The Prize of Our High Calling: Part 4

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It is a fundamental mistake, then, to conceive the rapture of the saints “to be when this day of grace is past, and the throne of judgment set up” (p. 6). On the contrary, that the once lost sinners and the children of wrath should be caught up and set before the Father, in the closest association with Christ above, is the highest expression of sovereign grace. Instead of being display when this day is past, it is its triumph without an atom of judgment in it any more than in our Lord’s ascension which did not touch a single sinner in this world. “The appearing” on the contrary is the beginning of the Lord's action in personal judgment after God's providential inflictions close.
Again, how short and shallow is the view this system imposes on “worthiness of walk for the Kingdom of glory” (p. 7)! It supplants the love and holiness proper to every Christian for a then mercenary motive. The apostle comforts the Thessalonian saints in their endurance of persecution as a manifest token of God's righteous judgment, “to the end that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which ye also suffer.” Christ was the object and spring of power; the kingdom, as the glorious day when the tables should be forever turned into rest for the suffering righteous, and trouble for their troubles, was but the consoling recompense. And this is so true, that every discerning eye can see how these very scriptures are stript of their fullness by this narrow and withering hypothesis. “That ye would walk worthily of God that calleth you unto His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:1212That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:12)). How incomparably richer and holier His word than reducing it to the millennial kingdom, true as this may be! But why overlook that this is but one of three such appeals? “To walk worthily of the Lord unto all well-pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and growing by the right knowledge (ἐπιγνώσει) of God.” Here is yet more than the young Thessalonian saints had put before them. And Eph. 4:11I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, (Ephesians 4:1) is larger and higher still than Col. 1:1010That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; (Colossians 1:10), “Walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called”: a calling which embraces God's dwelling-place, and Christ's body in union with the Head over all things, immeasurably beyond the kingdom.
Thus we are throughout on the ground of grace which alone produces an answer in practical righteousness, which it does in those begotten of God, as 1 John elaborately states. Undoubtedly the difficulties are so great that to unbelief they seem insurmountable; but faith is entitled to count on being guarded by God's power for salvation complete, and is in no way disturbed by judgment's beginning, now as of old, from God's house (1 Peter 4:1717For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)). But the apostle gives no hint of believers suffering as an example, only “those that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus”; as it is in 2 Thess. 1:8, 98In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (2 Thessalonians 1:8‑9). The second sight of Hades which the scheme claims is a delusion.
So it is to deny “that all the dead in Christ will have part in the first resurrection.” Take Rom. 5-8 All points from “reigning in life” (5:17); “so also we (not some only), shall be of His resurrection” (6:5); “to be conformed to the image of His Son,” and if justified, also glorified (8:29, 30). How preposterous to be raised and glorified for Hades!
Take again 1 Cor. 15 the capital seat of the resurrection: “For since through man death, through man also resurrection of dead. For as in the Adam all die, so also in the Christ all shall be made alive” (that is, the simply Adam family in its universality, and the Christ family in its completeness) (vers. 21, 22). Is not this categorically all the dead sharing Christ's resurrection? So it is repeated in ver. 23, “But each in his own order (or, rank): “Christ, first-fruits; after that, those of Christ at His presence” (or, coming). Can any scholar question that οἱ χριστοῦ comprehends all the dead in Christ then to live? “Then the end” at once carries us, not to the resurrection of the unjust (for the chapter is occupied with that of Christ and His own), but to His giving up the conferred kingdom to Him that is God and Father after all such government is over. Then in vers, 49, 50 as we bore the image of the dusty man, we shall bear also the image of the Heavenly One; and this in connection with inheriting the kingdom with Christ, while those converted then in their natural bodies enjoy its blessed effects, as in both O. T. and N. T. But not a hint of some of the sons of the resurrection (Luke 20:3636Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. (Luke 20:36)) falling short of their inheritance! yea, suffering torments in Hades that long while! And when from ver. 51 he opens the mystery of the living saints changed without death, the modern legend of excluding many real saints, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells (else they are not properly Christian), is itself excluded as an unscriptural invention. For though we shall not all die, “we shall all be changed.” For (52) “the trumpet shall sound; and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we (the then living saints) shall be changed.” Had the νεκροὶ been anarthrous, it might have left room for exceptions; but the article denotes the whole class, as the “we” does the survivors of God's family without exception with a destiny as far from Hades as can be.
It is exactly similar with 1 Thess. 4:14-1714For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:14‑17). And 1 Thess. 3:1313To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:13) is the more striking, as we are therein assured, not merely of the raising of all that are Christ's for the first resurrection and reign with Him when He comes for them; but here we read of His coming “with all His saints, which is when He appears in His kingdom.” Can one ask a more overwhelming disproof of this strange doctrine? No less destructive is Rev. 20:4-64And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4‑6). “The first resurrection” there is for the purpose of supplementing the earlier and later martyrs in the Apocalyptic times. They were witnesses after the rapture of the saints generally, who were already seen seated on thrones; and those two classes are raised after the Lord appears to the destruction of both the Beasts, etc., and added to the enthroned. This is styled “the first resurrection,” embracing all who have part in it, in contrast with that of the unjust before “the end,” “the second death.” But here too is not a whisper of one emerging from Hades to join the rest of the risen when the thousand years are over.
We may add, that nowhere does scripture teach that the first resurrection is a judicial question; or as it is said in the tract, “This will depend on the decision of the Righteous Judge.'“ It exclusively depends for us on the grace which has given the Christian life eternal in Christ. Such a one cometh not into judgment, but has already passed from death into life; and He will raise him up at the last day, as He repeatedly declared. It is decided already by grace; and the believer is raised and glorified before he stands before the Beam of Christ to give account of all done in the body: a process of solemn interest for the saint and affecting his particular position in the kingdom, but only of judgment for the unbeliever when he is raised for judgment before the end. These things essentially distinct are here confused.
Further, as it is admitted (p. 8) that “all the church are called to this glory of the first resurrection,” let it not he forgotten that “ye were also called in one hope of your calling” (Eph. 4:44There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4)) is not declarative merely or dispensational but of effectual grace, like “one body and one Spirit” with which it is bound up. “One baptism” attaches to “one Lord” and “one faith too,” which belong to the sphere of profession, and might fail of effect in one way or another. “One God and Father of all” is wider than either, but expresses intimacy of the closest in the case of all Christians. Holiness practically, we all agree, is so imperative that without it no one shall see the Lord; and the professing Christian who does not pursue it only deceives himself. It is false and misleading to let people fancy that they may be real saints, yet unholy. “Every one” that has the grace-given hope resting on Him purifies himself as He is pure; others that have not are self-deceived. Because of iniquities the wrath of God cometh upon the sons of disobedience; but believers are essentially sons of obedience, and His love rests on them. If one sin, it is a grievous inconsistency. But grace does not fail to awaken self-judgment through our blessed Advocate with the Father, and restoration ensues. Those who do the wicked works of the flesh, and abide impenitent and indifferent have no part nor lot with Christ, shall not inherit the kingdom of God, and in no way share the portion of the saints in light.