to the good pleasure which He purposed in Himself is that, for the administration of the fullness of the seasons He will sum, or head, up together in one all things in Christ, both those in the heavens, and those on earth, in Him in whom we were also allotted our inheritance. This we are to share with the Heir of all things; and the final touch He will put to fitting His joint-heirs will be done when He receives them to Himself on high for the Father's house, before the judicial measures begin to chastise the usurpers of the inheritance, and the gracious measures concurrently to prepare a people for the Lord when He with His heavenly ones appears in glory to possess Himself of the earth and fill it with the blessings of His reign.