Harry Whittaker
Five Minutes To Twelve

14. Judgment And Immortality

In order to get ideas clear, it is necessary to begin this chapter by setting question marks against certain familiar ideas about the Second Coming which are not as well-founded in plain testimony of Scripture as perhaps they ought to be.

One of these is the concept of a secret coming of the Lord. And linked with it is belief that the great Day of Judgment will take place at mount Sinai.

The idea of an unperceived coming of the Lord seems to be based entirely on the repeated warning: "Behold, I come as a thief"; "the day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night", and so on.

But is it not true that " he shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1: 11). He went away visibly, bodily; and his disciples saw him go in a cloud of glory. "He shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels" (Mt. 16: 27). "As the lightning shineth from one part of heaven unto the other, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Lk. 17: 24). "Behold he cometh with clouds (the clouds of the Shekinah Glory), and every eye shall see him" (Rev. 1: 7). "The Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God" (1 Th.4: 16); nothing very secret about these testimonies!

Alongside these is the Lord's plain warning: "If any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not...Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert (Sinai?), go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers (ever since 1914, say J.W.'s), believe it not" (Mt. 24: 23,26).

But what about the "thief in the night,' passages? A careful examination of all these verses quickly reveals that in each instance the context is that of unprepared disciples. It is to them that the Lord's coming is as a thief. The depredations of a burglar bring the unpleasant realisation that the material things, which you have prized so highly, have gone. What was most valuable is now valueless- to you. And so it will be concerning the misplaced affection on worldly things that the faithless disciple has set great store by.

It is difficult to see why Sinai should be deemed to be the site of the Judgment. Three passages - Dt. 33: 2; Ps. 68: 17; Hab. 3: 3 - are cited in support of this belief. Yet not one of them mentions judgment, either directly or indirectly: The first of these clearly refers to the Law of Moses given at Sinai. The second is obscure and doubtful as to translation, and occurs in a context, which explicitly says that Zion, not Sinai, is the mountain that God has chosen. The third comes in a chapter, which is fu 11 of allusions to the activity of God in the midst of His people, so it would be strange indeed if verse 3 also were not a reference, like Dt. 33. to the theophany at Sinai, especially since v. 2 has the prayer "Lord, revive thy work. . ."

A man has to want to believe in Judgment at Sinai if he considers this evidence as adequate for such a weighty conclusion. When this idea was first pronounced, it was difficult to find a Biblical site lonelier than Sinai. The common assumption that the Judgment will proceed at Sinai whilst the world goes on unheeding, presents difficulties in modern times. This predilection is too slender a thread on which to hang so important a concept.

Over against this is the very explicit word of Jesus himself:

"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats" (Mt. 25: 31,32).

Will Christ have any throne of glory other than the throne of David in Jerusalem (Lk. 1: 32)?

Some like to insist that this is a judgment of nations and not individual saints. But such an idea will not hold. Here are a few of the many difficulties in the way of such a reading:

  1. Where else is there a judgment of nations spoken of?
  2. How is it possible for a nation to be judged? e.g. the U.S.A. produces the biggest villains and also the most gracious and kindly believers in all the world. And what nation could be described as "the righteous", for there is no righteousness except in Christ.
  3. "Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Mt. 25: 34). It is impossible for these words to apply to any but saints in Christ.
  4. Not infrequently "all nations" means "people out of all nations" (Is. 25: 7); the context there describes the resurrection of the dead.
A further important conclusion follows from this Matthew passage: In this Judgment Jesus is "the King" sitting on "the throne of his glory". There he is already King of the Jews. This means that before ever the saints are gathered to Christ, the Jews have been rescued from their hopelessness and despair, and have been regathered from captivity. Now they know Jesus of Nazareth to be not only Son of David but also Son of God. He is their Messiah.

Such an order of development is to be expected, because of the divine principle: "First that which is natural, then that which is spiritual".

But will not the very first item in Messiah's programme be the raising of the dead and the gathering (with them) of those "which are alive and remain"? Does not Paul insist that "the dead in Christ shall rise first"?

So many read the word "first" as meaning "first, before anything else happens"; whereas the context in 1 Th. 4: 17 plainly requires this: the dead will rise first, before the living in Christ are gathered to him.

Thus there will be another test of faith for the readers of these words, especially if it has been dinned into them that before ever the world knows a thing about the Lord's coming they will have been mysteriously snatched away.

In fact, very differently, there will be a rehabilitation of Israel and an elimination from Abraham's Land of those whose forefathers Abraham himself had sent away eastward (Gen. 25: 6). In unbelievably quick time the Holy Land will also become a Land of unmatched fertility and blessing. Arab prosperity, now being squandered in frivolous and empty-headed vainglory will become the glory of Jehovah - the "silver and gold" of Ezekiel 38: 13.

Two other questions related to the foregoing are worth spending some time on. The first has so much clear positive Bible testimony to support it that it is something of a mystery that ideas regarding it have not long ago crystallized out into dogma. Put baldly and simply it is this: The saints in Christ will receive their immortality at Jerusalem:

  1. As already intimated, it is when the King sits on the throne of his glory that he says to those on his right hand: "Come, ye blessed of my father, inherit the Kingdom". It would be a strange unnatural reading of the words to postulate that these blessed ones had already been made immortal elsewhere. It they had been, would they need to be separated off from the "goats" when standing before the King on his throne?
  2. Psalm 133 is explicit: "For there (in Zion) the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore". On this, see "Psalms" by G. Booker.
  3. “In this mountain (which mountain? see context)... he will swallow up death in victory: and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces. . ." (Isaiah 25: 7,8, interpreted in 1 Cor. 15: 54 and Rev. 21: 4).
  4. "He that is left in Zion... shall be called holy, every one that is written unto life (Hebrew, literally) in Jerusalem" (Is. 4: 3).
  5. "And of Zion it shall be said, This man was born in her" (Ps. 87: 5). Is there any Scripture, which says that God has a special esteem for a man whose natural birth, was in Jerusalem? But of course the new birth of God's New Israel is a thing of unmatched importance. Compare also Ps. 102: 16-18, if anything even more emphatic, and certainly given a Messianic interpretation in Hebrews 1.
  6. Joel 2: 28 foretells an outpouring of the Spirit in Jerusalem. Peter applied these words to Christ's gift of the Spirit on the early church at Pentecost (Acts 2: 17,18). But, as the Joel context very plainly intimates, there is to be another yet more impressive fulfilment of these words in the Last Days- and where? The prophet mentions nowhere except Jerusalem.

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