His Future Work
The Lord Jesus Christ, who finished the work on earth the Father gave Him to do, who is now bodily present in the highest heaven, occupying the Father's throne and exercising His priesthood in behalf of His people, is also King. To Him belongeth a Kingdom and a kingly Glory. He has therefore a kingly work to do. While His past work was foretold by the Spirit of God and His priestly work foreshadowed in the Old Testament, His work as King and His glorious Kingdom to come are likewise the subjects of the Word of God.
Predicted by the Prophets.
His kingly work was announced by Gabriel to the virgin. "The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1:32,33). According to this message He must occupy the throne of His father David, He must reign and possess a Kingdom. This is but heaven's confirmation of what God's prophets for many centuries had uttered in announcing the coming of the Messiah. The entire prophetic Word has its climax in the visions of the King and the Kingdom, He will receive on this earth. These visions of glory to come, for Him who was despised and rejected of men, are the glittering stars shining throughout the dark night of the past and present age. They dazzle the eyes of faith. They inspire hope and courage. We quote a few Scriptures which relate to the Christ as King.
"Yet I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD has said unto Me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession" (Ps. 2:6-8).
"...He shall judge the world in righteousness." (Ps. 9:8).
"All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee. For the kingdom is the LORD's: and He is the governor among the nations" (Ps. 22:27-28).
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of Glory" (Ps. 24:9-10).
"O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. For the LORD most high is terrible; He is a great King over all the earth" (Ps. 47:1-2).
"He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and the poor with judgment." "Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him." "His Name shall endure forever ... all nations shall call Him blessed" (Ps. 72:2,11,17).
"Also I will make Him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth" (Ps. 89:27).
"Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness..." (Is. 32:1).
"Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth" (Jer. 23:5).
"I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man ... and there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom which shall not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:13-14).
"Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both" (Zech. 6:12,13).
"And the LORD shall be king over all the earth" (Zech. 14:9).
All these prophecies and many more speak of the Lord Jesus as King and bear witness of His Kingdom. The glories of His Kingdom are likewise described by the holy men of God, the mouthpieces of the Spirit of God.
Not Yet Fulfilled.
Were these predictions fulfilled since the Lord Jesus Christ suffered on the Cross? Have they been fulfilled since He entered the Father's presence in Glory? Is He now exercising His kingly rule and authority? Is the promised Kingdom of righteousness, of peace, of power and glory now on this earth?
These questions arise at once in reading these divine predictions. They must be answered in the negative. The Lord Jesus Christ has not even begun His work as King. The Kingdom promised unto Him, He has not yet received. There is now no such Kingdom of glory and power on earth.
The New Testament Evidence.
The New Testament furnishes the most complete evidence that our Lord is not King over all the earth, and that His kingly rule is still in the future. The notion that the church is the Kingdom in which the Lord Jesus Christ rules as King, and that the Old Testament predictions of the Kingdom glories are realized spiritually in the church, is a pure invention. Nowhere is the church called the Kingdom, nor do we find the Lord Jesus ever called "the King of the Church." He is the Head of the church, which is His body. The New Testament still looks forward to the Kingdom to come. The Lord has left the earth to receive a Kingdom and to return (Luke 19:11-28). He occupies the Father's throne, which is not His permanent place, for He is to have His own throne. "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" (Matt. 25:31). He waits in heaven for the time when all enemies will be made the footstool of His feet (Heb. 10:13). "But now we see not yet all things put under Him" (Heb. 2:8). No nation serves Him and the Kingdoms of this world are not His Kingdoms during this age. They will become His and heaven will resound with many voices saying: "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 11:15). But that is future. When the seventh angel sounds His trumpet, when heaven opens and He appears as King of kings, crowned with many crowns (Rev. 19:11-16), then He will receive the nations for His inheritance.
1. How Christ Begins His Future Work.
The beginning of Christ's future work is revealed in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18. This Scripture contains a great and unique revelation, unknown in the Old Testament. The Lord had made the promise to His disciples, "I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3). He did not tell them in what manner He would keep this most precious promise. In the first Epistle to the Thessalonians the Lord gives the details of His coming for His own, and how He will fulfill the promise given to His disciples. He promises that He will descend from heaven with a shout. When He accomplished His work on the cross, He gave a shout, for He cried with a loud voice "Tetelestai" -- "It is finished!" As the risen One, He met His beloved ones and said "All Hail!" The Greek gives only one word, "Chairete" -- "Oh! the Joy!" This is His resurrection shout, the shout of joy and victory. And when He ascended He went up with a shout (Ps. 47:5). First Thessalonians 4:16 tells us He is going to descend with a shout. He passed through the heavens in His glorious ascension and entered into the presence of God, His Father. Some day He will arise from the place He occupies on the Throne of God. He will leave the place on the right hand of the Majesty on high and pass out of the third heaven. Once more He passeth through the Heavens, not upward but downward. He comes to call His Saints to meet Him. The meeting-place is not the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem or any earthly place; the meeting-place will be in the air. We repeat, this is a revelation, which is not found in the Old Testament prophetic Word, nor did the Lord announce it fully in His earthly ministry. According to the passage containing this revelation, the shout of the Lord as He descends into the air will be followed by the resurrection of the dead in Christ. All the Saints of God will be raised physically from the graves. This includes the Old Testament and New Testament believers. When this shout is heard and the righteous dead are raised, all belonging to Christ and living in that day, will be caught up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air. For the sake of some, we add, that all who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, who received eternal life and the Spirit of God, belong to Him and their blessed Hope and destiny is to be "caught up ... in clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." Some teach that in order to share this rapture certain attainments are needed. Such, however, is not the case. No service, suffering, separation or any works we do, could ever fit us for such a marvelous event. Grace has accomplished it for us. In 1 Cor. 15:51-52 we read: " Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment ..." The "all" means all that are Christ's at His Coming, independent of their knowledge about dispensational truths, independent of their waiting for Him, or any other thing. That they belong to Him and are redeemed by His precious blood is a sufficient title to be caught up and to meet Him in the air.
Of this double company, saints who died and who will be raised from the dead, and saints who live and will be changed in a moment and caught up to meet Him, we find a hint in His words in John 11:25-26. "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live (Resurrection). And whosoever liveth (when He comes) and believeth in Me shall never die (The changing of living believers). Believest thou this?" May we answer Him, Yea, Lord, I believe. We may not understand all the details of this wonderful event, an event which will come suddenly, but we can believe His promise and wait daily for its glorious fulfillment. This is the blessed Hope of the Church. For this we are told to wait. Ere He begins His judgment work, before the last scenes of tribulation and wrath can be enacted upon this earth and He returns as the King of Glory to claim His blood-bought inheritance, He will come into the air to meet His redeemed host and co-heirs. This is the first event in connection with His future work.
The Judgment Seat of Christ.
All judgment is to be executed by the Lord Jesus Christ. "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son" (John 5:22). Up to the present time no judgment work has been done by Him. Nor have His people received their crowns and rewards for service and faithfulness. The meeting of the Saints in the presence of the Lord will be immediately followed by the judgment seat of Christ. "For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Rom. 14:10). "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10). No unsaved person appears before this judgment for they were not raised from the dead, nor changed in the twinkling of an eye. This judgment concerns only believers. This judgment, however, does not decide their eternal salvation. That was settled when they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. The words of our Lord in John 5:24 make this clear. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). The works and the service of His people will be dealt with by the Lord in this first judgment act in His future work. Of this we read in I Cor. 4:5 "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the hidden counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God."
Everything will be made manifest before that judgment seat. The unconfessed sins in the believer's life will be brought to light and all hidden things will be uncovered. Then the works of the believer will be made manifest. "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire" (I Cor. 3:13-15). It will be the time when God's people will receive their rewards and crowns. Then the Apostles, the faithful martyrs, the self-sacrificing missionaries and servants of God will receive praise and reward for their labors. The judgment seat is the award seat of Christ. In view of this the Apostle wrote to the faithful Thessalonians: "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy" (I Thess. 2:19-20). And the Apostle John exhorts: "And now, little children, abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we [the apostles and teachers] may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His Coming" (1 John 2:28). All believers in Christ are saved and have eternal life; but not all receive a reward. Their works will be consumed by the fire of that judgment, for they were nothing but wood, hay and stubble. They will go rewardless, while the faithful saints, who toiled and served, who spent and were spent, following closely in His steps, will receive rewards. What these will be, no Saint does know at this time.
When all is accomplished in connection with this judgment seat of Christ, He will lead His Saints into the Father's house, that they may behold His glory (John 17:24). He will present the church to Himself, "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27). He presents His church "faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24).
2. His Future Work in Connection with the Earth.
When the Saints of God have left the earth and met the Lord in the air, when the events took place we have briefly outlined, then the Lord Jesus Christ will begin from heaven a work which will be severely felt on the earth. He begins to deal with the world in a series of judgments. From the Book of Revelation we learn that the "Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and loose the seven seals thereof." (Rev. 5:5). The book He receives contains the judgments decreed for this earth with its apostate masses. The Lamb is seen opening the seals of the book, and as He breaks the seals the events described under each seal happen. It is His work in judgment. In the eighth chapter of Revelation an Angel is seen before an altar with a golden censer. "And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings and an earthquake. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound" (Rev. 8:5,6). This Angel is the Lord Jesus Christ. He casts down the fire of divine displeasure and judgment upon the earth. The seven trumpeting angels with their judgments for the earth are sent forth by Him. Then come seven other angels, who pour out the bowls filled with the wrath of God. We cannot examine all those judgments separately. There is no human being who can realize what they all mean and what it will be when the Lord deals with this earth in righteousness.
Israel and the Nations.
Israel and the nations will pass through those judgments executed from above. Christendom apostate, God defying and Christ rejecting Christendom, will, like Pharaoh, be hardened by them. They do not repent, but rather believe the strong delusion and accept the man of sin with his lying wonders. The Jewish people will in part be restored to their land. The great tribulation centers in their land and will be felt there in its severest form. The apostate portion of the Jews will worship the false Christ and will therefore be visited by these righteous judgments. But there is also a remnant of God-fearing Jews, who believe the Word of God, who expect the Kingdom and the King. While these believing Jews suffer, they also serve. They are the last messengers of the King. They herald once more the Gospel of the Kingdom and will bear witness of it to all the nations of the earth, before the end comes (Matt. 24:14).
Nations Learning Righteousness.
"When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" (Isaiah 26:9). A work of salvation will go on during those seven years of judgment, tribulation and wrath. A great multitude, which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, come out of the great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-17). They heard and believed the final testimony as preached by the Jewish remnant. Heathen nations will accept the Gospel of the Kingdom, while apostate Christendom is excluded, for they received not the love of the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess. 2).
His Glorious Appearing.
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall 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 earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:29-30). "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen" (Rev. 1:7). "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse: and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself. And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."(Rev. 19:11-16).
The King in His Glory.
Every eye shall see Him, when He appears in glorious majesty as the King of Kings. His glory will cover the heavens (Hab. 3:3). Every tongue which denied Him will be forever hushed. His second, personal, visible and glorious coming will be the crowning and unanswerable proof of His Deity. His incarnation and all the work He accomplished on earth and in glory, can then no longer be denied. His glorious appearing will silence all His enemies. His rejection ends and His glory as God's appointed King and ruler over this earth, He purchased with His blood, begins. Every knee must then bow before Him and every tongue confess that He is Lord. And when He appears in all His glory, He does not come alone. His Saints come with Him. When He appears, then shall we also appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). In that day of triumph and glory, He will be glorified in His Saints and admired in all them that believed (2 Thess. 1:10). Wonderful spectacle it will be, when He brings His many sons with Him unto glory! All will be conformed into the same image.
His feet will stand once more upon the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4). Before Him is Jerusalem and all nations are gathered against it to battle (Zech. 14:2). The Beast will be their leader, while the Man of Sin, the Anti-christ, will do his dreadful work in the city itself. The remnant of Israel in great distress will then pray and look for deliverance. The coming of the King will bring that deliverance. They will shout then for joy and say in that day, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isaiah 25:9). They will welcome the once rejected One. "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matt. 23:39). And He will fight against those nations. The great battle of Armageddon will then take place. "The beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army" (Rev. 19:19). But their opposition will suddenly be broken to pieces. "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet [the Anti-christ] that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped the image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev. 19:20).
On His Throne.
"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" (Matt. 25:31). The judgment which will then be executed by Him is not a universal judgment (the dead are not mentioned), but it will be a judgment of the living nations in the day when He appears the second time. Some nations are put on His right side and He calls them "the blessed of my Father;" they inherit the Kingdom which will then be established on the earth. That these righteous nations are not church saints is obvious, for the church, as we have seen, was caught up in the beginning of His future work to meet Him in the air and is associated with Him when He comes in power and glory. Then there are other nations which are put on His left hand and they shall go away from that judgment throne into everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:46). But what is the standard of this judgment? What they did to the Lord's brethren or what they did not unto them. The Lord's brethren according to the flesh are the Jews. During the tribulation period believing Jews will preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to all nations (Matt. 24:14). The nations who believed this last offer of mercy treated the messengers in kindness; those who did not believe the message did not treat them in that way. And when this great judgment is passed, His Kingdom of righteousness and peace will be established on this earth. Righteousness will begin to reign as grace reigns now through righteousness.
3. The Glories of His Kingdom.
"And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Dan. 2:44). "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancients of days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages, should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:13-14). A closer study of these two fundamental passages from Daniel's great prophecies will establish the fact that this promised Kingdom comes with the second coming of Christ. It will be preceded by a judgment blow at the earthly kingdoms; Nebuchadnezzar beheld this in his prophetic dream.
This Kingdom is an earthly Kingdom and all the nations will be gathered into that Kingdom. Jerusalem and a converted Israel will be the center of it. The Lord Jesus Christ and His Saints will reign with Him over the earth and over this Kingdom. And what will be His work then? But a few of the many things can be mentioned. "He shall speak peace unto the heathen[nations]" (Zech. 9:10). "With righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth." (Isaiah 11:4). "He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles" (Is. 42:1). "And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:4). He shall also "set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12). "And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people" (Zech. 2:11). "And the LORD shall be King over all the earth" (Zech. 14:9). "Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness" (Isaiah 32:1). "A King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth" (Jer. 23:5).
Many more passages predicting and describing the Kingdom and its glories might be added. All these blessed words mean exactly what they say. Righteousness and peace will characterize that world-wide Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. His glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the deep. Nations will worship Him. "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth" "Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him." (Ps. 72:8,11). Every wrong will be righted on earth and present-day evils and oppression, crime and vice, poverty and sickness will be abolished. Only He has the power to do this. Oh! the glories of the Kingdom! May we pray, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Thy Kingdom come.
"For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now (Rom. 8:19-22) Sin has brought a curse upon creation. The thorns and thistles are the result of the fall of man as well as the blight and misery which rests upon a creation, which was pronounced good by the Creator. But this condition into which creation has been plunged will not continue forever. A better day is coming. Groaning creation is to be delivered. The curse will be removed. This cannot be the work of man. Scientists attempt to set things in order in this ruined creation; but they fail. The things which destroy, the heat and the drought, the storms and earthquakes, cannot be arrested by the arm of man.
The Son of God wore the crown of thorns. The curse was put upon Him. And He who created all things and paid for redemption by His precious blood, will, with omnipotent power, deliver groaning creation. It will take place when the sons of God are manifested. The sons of God (the redeemed) will be manifested with Him, as we have seen, in the day of His visible appearing. Then the great vision of Isaiah will find its fulfillment. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den" (Isaiah 11:6-8).
All Under His Feet.
The dispensation of the fulness of times has come (Eph. 1:10). All things are put under Him. All His enemies are made His footstool. He is Lord of all. The glorious reign of Christ, in kingly glory, in fulfillment of the Prophet's visions, will be followed by another judgment.
The Great White Throne.
The second resurrection, that of the wicked dead, takes place at the end of the Kingdom reign of Christ. This great judgment and the final destiny of the wicked is revealed in Rev. 20:11-15. The Lord Jesus Christ will be the judge in that awful scene, for it is written that all judgment is committed unto the Son (John 5:22).
Then Cometh the End.
"Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death ... And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
Then He will create a new heaven and a new earth, the eternal dwelling place of redeemed and glorified mankind. "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21:1). "And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful" (Rev. 21:5). "And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him: And they shall see His face; and His Name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 22:3-5).
This will be the ultimate result of the blessed Work of Christ. His past work is finished. Soon His present Work may end and then His future, kingly work begins, when He comes the second time.
"Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
The Work of Christ: Past, Present and Future by A. C. Gaebelein. New York: Publication Office "Our Hope", ©1913.